Fifty Shades of Green

Friday we left Richmond driving west on I-64 across the Appalachian Mountains across West Virginia into Kentucky. We spent the night at a motel on an interstate exit east of Lexington. Saturday our destination goal was St. Louis via a stop in Louisville to see Churchill Downs and a couple of other side trips off the beaten path. However, in Lexington the interstate was closed and giving us no alternative but to ask our trusty GPS for an alternate route. What a stroke of luck. I will tell you about it, but first I must back up to Friday and that portion of our trek.

Friday we crossed into The Shenandoah portion of the Appalachian Mountains. Shenandoah is a Cherokee name, which means Bright Daughter of The Stars. She is. I love these mountains from Maine to Georgia. They have many names, but it is one continuous range and is ancient.

Spring has come and gone in the lower portions of the southern states, but is breaking forth with great passion in the area we are driving through. Wild flowers of every color and every shade of green only God could paint. Locust Trees in full bloom from one side of the state to the other and ooooooh the fragrance! We had mild temperatures and a constant breeze all the way from Richmond to Iowa…

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West Virginia and Kentucky will take your heart forever. I am told by our media that there is death and some environmental destruction from the coal mining. Even our Mississippi John Grisholm preached on it in his latest book…I did not see any of that…perhaps it is there (?). I did, however, see a train with cars filled to the brim with coal at one point near The New River.

The New River Gorge

The New River Gorge

The New River and rail road

The New River and rail road

We spent the night at a small town motel in Farmers, Kentucky and met a nice couple from Norfolk, VA on their way to Santa Fe, NM (They will love it!).  God lets us meet the neastest people!

We were rerouted in Lexington due to interstate closure and saw some of the most beautiful horse farms in the entire world. Farms walled substantially in stone, white or black wood with vast fields of grain and miles of pastures. There were barns, oh my the barns, nicer than most homes. We passed a sign directing us to Woodford Reserve Distillery and whipped in. As you know, Kentucky makes Bourbon, everyone else makes whisky and they are quick to tell you. They are the OFFICAL Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby.  Unfortunately, there was a 90 minute wait to take a 70 minute tour…NOT…and didn’t happen for us. We just went back to enjoying the beautiful drive and headed on to St. Louis for a good nights rest and the rendezvous with sweet granddaughter the next morning.

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St. Louis is impressive. Forest Park is where the art museum is located.  It is shared by the zoo, the history museum, sculptured acres of fountains and blue grass and manicured gardens. The art museum houses a large, varied collection of art from all around the world and from many periods.

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Afterward we drove downtown by the river where sweet granddaughter could see the Arch and view the same beautiful river that flows right by her home of Baton Rouge.

We skirted through the lower hem of Indiana and Illinois.  Mostly farm land.  Thank God for our farmers.

Next: Iowa

The Hills Are Alive With . . . Wild Flowers and Happy Critters

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Orange and red trumpet flower on a small tree taken by Bubba McClary

This blog post will be mostly photographs.  The wild flowers in The Great Smoky Mountains National Park are a riot of diversity, color, fragrance and size.  There are many bears with cubs, making their debut.  Deer, Elk, Turkey, Rabbits, Squirrel, Ground Hogs and so much more.  If I did not add a name to the picture of the flower, it is because I am clueless as to what they are called. I have never seen many of these before.  I have been told that I can buy a book at the ranger station to help me identify them and (naturally) I will.  I am so thankful our National Parks are preserving these.  I did not take all these pictures, as it takes time and equipment I do not have, but I will give credit to those wonderful photographers, who trek into these woods.  Enjoy!

chreeping phlox

Creeping Phlox

Gwen Cross Photography1

Gwen Cross photography

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Gwen Cross Photography

Orchid Gwen Cross

Orchid by Gwen Cross Photography

Trillium Gwen Cross

Trillium by Gwen Cross Photography

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Wild Rhododendron

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Mountain Laurel

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Ornamental Maple (not native, but planted here in abundance)

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Some type of wild Magnolia

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Cantilever Barn in Cade’s Cove

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Mushrooms grown here and harvested from the woods here

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Wild Azalea. Photo by Hank McClary

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Sweet Shrub. Often planted near cabin windows for their fragrance (back when we slept with windows open)

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Lady Slipper. Photo by Gwen Cross

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This is not wisteria, it is a flowering tree and the fragrance is divine.

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Red Bud

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Dogwood

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Orchid by Sharon McClary

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Some type of wild Iris (?)

Rhodadendron

Rhododendron

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More mushrooms (for sale)

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Spring … Actually Lasting longer than ONE week.

FEATURED IMAGE BY Doug McPherson Photography of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (TGSMNP).

I have lived in Mississippi and Louisiana most of my life.  Spring is always the nicest WEEK of the year.  In some places, (like way-south Louisiana) it is the nicest DAY of the year.  Winter is nice, but wet a third of the time, cold a third of the time and warm the last third of the time (honest)…with the occasional tornado mixed in.

Let me testify:  Spring in East Tennessee is heaven, TRULY.  Wild flowers, dogwoods, redbuds, multi-greens as the trees leaf out, rain, sweet breezes, fragrances, day temps under 75 degrees Fahrenheit (often way under), night temps 40s & 50s.  The world is new and fresh every morning . . . for more than a week (honest)!  Pollen is not as heavy (?).  Pine pollen in Mississippi is heavy and turns EVERYTHING green for a month.

Photos taken in the last several days of Knoxville (the dogwood and the cherry blooms were almost gone, but oooooh the Azaleas), TGSMNP, and an attraction (new to us) called Parrot Mountain and Gardens (web link below).

Ornamental Japanese Maple Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Ornamental Japanese Maple
Every yard on the trail had at least one or at least one weeping maple.

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, pink pavement, oh my!

Cherry blooms were mostly on the ground, thick-pink pavement, oh my!

Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

English Dogwood:  Oh how the English do their pomp and circumstance!

Stately Southern Dogwood Knoxville, TN

Stately Southern Dogwood
Knoxville, TN

Azalea Riot in the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Azalea Riot on the Knoxville Dogwood Festival Trails

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (lavender)

Rhododendron (red)

Rhododendron (red)

We were greeted with bird, “hellos”, and had them eating out of our hands. . .climbing on our backs, arms, shoulders, heads and pulling on my earrings.  We had smiles the entire tour.

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http://www.parrotmountainandgardens.com/