Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Gosh, Thanks!

I walked into The Yarn Haven one afternoon last week and got surprised...big time surprised! You will recall that just a couple of weeks ago I was happily knitting away on preemie hats as a part of the 2009 Yarn Bowl Challenge: Alabama vs. Tennessee. Our Tennessee knitters and crocheters were absolutely amazing, creating 3,171 hats to warm the heads of tiny preemies and the hearts of loving families here in East Tennessee. Our worthy competition in Tuscaloosa, AL made 1,738 hats. That's a lot of hats folks!!! Here in Tennessee we were thrilled to win the challenge. We would have been happier is we had made that last field goal to win the football game as well, but I guess you can't win everything, right? We'll get 'em next year when the Crimson Tide comes to Rocky Top :-)

I particularly enjoyed knitting the hats because I used the experience to learn and improve upon my colorwork knitting skills. I did a little designing as well, creating girly hats with ruffles and bows and little guy toppers like a baseball-style cap. The last night of the challenge I put the finishing touches on a pair of hats perfect for any preemie-sized Vol fan. One hat supported the Vols while the other touted the Lady Vols as our favorites. It's hard to say I had a favorite hat, but I am particularly fond of these two.

I guess I was not alone in my inability to choose just one favorite hat. Apparently the anonymous, independent judge of the Yarn Haven hats also had a hard time choosing only one as well. That's where the surprise comes in. I created really cute hats (IMHO) because I was enjoying myself. I also did it because I *know* what such a simple thing means to preemie parents. My aim was for cuteness and quality, not quantity or anything else. I knew that Sandy, my LYSO, had announced there would be categories and judging at the end of the competition, but I paid no heed to all that. So when I walked into the shop that afternoon and was greeted by cheers and congratulations by my friends and fellow knitters I was stunned. I had won the most unique prize. Oh my!!! There was a nice gift certificate to the shop to go along with the kind words and cheers. What else can I say but thanks!!! The Yarn Haven is the BEST!!! It's such a good feeling to be associated with so many wonderful, caring people. I love ya'll!!!

Norris Dam State Park

I continued my search for fall colors one afternoon last week by driving to Norris Dam State Park. Located just north of Knoxville, Norris Dam is a very tall, picturesque TVA dam on the Clinch River. I've visited the dam countless times in my life, I've skied on Norris Lake, but I've never taken the time to visit the historic pioneer village area that is a part of the State Park. I use the term village loosely as it consists of two structures really, a grist mill and a hay barn. On a dark, cloudy Wednesday afternoon in November I pretty much had the place to myself. While conditions for photographing the river and dam were most unfavorable, the yellow leaves behind the grist mill provided the perfect backdrop for great photos. I was shutter-happy for the time being, that is until I realized I had forgotten to put fresh batteries in my camera and the old ones were dying... fast! Sigh! Oh well... With some careful camera management I was able to capture some of the beauty of the day.

At Norris, the bottomland just below the dam was once the site of a forestry test project. Basically they portioned out the land into sections, planting one type of tree in each section. Now the area is a maze of easy walking trails and a haven for birds, white-tail deer, and other wildlife. I caught sight of the first deer emerging from the upper ridges in where else? The apple orchard of course! It was quite the sight as a few rays of sunshine had found their way out from below the cloud cover to illuminate the deer in a golden glow befitting a fall afternoon. Breathtaking!

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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Running Away from Home

I have knitting things to blog about, but they will just have to wait for another day. I want to talk about running away from home. Running away is one of my most favorite things to do. The preparation is simple: A few guidebooks and maps, a camera or two, a cooler full of diet cokes, plus some random munchies--whatever happens to catch my fancy at the time. Pile all of the above into the car, make sure the tank is filled with gas, and GO! Go anywhere that is beautiful, inspiring, scenic, restful, or just plain fun. I've been doing this for years, sometimes with friends or family, but more often than not I go by myself. I love going by myself as I get to go where I want, do what I want, and stay as long as I want before moving on.

Ever since my last major escape to Diana's in West Virgina, I have been plotting more trips in the TN/NC/VA/WV/KY region better known as the Southern Appalachians. I call it heaven. When the Ken Burn's documentary special on our National Parks aired on PBS in September, my burning desire to escape was fueled further. I couldn't go very trips or half-day trips only for now. Fortunately the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP)isn't very far, only an hour's drive from my home to the Townsend Entrance. My health and personal schedule were favorable for a change, so to the Smokies I went.

It's been too many years since I visited the Smokies at the peak of Fall color. With the abundance of rainfall this year, there was an abundance of leaves on the trees and I wanted to see them in all their red and yellow glory. Better yet, I wanted to photograph this glory using my digital camera for the first time ever. I did not hold back. To see all the photos you will need to go to my web album here. I tried to add captions and descriptions as I edited the photos, but suffice it to say that all these photos were taken in just a few areas of the GSMNP-- Newfound Gap Road, Little River Road, Tremont, and Cades Cove. There is much, much more! Enjoy the eye candy :-)

The photos I have uploaded here represent a little of what I saw on my 3 trips to the park. The first day (20 Oct) I headed for the higher elevations in the hopes of capturing what remained of the colors after a hard frost and light snowfall the previous 2 days. The snow took it's toll, but the yellows of the mid-elevations on the North Carolina side of the park were especially beautiful. Of course by the time I got to the other side of the mountains it was late in the day, so some of my photos aren't as stunning as I would wish. Even still, the scene was beautiful in person so I was more than happy.

I made my 2nd trip about a week later on a Monday afternoon. The park was extremely crowded so I headed to a lesser-known spot called Tremont. The Middle Prong of the Little River is the hallmark of Tremont, a densely forested area which has finally recovered from heavy logging in the pre-park era. It's hard for me to believe it's the 75th anniversary of the GSMNP this year! The only folks that spend much time in Tremont are those who "hike" on horseback (there's a trailhead and horsecamp at the end of the gravel road), folks attending the Great Smoky Mtns Institute (an educational thing), and fly fishermen. On the day I was there the fishermen were invaded by the photographers. I met so many neat people who were hauling tripods and fancy (expensive) camera equipment in search of the perfect photo. The little red tree in front of the river (shown above) was the focal point of many, many photographers--many of them professionals. I was pleased to shoot lovely photos of a fellow in his hip waders fishing like no one else was around. Pretty stuff I tell you.

I went a third time, to my favorite location in the park, Cades Cove. It is an excessively crowded area in peak season, like Fall color time, but I managed to find a day where the traffic was tolerable. I stopped at many of the cabins, including some I rarely if ever stop at any more. I also hit my favorite "hidden treasures" while I was there. The deer were unusually sparse during the first part of the Loop Road, but more showed up at twilight on the back side of the Loop. While there were fewer deer than what I'm used to seeing, the wild turkeys more than made up for it. There were oodles of the gobblers scattered throughout the cove. I walked/hiked around much more than I should have, esp. late in the day when I just had to get a specific perspective on my deer photos. I came home elated with the experience and otherwise exhausted. Now, almost a week later, I'm just starting to recover. We have a cliche for such things at our house: "No good deed goes unpunished." So I punished my body..and fibromyalgia screams at such punishment...but I don't care. I was finally there and I will have the photos to re-enjoy the experience forever after. There's nothing else quite like the colors of the trees in the Smokies in late October. I think everyone should see them at least once before departing this earth. Yeah, it's that good!