Early Morning Still Water

I love early mornings and watching the world come alive. Early mornings are when the water near the house is often the quietest and most reflective, much like me. I love to see the reflections of the sky, clouds, birds as they drift over, and just feel the peace of it all.

Here are a photo and a video of the area, enjoy!!

dock_sunrise

Grandfather Mountain

The name Grandfather Mountain may sound old, but the area is vibrant with a variety of experiences. The fun begins immediately as visitors receive an auto tour cd upon entering the park. Pop in the cd and immediately, you’re immersed in the history that appears at every turn.

With a movie highlighting the area, restaurant, fudge shop, and animal encounters, the first visitor center has plenty to do. My favorites were the animals and animal feedings. If you get a chance, definitely check out the bear feeding which provides an opportunity to view the black bears up close and yet safely.

The drive up to the next visitor center via the narrow, winding road, is not for the faint of heart, but provides stunning views along the way. For those wishing to forego the final steep ascent to the visitor center, there is a lower parking lot with a short, scenic hiking trail that leads to the visitor center.

The second visitor center at the top of the mountain is less commercial, but provides more outdoor activities via hiking trails, the mile high suspension bridge (mile high in elevation, not from the ground), and plenty of unencumbered views.

One day was hardly enough to scratch the surface. I could see easily spending more time fully exploring the area. For all the pertinent details go here: www.grandfather.com

Enjoy a nice walk to Cascade Falls

cascade_falls

I had explored several old mining and off-road trails around Ouray (pronounced u-ray) Colorado and was looking to explore on foot. It was late afternoon so I wasn’t up for anything too long; just something scenic to finish the day that didn’t involve driving.

I saw a sign on the North side of town that said Cascade Falls with an arrow pointing up the hill. I turned up the road aptly named “Cascade Falls” and headed up less than a mile to the parking area.

A large sign greets visitors with a brief history of the falls and a trail description. The falls are named after Cascade Creek which is the primary drainage for Cascade Mountain. The course of Cascade Creek takes it over a series of 7 waterfalls and Cascade Falls is the final series. If this is the 7th series, I’d sure like to see the first 6! Maybe that’ll be tomorrow’s adventure…

Shortly after starting up the trail, I found a couple of benches and a wooden bridge. At this point the trail forks; the left fork heads for the falls and the right fork heads to the Amphitheater campground.

I almost just walked left toward the falls but decided to wander over to the benches. Wow!! I could see the entire waterfall cascading from the top of the mountain all the way to the rocky bottom. If I hadn’t stopped, I would’ve missed a great view. These benches are a great place to observe the grandeur of the falls without taking the full walk to the base.

cascade_falls4

Like most people, I had to get closer to the falls and walked over the bridge and followed the short trail the falls. The trail forks again and I took the right fork which follows the stream, but appears to be a little more jagged than the left trail. Either one will get you there.

At the base of the falls, you can feel the mist of the water, look up and see the several layers of the falls. The side of the mountain has rock shelves that are horizontal and appear to lead right to behind the falls. I found the rocks too slick for my comfort level. Besides, I wanted to enjoy the falls, not become part of them!

While at the base, look a little up and to the right and you’ll see a square, cave like opening. A couple of people were enjoying a unique perspective from inside there.

I enjoyed getting out on foot and experiencing the beautiful falls without the need to drive far or even carry a back pack. When you’re in Ouray and looking for scenic stroll in town, be sure to stop by Cascade Falls.

Otterbox 3500, is it really waterproof?

It’s been raining here for literally weeks so I took this time to field test the Otterbox 3500. The Otterbox 3500 securely holds a handheld Canon HD video camera, GoPro camera, Garmin handheld GPS, and a handful of other small accessories. At 8x5x4 (approx) it easily fits in my backpack and I’ve used it for a couple of months without any problems.
I really wanted to test the waterproof claims and this rainy weather gave me the perfect opportunity. Enjoy the video below:

Crabtree Falls Hike

Crabtree Falls“Services closed” was the first sign I saw when I pulled into Crabtree Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Those signs always make me a little sad because being outside and enjoying nature is good for the soul, no matter your age or background.

Thankfully, the parking lot was still open which provided access to the hiking trail. The trail starts out as a paved trail and as it descended became a dirt path. Passing an empty amphitheater, I couldn’t help but wonder what shows had been there and if it would be open again.

Continuing through a grassy area, the trail then takes a right turn and goes through part of the former campground. Nestled among the trees, and away from the road, this would be a great place to camp!

After the campground, there was a sign that said Crabtree Falls loop, 2 miles, strenuous. Hmmm….it is late in the day, but it can’t be that bad. Taking the right fork of the trail, we headed into the forest and began our descent.

Through the lush forest, the path descended via a long series of stairs made of stone and logs. Nothing unusual there, a lot of mountain hiking trails have stairs. This trail was different because each turn brought on more stairs that continued the trail’s steep descent.

Downward we continued and the amount of stairs reminded me of walking down a lighthouse, just not as steep. Ok, I think I know why this trail is called strenuous; going back up is really going to suck! Hiking is a blast, but you know whatever you go down, you’ll probably have to come back up.

The decent continued through the forest and I felt like I was on a quest more so than a hike. Around one more corner and the sound of rushing water and a muddy trail signaled we were close. A wooden bridge came into view and we had made it!!

Aside from Looking Glass falls, this was one of the widest waterfalls I’d seen in the area. The mist of the falls highlighted the sun beams as the afternoon sun broke through the tree tops.

I’m not sure what it is, but you always have to get closer to a waterfall. Fortunately there are two short trails on either side that provide some inspirational photo ops. The area isn’t that large so once a few people arrive, it can feel crowded.

After a few photos and being misted by the falls, it was time to head back. The question was which way? The ascent from hell or the unknown other half of the loop, which could be just as steep.
The choice was quickly made to take continue on the trail and see where it exited. Greeted by steep stairs, this trail appeared to be similar as the other one. Up it went through the lush green forest, but the stairs were short lived.

The path became a dirt path among the trees with a waterfall view to the left. The trail was still steep here, but it wasn’t stairs and a few benches along the way provided water stops.

Once the trail made it past the falls, it leveled out significantly and was more of “normal” trail. As I crossed a wooden bridge, I looked at the creek below and commented “I know where that’s going!” We always see waterfalls at their end, so it’s intriguing to see them at their beginning.

The trail continued to ascend on the way to the old campground. Here I got a little confused because I recognized the campground and knew we came in from across it. Cutting across the campground, we found the original path and made it to the parking lot.

The entire loop is 2.5 miles and rated strenuous, but with enough time and plenty of hydration it can be done. For more information: http://www.blueridgeparkway.org/v.php?pg=38

<

Linville Falls

Linville Falls
“Wow, look at that water flow down the canyon!” The roar of water screaming between the tall rocks and then falling down into the unknown echoed in front of us. Just before this canyon was a beautiful waterfall that emptied into a pool that looked quite inviting. Course, there were signs everywhere saying “no swimming”.

This was just the beginning of our hike up Linville Falls. We had gone past it on the way to Grandfather Mountain and decided to take a quick walk on the way home. The trail continued further up the mountain and promised more scenic views so up we went.

DSC_1349

Did I mention we were walking up? The views from the top are always good, just sometimes the walk up is a bit challenging. That’s okay, it helps you slow down and enjoy the view. We came to place with a stone wall on the edge of a cliff. Looking right over the edge, you could see the valley stretch out below and merge with the green mountains in the distance. Definitely picturesque but not the final destination.

Taking a left up some stairs, we made the short climb to the other overlook. Wow!!
The roaring falls and lush, green valley lay before us in full view. The first place we stopped could be seen waaay down in the distance. Remember the roaring water through the canyon? You could see where it went from here; it exited the side of the mountain and fell into the valley below.

Even though the falls and area looked small from up here, we could still hear the roar of the water. Looking out into the valley, we could see the entire scene unfold; the waters exited the forest, down through the rocks, falling freely into the valley and then meandering through the forest floor.

As the afternoon slowly turned into evening, we pondered the possibility of sunset pictures, but the sun was behind the rocks. I’d think that sunrise would be better, although I didn’t return to find out.

Regardless of the time of day, the hike is only about a mile round trip and the views are incredible.
For more information: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/nfsnc/specialplaces/?cid=stelprdb5188440

Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly video

Butterflies are always interesting to watch; their vibrant colors, unique designs, and how they float almost effortlessly. I’m used to seeing them fly, so when I found a cluster of them huddled over damp ground near a creek, I had to stop and film them.

They are Pipevine Swallowtail butterflies and all the info can be found here:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipevine_swallowtail

Here’s the short video that shows their unique colors, fuzzy heads, and how they use their front legs for rooting around.

Four days, one back pack….can I really do this?

This isn’t going to fit……I said as I looked at the pile of clothes and gear on the bed. I was heading to North Carolina for the weekend and was determined to take just my back pack. I’m not a light traveler, so this was going to be a challenge, but that was part of the reason for the trip.

I could see myself getting on the plane, placing the pack under the seat, and easily disembarking upon arrival. No bag check, no fees, no waiting at the baggage claim, and no worries about trunk space. Just grab and go.

Making it work:
A little clarification is in order; my back pack is not like the large, steel framed one I carried for four days in the Grand Canyon. It’s what I call a commuter back pack that is the perfect size for traveling because it snugly fits (gets close enough), under the seat on commercial flights. In spite of it’s small size, it has been to a lot of cool places and as I write this, it’s packed for another adventure.

I was heading to the mountains, which were cold so I carried layers. First were my clothes: zip off pants, shirts, rain jacket, and socks. Next up was my DLSR with 18-200mm lens, and a water tight container that housed two video cameras and their mounting/cabling accessories. Ok, that took up all of the space. I still had my fleece jacket and a few other small items that just wouldn’t fit.

I reluctantly drug out my gym bag, which seemed to swallow everything up into a dark abyss. This isn’t going to fit under the seat at all. Plus, what am I going to take on the hiking trails? And then it hit me… I loaded everything in the back pack, and used a cloth grocery bag to hold my jacket and camera. Perfect!!

What a feeling to stroll through the airport with just my backpack and a small bag. To comply with the one carryon rule, I wore my jacket, stuffed my camera into the back pack, and rolled up the shopping bag. I made it with one bag after all; thankfully I didn’t have to open it till I arrived!

Freedom:
Wow, what a way to travel!! When it came to get off the plane, I just grabbed my pack and went outside to wait for my friend. No waiting for my luggage at the baggage claim, no lifting or wheeling thirty pounds of luggage around the airport.
At my friend’s house, I left the cameras in the pack, and swapped the clothes for snacks. Within a short time of arriving, I was on the ground exploring.

The rewards:
I’ve never traveled so light and it was fun. I enjoyed refreshing mountain streams nestled in the forests, scenic views from the tops of mountains, long waterfalls, and peaceful hikes through the forest.

Returning home was bittersweet, but now I know that I DON’T HAVE to take it all with me. Life is full of analogies and I couldn’t help but wonder if I could pack a little lighter in life. Hmmmm….that’s a whole different story.

If you get the opportunity to ditch the luggage and just grab your back pack and head out, you should try it. The freedom is addicting.

Owahee Boardwalk Video

Often when you venture off the beaten path you find some amazing places. Here’s a video of a long boardwalk I found that traverses a couple of ecosystems.
Enjoy the ride and keep exploring!