Smoky Mountains

 The stellar beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is no secret. This 521,000-acre park straddling North Carolina and Tennessee attracts 9 to 10 million visitors a year—more than the Grand Canyon and Yosemite combined. It’s the largest chunk of wilderness in the Southern Appalachians and one of the most biologically diverse forests in the country. The best news? Most visitors cluster at the same few spots. Cades Cove Loop Road alone sees 1.5 million a year—and that doesn’t include the campgrounds. Do just a little exploring and you’ll leave the throngs behind. This drive hits some of the best-kept secrets in the Smokies, from hidden picnic spots to fireside dining.

In & Around the Smoky Mountains   smoky-mountain-wildlife

1. Best Fall Fun

The Watershed Cabins resort (from $99), outside Bryson City, has on-site bocce, hiking trails, a waterfall, and a fire pit.

2. Best Picnic Spot

At 5,310 feet in elevation with giant stone tables, Heintooga Picnic Area off Balsam Mountain Road near Cherokee makes a beautiful, out-of-the-way rest stop.

3. Best Local Color

Witness the “rut,” when male elk bugle and spar for a partner, with master naturalist Esther Blakely (four-hour tour; $40). or 828/450-7985

4. Best Souvenir

Trout caviar ($22/oz.) from local, stream-fed Sunburst Trout Co. farm, sold at the new Sunburst Market on Montgomery. 828/452-3848

5. Best Campfire

Cataloochee Ranch (from $205) has down-home dinners and entertainment—think steaks and pickin’ around a campfire.

6. Best Cheap Bite

Pick up a box lunch ($5) at Hillbilly Grocery in Maggie Valley before driving Newfound Gap Road through the heart of the park.

7. Best Photo Op DSC00625

Find the 30-foot Spruce Flats Falls at the end of a 1-mile hike behind the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont. This secret waterfall is not on most park maps.

8. Best Reader Deal

Dancing Bear Lodge & Restaurant is offering SL readers 25% off room rates December 2012 through March 2013. (Use code SLDEAL) or 865/448-6000

9. Best Fancy Grub

Sweet tea-brined pork tenderloin ($24) with a cornbread-and-tomato salad topped with pickled ramps and goat cheese ($6) at Dancing Bear Restaurant.

10. Best Detour

Drive the Foothills Parkway for 11 miles south of Townsend for an unobstructed view of the Smokies from the Look Rock observation tower.20140722_091432

From the October 2012 Magazine Issue|Article: Graham Averill Print Email

via Smoky Mountains Top 10 Stops – Southern Living.



Hiking and Backpacking in Yellowstone

Hiking in Yellowstoneyellowstone-National-Park-Travel-Destination-USA11


Yellowstone National Park, encompassing 2.2 million acres, is one of America’s premier wilderness areas. Most of the park is backcountry and managed as wilderness. Over 1,100 miles (1770 km) of trails are available for hiking. However, there are dangers inherent in wilderness: unpredictable wildlife, changing weather conditions, remote thermal areas, cold water lakes, turbulent streams, and rugged mountains with loose, “rotten” rock. Visiting wilderness means experiencing the land on its terms. If you choose to explore and enjoy the natural wonders of Yellowstone, there is no guarantee of your safety. Be prepared for any situation. Carefully read all backcountry guidelines and regulations.

Spring Hiking in Yellowstone is a great way to both see and enjoy the park. This time period allows the unique opportunity for non-motorized use of certain park roads. Hiking, bicycling, jogging, roller blades, roller skis, and similar means of non-motorized travel are permitted between the West Entrance and Mammoth Hot Springs ONLY from about mid March through the third Thursday in April. The opening day in March is weather dependant. The East and South Entrances and roads are Not Open for these early spring activities. The road from Madison Junction to Old Faithful will Not Open for spring activities during this time.  Please Note, there will be some administrative vehicles traveling the roads at this time. You may verify what specific roads are open to such activities by calling:  307-344-2109.

There are numerous trails suitable for day hiking. Begin your hike by stopping at a ranger station or visitor center for information. Trail conditions may change suddenly and unexpectedly. Bear activity, rain or snow storms, high water, and fires may temporarily close trails. At a minimum, carry water, a raincoat or poncho, a warm hat, insect repellent, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It is recommended that you hike with another person. No permit is required for day hiking.

Should you drink the water? Intestinal infections from drinking untreated water are increasingly common. Waters may be polluted by animal and/or human wastes. When possible, carry a supply of water from a domestic source. If you drink water from lakes and streams, bring it to a boil or use a water filter to reduce the chance of infection.

Yellowstone’s weather is unpredictable. A sunny warm day may become fiercely stormy with wind, rain, sleet, and sometimes snow. Lightning storms are common; get off water or beaches and stay away from ridges, exposed places, and isolated trees.

via Hiking in Yellowstone | Hiking and Backpacking in Yellowstone.

Road Trips


 Turkey Run State Park

8121 Park Rd, Marshall, In  Phone 765-597-2635       

turkey run (3)

  Positives-                                                                                                 Beautiful area                                                                                         Secluded Camp Sites                                                                             Lots of hiking trails                                                                                 Updated lodge with swimming pool  and a restaurant     

turkey run (2)

  Negatives-     Busy on weekends       


  My family and I have camped in Turkey Run numerous times over the years. Our boys, the typical preteen lot, would invariably whine and complain during the week before we would leaving for the park. Didn’t want to miss out on tv, their friends, the PS3, etc. “Why do we have to go? It’ll be so boring”.  The reality quickly sinks in once you arrive, that if you set up on a Friday afternoon with plans to stay thru Sunday, you really have to pack your schedule tight in order to experience everything. Put the most introverted kid on one of the many hiking trails, passing over suspension bridges, waterfalls, streams and climbable rock formations, and their natural desire to explore opens right up.  Canoing is available just up the road from the park, and offers folks a great view from the middle of Sugar Creek. There is also an onsite nature center. It isn’t that big really, but the exhibits are quite interesting, and my kids spent a long time browsing and learning some really neat stuff.  If your not into RVs or tents, there are cabins available, or you can stay at the Turkey Run Inn. They have a restaurant, olympic sized swimming pool, game room and a gift shop. RV sites are equipped with electrical hookups; water faucets are scattered thruout the park and there is usually one nearby. Dumpstations are near the exit. Checkout time for the campground is about 5 p.m. so you’ll have plenty of time on your last day to pack and go. 

turkey run

I have always found the park to be clean and well maintained. That said, don’t plan on a weekend getaway there without reservations. I have found that unless I planned ahead at least 60 days in advance, my chances of getting a decent spot were slim to none. And by “decent spot”, I mean anything not alongside the dumpstation. Go during the week and you’ll have a much easier time of it. There is always plenty of wildlife in and around the park, just don’t feed them. The Rangers will also from time to time host activities for the kids. For the price of dinner out and a movie, which will be forgotten soon after, you can enjoy a weekend getaway with your family with memories you’ll always have. Now get to it! 

TMP  January 2014

Huntington Beach State Park

16148 Ocean Highway, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina 29576

(843) 237-4440 overview-huntington

Thanks to my dawdling, we almost didn’t make the trip last summer. I like to plan vacations over the winter, work out the best routes, the best layovers, and the best dates for our destination. Little did I realize that if you want a decent spot along the ocean near Myrtle Beach during the tourist swarm, you had better book a spot early. By the end of January I thought I had everything in order and began my reservations. That came to a screeching halt in about 5 clicks of the mouse. Very few camping sites were available.  I had wanted to stay specifically at Huntington Beach. It is a state park, south of the inner city chaos yet close enough to make it to the sites in short order. Fortunately, instead of settling for a last chance, back 40 spot, I hit the website every morning holding out for a cancellation. Sure enough, after about two weeks I had what I wanted. A site just off the beach, water and electric and a couple trees to lay some shade to the camper. We are from the midwest, so I am familiar with the humidity of summer. Arriving in late July, I expected it to be hot and hazy. Yes……it was.

If you aren’t familiar, South Carolina is considered a sub tropical climate, meaning the air is thick, hot and heavy. Think walking on the moon while on fire. Even the rain was hot. Actually I prefer stifling heat over the midwest winters. I have a cousin in Minnesota who invites me to ice fish with him on their lake. Drag a shack across the ice the size of a porta potty, drill thru 28′ of ice, drop your line and sit on a stool with a frozen beer for 6 hours. I’m still trying to understand that one…

We arrived on a Monday afternoon. The office that we checked in also contains a small store/gift shop. There is a large parking lot for the public access beach. Now this is where I get to the bonus feature of the campground. There is a large section of beach, partitioned off for campground guests only, meaning that regardless if the campground was completely booked, on any given day for the week that we stayed, there never were more than a couple dozen people on the beach. No elbow to elbow dog underfoot hairy guy with the sun block type scenario. Plenty of room to roam. The same can be said for the sites themselves. The neighboring sites on either side were a good 40′ away. This isn’t a park that jams campers on top of each other to maximize the almighty dollar. Nor were the sites laid out in a cookie cutter fashion. Sites inside the loop generally had little shade an were open; sites on the outside of the loops usually had some trees and shrubbery, while another loop was designed so that you backed your camper into a dense canopy of hedge that completely enveloped your site.

Bike trails are plenty, and there is a causeway with tours and lookout posts for sighting the local gators. The latter isn’t hard; they seemed intent on observing the tourists as much as we were watching them. For different purposes I am sure.

There is a main gate with a guardpost that closes and locks at 10 p.m. If you choose to hit the nightspots just make sure you have the password to open it up when you return. Walmart, seafood, bars, entertainment, are all within 20 minutes, but we ventured out only twice during the entire week. The only negative we experienced were the ants. Bring some boric acid and sprinkle it around the perimeter of your RV. Make sure you treat the ends of your clothesline and anything else that comes in contact with your camper. Ants are smart buggers and not easy to dissuade, and it was difficult to convince my wife that was pepper in the flour box.

Campsite prices are reasonable, up to $40 per night, wi fi is available if needed, and even without cable, we picked up a dozen local stations on the television.          01/2014     TMP 



Critters & Such

“The Four Feet”

I have done mostly what most men do

And I have pushed it out of my mind

But I can’t forget, if I wanted to

Four feet trotting behind

Day after day, the whole day through

Wherever my road inclined

Four Feet said “I am coming with you”

And trotted along behind

Now I must go by some other round

Which I shall never find

Somewhere that does not carry the sound

Of four feet trotting behind




  “What A Nice Dog”  20131217_071428

                                                                                 I’m a dog lover. That said and out of the way, I do not love all dogs.  Not the ankle biters, not the droolers, not the natural born killers.  I guess I’ll rephrase that first sentence with I love my dogs.  One is a Collie; a lean, thick coated sable/orange and white specimen with eyes that will reach into your very soul.  Now that I think of it, I suppose Dracula had the same power.  He goes by the name of “Gunner” and he is about 2 years old.  He’ll also come to you by the name of “Hey”, “Come’re”, “Doofus”, a whistle, a click of the tongue, etc.  In short, he doesn’t know who he is.  He is a great dog, good with kids, loves everyone and loyal.

My wife has a Sheltie.  She goes by the name of Snickers (the dog of course). I can honestly say that this dog is the smartest animal that has ever lived with me.  Responds to every command on cue.  Very loving and beautiful dog.  It is quite clear, however,  that she  rules the roost outside.  She is the alpha dog here and everyone knows it.  So one dog is 75 lbs, almost 2′ taller with a  baratone woof and a gallop that sounds like an stampeding horse, while the Sheltie is known to average 15 lbs with short, stubby legs and a piercing high pitched bark.  Doesn’t seem like there is a lot of similarity between the two; kind of like a Mutt and Jeff type of partnership if you ask me.

So in the beginning, it was a little suprising to me, when we would take our dogs on camping trips, vacations, etc, of the response we would receive when someone would see our dogs.  It was sort of a ritual at campgrounds to go for a morning and evening stroll with Gunner and Snickers, to get their exercise, let them sniff/read, and do their business (and yes, we carried those little poop bags around with us to clean up).  On those mornings that Snickers was at the head of the leash was usually when we received the most attention. Invariably, I’d run across some other poor soul who, like me, wasn’t smart enough to stay in bed, and after the obligatory smile and greeting,  I’d hear “What a cute little Collie you have”.

Folks, a Sheltie isn’t a Collie. They aren’t related. Never was and never will be.  One barks, one chirps. One sprints, the other shuffles.  One you pick up and carry, the other you restrain. Countless times I’ve heard the uninformed call Snickers “Lassie”.  Really?  I’m an old man now, but even thru my dementia I don’t recall a possum sized canine jumping on Timmy’s neighbor and dragging him from the burning barn.  Ok, they may have Scottish descent and they may or may not have sable coats, and that is about where it ends.  I’m Korean but no, I’ve never been to Hong Kong.  Am I being a little sensitive?  Maybe too thin skinned or over reactionary?  Of course I am.  It’s a “me problem” that won’t take the place of my paying the bills or saving the world.  Before I can make my point before congress, I still have to figure out how to keep my wife from tripping over my shoes everytime she comes thru the door. But I won’t call your Labrador an Irish Setter or your Stafordshire Terrier a Pitbull.  Like you, I may not know the difference or I may not even care.  If it’s all the same,  I think I’ll just smile as I pass and say ” What a nice dog”.

        GT 2014

My  wife and I owned two dogs that we had owned before we met and brought  into the marriage.  Her dog was a pit bull/labrador cross named Zack,  and he hated me.  When our daughter was born, I said to the wife,”If he  so much as nips at the baby, he’s gone.”

We brought our  daughter home in a car seat, and both dogs sniffed and licked her, tails  wagging.  I had to pull Zack away from her because he wouldn’t stop  licking her.  Zack immediately became my daughter’s protector, and when  she was lying on a blanket on the floor, he always had to have one foot  on the blanket.

Zack loved my daughter immensely, and when she  became a little older always walked her to bed, and then slept on the  bed with her. He somehow knew whenever it was time to go upstairs, and  he would wait at the foot of the stairs for her, and then follow her up  to bed.

Zack was poisoned by some dirtbag neighbor kids, and we  had one of the worst days of our lives.  Watching my daughter say  goodbye to him as he laid still on the kitchen floor, my wife and I were  both sobbing.

At 8:00 that night, my daughter walked to the  stairs to go to bed.  At that moment, all three of us realized what was  about to happen.  After 5 years, she didn’t have Zack to accompany her  upstairs.  She looked at her mother and me with a look of horror and  panic.

It was at that moment that my dog, who loved my daughter  dearly, but was not in Zack’s league, stood up, walked over to her, and  nudged her with his head.  He put his foot on the stairs, and looked up  at her.  They walked up to bed, with my daughter holding tightly to his  neck.

For the next 6 years, until he died, Sam waited for her by the stairs each night.

Greg Heynen

Why Do Coyotes Howl?    Coyote

Coyotes have a very social life with each other, each howl means something. The long drawn out howl is an interrogation howl, asking is there any other members of my pack around and where are you. There are many other howls I don’t have the space to explain them all. The lonesome howl, the female invitation howl, pup yips and howls, challenge howls, and many more. These are some of the ones you will here. Coyotes are very territorial most of the year and do not tolerate other coyotes in their territory, this is why sometimes when you howl to call to them they answer back with a quicker more excited howl this is the challenge howl, you can sometimes give it right back to them and they get real excited, it’s kinda like two people talking crap in an argument or before a fight, sometimes the coyote will come to whip butt. They yip in packs sometimes at night when they have killed something or found something to eat. They howl for many reasons. 

Sara Corbus









Husky 22T Log Splitter

I live out in the sticks. Actually on some property with some very large sticks. We live on  land populated with hundreds of mature oak and hickory trees. Beautiful, magnificent 60+’ specimens scattered around our house providing shade and windbreaks. It wasn’t long after moving in that I began to notice, however, that quite a few of them were dying, or dead. Long past their prime, they still stood tall and mighty, and while I may have been grateful for their efforts, the falling limbs and rotting trunks betrayed their condition. With each passing ice storm, gust of strong winds, and sighting of carpenter ants, it became obvious that the dead ones around our house would have to go.

log splitter (2)

Downing trees isn’t a problem for me. Been there and done that. We heat our house with a woodstove, so it’s a renewable source of free heat . I just had to get the wood split and stacked. Did my homework and narrowed down a few logsplitters in my price range. I settled on the Husky 22Ton model from Tractor Supply. Picked it up for about a grand, completely assembled and ready to go. Mine has the Briggs 675 190cc motor. Some may believe that a Honda engine is the only way to go; I don’t dispute Honda’s reputation. I have Honda motors in my riding mower, my home backup generator and my trash pump. Can’t say a thing against them. Briggs is a meat and potatoes type unit. For me, take care of them and they’ll do just as they are advertised.

So, towed the splitter home, parked it in the back near a stack of logs and starting browsing thru the english version of the owner’s manual. Pretty straightforward stuff, when to change the oil, etc. Made sure the fluids were good, filled the tank with gas, flipped the choke on and voila, it started on the 2nd pull. If you are at all familar with logsplitters, you won’t have any trouble getting the Huskee up and running right away. The splitter uses a two stage pump to bust thru the bad boys. I haven’t used a stop watch, but it seems like somewhere between 12-15 seconds to cycle back for the next log. The unit will also swing down and lock vertically so you can split the large diameter stuff that is too heavy to lift. The Huskee weighs in somewhere around 500lbs.  I towed it home at road speed, and pull it around our property using a 4 wheeler or our golf cart; either do the job just fine.log splitter

Follow Up

So, I’ve had this Huskee 22T log splitter for a little over a year. I would say that I probably haven’t used it as much as I would if I was running a tree service, but I would consider myself a heavy user for home. I’ve split a large number of oak and hickory trees, with diameters up to 28″.  It will break thru the knots and twisted wood as good as I’ve seen. I’ve used larger units up to 30 Tons. For what I have, and I have some pretty big trees, I don’t see the need for anything more powerful.The Briggs & Stratton 675 runs strong, it is still easy to start and hasn’t missed a beat.   There have been no leaks or malfunctions. If there were any negatives, I’d say they should include the log cradle with the splitter. It is listed as a $40 option, and it only took about three cramps in my lower back to go buy one. They make all the difference in the world.  Had a tire go flat over the winter.  I don’t suppose I can blame TSC for that. Are there better splitters? Yes. For less money? Haven’t found one. Would I buy this model again? Sure would. And FWIW, I do not or have every worked for TSC or Husky. Just like people to know when I find something that works as advertised.