Tag Archive: Travel

A Trip through the New River Gorge

New River Bridge

New River Bridge

August 12, 2013

Laura had never been to West Virginia. I had only crossed over the border in the mid 1980’s just to say I had been in that state. We really didn’t know much about the state, except that there were coal mines somewhere. A couple of Laura’s colleagues are from West Virginia, and before we left, had told us that there were some places we really needed to check out.

With the meteor expedition having been a bust, we decided to head on up into the mountains and cross over into West Virginia. We drove through a piece of Virgina on the Interstate, roughly repeating our trek from last summer when we headed up for Katie and Aaron’s wedding. However, instead of turning northeast toward Roanoke, we headed south…maybe. On the same road we were headed south on 81, but north on 77. It was a geographical oddity.

Traveling North and South at the Same Time (more…)

Perseids on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a Side Trip to Mayberry


Parkway and New River Gorge-4

August 11, 2013

We hadn’t given the new Mini a proper shake-down road trip. When we got the Audi we took it completely across country, driving from South Carolina to somewhere north of Seattle. We didn’t have the time nor energy for such an adventure this time (Well, at least one of us didn’t :-)) so we decided on something a bit shorter.

It was time for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. We figured the perfect way to christen the car would be to take it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and try to find a bit of dark sky to watch for them. From there we would do some free form road tripping, hoping to wind up in Washington DC by the end of the week.

I had scouted a few potential sites on Google Earth, but there was no way to tell if there would be dark skies. So, shortly after lunch we set off, having somehow managed to pack our gear into the tiny trunk of the Mini. We wanted to make tracks, so we took the Interstate straight on up to Gastonia, then headed off toward Blowing Rock, where we hit the Parkway. We drove with the top back, enjoying the breeze.

There were quite a few clouds, but for the most part it was sunny and the day was spectacular. We pulled off at several overlooks, many of which looked like like they would work for meteor viewing. I didn’t take many photos along the way, though. (more…)

Little River Blueway


While we were on our photo trek to McCormick Houston and I were scouting paddling locations. We both liked the Clark Hill area, and we were intrigued by the Little River branch, especially where it starts at Calhoun Mill. One of the comments on that post was from Kirk Smith, who pointed me in the direction of the Little River Blueway website.

Little River Blueway has put together a great collection of information about the area. There are descriptions and maps of paddling trails, as well as other information about the area.

I’ve taken the paddling descriptions of Little River and Long Cane Creeks and have added them to my overall Google Earth collection, Paddling South Carolina’s Rivers. I’ll definitely want to try one of these, especially if the water levels come back up.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad


Great Smoky Mountains Railroad-28

It had all the promise of a beautiful, cool fall weekend, and Laura and I decided to take advantage of it. Saturday afternoon we drove up to Cullowhee, North Carolina to savor a delicious victory as Furman beat Western North Carolina 47-21 in football. We stayed overnight in Bryson City, and that Sunday we were able to do something both of us had wanted to try for quite awhile – take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad

I had booked our tickets as soon as we decided on a plan of action for the weekend. It was a good thing I did, too, as CNN featured the railroad as its #2 leaf-viewing attraction on its website. We were also just beating the peak fall foliage crowds, so there were tickets to be had. There are several travel options, ranging from first class down to mere mortal. Even though it was supposed to be chilly, we decided on the open-air car, which was described as follows on their website:

The Open Air Gondola is perfect for those photographers craving that perfect scenic shot! Plenty of space to see the great outdoors! Created from retired baggage and flatbed cars, these open cars feature long padded outward-facing seats, perfect for the panoramic views. A great car for capturing the scents and sounds of nature!

More on that choice in a bit… (more…)

Paddling Dreamland


We are blessed with some fantastic kayaking venues in South Carolina.  And, I’ve been privileged to kayak in the Puget Sound several times, a couple of locations in Florida, and once even in the Bahamas.

Even so, there are several “dream locations” I would love to paddle.  I’d love to go further northwest, and do part of the inland passage, and paddle around some glaciers.  I’d love to kayak through the Boundary Waters.

My cousin and Laura’s colleague, Tony Arrington, is this week on a 10 day excursion down the Green River in Utah.  I had an invitation to go with him, but my schedule just wouldn’t permit it.  I guess that’s what’s got me thinking about dream venues.

Dream Venue One  – Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay featured prominently in the James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun.”  Located in northeastern Vietnam, it is characterized by unusual limestone karst formations and interesting coves and caves. Looks like it would a photographer’s dream, as well.

Dream Venue Two – Maunsell Army Sea Forts, Great Britain

I just found out about this one from Atlas Obscura.  The Maunsell Sea Forts were defensive positions at the end of the Thames River during World War Two.  They look more like something out of War of the Worlds, or perhaps Myst.

Unlike Halong Bay, this would be more of a destination paddle. It would be five miles out and back across a bit of the English Channel.

Dream Venue Three – Milos, Greek Islands

A Mediterranean venue sounds like the perfect way to round out this wish list.  Milos is home to the Venus di Milo.  As a kayaking venue, there is crystal blue water, interesting volcanic formations, and lots of sea caves.

So, I guess I’ll keep playing the lottery, and maybe one day I’ll get to hit at least one of these destinations.

Matching Reality to Google Earth


In Flight Photos-2

No matter how many times I’ve flown, the concept of this massive machine lifting into the air still strikes me as weird. I’m still fascinated. And unlike those jaded fliers who prefer the aisle seats, I still like to look out the windows at both the ground below and at unique cloud formations.

This summer I took a couple of trips across country, so I’ve had plenty of opportunity to look out windows. On the past several trips it’s struck me how similar the view is to Google Earth, and I began to wonder if I could match up locations with the same spots in Google Earth.

So, I grabbed my camera and started snapping out the window, trying to see if this could be done. Turns out it’s much, much harder than you might think. (more…)

A Drive in the Rockies Foothills


This really should be entitled “A Day in Denver, Part 2″ and is a direct follow-up to that previous post. It was still early in the afternoon when we finished up at REI, so we decided to ride out of town and up into the foothills. Our tentative target was Golden, Colorado, of Coors Brewery fame. From there we would see where things took us.

We made it to Golden with no problems. Rather than hang around the town we drove straight through. We took Highway 6 northwest of town and along Cedar Creek. The highway runs through a valley along the creek, and through some beautiful scenery. The creek was more like a roaring river with some impressive rapids. Apparently folks normally go tubing and swimming in this area. Today, however, there were signs saying that it was prohibited because of the high water.

There was lots of traffic on the road, including RVs and large tour buses. It was a scenic route, to be sure, but this seemed like too much traffic for normal. There were also lots of cars parked along the road. There didn’t appear to be any trails, and with the signs warning about the river we weren’t sure what was happening. Soon, though, we spotted several climbers scaling one of the rocky crags along the road. It turns out that we were in prime climbing territory. (more…)

A Day in Denver


So, you’ve only one day to spend in a major US city. What do you do? That was the dilemma that faced us in regards to Denver. The trick is to pick one or two things you really want to do, then perhaps hit some highlights in between so that you’ll have an idea for when you can come back and spend more time. I think we managed to accomplish that with this trip.

After a nice breakfast we headed over to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. This was first on Laura’s list, and it made sense. Most of Denver’s initial wealth was based on mining, so the gem and mineral displays were supposed to be outstanding. (more…)

A Samish Island Fourth of July


The celebration actually started yesterday.  There were the beach fireworks Duff and I saw while paddling, usually involving ordnance  obtained from the reservation and NOT approved by Washington State law.  Also, the neighbors a couple of doors down had hired a band.  Duff and I had heard them while paddling, and back home they were really loud.

After dark Laura and I walked out front and watched (and listened to) fireworks both on the reservation across Padilla Bay and on the San Juan Islands.  For some of them, if these weren’t official shows, then someone was REALLY in violation of the “safe and sane” fireworks laws.

Monday, July the Fourth was one of the best Independence Days we’ve ever had.  It started quietly enough like every other morning on the island so far.  I even skipped another paddling opportunity in order to sleep in a bit.  Mid-morning we decided to head down to the Samish Island Parade on North Beach. (more…)

Padilla Bay Preserve


Padilla Bay Reserve

Mrs. Wright’s house looks out over Padilla Bay, a section of the Puget Sound bounded by Samish Island to the north, the flat farmlands of Skagit Valley to the east and south, and Fidalgo Island south and west. The Swinomish Channel runs between Fidalgo Island and the mainland, connecting Padilla Bay to Skagit Bay.

On the east side of the bay, near the little community of Bayview, is the Padilla Bay Preserve. As many times as I’ve driven past here over the past 20 years, I had never stopped in. I decided that had to change on this trip. It was sunny one afternoon this past week, so I headed on over.

The Padilla Bay Preserve actually encompasses the east side of the bay. Just south of Bayview is a paved walkway that provides great views of the bay and the surrounding wetlands and farmlands. North of Bayview is the Brezeale Interpretive Center – a research and meeting center with displays for the general public. I had walked along the pathway, but had never been to the visitors center. (more…)

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