Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Coo Year!

Ms. Coo wishes you a Happy Coo Year!

Looking to 2011

The New Year is rapidly approaching and it appears that we are once again going to fall short of our annual goal of 100 miles hiked. We aren’t dismayed by this. On the contrary, it has been a great year in terms of hiking. We came a lot closer to our goal than we ever have in past years, and hiked a whole slew of trails we had never hiked before. However, it is time to plan for 2011, and really we’ve never been the type for resolutions as we’ve accepted the fact that we will fail miserably within the first few weeks of the New Year. Seriously, who hasn’t? I suppose a better question would be who has stuck to a resolution and was successful? I’m sure there are a few and I admire those with the resolve, dedication, and will power it takes to accomplish such a feat.

Robin and I have taken to a new philosophy, one from the vein of simple, free living. The philosophy I speak of is living without goals or rather, very loose goals. We find that having hardened, strict goals tends to narrow our focus so much that we miss other opportunities along the way. Instead, we form very open ended goals so that we can stop and smell the roses along the way if you will. By doing this, we can easily adapt to situations and circumstances that might be out of our control. With this attitude it is my hope that we accomplish more than we ever imagined possible, and that God will lead us to where we are supposed to be.

As for our outdoor goals for 2011, our typical "hike 100 miles" still remains. If we make it then great, if not that’s okay, too.  Sometimes things don’t go as you hope they will but later you realize it’s probably best it didn’t.  Besides, if you dwell upon it too much, it might drive you nuts. Another loose goal for 2011 is to get at least 1 or 2 overnight backpacking trips in. Once again this is an open goal to which, if it happens, awesome and if not that’s okay, too. First, I have to convince Robin that Ms. Coo will be fine with the babysitter. Otherwise, I'll be packing in with a "Hamster on Board" sign.

Finally, we hope to hike some more of what is completed of the Cumberland Trail, climbing Bird Mountain at Frozen Head State Park and out towards Mushroom Rock on the Frozen Head Segment and climbing up to Cross Mountain on the New River Segment are two that stand out foremost in our minds.

That’s really about it. So long as we can get outdoors when possible or permissible, and enjoy all that the Appalachians have to offer, then satisfied we shall be.  Now we turn the page over to you, our readers. What goals, resolutions, or hopes do you have in 2011 pertaining to the great outdoors? Leave us your comments. We love hearing from you all and sharing ideas and information.

Happy Trails and Happy New Year,
Tim and Robin

P.S. This post was inspired by the writing prompt from

Thursday, December 30, 2010

White Christmas

We hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas filled with many blessings. Did everyone get what they wanted? We sure hope so. If you are in the Southern Appalachians then you got an extra special treat on Christmas morning much like we did here. We awoke on Christmas morning with about one and a half inches of snow on the ground. If I'm not mistaken, this was the first White Christmas for this area in several years. For me, it was the first that I can distinctly remember. Considering that I was originally a city boy from New Orleans, snow was not a regular occurrence.

We got another one to two inches Christmas night and it continued snowing off and on throughout the next day. Matter of fact, we tried our luck in the early afternoon hours of the 26th and decided we would head towards Townsend, TN. It would have been nice to have made it into Cades Cove in the Smokies to capture a bit of this winter wonderland through Wifey's camera.

Unfortunately, by the time we hit the first part of the foothills the snow was coming down really heavy and we decided driving conditions were unlikely to improve. Good thing we did. Some areas in the Smokies received over a foot of snow! Tourists have been "trapped" for days - but conditions are improving now. Temps have warmed and there is rain in the forecast.

In any case, we stopped at I.C. King park on the way back through. Robin was able to get out and snap a couple shots at the pier before she determined that any significant time outside on the river would likely cause important appendages to freeze and fall off. So we called in food and headed home.

Our uneventful trip became very eventful though once we got our food. We'd received a call from home. Weather conditions were worsening. The roads were "turning white." Kiddo asked if her cuz (Kiddo 2) could spend the night, and since it was on the way home (typically), we agreed to pick her up. By the time we started towards her house, the snow was coming down around us and every mile closer the roads were getting whiter and whiter. I'm not sure how we got up the hill to her house and back down but Wifey did it. She is used to this stuff, or at least, she's got more experience in it than I do.

The drive home was a very slow one. The roads were getting pretty slick with snow and ice, and we ended up having to take the long way around just to avoid the backroads. Luckily though we made it home, safe and sound, and indulged in some "After Christmas Laziness." No shopping for us! Santa brought us more than we could have ever needed.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Happy 30th Merrell

Come January, Merrell will have been at it for 30 years now. In celebration they would like to give you a free pair of socks for any order over $50 dollars. Wish Merrell Shoes a happy birthday and don't forget your free pair of socks while supplies last.

Celebrate Merrell's 30th Birthday. Free hiking socks with purchase over $50 (while supplies last).

Don't forget to get your Merrell Gift Cards or e-GiftCards.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Wishing all of you a very Merry Appalachian Christmas!

And just in case you're wondering, Ms. Coo did get her castle. :-)

Friday, December 24, 2010

High-Tech Coo

"Accordingz to my cal-coo-lationz, Christmaz should be here in one dayz!

Timez to start tracking Sandy Paws!" ~Ms. Coo

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Just 2 more days!

"Hey! Mum! Did you hearz that?? I thinkz I heard Sandy Paws!" ~Ms. Coo

P.S. -- I highly recommend a "Ms. Coo Gift Wrapping Assembly Line."

I could have never gotten all those bows chewed up by myself.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Nutcracker Ballet

After Clara successfully beats the Mouse King 3 days before Christmas,
Ms. Sugar Plum Coo dances the grand pas de deux.

She also suggests listening to:

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Passing the Time

♫ ♪ ‎"I'z iz dweaming of a cassel for Chrizmaz... 
In juz 4 dayz it might come..." ♪ ♫
~ Ms. Coo

Monday, December 20, 2010

Last Minute Wishes

Ms. Coo whispers, "...and a bowling ball for my big sissy."

Just 5 days!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Little Drummer Coo

"Shall I play for you? Pa rum pum pum pum... Just 6 days!" ~Ms. Coo

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Trail Music

We have 7 days left until Christmas, and 13 days until we begin a new year. It's looking more and more like we will once again fall short of our 100 mile goal and somehow we are okay with that.

The smell of home cooked chicken waifs though the air; Robin is currently in the kitchen preparing her signature Autumn Chicken recipe which is causing my stomach to rumble with wanton hunger. The kiddo is sitting in the floor of the living room enjoying the company of her first major steady boyfriend. Yeah, that sound you heard was of me cringing. Actually, he seems to be a nice young man. Daddy may actual provide his seal of approval, of course we will have to wait and see how he fares on the trail with us first, heh heh heh.

As we sit in the warmth of our country home, content with ourselves and our current condition, Fleet Foxes plays in the backdrop of our winter scene. I rather enjoy their melodies and as I sit listening, I wonder if there is any other music that makes me long for the trail more than this. Maybe Iron and Wine but Fleet Foxes always takes me away to a wooded trail or a scenic drive, the type you might see in a Sundance Film Festival entry.

How about you, our readers? What music brings the longing of the trail rushing into your mind? Furthermore, what tunes do you find enjoyable to listen to on the way to the trailhead? What songs play in your head as the leaves are trampled underfoot, making their own sense of trail music?

For me, Fleet Foxes hold a dear place in my heart and mind when thinking of the trail. Their light and melodic tunes fill my imagination with panoramic views of the Tennessee Valley from atop the Cumberland Plateau, or the various peaks located in the Smokies from Mount LeConte or Clingmans Dome, or still yet the peaks and valleys viewable from the lookout tower atop Mount Mitchell in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

While venturing down the trail, more often than not, Fleet Foxes' tunes "Blue Ridge Mountains" or "Mykonos" plays over and over in my head like a dreamy soundtrack. On the way to the trailhead, we often listen to Fleet Foxes especially the songs "Meadowlark", "Sun It Rises", or "White Winter Hymnal". These songs always make me eager yet mellow, ready to enjoy the trail and all its wonders it will offer.

Enjoy the tunes and share with us the soundtracks that play in your mind while on the trail or in the car on the way to the trailhead.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Pure Happiness

There was a little Coo
and she was happy for a reason
and the reason was the season
of the giving that was due.

But all she had to give
was the warmth of her small heart
the love and care and pictures she shared
with friends, some near - some far.

And though she wished so deeply
that the seven was the two,
she knew she had to wait
and send more happiness to you.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Major Award

"Oh! There could be anything in there! And here 8 days 'til Christmas!" ~ Ms. Coo

Thursday, December 16, 2010

An Icy Flint Ridge

As much as we love being in the outdoors, nothing makes us want to stay indoors more than treacherous weather. If it's raining a bit, no problem. If there's some snow coming down, we will even brave that. However, when there is a tenth of an inch of ice covering everything, there's no way we are getting out anywhere. This happens to be the case today on Flint Ridge.

Flint Ridge is the name of the ridge we live upon here in our neck of the Appalachian region. The ridge was named for the abundant amount of flint rock that you can find here. As a matter of fact, we have used the stones to edge our flower beds around the house, and even to line our fire pit out back, which we love to sit around when we can't sit around one whilst camping.

Overnight we received another dusting of snow, which promptly turned to freezing rain as warm southern air filtered in aloft. By the time Robin and I went to bed everything had been frozen over with a nice coat of ice. This morning I awoke in my typical weekday fashion and peered out the window to gauge whether or not I'd be able to make the trek to work. Of course at first glance the answer was apparent. Especially considering that we haven't had our car a year yet, in no way am I about to risk damage to our most reliable mode of transportation, not counting our feet.

In the few hours I've sat in the house, I can count on one hand the number of vehicles I've seen go up and down the road. All of them have been trucks or SUV's of some sort. Rather than go out and brave the elements and driving conditions, I believe that we will stay indoors today, sipping coffee and staying warmed by the kerosene heater.


By the way, I did venture out earlier this morning to check first hand how bad the ice is. Let's just say, that as Robin watched from the window she reminded me that if I fell while playing out there, I'd have to suffer from whatever injuries I might sustain as a result because she wasn't driving me to the emergency room in this mess.

Happy Trails and Stay Warm,
Tim and Robin

P.S. Robin and I just came back in from checking things out. We finally had a chance to try out our ice cleats. They work wonderfully in the little bit of ice we have. Our only other question is how would they handle in thicker ice? Things are starting to thaw, but there's still a ways to go.

Under the Mistletoe

I remember when I first learned that mistletoe was a parasite, that you used a shotgun to get it down (the brave and reckless climbed) and that a profit could be made from selling those gatherings. It was in the dead of winter, and my childhood friend and I were playing around a large black oak. Barren of leaves, you could see to the top. That tree, unlike most large oaks, had a sturdy branch hanging low enough for one of us to reach if the other offered a leg up. Hanging upside down, I spotted the luscious greenery waaaaay up high in the very tip-top of that tree. My curiosity led me to my grandmother who promptly told me more than I wanted to know about mistletoe. The gathering interested me the most - still does. The fact is, mistletoe and holly gathering were the sole means of a winter income for some Appalachian dwellers. In my search for more information I found this article from the New York Times dated December 29, 1901 discussing the virtues and profits gained by those in the Southern Appalachian regions who harvested the - at the time - very abundant Eastern species.

Mistletoe seems to be one of those Christmas traditions that is losing its place in the contemporary holiday. It's a shame, I think. But I've succumb to the overwhelming powers of a hectic holiday season, and I nearly forgot it this year as well. For me, though, Christmas is about keeping traditions and occasionally making new ones. And this one reminds me of my old people...

At Christmas, it always had a place in the doorway of my great grandmother's house. Anyone caught using that door frame as a lean-to would get a smooch from her for sure! It always made me giggle to see others find themselves standing underneath. They'd usually blush and quickly find a new place to stand. I don't blame them really. I did, too.

Bright and joyous,
Happiness and cheer,
No time to spare!
You know it's here.

A hectic season -
A collection of days - 
A short time span -
called "The Holidays."

Sometimes they're good
at making you blue,
stressing you out -
draining you, too!

There seems to be
no cure in sight -
no comfort zone -
just sleepless nights.

But with nine days left,
what's one to do?
Try this: Pucker up
and kiss a Coo!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Letter to Sandy Paws

‎"Mum! Iz needz a stampfh! Only 10 mor dayz ta git diz ta Sandy Paws!"

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Mystery of the Missing Christmas Cookie

"Coo-kie? Nope, meh no seenz no missing Chrizmaz coo-kie." ~ Ms. Coo



Monday, December 13, 2010

Too Cold To Snow

It's been a blustery, frigid Monday this side of Flint Ridge. We went to bed Sunday night with about an inch of snow on the ground, and woke up this morning to a blanket of the white stuff. Not too much really, but enough to make the roads messy, close school, and give Tim the rare snow day. Really, I was surprised. There wasn't enough to amount to anything, but our cold, cold temperatures had the roads a slick, icy mess. By the time I made it out for pictures though, the sun had burned a bit of it off.

I'd phoned my dad last night to give him the snow totals for Sunday (he keeps a weather station with records), and asked if he thought we were going to get much more.  He said, "I don't reckon. It's too cold to snow." Too cold to snow?!? I'd heard this a thousand times before, but had never given it a second thought.  Here recently, though, I've taken kindly to learning more about "mountain speak" (more popularly known as "Appalachian English" or "Hillbilly Talk").

It's a dying language, Mountain Speak.  The thick dialect thins more with every new generation. But I grew up with people speaking this way, and to me, it's natural. One of the most prominent features are the old adages. "Cold as all get out." "Colder than a well digger's a**." "Rainin' cats an dogs." "The cows are layin' down, gonna snow." Hence my familiarity and new curiosity concerning "too cold to snow."

So, I looked it up. Is it ever really "too cold to snow?" Apparently there have been recorded snows at -40 degrees F. So, I'd say no. It just so happens that the colder it is, the less likely it is to snow - due to moisture retention in the clouds not temperature. So, our old timers weren't completely wrong!

  With temperatures here topping out at 27 degrees F today, I can happily report that it's still flurrying a little here and there. So, even though 27's cold - it's not too cold to snow. And it's not too cold to play either (provided you bundle up!).



Conducting the Choir

"And-a One, And-a Two.... ♫ ♪ FROSTY THE SNOWMAN..." ~Ms. Coo

Sunday, December 12, 2010

All Aboard!

Ms. Coo invites you to hop aboard the Christmas Coo Express!
Departure is now, Arrival is 13 days away!

~~chugga, chugga, Coo, Coo!~~

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Chain Forged In Life

"Bah Humbug?! But Christmas is only 14 days away!" ~ Ms. Coo "Marley"

Have a blessed and glorious weekend!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Putting Dad's Antenna Back Up

A few weeks back we had some strong winds blow through that brought down many tree branches and limbs. In addition to the limbs and branches, dad's antenna fell. The rope holding one leg of his 40 Meter Windom had snapped in two. Of course we all know that when you use yellow nylon (non-UV protected) rope, you will eventually have to replace it at some point.

So over the Thanksgiving break, Robin and I both went over to help put the antenna back up and get dad back on the air with that antenna. Of course he still has his 80 meter inverted V so he wasn't suffering from total HF silence. We first had to get the loose leg and balun out of the tree it was dangling in. Luckily for us, the loose leg hadn't wrapped itself around a branch like we had initially thought. Otherwise, we would have likely had to loosen the other leg to get it all out, climb the tree, or worse - find a way to cut the branch mocking us from 20 feet overhead.

Once we got the loose leg free, we were able to proceed with running a new length of rope to pull the loose leg of the antenna back up in the air. This is a practice in vigilance. To do this, we tied fishing line to a lug nut and I used a sling shot to shoot the lug nut over the tree. Once over the tree (of course this was done from the roof of the house after several failed attempts from the ground - and we lost our favorite gear weight pictured below) we then tied some twine to the fishing line to pull back over the tree. We have to do this as fishing line isn't strong enough to pull the black UV protected nylon rope over the tree to tie to the antenna leg. Once the twine was pulled over we tied the rope to the loose antenna leg and to the twine and started pulling. In no time the antenna was back in the air and no sky hook was needed.

Dad checked to make sure everything was working properly and we were on our way back home after a job well done.

If you are interested in Ham Radio and haven't a clue as to where to start or what it's all about here are a few links for more information:

For our outdoor enthusiasts, ham radio is an effective means for communication while out in the wild. Most places we venture, we rarely get a cell signal. We never go on a trail longer than 3 miles without carrying our HT (handie talkie). With that we don't need to worry about whether we have a cell signal in the event of an emergency. In most cases, we can make contact with another Ham that can arrange for emergency assistance if necessary. Do your own searching on Google and you will find many examples where ham radio has aided in emergency rescue efforts of hikers lost or hurt on the trail.

Ok we will get off our ham radio soapbox now. Until next time...

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Ms. Coo says, "Coo-S-T Coo-S-T: Only 15 days til Christmas! Coo-S-L?"

Thursday, December 9, 2010

River Bluff Loop - River Bluff TVA Small Wild Area - 12/5/2010

It's cold and snowy and you're still 30 miles away from your 100 mile goal for the year. What do you do? What else, go hiking. That's just what Robin and I done. Robin has less than 25 miles to go and I just under 28 before the year is out.

For a while we hadn't done much hiking in bitter cold or snowy conditions, however we've been striving to break out of that mold. There's no reason why you can't bundle up like you are going to go play in 6 inches of snow and walk. To be quite honest, it wasn't as bad as one might think. If you remember Robin's Winter Hiking Tips, then you are good to go with hiking in the cold weather. As the boy scouts say, always be prepared. Expect the unexpected and a winter hike will do the soul some good.

After much deliberation and consideration of the weather and other circumstances we decided that we would head down to Norris and hike a trail we hadn't done in a few years, the River Bluff Loop Trail in the River Bluff Small Wild area nestled in between Norris Dam State Park lands. As a matter of fact the last time we did the trail, we were in worse shape than we are now and it wasn't for hiking's sake, rather it was to find a geocache that was hidden there. At that time it was either Spring or Summer. I can't exactly remember. I've slept since then. However I do know that it was green as could be and this time around we saw things on the trail that we didn't see before.

The River Bluff Loop Trail is approximately 3.2 miles and is located on TVA land on the west side of the dam. The trail is an easy to moderate trail with a good foot path. There were only a couple of blow downs along the trail but nothing difficult to overcome. You can start out up hill by going right at the fork, like we did, or stroll along the river first by going straight. Total elevation gain/loss is approximately +/- 210ft. It's definitely enough to get the heart rate up and the blood pumping.

It was a beautiful hike, with the snow blowing off and on and the sun popping in and out. Along the river, the views of the bluffs were very apparent and rather beautiful. The last time we were here I don't think we even noticed them, as we were busy searching for that geocache.

This time around however the sluice gates of the dam were open and you could hear the roar of the water not to mention see the spray from it and watch the river rage down stream. Come to think of it, I don't believe I have been hiking at Norris when any part of the dam was open. Of course after all the rain we had earlier in the week, I suppose they had to return the lake back to it's normal winter levels.

While we hiked, Robin snapped photos (when she wasn't wiping a drippy nose), and I shot video. Robin took one turn behind the video camera though, but is only for a short moment. The unfortunate thing was that the last time I cleared the memory card, I forgot to format it, meaning I lost half of the 2 minute video shots of the first part of the trail. It's too bad that happened. I was thinking a video hike covering sections of the trail would have been nice. We still might be able to put together something. It may be a few days before we can do that. The holiday season keeps us hopping.

All in all, we had a wonderful time out in the cold and snow. We got a little closer to our 100, and we got to commune with nature and each other. And Beene had a blast, too. There wasn't a soul on the trail so she went wireless the whole time, and enjoyed catching snowflakes on her tongue.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

"Oh Hai! Just 16 dayz!" ~ Ms. Coo