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. Continue reading “Perseids on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a Side Trip to Mayberry”

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 … Continue reading Little River Blueway

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… Continue reading “Great Smoky Mountains Railroad”

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 … Continue reading Paddling Dreamland

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. Continue reading “Matching Reality to Google Earth”

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. Continue reading “A Drive in the Rockies Foothills”

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. Continue reading “A Day in Denver”

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. Continue reading “A Samish Island Fourth of July”

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. Continue reading “Padilla Bay Preserve”

Rivers, Valleys, and Peaks

Two Sisters Mountain

It was one of those days that the State of Washington would prefer that no one knows about. I think they would prefer that the rest of the US think that it’s all rainy and gloomy. Otherwise, everyone would rush to move up here.

Granted, it was cold when I first got up – in the 40’s. However, I knew it was going to be a good day when I could see the Olympic Mountains over Anacortes to the southwest and Mount Rainier to the southeast.

Anacortes and the Olympics

We had a lazy morning with a few more chores around the house, then I headed out to do some photography and exploration. I drove to the north end of the island and walked down to the beach on Samish Bay. Mount Baker was starting to peak through the clouds, and the skies were spectacular over Lummi Peak. Continue reading “Rivers, Valleys, and Peaks”