Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Apples, Oranges, and 5K's

We hope everyone had a chance to get out this weekend to enjoy the perfect fall weather. It was perfect for most of us out in the east here, but I did see where there was some snow out west. Yikes! Snow in October?! I know that's not totally unheard of here but it would be unusual. Anyway, the leaves are turning color more and more each day. We are nearing peak around here in the East Tennessee Valley. From Cumberland Gap to Cherokee National Forest and down to Knoxville, the colors are magnificent. It won't be long before "Old Man Winter" is knocking on our doors. So if you haven't yet, you better get out and enjoy this weather before it gets too cold.

That's exactly what we did this past weekend, and look forward to doing just that over the next few weekends. We started the weekend by heading out to Coalfield, TN for the Coalfield 5K supporting the Coalfield Cross Country team. The race started at 8:00am and ran through a subdivision next to the school then through the cross country trail on the school grounds, back in front the school and down another road before turning around and heading back to the school for the finish. It was a pretty fast course with a nice little uphill just after the start. Then there was a nice 1.5 miles or so on the trail the cross country team uses to practice on. It's a graveled trail with a couple of foot bridges and two covered bridges. After the trail, it's back to the road and a slight up hill just before heading back to the finish at the school.

The weather couldn't have been better. It was rather chilly starting out, but then the sun came out and warmed us up nicely. A total of 30 runners and walkers participated in the race. Somehow, I managed to garner a third place finish in my age group. Of course, I could diminish that result by telling you there were only 4 other males running in my age group and one of them was the overall race winner. Regardless, it was still a finish that I was happy with. I finished 17th overall with a time of 28:47, beating my sub 30 minute goal. Now it's time to shoot for under 28 minutes for my next race.

After the race was over, Robin and I headed back to the house to get ready for our next excursion. We were going to make our way across I-40, up I-81 and back down I-26 to the town of Erwin, TN for their annual Apple Festival. After getting cleaned up from the race and ready for festival time, we were out of the door and on our way. The drive was very pleasant as we gazed the Smoky Mountains, Cherokee National Forest, and all the splendid fall colors. The Southern Appalachians especially the area in Cherokee National Forest of to the east of I-26 heading towards Erwin, were absolutely magnificent. Larges swatches of oranges all over the mountains with splashes of bright reds and brilliant yellows, and the subtle mixing of what green is still left. Honestly if I hadn't been the one driving, I don't think I would have realized we were in a car for watching the scenery pass by.

After the two hour road trip, we finally arrived in Erwin and found parking close to the festival grounds for a mere five bucks. We didn't mind paying the price since Robin's waddling has intensified as of late and proceeds went to the local high school baseball team. In typical fashion, main street Erwin is filled to the brim with vendors (and shoppers!) for a good 3 to 4 blocks. Everything from artists to beekeepers, and apple farms (selling their crops) to other food merchants, crafters, artisans, and wall-to-wall people were stretched down the street. There's a reason for lack of photos of this year's festival. Robin had to spend so much time trying to protect her belly from flying elbows, out of control strollers, senile walking canes, and face-painted children that she couldn't babysit the bouncing five pound camera at the same time. So, we just took our time admiring all that was available and taking in the sights. We were tempted more than not to purchase something or another, but in the end, we resisted the urge. Well, except for the peanut butter cookies that Ashby and I had to have. Oh, and the black tutu that Ashby had desired for so long. And the flavored honey sticks we buy her every year. And... and... we just couldn't forget poor Clover Beene (stuck at home). We got her a bag of peanut butter doggie bones. And a couple bottles of water to keep hydrated. But we didn't come away with the itty-bitty vintage rocker for Dinah that Robin had spotted. I think if there hadn't been so many people to bang it into and a mile or so to carry it back to the car, she couldn't have passed it up. I offered, but she still refused. It wasn't long before dark, and we were all getting tired and hungry. We decided to be done with the festival and find something to eat before heading home.

Considering that Clover had to stay home all day Saturday, we had already decided that Sunday would be her day to get out and about. This time around we had a full car load and headed up to Cumberland Gap. This of course was after running mom to the local "Big Box Mart" for some necessary items. After the brief stop we headed towards Cumberland Gap National Historic Park enjoying the scenery once again as we traveled. The Cumberlands were just as gorgeous as the rest of the Southern Appalachians in Cherokee. Lots of brilliant oranges dotted with magnificent reds and bright yellows. The eyes just couldn't get enough really. Of course by next week, we should be at peak fall colors around these parts so we will be sure to get out again and get more photos.

We finally made it up to Middlesboro, KY and it was time to eat some lunch/supper (aka lupper). After filling our bellies we drove up to the Pinnacle in Cumberland Gap, and walked the paved path to the overlook. We couldn't really do a whole lot of walking around up top, but regardless it was still nice to get out and enjoy the fresh air and the beautiful scenery. We snapped plenty of photos while up there and couldn't believe the amount of chipmunks that were all over the park (typically when we are out and about we might see one chipmunk if we are lucky). Once we were done up at the overlook, we made our way back down the mountain and headed back towards home. We had a wonderful day and an amazing weekend altogether. We really couldn't have asked for any better.

We look forward to next weekend. There are more festivals to attend and of course the fall colors should be even more brilliant than this past weekend, especially after the rain we are getting this week. Hopefully we don't have any major winds blow through making the trees naked. 'Til next time...

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin