Saturday, April 30, 2011

Closures in Parks from Wednesday's Storms

As most of you know, this past Wednesday major storms passed through the southeast with devastating effects that have been felt in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and more. Our heart and prayers go out to those affected.

For those planning on trips to our area for hiking, camping, and other outdoor related activities, you may want to consider the following and alter plans in case these closures affect them.

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area:
Big Creek Road is closed to vehicular traffic until further notice. The road is unsafe for use due to a landslide caused by Wednesday's storms. The park is already working with a contractor to make necessary repairs with hopes to have the road re-opened by sometime next week.

For more information and updates check out their websites current news releases here:

Great Smoky Mountain National Park:
Abrams Falls Trail and Beard Cane Trails are closed until further notice. Significant windfall and washouts have made the trails unsafe for hiking at this time. Abrams Falls Trail is closed from it's trailhead inside Cades Cove to the intersection with Hatcher Mountain Trail, but is expected to be re-opened by May 6. Beard Cane Trail is closed from Cooper Road Trail to Ace Gap Trail. There is no estimate as to when the trail will be re-opened. In addition Campsites 3 and 11 are also closed until further notice as well as Rich Mountain Road and Parsons Branch Road all in the Cades Cove area of the park.

For more information on road and trail closures and conditions in the park check out the following page on the parks website:

Friday, April 29, 2011

Guest Post at Live Free and Hike New Hampshire

Another first in the blogging world for us here at Appalachia & Beyond. Karl over at Live Free and Hike New Hampshire, asked us to write a guest post. It's now live on his blog. What is Appalachia? Well what are you waiting for, go on over and check it out. Be sure to let us and Karl know what you think.

Thanks to Karl for allowing us to write the post.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dodging Bullets

Just wanted to let everyone know that we won't have a chance to get a post up this evening. We are too busy dodging bullets and hoping the power stays on. There's been some crazy weather all around us today so we are just riding this out and hoping for the best.

As you can see, there's a lot of red and we are currently under tornado warning for the next hour. 

Well I better turn off the computer before we lose power. We should have a post up tomorrow. 

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Needed: Itty Bitty Hiking Boots

Big News! We could garnish this post with Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice - or we could have to decorate with Frogs and Snails and Puppy Dog Tails. But I suppose we truly must leave that up to God to decide.

Yes... Eight years later than we expected.... We're Expecting!

Yes, this means we'll have one graduating high school and one going into pull-ups. No, we won't get that early retirement to through-hike the AT (not that we would have anyway). Yes, we'll have to tear out a bathroom, rebuild a bedroom, and stockpile diapers. No, we probably won't get to take our Spring backpacking trip now - unless the doctor clears me....

But, Yes! It is a miracle and a blessing, and we are so very excited about our little Baby Bird - the "improbable" baby growing happy and healthily in my belly and in our hearts.

Monday, April 25, 2011

An Earth Day Rescue - A Lesson for Everyone

Tim and I had a magnificent Earth Day. Early in the day, we awoke to a misty, mucky morning. There was quite a bit of rain that moved through early, but it was hit and miss. We lucked out and got a couple of hours of just clouds in order to enjoy an early morning walk at Norris Dam State Park after we dropped Ashby off at school.

Last week, Norris Dam had opened the floodgates due to all the heavy rains the area has had recently. This is a rare spectacle and a treat indeed. Friday morning was a prime opportunity for photographs. The large crowd we'd seen Thursday night was nowhere to be found, and the overcast morning provided a perfect softness to the light.

Multiple shots later, Clover was bugging to go for a sniff. She loves the Songbird Trail, probably because there are so many other dogs and animals that frequent the area. It gives her nose a good workout. So we decided to start our walk by the small fishing pier.

Since we both had our cameras, we usually take turns holding Clover's leash. I had spotted a Goose Family (baby goslings in tote) floating down by the fishing pier, and began slowly approaching to get their photos. I noticed one cute little fluff-ball of a gosling standing on a rock away from the rest of the group. I began snapping away, taking the opportunity to grab some shots of the solo gosling.

It was then that I noticed, as he tried to join the group, that he just sort of toppled off the rock. I watched him get up, bounce back on the rock, stand there a moment, and then once again topple over as he tried to jump in the water. I knew something had to be wrong, so I slowly crept closer only to find that the poor thing was caught up in a tangle of monofilament line that someone had mindlessly and carelessly left lying on the ground. How sad!

Momma goose was not very happy about me approaching her baby, and began to honk, hiss, and lunge at me as I tried to get a handle on how tangled he really was. Tim brought Clover down, and she helped subdue Momma goose long enough for me to figure out the line was tied, multiple times, around the little gosling's leg.

With Clover's help to keep Momma Goose away, I was able to carefully grasp the baby in order to try to unwind the line. But it was no use.  It was just too tangled and knotted up. Thankfully, Tim had his pocket knife and was able to cut the line and free the gosling's leg. We released it back to Momma Goose, and it happily - and freely! - joined the group.

Another good example of why you should ALWAYS clean up after yourself. Please don't ever leave fishing line lying around.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

It's a gorgeous day here in sunny East Tennessee, and we just had to stop by and wish everyone a Happy Easter. We have enjoyed our time off, and it's allowed us to be very productive around the house. But we can't wait to get back to blogging on Monday! We have lots to share including a gosling rescue, pictures of the Norris Dam open floodgates, and two gear reviews on our Eno hammock and the Bass Pro compression sacks.

Until then, have a blessed Easter Sunday!

Oh, and Ms. Coo wanted you all to know that she's practicing up. Maybe next year she'll make the cut as the NEW Cadbury Easter Bunny.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Fling Staycation

With the long weekend and holiday ahead of us, Tim and I will be taking a small break from blogging.

Now knowing us, we'll come across something that we can't help but post, but we didn't want anyone to think we'd abandoned them.

With Earth Day falling on Good Friday, Tim will be off work for once to celebrate with me. Unfortunately, Ashby has school tomorrow due to snow-day makeup, but Tim and I plan on getting outside. Hopefully we'll get a chance to take early morning photos and work in our little gardens, maybe even plant some tomatoes.

We'll be dying Easter eggs with Ashby, planning a Spring fresh Easter menu, and spend Sunday celebrating the resurrection of our Savior with the family.

We hope everyone has a wonderful Earth Day and Easter. We'll be back Monday with a weekend full of pictures to share, and we even have a couple gear reviews we'd like to tackle. In the meantime, we'd love to hear how you plan on spending your holiday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

More Outdoor Gear Give-a-ways/Contests

There's a few more outdoor gear and outdoor related give-a-ways going on in the blogosphere. Here are the few we've managed to catch wind of.

Image Courtesy of
Tom and Atticus
Tom & Atticus of the Adventures of Tom & Atticus are giving away three more copies of the Advanced Reader of their book "Following Atticus". All you need to do is like their Facebook page. Once they reach 500 they'll give away 3 copies of the Advanced Reader. Be sure to check out Tom and Atticus, Atticus is one cool pooch.

Mountainsmith Tour Classic USA-Heritage Lumbar Pack (Heritage Red)The next give-a-away is a Mountainsmith Tour Lumbar Pack over at My Life Outdoors. Steven is giving away the pack in partnership with You can get up to four entries in this give-away. Just head over to Steven's blog and check out how. Steven will pick the winner on the 24th, Easter Sunday.

Adventure Series Men's Lite-Speed Medium Hiking Backpack Color: Black / GreaseNext up is the give-a-way over at the Adventure Blog. The Adventure Junkie has also teamed up with to give-a-way a GoLite Men's Litespeed Backpack and a  Sierra Designs Verde 20 sleeping bag. Just head on over to the Adventure Blog for more details on how to enter for either of these sweet pieces of outdoor gear. Don't worry it's all peaches 'n' cake. You have until April 22nd to get in on this one.

So that's all we've got for now. Don't forget though, Brian Green of Brian's Backpacking Blog still has is give-a-away for the Kupilka Set open until the end of the month so it's not too late to get in on that one. 

Good luck,
Tim and Robin

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lake Trail to Old Mill Trail Revisited - Big Ridge State Park - 4/17/2011

This past weekend was a rather hectic and tense one for sure. By Sunday we were ready for the calm and tranquility of the woods. We decided that after our trek the day prior to the Bass Pro and drive in the Great Smoky Mountains, we'd stay close and local considering gas prices continue to sky rocket for no real apparent reason. Robin was itching for a nice easy walk in the woods as her back has been bothering her and she didn't want to do anything to strenuous.

With this in mind we decided to head over to Big Ridge State Park and hit the Lake Trail. You may remember this from our first hike of the year. I've lost count now how many times we've hiked this trail as well as how many times in which direction. Last time we started from the Gristmill and hiked the loop which included the Ole Mill Trail. This time we opted to start from the Campground side and hike it that way. This time though we didn't hit the Loyston Overlook Trail nor the Meditation Point trail.

It was a nice gentle hike on a beautiful spring day. The temps were in the 70's keeping it cool with the sun shining nicely. The trail was in great shape for the most part. There were storms that past through late in the week so there were some muddy spots, washouts, and flooded sections of trail that we had to circumnavigate. The wild flowers were blooming wonderfully. We spotted White Trillium, Bluets, Dwarf Crested Iris, "Sweet Williams" and many more. Come to think of it I don't think I've ever seen the Dwarf Crested Iris blooming here before, of course on all the previous hikes here, I likely wasn't paying much attention.

Starting from the campground, the trail gently climbs the ridge that over shadows the lake to the right of the trail. In the first .2 miles the trail looks like a major washout for the run-off during storms, so the footing is a bit tricky. On the right of trail is the turn for the Meditation Point trail. another .2 miles up the trail the terrain is much easier and there's a nice covered bench to sit and rest if so desired. We sat here for a few minutes to snap some shots of caterpillars and other items of interest. Another .1 mile or so you come to Big Ridge Dam. After crossing the dam, we opted to stay right on the Lake Trail instead of turning left for the Dark Hollow Trail.

The back side of the Lake trail is a pretty easy hike for the most part. The terrain is easy with only minor ascents and descents. There are a total of 4 footbridges from the dam to the end of the trail. At the first bridge we stopped to watch the rushing stream and take a small break. It was at this point that the kiddo decided to take an opportunity to see if Hiking Fiasco would like to feature her trail exploits by laying on the bridge and dropping her cell phone right into the creek. We were actually quite surprised that instead of her typical "What do I do look" she promptly removed both shoes and socks and was in the creek faster than anything I've seen her do (unless she's running the 400 or 800) and retrieved her phone. We figured if it had been one of us in the creek it wouldn't have been such a prompt response (hehehe). Unfortunately, her phone flipped out and we turned it off and stowed it in my pack until we could get it home to dry out. (Oh no, what ever will the kiddo do with text messaging)?

After this fiasco and more photo onward we walked. One cemetery and 3 bridges later we were emerging from the forest and back to the road that runs between the group camp and the gristmill. At this point I asked Robin if she wanted to take the road back to the car or if she wanted to take the Chestnut Ridge trail. She opted instead for the Old Mill Trail that runs along the lake and by the cabins. The Ole Mill Trail is only .3 miles and is a gentle stroll where you can find several wild flowers and evidence of beavers in the area. It only takes a few moments to get to the other end but one should take their time to really check the area out. It is quite interesting seeing all the aquatic life close at hand.

We finally reached the end of the trail and still had to walk past one of the ranger's houses, through a small parking lot by the Tea Room, and past the swimming area of the lake. Final count at the end of the trail was 2.84 miles with only 140+ feet of elevation gain. I might add that along the Lake Trail on this day there was some fresh blow down on the trail from the recent storms. It's nothing to hard to get through though. By the end we were refreshed and a bit more relaxed than before we hit the trail.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Trail Details on Trimble:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Pictures Of The Week - Yep We're Late

Oopsie, we haven't posted anything in a couple of days. We've had a really busy weekend so we haven't had a chance to get anything posted. Until we get our Trail report up here are a few photos from our little road trip Saturday to pass the time and a couple from Sunday's Hike as a teaser.

Ashby promised that if we bought her this skillet,
she'd make us pancakes. Unfortunately, we think her
spatula is a bit to small for the job.

Ramsey Prong
@Ramsey Cascades Trailhead

Showy Orchids

 A caterpiller of some sort

A 'Skeeter Hawk?

Friday, April 15, 2011

What are those purple boxes for?

Parts of East Tennessee have new tree decorations. You may have noticed big, purple, triangular boxes hanging from random trees in your area. We've seen them along the highway near our house, and actually seen a truck with the bed full of them out putting them up.

photo courtesy of
It's obvious they're up to catch something; another research project. This time, it's the Emerald Ash Borer (EAB), a nonnative beetle responsible for killing tens of millions of ash trees in the Eastern U.S. and Canada, that they're trying to trap in a critical research project aimed at surveying how many of these bugs are infesting our area and what their range is. Tennessee marks the southernmost point - for now - of the EAB migration.

It is thought that the beetle probably arrived in the U.S. via wood-packing material from Asia, and has likely been transported south via firewood. This is why it is SO IMPORTANT to buy your firewood locally!

The first local sighting occurred last year in an ash tree near the Knox-Loudon county line. And because the little bugger is so invasive, the USDA and the Tennessee Dept. of Agriculture (TDA) have teamed up to place 4,500 purple traps within a 50 mile radius of the first sighting.

So, why purple? Apparently the EAB is attracted to objects with a red/purple hue. The traps have a sticky glue-like substance on the outside meant to catch them if they come into contact. Don't worry, it's non-toxic to humans and pets.

Officials are asking that you do not disturb the boxes, and that you report any downed boxes to the EAB hotline at 866-322-4512. The traps are scheduled to be taken down in August. We'll try to keep you updated as we find out more information.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Great Deal on Wahoo Ziplines!

If you're in the area and you're looking for adventure, you may want to try one of the Smoky's newest tourist-traps family activities: zipline canopy tours.

Photo Courtesy of Wahoo Ziplines
There are plenty to choose from, and we have yet to fall for the trap try one out, but it looks like it would be a lot of fun.

But with so many to choose from, it's hard to decide where to spend your dollars. However, we have friends that frequent Wahoo Ziplines and have nothing but
great things to say about them.

Right now, Half Off Depot Knoxville has a great deal on tickets for this establishment. For $32.00 (per person) you'll receive a six line tour. The regular ticket price is $89.00! (Tax is not included - you'll have to pay that, too - and don't forget to read the fine print and make reservations).

Hamster Tested, Mommy Approved

We're always on the lookout for new, lightweight trail snacks. Dry granola bars get old after a while, and our taste buds love to try new things. So, while out picking up some emergency cat-bomb-box-grit, we spotted individual sized bags of Brothers-All-Natural Crisps.

These real fruit, freeze-dried snacks contain no additives or preservatives, are 100% all natural fruit, and are offered in a 1/2 cup serving bag. We picked up Pineapple (weighing in at .53 oz) and Apple Cinnamon (.35 oz) for 78 cents per package. The package itself is a little large for the product, in my opinion. It's about the size of my hand, which also happens to be about the space available in my day pack. I was able to fold them down to about half the size, but I'm afraid the brittleness of the fruit crisps may not hold up to actual packing the product in the wilderness. I can imagine opening it up to find only fruit dust.

To really test them though, we enlisted the help of a specialist of sorts. If there's one little creature that knows no dried fruit boundaries, it's Ms. Coo. She really is a picky little hamster though, and if she doesn't eat it, stuff it, or beg for more, then it's not worthy of being eaten by humans.

When we first woke her up, she was a little surprised by the fancy little packages. It was obvious, even with her sense of smell, that no aroma was seeping from the contents. She ignored them initially. I like this. Means the bears (ahhhh!) can't smell my pineapples a mile away.

Once opened though she gave us that glorious hamster glare - the one where she says, "For me?! Really?!"

Tim pulled a pineapple piece out and we didn't even have to wait for her response. She immediately began chowing down. After a few bites, she stuffed the whole thing in her cheek for later.

Tim and I taste tested one, and loved them! The texture and flavor of the pineapple is amazingly... well, like pineapple. It's not chewy, sticky, or gummy. It's dry, but moistens up when it hits your tongue. Like M&M's, it melts in your mouth!

So the pineapple passed the Q test. Now it was time to try out the apple.

Apple happens to be one of Q's favorite fruits. When we opened the bag of apple and tossed it down for her, she immediately went nuts trying to get in the bag!

She pulled out a few pieces, stuffed a couple immediately, then nibbled on a third. This was a definite pass. In our opinion, the flavor was just as good as the pineapple, but the texture was a little lacking. It was kind of like chewing on air. I think I could handle this though, as the flavor definitely outweighs any light-as-air texture problem.

The bags are not resealable, and leaving the remainder in the open air left them a little chewy after about an hour. Plus, as with most freeze-dried products, once you get to the bottom, it's nothing but tiny crumbs.

But for as cheap as they are, as tasty, and as lightweight, I think we might have to give these little guys a go on the trail. We'll let you know how it goes. So far though, Ms. Coo has definitely given them her seal of approval!

"Give me more you silly bag!" ~Q

Disclaimer: Robin and Tim bought "Brother's All Natural Crisps" to test and review here on Appalachia & Beyond. The opinions expressed above are their independent thoughts and experiences.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spring Cleaning Your Gear: Trekking Poles

So how many of you actually clean your trekking poles after every use? *insert oooopsy look here* Yeah, neither does Tim. I don't have trekking poles, but Tim uses two Leki Makalu Ultralite Titaniums (discontinued now). I use one of his occasionally, but I usually just deem anything extra in my hands as unnecessary. I am a photographer after all, and a camera is a permanently attached appendage. That doesn't leave much room for a pole or stick.

After last weekend's hike, Tim decided that the filthy things needed a good cleaning. So yesterday, during the gloomy, cold weather we were having (as opposed to the weekend's near 90's), Tim embarked on the retractable-pole-cleaning-quest. I thought it best to sit back and enjoy watching him clean something for once, then attempt to describe to you what I observed.

First things first: gather all the things you'll need one item at a time. This includes a pole cleaning kit, a towel, a thin old rag, a piece of fine grit sandpaper, a large bowl, water, fabric softener, and some mild detergent and a sponge (or go the quick route and use baby wipes). Make sure when you're fetching these items that you become engrossed in a rerun of SNL and promptly forget what you were after, twice per item. Add a few miscellaneous items into the mix to confuse anyone looking at the pictures.

After being reminded four times, put the towel down so your wife doesn't kill you to catch the mess and protect the table surface. Better yet, have her give up and do that part for you. Next, wait for the pizza to be ready. A man needs fuel, and this is going to be a half-evening job. After that, be a hero and disassemble your poles.

Once you've accomplished this daunting task - which I'm sure is easier if they're not as filthy as Tim's - you'll need to remove each retainer clip from the plug and screw. Fiddle with this about six times just because it's a neat little contraption.

If your poles are like Tim's, they'll be four screw sets total, and each will be two separate parts. It could be one piece on yours, in which you will remove it from the screw and treat it the same way. Clean the threads of the screw thoroughly in between ginormous bites of pizza.

Next, sand the top of the clip (or your one piece plug/clip) a bit with some fine grit sandpaper and place it back on the screw. Realize you were supposed to sand the plug instead, and sand it too. This provides a better seat for the screw - so says Tim. It also improves friction and the performance - so says Leki. Honestly, I can't see how it made that much of a difference.

The next step will require the trekking pole cleaning kit, but a gun cleaning kit may work just as well if you happen to have one. You'll want to use this to clean the insides of the shafts after you've smeared more pizza on your cheeks.

Notes on this: If you have titanium poles like Tim, then it's probable that the insides have been anodized for anti-corrosion and wear-resistance properties. The cleaning kit came with brass cleaning brushes, but I wouldn't recommend using them on anything. They will damage the anodized surface of titanium, and will shred carbon fiber. I would suggest you use the loop attachments that come with the cleaning kit and a soft piece of fabric, like a handkerchief.

So, cut a small piece of fabric to fit the shaft cleaner loop attachment that took you ten minutes to find the adapter for, then run the cleaner up into the shaft. Realize that you may have cut the fabric a bit too large, and ascertain that the cleaning wand and the pole have now become fused as one. Point the metal tip at your belly, and puppy-eye your wife into a tug-o-war to get the wand out. Let her remind you that you're going to stab yourself in the gut, move the pole to your side, then laugh hardily when she nearly topples over from having to put all her weight into pulling the cleaning wand out.

Cut the fabric into a smaller piece, rethread it into the loop attachment and then clean throughout the shaft making sure to "dump" any dirt out that has become loose. Repeat this step a few times because it's just too darn fun not too. Grin at your wife in the middle of the pumping motion. Give her the eye. She'll love it.

By the way, never use a lubricant on your poles - inside or out. I have seen some people recommend using WD-40 to wipe down rust, but it would be better to call the manufacturer and discuss replacing the section that has rusted.

Next, clean the entire pole with the mild detergent and sponge - or do like Tim did and use baby wipes. They are mild, easy to use, disposable, and we have a ton of them lying around because Q likes to sleep in baby wipe boxes houses.

Make sure to wipe the grip, too. Then, eat more pizza (is this humanly possible?!) while you allow the sections to dry.

While the bottom sections are drying, soak the straps in a bowl of warm water with about 1/4 cap full of fabric softener. Put the Hercules-death-grip on the cap of the softener so wifey can't get it open on laundry day. Let them sit for 10-20 minutes while you finish off the pizza.

Then rinse well, squeeze out the remaining water, and hang to dry on your wife's kitchen curtains which has become a catchall for anything outdoorsy that needs to dry out.

Wipe down all the parts in their entirety once more with a dry, soft rag, then reassemble the poles. Stand back and be proud. You may have cleaned some poles, but be real - you just devoured a whole pizza!

Now get out there and work it off with a long walk in the woods.

Happy Cleaning!
Robin & Tim