About norconkm

I’m a person. I live in Grand Rapids, MI and work as an Electrical Engineer. My hobbies at the time of this writing are kayaking, skiing, archery, photography and maybe biking. As this is my personal blog, my hobbies are likely the primary topics about which you will be reading.

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 5 – Sunrise and Travel

Most of the last day is taken with the drive home, but we did get up early and go catch sunrise from a new spot.  This time, just after (heading to Tenessee) the Newfound Gap Overlook.  Since we didn’t do much Sunday, I’ll use this post as a wrap up.

Wednesday night – drive to Gatlinburg

Thursday – hike Huskey Gap Trail, early night, no sunset

Friday – hike Rainbow Falls, Aquarium in the afternoon, dinner at Smoky Mountain Brewery

Saturday – hike Mt. Cammerer, Sunset Photography

Sunday – sunrise photography, hike Grotto Falls, hike Laurel Falls, Cades Cove

Monday – sunrise photography, return trip

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Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 4 – Grotto Falls, Laurel Falls, Cade’s Cove

Mill

We started early on Saturday and went up to Clingman’s dome for a chilly (as expected) sunrise.

After that, we headed over to the Roaring Fork Motor Trail to the Grotto Falls trail head.  It’s a moderate hike and climb at 2.6 miles round trip with 585 ft of elevation.  We had been there once before on the first trip to the Smokies and were not able to visit on the second due to the Motor Trail being closed that time.  Grotto falls is a neat one in that you can walk behind the falls.  With a little bit of scrambling into the river below, you can also get a pretty well aligned shot of the falls.

The second stop was at Laurel Falls en route to Cades Cove.  Laurel is an easy hike, 1.15 miles, all paved (somewhat poorly in places) to a more pour-over type falls.  There’s also the option to scramble around a bit at the falls to get down to the second level and again out into the river a bit.

This trip up was special – we found a black bear cub just before the top of the trail.  It was down over the steep edge of the trail, so it was hard to see and hard to get pictures of. Continue reading

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 3 – Mt. Cammerer

Despite avoiding the weather the evening before, day three was the real day of questionable weather.  Having been to the park a few times before, and wanting to explore something new, we took a drive to the Eastern end of the park to hike up Mt. Cammerer.  I think we were a bit guided by the theory that it was going to be the drier side of the park.

The East side of the park may have been drier, but it was not dry.  The hike starts heading up through a campground and then along the river.  For the first mile or so it was dry, but then it started to rain lightly and more or less kept on dripping until we were maybe a mile form the peak.  At the top, we were reminded that the visibility from within a cloud is very limited, so whatever view we might have been hiking to was to remain a mystery.  On the up side, there is a mostly whole fire watch station at the top, so we had a chance to sit down, dry out a bit and wait for the rain to pass. Continue reading

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 2 – Rainbow Falls & Aquarium

Apparently I started to write this (day 1 was written then), but then took a six month hiatus, so though I can track what we did based on pictures, I don’t recall exactly what the rationale was for doing the various things on various days.  So, for some reason which I now longer recall, we decided to do Rainbow Falls Friday morning.  We had hiked this two trips and three years prior.  I remembered it having some nice views along the river in the first portion and it’s one of the taller (maybe tallest) falls in the park.  I was also fatter, so I remember it being more challenging.

The trail was markedly different his time on account of the fire that burned some 10,000 acres of the park and Gatlinburg six months earlier.  Apparently, due to winds at the time, the fire spread pretty quickly, but also was not able to fully burn down much of the forest.  As a result, the underbrush was mostly missing and the windward side of the larger trees were heavily scorched, but they were mostly still standing and still had canopy up top.  The falls area itself appeared to be untouched by the fire. Continue reading

Smoky Mountains 2017 Day 1 – Husky Gap Trail

First day of an extended weekend trip to the Smokies.

Janet and I had done a very similar trip to this before in 2015, so it was relatively predictable.  Drove overnight Wednesday to get to Gatlinburg and then got a hotel on the outskirts of Smoky Mountain National Park to do some hiking and picture taking.  The 2017 version started a bit later than typical – we left Chicago at about 1AM or maybe a bit later.  Janet drove for a while and I think I took over somewhere just south of Louisville.  We got to the park visitor center around 11AM.

Our day 1 hike was up Little River Trail, continuing onto the Husky Gap Trail which was reportedly good for wildflowers.  There wasn’t a specific destination for this one, we decided to turn around where it meets up with Sugarland Mountain Trail, which made it about a 10 mile round trip.

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Woot! Bag of Crap

It’s been about a year since capturing a Bag of Crap.  Got this one on Christmas morning (1AM Christmas Eve to be exact) and it arrived on New Year’s Eve.  Again, I have mixed feelings on the fun of getting random stuff vs. the wasteful marketing scam that it is.  This one has nothing of real value, and really nothing that’s even that exciting or interesting, so I’m just packing it all into a single picture:

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What we have…

  • A cup holder pack of Spic & Span wipes.  I guess that’s useful, if somewhat irrelevant.
  • Ruggies – pads to keep rugs in place.  These would be useful if I had rugs, which I might have it the former owners of my house had not seen fit to put carpet in the kitchen, but that’s a different story.
  • A CD of Marlene Dietrich who was a German actress & singer.  I may listen to this out of curiosity, but don’t hold your breath.
  • The standard flying, screaming woot monkey and not as standard woot.com tote bag.

There you go, $10 well squandered.  Please do not take this post as an endorsement of wasting money on bags of unknown junk.

Grand Canyon Trip – Day 7 – Hoover Dam

I had been to Las Vegas at least five times prior to this trip and each time, going to the Hoover Dam was a tentative item on the list that got canceled for one reason or another.  It was not getting canceled this time.  Though, with the issues we had the night before, it was not an early start.  I think we only had about 45 minutes to ‘visit’ the dam.

Hoover Dam

One could argue that the Hoover Dam is no more, and possibly less, impressive than the previously berated Mt. Shmushmore.  But, at least there’s some cool technology on display.  Parking is kind of a mess, so somewhat by chance we drove over the dam, found a spot on the other side, hopped out of the car and walked around on the dam for a bit, drove back over and up to the new primary traffic bridge above and walked out on that for aerial pictures of the Hoover Dam.  I’m not sure how things were before the new bridge, but if traffic across the dam was anything like what it is now as primarily a pedestrian tourist attraction, that had to have been miserable with no bypass.

After checking the Hoover Dam off the bucket list, we headed back to Las Vegas to drop off the car (which was as confusing as reputed to be by others) and head home.

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Grand Canyon Trip – Day 6b – Bryce Canyon

We had been to Bryce Canyon once before and were nearby so it seemed like a fine idea to stop in again.  I think we were there for maybe an hour all together (partially affected by wasting time taking pictures of a hawk on a post earlier).  It seemed that there were about a dozen people in the entire park at that time and it was pretty cold and windy.

Bryce Canyon Map to Cedar City

We stopped at several of the overlooks and grabbed a few pictures of the rock formations in the fading daylight.  The lighting was incredibly different than the harsh midday sun that we were contending with last time we were in that area and the snow on the tops of the hoodoos was a nice change.  Most of the pictures I took are of the Queens Garden area.

The visitor center was closed already on our way in, but we stopped briefly at the lodge on our way out hoping that a gift shop was open, but we missed that by a few minutes.

While we were stopped, we booked a hotel in Cedar City.  I don’t remember the exact motivation for that area, other than it had been a larger city we drove through a few days earlier while heading north and was a reasonable distance away.   Turns out, it’s also over a mountain range, was heading into a storm and Tom Tom was completely unaware that we were driving a Prius.

I really have no idea how far through the mountains we got though I think we made it past a small lake as you can see on the map.  The visibility was continually deteriorating and the accumulated snow increasing when we came to any clearing in the trees.  It got to the point that just knowing where the road went was a challenge, so we stopped and very carefully turned around, which was a challenge for us since we didn’t exactly know where the road was and a challenge for the front wheel drive Prius since the tires were now all cutting their own tracks.  We saw two other vehicles while we were up there – a large SUV headed East right as we stopped and a minivan going West right after turning around.  The minivan made me wonder if the way was more passable than we thought, but it didn’t seem like a good idea to find out.  We ended up driving through Zion and then backtracking some to get to Cedar City.  In hindsight, there probably was no point to booking the hotel ahead of time and we could have stayed somewhere further South in the direction of the next day’s travel.

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