A Place to Make One Believe in God

 

I am one who feels the presence of the Lord most strongly when I am tromping about in His raw creation. In other words, natural places with lots of trees and few people about. Handsome and I decided to take a trip to such a place. For the last 5 and some days, we have been exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park via the gateway through Bryson City North Carolina. Handsome found us a most beauteous cabin for our base of operations, and while I will certainly post pictures of its fabulousness, I am far more excited to share some shots of the wonders we found on our various adventures.

A shot from the first trail we followed. Easy walk, nothing rough.

A shot from the first trail we followed. Easy walk, nothing rough.

Handsome kindly posing on a rock bed we made our way on to during our walk.

Handsome kindly posing on a rock bed we made our way on to during our walk.

Handsome spotted these two floating along, and thanks to my new lens I could actually capture them properly.

Handsome spotted these two floating along, and thanks to my new lens I could actually capture them properly.

From that simple trail, we were pointed in the direction of Mingo Falls. Please be aware that in order to reach these falls, you have to climb about 170 steps of varying size with an unyielding, steep incline. However, the sight is definitely worth the climb.

Glorious

Glorious

Frozen Teeth

Frozen Teeth

Closeup

Closeup

As long as I live, 
I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. 
I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, 
storm, and the avalanche. 
I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, 
and get as near the heart of the world as I can.  John Muir
From the falls, we decided to take a drive along The Road to Nowhere. No, this is not just an unofficial title created by a Shel Silverstein enthusiast, that is actually the name of this stretch of highway. Despite its lack of intelligent stopping point, the road was full of wonderful overlooks, and a tunnel that hid an incredible treasure. (NOTE: Some of the following pictures may include some profanity and inappropriate images. I tried to pick the least offensive shots, but just in case, my posterior end is covered.)
Did not expect to find this in the Smokies

Did not expect to find this in the Smokies

One of the (many) sections of wall

One of the (many) sections of wall

Another closeup

Another closeup

Yup, yards and yards of graffiti and street art. The tunnel was probably around a quarter mile, and every inch from front to back and six feet up was crawling with layers of paint. I could not have been more overjoyed because such a plethora of this type of art is often difficult to find, let alone photograph. The credit goes to Handsome who prodded me to go with him into the tunnel. The above pictures are just a pittance of what I photographed.

A shot from one of the pull offs on the RTN

A shot from one of the pull offs on the RTN

And another

And another

Our final hike proved to be the most difficult hike that either Handsome or myself have previously encountered. The trail is called the Smokemont Loop, which is 6.5 miles round trip. The distance does not seem so terrible, but here is the breakdown. The first 2.5 miles is consistently uphill. Not just a minor incline, I am talking a steep, unending uphill battle that does not have any breaks to its name. Then, the next two miles are a sharp downhill where keeping your feet is glorious fun. Finally, you then have two more miles of flat terrain, crossing over the river on occasion. Please also note we had done a 3/4 mile nature trail prior to this hike, so all things told we hiked 7 miles that day with about 3 miles (the nature trail was also mostly uphill) of it being uphill. I did not get pictures of the first four miles because I was a little preoccupied with actually accomplishing it, but later in the hike I remembered to enjoy pretty scenery.

A more calm part of the river

A more calm part of the river

Handsome and I enjoyed these little bridges immensely

Handsome and I enjoyed these little bridges immensely

I just really like this shot

I just really like this shot

I chatter, chatter, as I flow,
To join the brimming river,
For men may come and men may go,
But I go on forever. Alfred Lord Tennyson

The sights I have seen only more strongly instill in me the Presence of that Whom I love most dearly. I hope to return to here, as well as go on to find more such places in this wide world.

 

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Outakes (Christening a new lens with some avian subjects)

Recall a post where I displayed a beautiful new telephoto lens for my glorious camera Clara? I am not a brilliant photographer, but documenting my work for my portfolio is very important. Thus, one very good Christmas, my parents gifted me with a Canon Rebel, and I have never wanted for a better camera. Not only does she do a smashing job with portfolio pictures, she also provides a great way for me to enjoy memories from my various excursions, particularly of the natural variety. I have been aching for a lens that allows me more variety in my close-up shots, and the rents came through yet again. I took the little beauty for a test drive at Lettuce Lake, and let’s just say many a bird gave me quite the money shot 🙂

One of my favorite marshland birds, I find them extremely graceful and elegant.

One of my favorite marshland birds, I find them extremely graceful and elegant.

Extremely common down here, but this loveling posed so nicely I just had to capture.

Extremely common down here, but this loveling posed so nicely I just had to capture.

These guys are super- neat. They create shade with their wings so that fish will gather there to escape the sun. Then WAM!! Fishy delicious.

These guys are super- neat. They create shade with their wings so that fish will gather there to escape the sun. Then WAM!! Fishy delicious.

Not sure of the name, but would never have gotten such a little one before this lens :)

Not sure of the name, but would never have gotten such a little one before this lens 🙂

Again, not sure of the bird's name, but I see them only occasionally hidden in the vegetation. It's always the eyes that catch me.

Again, not sure of the bird’s name, but I see them only occasionally hidden in the vegetation. It’s always the eyes that catch me.

Sweet little fellow, and they don't get much bigger than the length of my forearm.

Sweet little fellow, and they don’t get much bigger than the length of my forearm.

I cannot begin to describe how hard I fought for this shot. This little snot insisted on ducking in and out of various vegetation for twenty minutes. Becoming frustrated, I left for a half hour. As I came back, the beauteous snark had moved into a perfectly open area and looked at me innocently as he posed. Not. Fooled.

I cannot begin to describe how hard I fought for this shot. This little snot insisted on ducking in and out of various vegetation for twenty minutes. Becoming frustrated, I left for a half hour. As I came back, the beauteous snark had moved into a perfectly open area and looked at me innocently as he posed. Not. Fooled.

See, I can fly too!!

See, I can fly too!!

My Weekend, Quite Perfect

This weekend rocked all kinds of socks, shoes, and other various attire that could be said to do so. Handsome arrived Thursday, and Friday was spent meandering around Lettuce Lake. We stopped at one end of the boardwalk, and I happily sketched away while he took the opportunity to nap. We met a lovely gentleman who was a fellow artist, and we happily passed some time chatting with him about various stuff. Then, we went home and proceeded to prepare for a costume party at Super Lady’s domicile. Sweet Shooter was kind enough to drive, and I was pleasantly surprised by how awesome the party was for me. Normally, I don’t do well in large groups of people, and a good portion of the people at this event were unknown to me. However, a perfect party is had when everyone is friendly and drunk in the enjoyable fashion, and that was exactly how this one ran. I had lovely conversation, enjoyed some Yuengling, and did quite well in a game of giant Jenga. Quite an excellent evening to be sure

The next day, Saturday, Handsome and I decided to go back to Lettuce Lake and rent a canoe for the afternoon. A totally perfect idea. The river was calm, and we saw many a beauteous bird and tree as we made our way. I have a deep fondness for canoeing, ever since my camp days. For a time, I was even certified by the Red Cross in canoeing (yeah, certification for everything these days). I learned most of my skills from a canoe trip I took through the Adirondack State Park. I was 17, and it was probably one of the best weeks of my life. I had not canoed since, but getting back into one on Saturday settled my heart in a strange and glorious fashion. I easily remembered the strokes to steer the vessel with little trouble, and I got to again enjoy the feeling of slicing through that water as though it were a silk curtain. I managed to get some lovely pictures of the trip.

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20121104-220618.jpgAfter stuffing ourselves senseless, Handsome suggested we go take a tour of the Cigar City Brewing Brewery. He had toured there last time he was in town while I was at work, and he was adamant that I would enjoy the experience. He was completely correct (which is not out of the ordinary). Though a very small brewery, Cigar City Brewing is a world renown brewery with seven beers in the list of the top 50 beers in the world (note that no other single brewery, let alone a micro brewery, can claim that many). Our tour was $5, and we were immediately given a pint glass, which we got to keep, and then taken into the small brewery attached to the tasting room. We got to fill our glasses with our beer of choice at the beginning of the tour. Handsome and I went for a dark called Maduro, and what a spectacular choice. The beer was smooth and rich, quite a delightful brew. I never thought I would be one to enjoy beer, but ever since I discovered the rich variety of flavor that one can experience within this beverage, I simply can’t get enough. The tour was concise and informative, and we then wandered back into the crowded tasting room. Handsome and I expressed how much we enjoyed the Maduro, and our tour guide insisted we try the Vanilla Maduro. I cannot even begin to describe how scrumptious this beer’s flavor is, even having had a fair number of different varieties in my short life. The fullness of the vanilla is a perfect accent to the richness already in the beer. Handsome and I were so taken, we bought a growler before we finished our pints. Top all this off with a charming conversation with a couple at the bar, and the time spent at the brewery was a worthwhile experience. Such a great weekend!

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DOA (4)(Please look to previous posts for 1-3)

So, this little love is the first lorikeet I encountered. This begins the highlight of my day. There is a portion of the park where you can actually go into an aviary with a bunch of these birds flying all around you. For a fee, you can get a little cup of lory nectar….

And feed the birds directly. Andddd, if you are lucky, and very patient…..

One of the prettiest in the aviary will land on you and feed right off your hand 🙂

Day of Awesome (2)(Please see below for 1)

Speaking of diesel African wildlife, the hippopotamus is probably one of the most terrifying animals in the cutest package. The little ears, the big eyes, do not be fooled. Sure in the second picture, that huge thing is holding its mouth open for corn. However, ZeldaStark and I later watched her toy around with a log that was about the size of a fully grown tree. She just picked it up in an out of the water, like it weighed no more than Q-tip. Yeesh! One of the few non-animal related photos, this is a picture of myself, the coworkers I joined with for my morning park adventures, and the belly dancers who perform at the park. They were actually a joy to watch, and I hope to one day post the video I took of one routine.  And God bless them for doing all that, in those costumes, in that despicable heat!

Ahh, flamingoes. I have a not so secret love of exotic birds, particularly those that are tall and long in the neck. Besides, that shade of pink is warm and delightful. To top it off, look at that adorable little fuzzball, could he get any more awkwardly precious!!!