Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Smoky Mountains with the Baldwins and Burwells

One last stop on our way out of Texas was at Caddo Lake State Park.  This was just north of Marshall Texas, across the State line from Shreveport, Louisiana.  Looking more like Louisiana than Texas, this lake and marsh was originally formed from storm damage that blocked a stream.  We only stopped one night but it looks like the area is worth another look at some time.

 Family's fishing at the dock.  Kayaks and canoes are rented here.  We saw several on the water

 Marsh area

 Beautiful cyprus swamp

After a quick stop in Jack's Creek, TN, to visit with Rose and Denver Huff  and their two granddaughters, we moved on to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park where Marlin could fish for a couple of days before we met up with the Baldwins and Burwells.
The Baldwins and Burwells rented a cabin close to where we were camped just outside The National Park in Townsend, TN.

On the porch of their cabin overlooking the Little River

View from their porch.

In the cabin kitchen Chuck and Bob unload a cooler into the fridge.

 Everyone arrived on Bob Baldwin's birthday, which required a cake and candles party, along with some card playing.

The next day called for a visit to our campsite at the Mountaineer RV park, just down the road from the cabin.

Townsend, the small community on the quiet side of the Smoky's, has a Heritage Center that includes some historic structures that have been moved from some of the surrounding towns.  The buildings are set amongst a beautiful background of flowering hillsides and gardens.

Julie, Glen and I add to the color!

A large cantilevered barn.  According to information posted here, Tennessee has 90% of all the cantilevered barns in the US.  No idea why this style did not catch on everywhere there were farms.  Perfect way to keep equipment, livestock, etc, out of the weather.

Bob and Glen Baldwin

Spent some time hiking in the park.  Two of our favorite (and easy) treks were through Elkmont, the abandoned summer camp area, and out to the Walker Sister's homestead.

 On the trail above Elkmont, headed to the Avent cabin (after a short rest)

Glen and Marlin crossing the stream leading up to the Avent cabin

Cabin in sight after a short climb.  This cabin was used as a studio by artist Myna Avent.

A peaceful place to sit and think.

On the cabin porch.

 Julie braving the bridge.

The next day we walked into the Greenbrier school house and on to the Walker sister's homestead

This school house is a "plank" construction.  The wall boards provide the building's support system.  Check out the width of the boards.

Benches/ desks still remain.

The Walker homestead.  Five spinster sisters lived here, carrying on a way of life they had lived since the late 1800's, until the last one died in 1965.

One day during the week, Bob and Chuck went golfing and Marlin headed off for a day of fishing.  Glen, Julie and I were at the camper getting set to do some shopping when Marlin returned.  Seems he needed a bit of help from us!

 He had a fish hook imbedded in his lip!  He is not sure how this happened.  He was cutting off a piece of leader when the hook "jumped" into his face!  After several thwarted attempts, I was able to pinch the barb shut and get the hook out with little pain or distress.  It did not even bleed.  It did thwart the shopping trip though.

Our last day in Townsend we visited the Railroad museum.  This small establishment features artifacts from the Little River Railroad.  This was the railroad that hauled out millions of board feet of lumber from the slopes of the Smoky Mountains.  The docent there had endless anecdotes about events occurring during the railroad's hay day, including train crashes and tales of swinging bridges.

Our last hike before heading home was to an area called Tremont.  A three mile stretch of road is posted with numbered signs that describe activities that occurred in each location.  Tremont was a thriving lumber town that included schools, housing, and even a hotel.  The entire area now is new growth forest.

At the end of the drivable road is a trail that continues to follow the old railroad route along the middle fork of the Little River and provides views of spectacular waterfalls.

Marlin and I made one last stop before bee lining it to Maine.  We traveled to Spartensburg South Carolina to visit with Sharon and Francis Merrow, our friends from Rockland.  The have sold their house in Rockland and relocated to Spartensburg.  We had a great time seeing their new house and touring some of this area.

This picture of Francis, Sharon, and Marlin was taken at our campsite in Croft State Park, where we had a picnic before seeing the sights in their new hometown.

So ends another winter adventure by the Cooks.  Heading for Dixmont on Tuesday April 21, 2014.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

McKinney Falls State Park, Austin, TX

After leaving Bentsen, we drove the seven hours north to Austin and McKinney Falls State Park for a four day stay.  We visited here last year and enjoyed the extensive trails and picnic spots along Onion Creek. This year we arrived along with spring.  Wildflowers covered the trails and grounds.

On the trail

 Blue Bonnets everywhere.  They are the same family as our lupines only half the height.

 Although the wild flowers were in full glory,  the park is only beginning to recover from a major flash flood that occurred on October 31, 2013.  Onion Creek erupted between five and six o'clock in the morning, cresting around ten o'clock, at a record depth of 41 feet above flood stage.  News reports said the creek rose 11 feet in the fifteen minutes between 6 AM and 6:15.

Much of the debris along the river trail has been moved into piles, but viewing how high the water swept through this area, it is amazing anything was left to be cleaned up.

 The picnic tables had been bolted to the slabs.

 Even the barbeques were ripped out of the ground

Look at the uprooted trunk more than half way to the top of the trees on the opposite side of the creek.

Residential housing along the creek was hit hard.  259 homes were damaged, with 15 listed as destroyed.  ABC's local news reported the flow was 120,000 cubic feet per second, which is double the flow of Niagara Falls.

In the middle of all that destruction we spotted a heron/egret rookery in the trees on the opposite bank of the creek.  We counted five great blue herons and three egrets on nests.  We watched several take off and come back with food for their mate but we were not fast enough to catch one in flight with the camera.

Just before we reached the lower falls, a vulture put on a show for us.

Our last day here we found an Antique Auto show to go to and spent the afternoon roaming among the thousands of hot rods and antique cars.  The numbers were astounding.  The cars amazing.  It brought Mr. Cook right back to his youth in California where hot rods were king.

Here's one for you James!

We spent days hiking and touring, the nights listening to music around town.  The Central Market is a Whole Foods type store, with the the addition of a full cafe, indoor outdoor seating and an endless variety of free music every night.  Great place to get three things done at the same place; supper, groceries, entertainment.  Had a video, but couldn't get the sound to play.  Guess you will have to use your imagination.

Gurero's Patio, on Congress Street, also features outdoor free music nightly.  The tip jar is passed, and the bands change every night.  Thursday night's band was a sort of pick up band with members who all played with different groups but were free tonight.  They did a mix of blues, rock and roll, and jazz.  Wonderful 70 degree evening outside, but no pictures.  Got to do better.  Can't wait to return to Austin again next year.