Saturday, April 20, 2013

Best Birthday Ever on OBX

The last stop before heading home to Maine was another visit with Bob and Glen Baldwin on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  We had stopped there on our way south in January and Glen convinced me we needed to come again before heading North.  They arranged to have the week at their rental house, which is a very short walk to the beach.  Little did I know the surprises she had in store for my 70th Birthday.

We arrived on Friday  April 5th around noon time.  Glen said her son Ben was coming for lunch and would we mind waiting.  Well, about an hour later the first bomb shell walked in.  It was not Ben, but our friends and neighbors, Chuck and Julie Burwell, who had flown down to spend the week and my Birthday with all  of us.  I could not have been more surprised or delighted, or so I thought! 

Late in the afternoon we took our first walk on the beach.  It was cool but exciting to be back at the ocean.

Beach reclamation after hurricane Sandy

Friday night a friend of the Baldwin's was having an open house for a new clothing shop, so we stopped by for support and to have a look.  Glen's son Adam had designed and made the signs for the shop. They were exceptionally cleaver and appealing.  Adam and his wife Cathy own and operate "Access Design and Print", as well as the quarterly news paper "The  Sun".

 The new establishment is in the town of Duck, therefore the name

Glen and Adam

The appetizers for this open house were extravagant.  We were sorry we had dinner already cooking at home, but of course we ate some anyway.

Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful and we were planning a lazy day with maybe a short hike on a near by Nature trail.  We were sitting on the deck enjoying the sun when Ben drove in and said he was freezing so we went into the house.  While we were greeting Ben and warming him up there was a knock at the back door, which is never used.  When it was opened I almost fell over, and I did cry.  James and Shellie jumped in yelling "surprise".  Makes me cry just writing this.  Again, I had no clue all this was being planned for months.  What wonderful, special, dear, friends and family.

James and Shell

Shellie is showing Charlotte (Glen's granddaughter), pictures of her cat.

The next day we took a picnic lunch on a hike.

 We hiked to the top of sand dunes that overlooked the sound side of OXB.  

Marlin and Bob stop for a breather

Views of the sound
Ben, James, and Shell enjoying the beautiful day and scene.
Soaking up the sun

Was he talking about the size of a fish he caught?  No, he is not a fisherman.

A picnic lunch.

The entertainment for that night was several knock down, drag out, light saber duels between James, the ultimate Star Wars fan, and Sam Baldwin, the latest line in light saber experts. Unfortunately, I don't know how to turn the video, but it is fun anyway.

Marlin, Chuck, and Bob did the tour of the Wright Brothers museum.

One more adventure during the week was a driving tour of Carova beach wildlife sanctuary Here is where the wild horses live, roaming through the dunes and resident's yards.

It looks like these horses are in a fenced space. However, that is just a decorative fence on someone's lawn.  The back of the lawn is open and the grass was green.  We watched for about 10 minutes and the male kept his eye on us the entire time while the two mares in his harem  chomped on the greenery.

The old Coast Guard rescue station is now a Real Estate office.

The weather was amazing. Most of the week the temperatures were in the 80's.  We had the beach to ourselves.  Marlin and Bob tried a bit of fishing, with a little help from Chuck.  No luck, but that doesn't  mean that they didn't have fun.

This is how we spent the fishing time.

It was a sad day on Friday when we had to leave.  What a fantastic week of surprises.  Even the weather treated me on my Birthday.  We expected it to be in the 50's, or at best, 60's, but temperatures topped 80's and no summer crowds anywhere on the island.

As we were preparing to leave the Baldwin's beach house, Glen said, "What am I going to do with these balloons?" She and Bob had blown up 70 multicolored balloons for the celebration and she couldn't leave them at the beach house.  Well, I couldn't bear to pop them either, so I stuffed them into our little camper and brought them home with me!

Good thing we did not plan to use the camper on the last leg of our journey home!

Now, at home, whenever I look at these balloons, I recall the most wonderful Birthday celebration I have ever had, thanks to my wonderful, imaginative, and sneaky friends and family.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

More Smokey Mountain Nat'nl Park

Tremont is another area on the Tennessee side of the Smoky Mountains that was heavily logged up to the early 1930's. The Park offers a self-guided tour brochure which you can follow along the 3 mile road leading up to a trail on the Middle Prong of the Little River.  Hard to believe this thickly forested river drainage once contained a thriving community, a railroad, a school and a hotel.

The brochure identifies  locations where specific buildings or activities were once located and where now there are only trees.  The writer paints a colorful picture of the methods used to clear cut these hillsides, which rise and drop off at angles that are so steep you would think no animal or machine could manage an assent, let alone remove more than an estimated billion board feet of lumber over three decades.

The hiking trail continues from the end of the old railroad line.  On this section of the river there is one waterfall after another, each more spectacular than the last.

 Impressive rock outcroppings.

 Moss and fern give the impression of cool and damp even in summer.

Marlin could not resist a waterfall video to capture the roaring level of the sound.  Great hike that day.

On another day, our new book "History Hikes of the Smokies" provided us with great background about the Greenbrier School and the Walker homestead.  This Little Brier Gap Trail was an easy three mile hike along a closed gravel road, passing the school house and ending at the only cabins remaining from the large Greenbrier community.

A simple log building served as the school house for more than 50 years.  Official classes ended in 1935, however, the school is still used as a location to teach local students about life in the Smokey Mountains during the eighteen hundred's and early ninteen hundred's.

 This "black board" is actually just that - boards painted black.

The school, built in 1882, of tulip tree boards so wide only five are needed for each side.

A nice comfy seat after walking many miles to school in winter weather!

Continuing on another mile to the Walker homestead, the first building visible is the spring house where milk, butter, and other perishables were kept cold in the summer by storing them on rocks placed in the cold spring water.

 Fresh cold water flows from a spring under this building.

The spring house.  Even though no family has lived here for many years, there is still evidence the place was once loved and cared for.  Vinca, lilacs, daffodils, privet hedges, and other plantings continue to thrive all around the property. 

A view of the back of the house.  The one story  section was built in 1850, the two story section was added when the family grew to eleven children. John Walker and his wife Margaret Jane were remarkably self-sufficient, even by the standards of their day.  John was blacksmith, leather craftsman, ran a gristmill, built furniture, all in addition to tending an orchard, sheep, cows, and mules.  Margaret was a herbalist and midwife, as well as raising all eleven children to adulthood.

The corn crib, with roof extensions for storing tools and equipment.

One reason the Walker homestead remains today is because of the story of five of the Walker children.  The boys in the family grew up, married and moved away.  One sister married, but the five other girls, Margaret Jane, Mary Elizabeth (Polly), Martha Ann, Louisa Susan and Hettie Rebecca, remained at home.

When the Great Smokey National Park was established in 1934 the five sisters, who were by then committed spinsters, still operated the farm as it had always been run.  The National Park service, having bought out all other inhabitants within the new park boundaries, gave these women a life lease so they could live in their home for the rest of their lives.  The last sister, Louisa, passed away in 1964. 

The History Hikes book mentions an article about the Walker sisters in the Saturday Evening Post in 1946.  It's worth googling the link as it paints a more complete picture of their life and includes photos.  Marlin found the article "Time Stood Still In the Smokies" by John Maloney by looking up the Saturday Evening Post archives.

Great day, great hike, great visit to the Smokies (again).  We'll be back.