Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017
Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, June 14, 2017

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cumberland Falls State Resort Park and Mammoth Cave N.P. - Monday, February 28, 2011

This morning, we drove 1-1/2 hours to Maryville, TN, to return one rental car to the Knoxville airport, then drove north back toward Corbin, KY, on Interstate 75. 

Well let me tell you, the National Weather Service had alerts going all morning about tornadoes, thunder and lightning, flooding, heavy rainfall. We had massive rain while driving on the freeway. The clouds were hanging almost at ground level. Between the rain and the semi-truck spray, it was hard to see. We were hydroplaning from the standing water on the roadway. Speed limit: 70.

We stopped at a rest area to calm ourselves down and to  ...  wait for it  ...  rest. A few miles farther north, we turned off the interstate and took back roads to Cumberland Falls State Resort Park. Much more scenic and relaxing than the freeway.


Because it had been raining so heavily, the falls were not their customary  60' high. The river was flowing so heavily that the falls looked 20' high. The water was blasting over the falls and when it hit the frothing water at the bottom, bounced back up almost as high as the waterfall itself.

The viewing area was closed as the water was starting to go over it. We walked the trail a little beyond the viewing platform and were able to lean over a railing to see the bottom of the falls. Muddy, churning current with large waves is the best way I can describe the base of the falls. As we walked back to our car, sharing a small umbrella, we saw the handicapped paved path, which we assumed normally went down to a peaceful riverbank, disappear into the river which had risen over its banks.

From Cumberland Falls, we headed west and north with a quick stop at the Parkers Lake Post Office to buy stamps and mail stuff. Bob went in to buy the stamps because I didn't want to get out in the downpour. As I'm relaxing in the driver's seat, Bob motions for me to come in the post office. Braving the downpour once again, I go to see what the fuss is about. The postmaster is also a photographer. On the walls behind the counter are his framed pictures of waterfalls in the area. Really great photos. He had a picture of what Cumberland Falls looks like most of the time. It looked like a very impressive waterfall, but nothing like the torrent we saw today.

We stopped at Bob Evans Restaurant in Somerset where I had potato-crusted flounder, a baked potato, steamed veggies and buttermilk biscuits. Bob had a turkey melt sandwich and fries. Good stuff.

From Somerset, we made a beeline for Mammoth Cave National Park on the Cumberland Parkway (future I-66). While driving, I got so tired I had to pull over and have Bob drive. As soon as he started driving I conked out (snoring included, according to Bob) and slept for about 1/2 hour.

The tour we decided on today is the Historical Entrance Tour. Again, the tour was two miles, two hours long with 440 steps (this time going mostly up). We learned about the bear hunter who discovered the cave, saltpitre mining to make gunpowder for the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, a tuberculosis hospital that used to be in the cave (didn't work--people died), how the cave was made accessible for touring, music in the cave, the bats, the eyeless fish and crayfish that inhabit the cave, how the cave was formed, discovering a whole complex of caves in the area and how they're connected to Mammoth Cave, different levels of the cave...Do you want me to give you the whole two-hour tour? I didn't think so. You'll have to plan a visit and discover it for yourself.

Because it had been raining so much, the cave entrance had a waterfall coming over the top of it. Luckily, we could get around it without getting too wet. Also, inside the cave there was much more flowing water than usual, so we had some waterfalls inside the cave too.

Mammoth Cave Historic Entrance.


Area where saltpitre was mined.
We are spending the night in Cave City and plan to go back tomorrow with two of Bob's younger brothers, his sister-in-law and our two eight-year-old nieces. One brother, Aaron, lives about an hour north of here. His daughter, Emily, has never met Steve and Nancy's daughter, Amanda. Tomorrow they will finally get to meet at the cave.

After our cave tour, we plan to go to see Aaron and Claudia's place in Rineyville, KY. Claudia is cooking a German meal (sauerbraten) for us.

From there, we're off to Louisville for the convention Bob and his brother are attending.

Oh, as for the tornadoes, apparently there were three tornadoes somewhere in the vicinity. We didn't see them, thankfully. The news in our hotel was from Chicago, so no local news for Kentucky! Bummer.

Time to sleep. Finally!

Fall State Falls State Park and Mammoth Cave National Park - Sunday, February 27, 2011

What a day! We got up early to go to Fall Creek Falls State Park outside Pikeville, Tennessee. Forecast is for a chance of rain. Weather is cold this morning--around 43 degrees. 

From our hotel in Dayton, we drove about 40 minutes to Fall Creek Falls. Our first stop in the park--Cane Creek Falls and Rockhouse Falls--totally blew us away. From a lookout point at the top of these two falls that flow into one base pool, the view was awe inspiring.
 


Cane Creek Falls
Rockhouse Falls--An extra waterfall at Cane Creek Falls.

Above Cane Creek Falls were the Cascades which would be considered a full-blown waterfall anywhere else. Keep in mind, we saw these falls in February after it had been raining. Later in the year, they probably have a lot less volume. Also at the first stop was a swinging bridge over the rushing torrent.

Cane Creek Cascades



We drove on to see George Hole which is a swimming/fishing hole in a beautiful setting with a rock wall on side and another swinging bridge. We were taking pictures on the swinging bridge when thunder clapped loudly. I hightailed it back to the car as large raindrops splattered down on me. Once we got in the car, more thunder. 



We drove to Fall Creek Falls, and looked across the gorge at another spectacular waterfall which also had another waterfall sharing its plunge pool. If the day had been nicer and we had more time, we would have hiked to the bottom of the falls.







We also hiked to the Piney Falls viewpoint and another swinging bridge. There was another waterfall, but I can't remember the name of it. I'll look it up later.


 


Okay.
 
After a morning of many "gorge"ous hikes, we were hungry. There was one little town we passed through in the countryside and this was the only restaurant. We had a very different, for us, late lunch. The special of the day was a chicken casserole and cornbread that sounded very good. I got that and Bob opted for pancakes and eggs which also came with grits. Very good home cookin'. Bob got to eat quite a bit of the casserole and I had a few bites of pancake. We were stuffed and there were leftovers, but we had nowhere to put them. I think our total bill was $5.50 for both of us.


From Fall Creek Falls State Park, we headed northwest to Mammoth Cave National Park. The time changed from Eastern to Central Time, so we gained an hour. That was fortunate as we were able to get on the New Entrance tour at 2:00 pm.



Mammoth Cave is over 380 miles long, which makes it the longest cave in the world. It is still being explored and last year they discovered two more miles of cave.

We hopped on a bus at the Visitor Center for a drive to the New Entrance. The New Entrance tour is two miles, takes two hours and is 500+ steps...luckily most of them are going down, not up. (This is accomplished by exiting a different way than we came in.)

The first 1-1/2 hours of the tour travels through different passages on different levels. We learned about how the cave was formed, the history of Kentucky "cave wars," and about other tours offered in the park. The last half hour of the tour is when we saw the great formations this cave has to offer, especially Frozen Niagara. Flowstone formed over centuries lines one wall of the cave in what looks like a frozen waterfall. There are also massive cave draperies, dripstone, angel hair, stalactites, stalagmites, columns, soda straws, and other formations. Too much to take in in the short time we were there. The tour was so informative and interesting, we decided to go back tomorrow for a different tour in the park.







After we left Mammoth Cave, we had to go to Louisville and rent another car. (Long story: In order to save exorbitant rental car fees incurred when picking a car up at one airport and dropping it at another airport, we decided to rent one car at the airport in Knoxville, TN where we flew in and use it for the first part of our trip, then return it to Knoxville. In order for this to work, we had to rent a car in Louisville, KY, then return the first car to Knoxville. You guessed it, that's how we spent Sunday night and Monday morning.) Now we have two rental cars and two people driving. Bob and I both drove most of the way from Louisville to Knoxville on Sunday night, in the rain. By 10:00 pm I was exhausted. We stopped for the night in Corbin, KY, about 1-1/2 hours from the Knoxville airport. 

To be continued...

Snore.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Tennessee Aquarium and Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park - Saturday, February, 26, 2011

I got to sleep in! Bob got up and ran for an hour. He didn't realize there was a half-marathon in Chattanooga this morning or he would have signed up for it. He was bummed he missed it.

At 10:00 am, we were at the Tennessee Aquarium to learn about aquatic life from the Appalachians down the creeks, streams and rivers to the Mississippi River Delta. What a fascinating place. AAA calls it a "Gem" in their TourBook, we agree. 



The River Journey building had a special exhibit on sea horses, pipefish and sea dragons. I am so interested in those creatures and the exhibit did not disappoint. We saw different-colored seahorses, weedy sea dragons and leafy sea dragons--so unusual-looking. I can't wait to get home and post pictures.

Weedy seadragon.

Potbelly seahorse.

Leafy seadragon.
 

From the special exhibit, we took a long escalator ride to the fourth floor where we started our river journey in the forest aviary. All kinds of birds flitted above us, not many at our level. We also saw two otters in their den--it was their bedtime as they're more active at night. 


The tour through the building took us down ramps past three- and four-story aquariums showcasing fish from the local rivers, lakes, reservoirs and mangrove swamps. Off to the sides of the ramps, each floor had exhibits which chronicled the life cycles of alligators, crocodiles, frogs, salamanders, turtles, fish (from piranha to koi to giant catfish to trout to shiners to minnows to gars to beluga sturgeon to bass, etc.), snakes and more. Bob was most impressed with the international river displays. The diversity and variety was amazing! We meandered and wandered to wonder.

Follow the Tennessee River fauna from the mountains to the ocean.
 




Ducks and turtles.
 

After we finished the River Journey in two hours, we walked next door to the Ocean Journey building. Our first "room" in this building was the tropics. Our journey started with the sting rays...the first two were unique--one black with white polka dots and the other was a copper/brown pattern--from tropical rivers in South America, Asia and Africa. In the center of the tropics display area was a touch tank where we could "pet" a sting ray. 



Bob at the touch tank.
A side area housed butterflies of all colors and types. Very pretty.



The Ocean Journey building had a special display on jellyfish. Even though we had seen a display on jellyfish years ago at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we spent some time checking out this exhibit. Jellyfish are so weird, but almost hypnotic to watch as they pulse in the water. Large aquariums housed sharks, rays, penguins, lookdowns, sea turtles and giant Japanese spider crabs. To tour this building took an hour.

Giant Japanese spider crabs.
Bob appearing ghostly in the jellyfish tank.
From the aquarium, we drove up the hill to the Hunter Art District on the bluffs. We found a bakery (!) and went in. The proprietress started explaining all the kinds of bread she had. As soon as she got to the cinnamon rolls, which looked divine, we stopped her, bought our cinnamon rolls, and ate them as we walked around the small art gallery park overlooking the Tennessee River. Grades: art: B; cinnamon rolls: A+, view overlooking the river: A+; weather: A (sunny, not a cloud in the sky and about 68 degrees).

Good bakery in Hunter Arts District.
There is so much to do in Chattanooga!

But wait, there's more; although this next attraction takes us into northern Georgia. For the rest of the day, we explored Civil War history at Chickamauga-Chattanooga National Military Park. 


Cravens House.
 


View from Lookout Mountain--Point Park.
Chickamauga and Chattanoga National Military Park, Lookout Mountain.
 




Starting at Cravens House and Point Park atop Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, we ended up at the Chickamauga Battlefield in Georgia.

At the Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center, we read history, watched a 25-minute movie, then drove a 7-mile cell phone audio tour around the battlefield. At each of eight battlefield sites, we called a phone number, then entered the number for each part of the tour we were on. Bob turned on his cell phone speaker and we had an audio tour the new high-tech way. Civil War history comes alive when you're on the battlefield and can see the forests and fields where the fighting and strategies took place.






Civil War Re-enactment Encampment


As we drive to the last audio tour marker, I commented that it was getting to be deer time of day ("deer o'clock" as we call early morning and late-afternoon- into-dusk). Not less than two minutes after I said it, there were four deer in the woods next to us. At our last stop, we saw about 14 deer across a field from us. "Deer o'clock" indeed.

From Georgia, we headed north to Dayton, Tennessee, home of the famous Scopes Trials (deciding whether schools could teach evolution instead of creationism). We are spending the night in the Best Western in anticipation of an early morning visit to Fall Creek Falls State Park, then on to Mammoth Cave National Park, which we'd like to tour tomorrow afternoon.

I better get some sleep! Travel Bug out.