Friday, August 25, 2017

Creek Hiking

Dayhike somewhere in the Daniel Boone National Forest

I got to the trailhead and the temperature was 65, the forecast was for sunny and upper 70s. A perfect day for a creek hike. 

The whole day I was thinking how nice this area is compared to the RRG. There was very little trash and even the couple fire rings did not have garbage in them. I would hate for this area to become a "destination" like the Gorge, so I am not going to mention it by name. 

Not many flowers today.

Not a flower, but still pretty

A small waterfall just off the trail

A much larger waterfall and a great place for lunch. I saw a biker here, he was in the process of lugging his bike up the trail and was planning on riding some of the forest roads up on the ridges.

I took the creek back to the car instead of retracing my path on the trail. I had heard good things about this creek hike and was really looking forward to it. Most of the creek was ankle to calf deep, but there were parts where it was up to my crotch. I was glad I was doing this hike in August and not in March.

There were lots of rock houses...

... and cliffs ...

... and waterfalls (this was the biggest, about 50 feet tall) ...

...smaller waterfalls (this was about 5 feet tall) ...

...and lots of little trickles ...

... and only one snake. This one was small enough that I though it was a big worm at first, still don't like snakes.

This was a great way to spend a couple of hours. Now, I need to go back with my camera and tripod.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


8/20 - 8/21/17

Knoxville and view point off Cherohala Skyway
The eclipse has been on my calendar for more than a year. About 6 months ago, we booked a hotel room in Knoxville with the idea that it would give us more options depending on the weather. We would either drive south towards Tellico Plains (TN) or drive west towards Nashville, hopefully we would be able to find a hole in the clouds to see the eclipse. The weather forecast looked good, so we drove down to Knoxville the night before the eclipse.

We saw the Sunsphere (made famous by a Simpsons episode).

The kids played in the water park

And we went to bed too late and woke up too early to try to beat traffic. Originally, I had hoped that I was picking an out of the way place, but as the eclipse date got closer and more people started mentioning it, I realized that my spot was likely to be crowded. We got to the overlook about 10am, managed to find a spot to drop chairs, blanket and cooler and I drove up the road to find a spot to park. Luckily I did not have to go far. I got back to the family and my son asked about the eclipse glasses. Back to the car. I later went back to the car to get the big umbrella for a little bit of shade.

I played with my cellphone and the solar glasses, not too bad.

I also played with my SLR and the solar viewer.

Cool shadows on the road.

All set for totality

Here it comes

A took a minute and ran off a bunch of exposures on my SLR. Unfortunately, the focus had slipped a little bit, so no great photos (I wasn't really expecting greatness anyway).

I don't know why the video shows up so small, but it looks fine on the full screen view.

After totality, we packed up and headed back home. Traffic ended up not being too bad, but there were a lot of people on I-75.

It was a truly awesome experience. In retrospect, I wish I had not bothered with my SLR during totality or maybe just a couple exposures. The 2:30 minutes went by way too fast to spend much time with a camera.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Abrams Creek (GSMNP)

8/3 - 8/6/17 (3 nights)
Abrams Creek Campground
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
2017 bag nights: 24

I took my 3 kids to Abrams Creek Campground in the Smokies to meet a friend for a little bit of relaxing and splashing/tubing in the river. My oldest and I had passed through the campground last summer and we both thought it looked like a good place to return.

We got there on Thursday and had no problem getting two sites on the creek, showing up on Saturday would have been a problem. We mostly just splashed in the creek the first day.

The second day we drove up to Look Rock to check out the view.

We got back and the kids played some more in the creek before it started to pour. We had strung a big blue tarp so we had no problem staying dry and it lasted less than an hour.

The next morning the kids practiced their fire starting skills, they had a head start with all of the hot coals from the night before. Then a short hike and more playing in the water.

The last morning, another small fire and packing up.

Abrams Creek Campground is in a great location, but the sites are too close together and there are no trees separating the sites. It would probably be fine in the middle of the week, but it is too crowded on a nice weekend. If I go back, it would be show up on Mon/Tues and leave on Thur/Fri.

Laurel River Lake (again)

Holly Bay Campground, Laurel River Lake, Daniel Boone NF
7/29 - 7/31/17 (2 nights)
2017 bag nights: 21

We went back to Laurel River Lake for what is turning into an annual camping trip with friends from Danville. It was a beautiful weekend and there were only a couple walking tent sites left. We were lucky to get a double site with easy access to the water. For the future, the walk-in sites on the G Loop are a decent way down hill. It was a bit of a haul setting up camp, but we made it.

After getting set up, I inflated the kayak and squeezed all three kids in for a short paddle.

When we got back to camp, our friends had arrived and it was time for a swim.

Woke up to a beautiful day.

The kids had fun throwing rocks ...

...and then we played in the water. The oldest kids had fun paddling around in the cove.

The last day I took the oldest three for a short paddle and swim.

Both nights is was clear enough for astrophotography, but the first night I walked down to the shore, there was group of people with a lantern or something, so I headed back to the tent and went to bed. Thankfully, the second night no one was around so I got to play with my camera a little bit. It turns out there is a ton of light pollution to the northeast (I assume it is London). But I still got to practice.

As an experiment, I tried a whole bunch of slightly zoomed in photos. This is a stack of 35 8 second photos at 48mm. Not sure why, but there is a bit of blurring on the edges, the center still looks ok. Next time, I'll have to aim at a specific part of the sky and see what happens.
And then a couple milky way photos over the trees.

For the future, I think I will avoid Holly Bay on the weekends, it is way to crowded feeling when it is full. But, all in all, a great couple of nights with friends.