Friday, October 28, 2011

Apple Season

One of the best things about fall is apples and my favorite place to get them is my local apple orchard.  This place is owned and operated by Amish and in the fall this place turns into a bustling tourist attraction.

A very common mode of transportation in my area.
The sweet aroma of apples and cider meet you as you walk in the door. I like to pick my apples out of the bins so I can mix them up.

This place has a great selection of locally grown produce and just about the best prices around.

I enjoy seeing all the fall displays of pumpkins, squash and gourds....

and the vast selection of fall mums. It's hard choosing a mum because they are all beautiful. There are so many different colors and this year I have been seeing some with a combination of two colors in one pot. So pretty!
 It's tempting to buy the mums that are in full bloom for instant color, but the ones with unopened buds will last longer into the season and those are the ones I choose.

You can buy corn shocks and....

Indian Corn

Did I mention apples?

In my opinion this apple cider is about the best you can buy. It is full of flavor and so refreshing with just the right blend of apples.
Occasionally on a cold night I will heat some up with red hot cinnamon candies melted in, but I like it best fresh and cold out of the jug! Did you know apple cider freezes very well? Just remember to leave some room for expansion.

Watermelon for under $2.00?? Wow.

An apple a day....Excuse me...I got a sudden craving for an apple!!

Saturday, October 22, 2011


Colder weather is definitely on it's way and with that comes soup season. In the winter I typically make soup at least once a week.
 Chili is my husbands favorite and normally I make a more soupy version which in my area is refered to as chili soup.
This recipe is more the traditional chili and is rich and thick and served over rice. It is the ultimate cold weather food or any time you want a complete meal in a bowl.


2 lbs hamburger
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced fine " I use 1 tsp. garlic out of a jar."
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper, finely chopped. Optional
1 quart tomato juice "you can add more if you like it more soupy"
1 can kidney beans
1 can black beans
1 cup ketchup
1 cup chili sauce
2 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp worcestershire sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp taco seasoning optional
I like my chili a little sweet and the chili sauce has about the right sweetness for me. If you like it sweeter just add a little bit of brown sugar to it.
Brown meat,onions and peppers. Drain grease.
Add the rest of the ingredients and let simmer.
 This could make a nice crock-pot meal too.
I like to serve this over rice and topped with sour cream, shredded cheese, chopped onions or peppers and tortilla chips.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Visitors

Hey you. Don't eat my hosta!

What hosta?

That hosta right behind you. The one you're pretending you don't see.

I don't see no hosta. What you talking about??

Oh! Is that what that is. Thanks for pointing it out. Mom..Look what I found...Lunch.

Mmmm! That's quite tasty. can have it. I'm going to be cutting it off anyway.

Well, I'm going to see what else I can find.

Don't you even think about eating my Autumn Sedum!!!!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mt. LeConte Hike Part 2

After we arrive at the lodge we get checked in and are shown to cabin 7 for the night.

The cabins are very rustic and have no running water or electricity. Not quite 5 star but close...LOL

Kerosene lamps light your accommodations and there is a propane heater to warm your cabin at night. There are no showers and wash basins are provided for sponge baths.

After getting cleaned up as good as we can, I relax on the porch with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate which they provide at the dining room.

As we wait for dinner we take a walk around the camp. There are seven one-room cabins like these.

And there are two 3-bedroom lodges and one 2-bedroom lodge. These sleep 10-13 guests.

The lodge office is a good place to relax, read or play games. After dinner a lot of the guests congregate here and sit around the stove rocking in the huge rocking chairs exchanging trail stories.  Sometimes someone is playing a quitar or singing and usually kids are playing games at the tables, their only light a kerosene lamp. You take a step back in time up here.

Finally the dinner bell rings and everyone heads to the dining room for dinner.

 Starved after the long hike and only some trail food, we are ready for some real food!! We are seated 8 to a table and are served family style. We have met some interesting people and heard some great stories. Everyone including the staff is so friendly.
Dinner consists of roast beef, mashed potato's, green beans, corn bread, baked apples, a peach half and cookies. Everything tastes delicious and is very filling and satisfying.

In case you wonder how the lodge gets it's supplies because you can only get there by hiking. In March before the lodge opens for the season (Mar-Nov)  a helicopter drops most of the non-perishable items, but three times a week Llama packs bring up linens, groceries and whatever other supplies are needed. The reason Llamas are used is because they don't do as much damage to the trails as horses would.

After dinner most people head up to cliff tops to watch the sunset but it too cloudy on this night. My husband and I go up anyway just for something to do, but all we see is fog swirling around us.

Here is a sunset from a previous year so you know what we are missing.

Can you imagine sitting on top of a mountain cliff and watching the sunset and off in the distance  hear a group of people singing "How Great Thou Art". It was one of those deeply touching moments I'll never forget.

We get up early the next morning and we are still fogged in so we don't make the hike to Myrtle Point to see the sunrise. Again here is a photo from a previous year.

We sit on the office deck for a while just listening to the sounds of nature and enjoying the peace and serenity of this beautiful place.
Eventually the breakfast bell rings and we go to the dining room where....
 a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs, ham, pancakes, grits, biscuits, juice and coffee is served. We are seated the same as the night before.
It has been a wonderful experience but it's time to get our gear packed up and hit the trail. We have a long hike ahead of us and want to get an early start.

This 8 mile hike will be the longest one we have done so far. The Boulevard Trail is 5.3 miles to the Appalachian Trail, then another 2.7 miles down to Newfound Gap where we parked the day before.
It's easy to look at the elevation of Mt. Leconte at 6593 feet and the elevation of Newfound Gap at 5046 and think this will be a easy downhill descend. NOT!! You go down, then up, then back down, and up up up again, then back down. I got my first blister hiking this trail.

This is High Top the highest point on Mt. LeConte. It's a tradition to add a rock to this pile in hopes of making Mt.LeConte higher than Clingmans Dome which is 50 feet higher. So we added our rocks to the pile and are on our way.

We pass what I believe is a massive rockslide. Once again there are cables and it's wide enough to be passed safely.

The view from the rockslide.

Ferns growing on a huge uprooted Fraiser Fir.

Finally getting down below the clouds.

Newfound Gap road off in the distance.

After 5 hours and 45 min we get down to Newfound Gap very tired but grateful for a safe hike. In spite of being fogged in, it was still well worth the effort and are looking forward to doing it again next year when we hike up the Trillium Gap Trail.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Mt. LeConte Hike Part 1

Nestled on top of a mountain in the Smoky Mountain National Park is the LeConte Lodge. At 6,593 feet elevation, Mt. LeConte is third highest peak in the park.
The only way to reach the lodge is to hike one of five trails ranging from 5-8 miles each way.
Back in October of 1999 we made our first trip up and down on the same day via the Alum Cave Trail. This trail is the shortest (10 mile round trip) but is rated the most strenuous.

We were pretty proud of ourselves and thought we really accomplished something!! Very tired and sore, we were glad we did it, but thought we would never do that again!!!:) We hurt so bad it was excruciating just to step off of a curb.
Well, it took about 3 years before I told my husband I think I would like to hike up there again. So in 2002 we made our 2nd trip up and down the same trail. On that trip we decided if we ever do the hike again why not stay at the lodge overnight. So we inquired how to get a reservation and that is how our love for this mountain started.
Since those initial first two hikes we have stayed on top in one of the cabins three times and have a reservation for next year. We have done all the trails except one which we will do next year.

Our inspiration for hiking this mountain came from a website I found about Ed Wright, a man who started hiking the Alum Cave Trail after he retired and went on to hike it over 1300 times. I always hoped to meet him but sadly he passed away a few years ago.

Last year we went up our favorite trail Alum Cave, and came down on the Boulevard Trail which is the longest at 8 miles. This one has been my least favorite so far probably because of it's length. It had a lot of ups and downs and just went on and on and on!!
 Since we were combining two trails on this hike,we parked our car at Newfound Gap and a shuttle took us a few miles back down the road to the Alum Cave trailhead. Tomorrows hike down the Boulevard comes out at Newfound Gap.

Alum Cave Creek

In my opinion Alum Cave Trail has the most spectacular scenery of all the trails we have done, but in all fairness some of the trails we hiked were so fogged in I couldn't tell if I was missing a view or not.
It was pretty foggy on this trip so I didn't get too many pictures unfortunately.

 About 1.3 miles into the hike you arrive at Arch Rock. The trail goes up through the rock and...
after a steep climb exits at the top.

Two miles into the hike we arrive at Inspiration Point and stop for a break. I take a few pictures of the fog moving up the mountains.
I love the views on a clear day, but there's something about fog and mountains that I find so fascinating. I could sit here at Inspiration Point a long time and watch this but we still have three miles to go.

Locals have nicknamed this the Dolly Parton Peaks:)

This is the Eye of the Needle on Little Duck Hawk Ridge.

Here you can see both holes in the ridge. If it wouldn't be foggy, you would be able to see Big Duck Hawk Ridge behind Little Duck Hawk. There used to be manways out across these ridges but are now closed because of nesting Peregrine Falcons.

At 2.2 miles we pass Alum Cave Bluff, but it's too foggy to see any views today. I don't have any good photos of this place but it's not really a cave but a huge concaved cliff about 80 feet high and 500 feet long. I have heard in the winter icicles as large as a human body hang from these cliffs. I would hate to be under there when those come crashing down!
Shortly after the Bluffs we pass the halfway point now called Gracies Pulpit. At this location the trail levels out and actually descends about 80-100 feet to a saddle which is a relief from climbing but I know we have to make that all up again.

Once again the trail gets steep and narrow and there are places where the park has installed cables....
to help hikers get through these difficult sections. Yes, that's the trail. I honestly think the pictures look worse than it really is. Not that it's easy, but it's not as scary as it looks.

These steps were not here the first few times we hiked this trail and makes this section a little easier.There are places where the trail is so rocky and steep Ed Wright always called it Bust A_ Rocks!! He was right!

You don't want to take any missteps here. We have about a mile to go from this area.

When we round the corner by this cliff the trail gets level and you enter a spruce-fir forest for the last half mile.

Finally we have reached our destination.
To be continued.