Monday, October 13, 2014

The Rock House

The Rock House - GSMNP
October 6, 2014

There is so much hidden treasure in these mountains I call home.  I had the opportunity to discover one of those last week during a hike with my good friends Gene and Judi! 

In the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there are 900 miles of “official” trails.  Many of those trails are along old roadbeds which once led to homesteads, businesses and entire communities which ceased to exist once the land was designated for national park use.  Remnants from this earlier life are easily found along the trails, but to find some really special ones, you have to dig deeply and discover the hundreds of miles of paths, roadbeds, animal trails, etc. that are no longer “official,” meaning no longer maintained.  These special places are not found on current maps, so to go there, one needs to become acquainted with someone who knows how to get there. That might be a Park Ranger, it might be a Hiking Club leader, it might be a descendant of someone who once lived here or it might just be someone who knows one of the above!

I’ve heard about The Rock House since shortly after I began considering myself a serious hiker, but had no idea how to get to it and didn’t know anyone who did.  I’d heard rumors and a couple of years ago a friend and I tried to find it, but didn’t succeed.  I now know what we did wrong!  Several months ago, Gene and Judi heard of a local hiking club that were going to The Rock House on one of their excursions, so they signed up to go.  And we’d been trying to find a time to get me there ever since!  I am happy to say that has finally happened.  It isn’t an incredibly long hike (six miles round trip) or a difficult hike, but it is on mostly unmaintained trail and at certain times of year, has a creek crossing that can turn you around just short of your goal!

Seeing The Rock House was everything I’d imagined it would be.  I’ve seen lots of old chimneys, foundations, cabins, relics, rusted out automobiles, etc., but never anything quite like this.  It was much larger than I had assumed and just incredible to come upon this structure out in the backcountry. 

   Kitchen Implements on Mantle - The Rock House, GSMNP
October 6, 2014

Oddly enough, no one is 100% sure exactly what The Rock House actually was.  There is much speculation and if you have any interest, this link explains much better than I could.  Truthfully, I’m not certain it matters all that much to me exactly what it was.  What mattered to me was how well preserved the structure was and how obvious it was that people had made their home there.  Not to mention the fact that I’d finally seen something I’d anticipated for years and it more than lived up to expectations.

Inside The Rock House - GSMNP
October 6, 2014

Unfortunately, we stayed at The Rock House a little too long and failed to notice the storm clouds building in the sky or the distant rumble of thunder.  We got thoroughly drenched on our return trip, but thankfully, are well-prepared hikers and had everything we needed to stay safe.  It was worth it!!

Next goal is to visit the two sites in the National Park where there have been plane crashes and see the pieces that remain many years later!   Again, you’ll not find these locations on any map.  Someone who knows what they are doing has to take you there.  Doesn’t that sound like an adventure?

What was your most recent discovery that you had to depend on someone else to help you find?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Friendships Cemented

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
September 15, 2014

It may seem a total contradiction at this point since I am blogging so infrequently, but the friendships that I have made and continue to make through this blog are such an inspiration to me.  I was reflecting over the list of bloggers I have had the good fortune to meet in person and am so grateful to say that I’ve enjoyed every single meeting.  There is not a single one of them that I would not be happy to spend extended time with.  It was exactly four years ago right now that Tish (who no longer blogs, but with whom I am still in touch with via Facebook) and I met for a bike ride near her home.  She was the first blogger I met in person.  That bike ride turned into almost a week of fun and fellowship.  It became a friendship cemented.  And simply whetted my appetite for more.

In September, I was able to meet another blogger with whom I’ve been blog friends for some time.  Ironically, Betsy, who blogs at Betsy from Tennessee, lives only 60 miles from me, but she and her husband stay on the go and we’d just never managed to get together.  I regret that now because we had an amazing lunch and afternoon of non-stop conversation that ended on her wonderfully serene back porch.  Besides living in the same state, we have much in common and she was a constant support to me during Bill’s illness despite the fact that we’d never met in person!  We are already planning our next meeting.  It is a friendship cemented!

Sharon and Betsy - September 4, 2014

Last week, I spent a week at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore with my friend Pam, who blogs at NomadicNewfies.  This was our fourth meeting, but we were obviously convinced that we would be able to spend four days together and still be friends.  We rented a cottage on Lake Michigan and Pam drove down from her home in Wisconsin while I drove up from my home in Tennessee and we spent four delightful days together exploring an area of the country I’d never visited.  We found out that a mid-westerner by birth and southern girl by birth got along really well in close quarters and could find much common ground.  This was my first time away from Bill since his illness and Pam was incredibly patient with our lengthy phone conversations each evening and my most likely annoying constant fretting about whether or not he was o.k. and eating enough!!  She will be down in my mountains in a couple of weeks and we already have another trip planned for November.  A friendship cemented!

 Sharon and Pam - September, 2014

I spent today hiking with yet another friend I met through this blog.  I first met Judi (who no longer blogs) and her husband, Gene, in October of 2011.   At that time, they were living full time in their RV and I was envious of that lifestyle!  To my delight, the next year, they decided they were ready to settle down in a regular home (after full time RVing for nine years) and purchased a condo less than 20 miles from where I live.  Since then, we have hiked many miles together and become wonderful friends.  A friendship cemented!

Old Sugarlands Trail - GSMNP
October 6, 2014

There are so many others with whom I didn’t have nearly enough time.  I only hope that someday we might have a chance to meet again. 

And then there are so many of you whom I haven’t yet met, but will do everything I can to make that happen.  Your stories are fascinating, your lives which might seem boring to you, are interesting to me because I seem to always find that yes, we might be different, but in the ways that matter, we are often much the same! 

I have so many things to write about that are happening in my life, but for some reason, this is what was on my heart tonight.  I am blessed with an abundance of sweet friendships that anchor me and hold me accountable.  I believe we are called to live in relationship with one another carrying each other through the good times and the bad.  I learned this past winter that one can never have too many friends and friendships can be cemented through an amazing variety of ways!  What an adventure we experience in this thing called life!

View from our cottage at Indiana Dunes
September 24, 2014
(much more to come about this trip)

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

A Gentle Reminder From The Geraniums

 Cades Cove - Great Smoky Mountains National Park
August 14, 2014 

I am no gardener!  I absolutely LOVE flowers and want my house/yard filled with them, but I want someone else to take care of them.  It just isn’t something I enjoy.  (I feel the same way about cooking!  LOL!)  Thankfully, I am married to someone who does.  Tending to our flowers gives Bill great joy and he is very committed to the task.  He was rushed this morning as he left for school and didn’t feel his best either, so he asked if I would prune and water the geraniums.  In the cool of the morning as I did just that, the geraniums thanked me by their beauty and reminded me of two things I needed to internalize!

The Geraniums on April 20, 2014 shortly after we bought them!

The Geraniums on September 2, 2014 after SIGNIFICANT pruning!

I'm no photographer either and wish I'd taken pictures before I did the pruning, but I hope you can see the amount of overall growth PLUS the huge number of blooms waiting to burst forth.  Two things came to mind:
1)   Growth requires pruning.  In order for a steady rate of overall growth to occur,   the dying/dead/past their prime flowers have to go.
2)    In the right place, under the right conditions, these geraniums will continue to flourish. 

We’ve always enjoyed geraniums in the summer, but these have been stronger and more beautiful than any we ever had in the fifteen years we lived at our other house. We can only conclude that they are now in a location more conducive to perfect growth conditions for geraniums. 

You can draw your own conclusions from this silly analogy.  I feel as if I’ve been “pruned” to death over the last year, but in retrospect, can see how beneficial it has been.  In spite of the painful pruning, overall growth has occurred and WOW, can I ever see all sorts of new blooms just waiting to burst forth.  I must be in the right place and at the right time.  I can’t wait to see what’s in store.

August flew by in a haze of heat and humidity here in East Tennessee.  I did manage one perfect day at a lovely spot by the river in Cades Cove.  It was one of the first days after Bill returned to school and I spent it reading, reflecting and pondering.  It was a very good day indeed!

 A little river gazing..............

 A little lunch...............

 A little reading.........

Rest assured there are many more days like this one coming up.

I am so excited!  I just confirmed a Blogger friend meetup for Thursday and have my first solo roadtrip in over a year planned for later this month (also with a now IRL friend I met through this blog)!  You'll be hearing plenty about both these adventures.

Have you been "pruned" lately?  I'd love to hear about it.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Goodbye 58 - Hello 59!

Heartwood - Southwest Virginia's Artisan Gateway
Abingdon, VA - July 30, 2014

Giving a thumbs up to the naming of this blog four years ago, I’ll have to say that my 58th year was most definitely one of “gains and losses.”  At times, it seemed the losses were far outnumbering the gains.  The year began on a high note as we closed on our new condo the day before my 58th birthday.  We were astounded at how quickly and smoothly the process had fallen into place.  We moved on August 6 and even that went flawlessly. 

July 29, 2013
Then things started going downhill….not going into every detail because that isn’t the point of this post, but it all culminated with Bill’s cancer diagnosis in late September.  And no need to rehash that nightmare! 

I cannot even so much as imply that I’d like to forget my 58th year because it has taught me so many things about life, love, perseverance, friendship, patience and compassion.  And that’s just for starters.  But neither can I tell you that I wasn’t excited about celebrating my 59th birthday and looking forward to the final year of this decade for me. 

We celebrated all week long!  But we did it with a great deal of spontaneity, which you might recall, is not one of my strongest qualities.  I prefer things to be planned and organized!  But with Bill still struggling to eat and never quite knowing if it was going to be a good day or a difficult day with respect to his strength/stamina, we just had to take it a day at a time.  We visited several local restaurants that were new to us, found and sauntered along a few new greenways/walking paths in our city that we hadn’t previously discovered, spent some time with family and enjoyed some fun scenic driving to places we hadn’t visited in awhile. 

On my actual birthday (July 30) I asked to drive up to Abingdon, VA, one of our favorite getaway spots.  It’s a couple of hours north of Knoxville and best known for being the starting or ending point of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a much loved former railroad converted to bike path which you’ve read about many times on this blog. (See Note at bottom of post) But Abingdon is also a wonderful town with a beautiful historic district and a very pleasant destination with something for everyone.  Obviously we are not biking right now (plus wouldn’t be doing that in July anyway), but we did enjoy a walk along the Creeper Trail, a visit to the absolutely beautiful Abingdon Winery and our first visit to Heartwood, Virginia’s new Artisan Craft Center. 

All of today’s pictures were taken on that birthday trip to Abingdon and most of them along the Creeper Trail.

I have big plans for my 59th year and they all involve forward progress for me in every aspect of my life.  My 58th year brought a lot of change and it is my desire for 59 to be a year in which I learn from those challenges and become a stronger person because of them.

 Not bad for one old broad and one amazing cancer survivor!
July 30, 2014 - My 59th Birthday!

NOTE:  When searching previous posts to link you to one with more pictures of Abingdon and the Creeper Trail, I had forgotten about our Fall Break, 2011 adventure which also included a visit to Mountain Lake Resort in Pemborke, VA where most of the film Dirty Dancing was shot.  I didn't remember writing that tribute to Patrick Swayze, one of my all time favorite actors, and his very public battle with pancreatic cancer.  Little did I know that exactly two years later, my own husband would be fighting his own battle with cancer.  While Patrick ultimately lost his battle, we are forever grateful that Bill has won his!  Thanks be to God!