Heavy Heart Lightly Dusted With Snow

Sunrise from Gatlinburg Bypass Overlook Snow was in the forecast for the overnight hours and it didn't disappoint! Darren woke me up early. I really have no idea what time since my watch said one time, my computer another and my phone yet another. We lost an hour yesterday with the time zone difference and then skipped ahead another with Daylight Savings. I am still not clear exactly what time it is. It's dark and night...lol. I believe it is 9:33pm Tennessee time.

It's been another great day. Good to be in the Smoky Mountains. They are so beautiful even in winter and even with all the devastation. We saw some of that today and it was sad. In the picture above, that fence used to stretch the length of the overlook and there was a sign with information about what you were overlooking. All gone except for that little stretch of fence.

I think God dusted everything in snow to soften the blow for my tender heart. The snow and views were beautiful. My heart grew heavier with every burned cabin we passed. It also makes me angry. Angry at the teenagers that we heard started the fires and angry at the national news stations for not doing a better job covering this story. The Great Smoky Mountain fires were the deadliest wildfires in the eastern U.S. since 1947. Over 2000 structures were lost and over 14 people died (at last report I saw) with another 134 injured.

GSMNP signAfter we stopped at the overlook, we stopped by the main park sign over by the Sugarland Visitor's Center.  So many wonderful memories at this sign alone! It was lovely along the Gatlinburg Trail as well. Some ducks came right up to Darren down by the water. They must be used to people feeding them. We didn't. We didn't even feed ourselves before we left. We wanted to capture as much of the snow as possible before it melted.

It did melt but not before we visited Bud Ogle's place over by Roaring Fork. This is another place full of memories. Darren can remember visiting as a child. We brought our kids on their first trip in 2007. It was so good to see it still standing. On the way to it there were burned cabins and charred trees on both sides of the road. We hiked the short loop so we could see if the old mill house made it. It was still standing but the trough was partially collapsed. It didn't look like it was related to the fire but maybe had rotted. We had fun playing with the snow in the trees and following animal tracks in the snow.

Bud Ogle Place-Historic Cabin

We finally headed to breakfast around lunch time. I knew it was close to lunch because the Log Cabin Pancake House we ate at has a lunch buffet and they were serving it. We opted for breakfast. Darren had his usual Pecan Pancakes and I had an omelet and some cakes that came with it. The place was packed and lined out the door but this place moves quickly.

After brunch, we both agreed a nap was in order. Between the hiking over the last few days, the traveling and the time changes we were ready for our Sunday nap! We curled up by the fire place and were out. By them time we got up, the snow was long gone. We decided to drive up Wiley Oakley Drive before heading to Pigeon Forge to visit The Island and Darren wanted to try a new place for dinner.

Wiley Oakley Drive and that entire part of the mountain were some of the worse hit in the fire. We had stayed there November 2015 so we wanted to check things out. It was heartbreaking. I went live on Facebook but not sure how much of the video you can actually see. I am still learning Facebook Live. Not that anyone wants to see all that sadness. I posted some pictures to Facebook as well of where are cabin had been.  You could tell where most cabins once stood by the remaining chimneys. Our cabin's chimney had crumbled as well. All that was left of the entire cabin was a pile of cinder blocks and the bear proof trashcan holder with melted trashcans inside. The view is still gorgeous. I can't wait to see how they rebuild.

Enough with the sadness! After our drive, we went to The Island to walk around. I bought some tea at my favorite new store, Blossom. They had a couple of hot teas out to try and I loved the turmeric one. With my achy hiking joints, I bought some to drink this week!

Darren's pick for dinner started out great. It was just a short drive from The Island. They had fried deviled eggs. They didn't sound good to me, still don't sound good but they were excellent! After, the appetizer, the service went downhill and the food was okay. I think the waitress forgot to put in our order. We split a burger and it took over forty minutes to get our food. When the table of eight got their food before us, I let the manager know something was up. The burger was okay but we've had better in the area with better service.  My recommendation for a great burger in Pigeon Forge goes to Blue Moose! We ate there last summer and love it. The service was great and you could build your own burger.

Tomorrow, we will hike to another waterfall. Can't ever get enough of those! I'll probably go live again. I am trying to get the hang of it! Again, let us know if there is anything you want to know about the area, we'd love to help you have an adventure in the Smoky Mountains!





How To See Six Waterfalls In One Day!

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference." ~Robert Frost Yesterday, we headed out for our first parents only trip in six years. It was hard to leave our sixteen year-old, but she will have a blast with her 29 year-old sister; especially, riding around in sister's new Jeep with the top off! They've got manicures and pedicures on the schedule, as well. Sounds like great sister bonding time!

As usual, Darren planned a wonderful trip. We got out of town yesterday around 3:30pm. We wanted to make it to Memphis to maximize our day today. We did make it to the East side of Memphis which we've found is a nice area right off I-40 to stay with plenty of eating options.

We arrived late so the snacks in the car were our dinner. Which brings me to a few travel tips, pack: •    snacks within reach in the car •    drinks, think about what you'd want to drink with your snacks, water for taking medications and for staying hydrated, and whatever you'd drink for breakfast if you don't drink coffee or juice. (Are we the only rare people that don't drink either?) •    hiking boots in a plastic tote and take a pair of flip flops/crocs/slides for swapping out after a hike. The tote will keep the dirt/mud contained and makes for easy clean up. We leave the tote with the dirty boots in the car and change into and out of our boots at the car. Keeps the hotel/cabin cleaner too! •    a gallon size ziplock bag to collect all your hotel soaps. (We are collecting this time for my daughter's mission trip to Brazil this summer.) •    an old towel and some wipes to clean any mud off your legs (I usually kick myself and get mud right above my boot. Maybe I just need to learn how to walk.)

We didn't have a room reserved for the night so I drove while Darren did his magic on TripAdvisor. We stayed at a nice Hyatt Place Hotel. It had one of the best hotel free breakfasts we've ever had. Well, besides the one in San Antonio that had a breakfast taco bar. All South Texans would agree, breakfast tacos rock!

After breakfast we snagged a couple apples for our hike and loaded up for our next stop...Greeter Falls in Monteagle, Tennessee. Last summer we did this hike. Little did we know there had been a drought and it was a trickle!

When we first left Memphis headed east, the speed limit was only 65mph on the interstate. It was a nice speed trap with cops everywhere. I don't recall it being like this before but just beware if you are doing that way. Even after the speed limit changed to 70mph, the cops were still out until at least Jackson. Maybe that's why I -40 in Tennessee is better than in Arkansas? They can afford to fix the roads! Haha!

Stopped for lunch at one of our favorites, Whitts Barbecue. Doesn't look like much from the outside but the food is always great.

Free Maps!

We always like to stop at the ranger station or park headquarters before we set out on hikes. They can tell you water levels, and if there are any hazards to look out for on the trails. They usually have great maps and even a visual small scale mountain map…I am sure that has a fancy name but it escapes me at this moment. It’s 10:35pm, I hiked to six waterfalls at this point and I am beyond pooped so help me out…

When we stopped for the info, we were reminded of all the many falls that were in this area. We intended on only hiking to two that were pretty short. We decided to take on the Grundy Forest Day Loop with the extra 1.2 miles for Sycamore Falls. The water was high and the falls were full. In fact, we entered the loop to the right and passed several mini falls and cascades along the way. The trail is nice, ups, downs and flats. Don’t be fooled by the sign like the couple was that passed us on the trail. They thought the Sycamore Falls sign said 6 miles when it said .6 miles. You cross over a nice bridge to get to that trail and it is a stunning hike. A few narrow points but other than that it was great. We finished out the loop in a hurry as we wanted to make it to Greeter Falls before dark.

Again, the ranger gave us great directions along with addresses that we could put in our GPS so getting from one fall to another was a piece of cake. Greeter is in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area. The trail was muddy so we knew it would have water in the fall. It didn’t disappoint! It was worth the trek down the spiral staircase and other stairs.

Greeter Falls

After, we climbed out with shaky legs, we decided to go ahead to Boardtree Falls. That short little hike revealed my favorite of the day. The last time we were here it was completely dry. Not even a trickle. Today was amazing! Such a beautiful cascading fall.

See Darren at the bottom of Boardtree Falls!

We ended our day arriving at Fall Creek Falls State Park. We’ve been here before too. Enjoyed a nice dinner in their lodge. I had the salmon and Darren had the buffet. We are settled in for the night and will hike the falls in this park in the morning before heading on to Gatlinburg, Tennessee.



Travel Reading

Reading a book while you are on vacation or while traveling is a great way to enhance your reading experience as well as your trip.  This was never truer than our trip to Yosemite a few years ago. We flew into San Francisco spending a few days visiting some spots we missed on our first trip there. Must see places like Lands End and China Town. Then we headed south through Big Sur staying overnight in Carmel. Further south we stayed in Cambria to visit Moonstone Beach. The town was quaint and the beach was amazing! Then it was time to circle back to the north toward Yosemite. Once we made it to the National Park we stopped in the Ansel Adams Gallery and it was there I was taken by two books. The first was Ansel's autobiography. I realized that while I had always admired his work, I really didn't know much about him. The second was a book of letters. I love letters. The good old fashioned hand-written snail mail kind!

As soon as we checked into the hotel, we headed to the pool. I opened Ansel's autobiography and lost myself in the places we had just visited. I didn't realize he grew up in the San Francisco area. Many of the very places we had seen this specific trip were mentioned. Even his travels to Carmel through Big Sur. It was a magical read. He spoke of his love for Yosemite with a passion that was contagious. Reading this specific book on this trip was a perfect fit!

Have you ever planned your reading materials based on where you would be traveling? I'd love to hear about it in the comments or connect with us on Facebook.

I have been reading a ton since summer vacation this year. Here is short list of my latest reads.

  1. Your Secret Name by Kary Oberbrunner
  2. Intentional Living by John Maxwell
  3. The Power of Story by Jim Loehr
  4. The Art of Work by Jeff Goins
  5. You Are A Writer by Jeff Goins

*All time favorite book besides the Bible, The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. I've read several of Pressfield's books and loved them all. Currently on my reading table, more Kary Oberbrunner. I will be polishing off three more of his non-fictions while enjoying his Elixir Project fiction work weekly.

  1. Day Job to Dream Job
  2. Deeper Path
  3. Called

Kary's book Your Secret Name is right up there with The War of Art. Both have been life changing! Lessons in these books literally changed me. I will be writing a full review on my new website www.BrendaHaire.com coming soon.

Are you sensing a theme?  I am working on some deep me stuff and doing some research for my upcoming book. Who knows maybe someday you will be taking my book on your trip? Would love to know what you are currently reading?

Disclosure: Some of the above links are affiliate links, which means that if you click them and buy something we make a commission — at no extra cost to you. This is just one way we are able to keep this blog going. So if you enjoy the blog, appreciate the recommendation and were going to buy this stuff anyway, this is a great way to show your support. And don’t forget: We only recommend products and services that we use and love.

Kayaking in Florida State Park

Crystal Beach, Destin, Florida If you’ve connected with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter you know that we've spent a week in Destin, Florida. It’s not our typical hiking vacation but it was a great experience.  Looking for adventure we headed to Rocky Bayou State Park for some kayaking. I had a wonderful time. Darren said he didn't care much for the type of kayak we had. He said it was too constraining. He felt like he was going to tip it over. I am so thankful he didn't since we shared one!

We paddled out to where we had seen dolphins from the shore but by the time we got there they were long gone. A storm was brewing so we headed back. My youngest daughter and her friend had fun splashing in the water as we loaded up the kayaks.

Kayaking in Rocky Bayou

For those interested in Rocky Bayou kayaking:

  • If you are in Destin, you will have to cross the toll road. $4 each way.
  • There is a small fee to enter the park.
  • You rent the kayaks at the park office. The same place you pay upon entry.
  • The fee to rent the kayaks is based single, double or canoe.
  • They provide life jackets, paddles and seats for the kayaks.
  • The kayaks are down by the water locked up. They will give you a key.
  • The life jackets, paddles and seats you will have to cart yourself. (good thing we had the truck)
  • There is a restroom close to where you get the kayaks to change.

After turning in the kayaking equipment and key, we headed to one of their trails. It was so nice to be in the woods! Although we didn't have proper footwear, we enjoyed the sights. Hope you do, too! Happy exploring! Do you prefer the water, or the woods?

Found a trail!

Bridge at trailhead.

View from Bridge

Deer Moss

Deer Moss on stick