Tuesday, October 28, 2014

There's gold in those Georgia apples

The people at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, Ga., have definitely found gold in the multitude of colors that appear on apples.

Last week, on our way to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we decided to take a short detour and visit the location.

Wasn’t what I expected, but then I should have known better, because wifey said it was the biggest orchard in the Southeast.

There were hundreds, if not a thousand or more, people there on that perfect October day.

And were they serious about apples! 

We saw people loading up on apples in small, medium and large bags. They were also enjoying shopping for souvenirs of all kinds.

And for those with a little extra time on their hands, and an appetite, food was also aplenty.

We managed to get a “near the front” parking spot. Others had to settle on spots about a quarter of a mile away and walk to the main building.

Christmas was also part of the celebration

People seemed to be enjoying themselves and taking time for a free tasting of samples before heading out to shop, whether for fried apple pies, candy or nuts.

During the course of a year they also offer pumpkins, u-pick blueberries, blackberries and strawberries. Cooking demonstrations and bakery classes are also available.

We managed to pick up a few "golden" nuggets before heading down the road to continue our fall adventure.

Next post: Nov. 4, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

There's snowfall all the time in the Smokies

When in Gatlinburg, one can get the “feeling” of snowfall anytime of the year — even the summer months.

How is that?

Well, it's artificially make-believe. It has to do with special lighting.

Wifey and I, on our last visit in September, decided to eat out at a place east of town called Crystelle Creek Restaurant & Grill on US 321.

We had missed the place on a previous trip — just wasn’t looking in the right direction.

It was advertised as overlooking a creek. I always like to be somewhere that overlooks a creek. So we finally found it and gave it a try.  Their menu claims to have something for everyone at an affordable price.

We enjoyed the meal. I liked the open aspect to the structure — and they did have a small creek traipsing along the backside and also water cascading from the roof.

Wifey mentioned she wanted to see something in the big tree outside the main entrance.

After partaking of a port sandwich, fries and Coke while wifey had a salad and water, we got a glimpse of what was going on.

The 40-foot high or higher tree was dressed out in white lights that gave a feeling (well, almost) of falling snow.  

There were four or five lights in each tube, of which there were more than a hundred. The lights would go on and off from the top to the bottom of each tube giving the feeling of snowfall.

I had been looking for something similar and was glad to get a look at the actual lights.

I’m going to look on the Internet and maybe, just maybe, we’ll have falling snow (it light form) at our house for this Christmas.

Next post: Oct. 28, 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Wheels help make camping a lot easier

Latest additions (cart, cooler, both with wheels) to help make camping easier
I sort of miss the way things use to be at campgrounds in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Way back when (30 or so years ago), while in either Smokemont or Elkmont campgrounds, one had to be on the constant lookout for bears — especially around meal time.

I like to eat. And the bears back then liked to eat what I was eating.

With a frying pan in one hand and one eye on the stove, the other eye was always on the lookout. I wouldn’t say that it was fun — but an adventure.

I can recall numerous times when momma bear led her three cubs through the campground teaching her young ones the easiest way to satisfy their appetite.

People left their coolers out while walking around the campground. Others left food on their tables.

And others were just cooking when the critters decided to make our supper, their supper.

But just like initiating a reservation system for campgrounds, which I do like, the Park Service decided to take steps in an attempt to cut back on the number of bears that had to be killed because people would feed them and they would become more of a threat.

Bears raided the campgrounds each night. It was just a given back then.

But times have changed, and its a good change, although it makes life more difficult for campers.

Now campers face a $75 fine if they leave food out. The rule stipulates that food and anything used to prepare food or keep food in must be stowed away.

That means putting it in a vehicle in which bears cannot get into.

This is great. But a lot of work for humans spending the night.

Food and equipment have to be stored away unless in use. This means, for breakfast, one has to take all such items out of their vehicle, cook the meal and then place it back in the vehicle.

That goes for lunch and supper. Take the foodstuffs out, use them, put them back. Three or four times a day, six or seven days a week.

If one decides on a snack in the middle of the day, its another take out and put back.

Thirty years ago, it would not have been that big of a deal. I was younger, stronger and had more stamina.

Nowadays its just tiring.

But the challenge has been met. I’ve moved into the new way of doing things and its great.

I was trying to figure out an easier way to move things back and forth. In my mind, I was trying to devise a utility vehicle to help with the process. It was to have to be big enough, compactable when not in use, and able to roll.

We always go to the Coleman store in Pigeon Forge when visiting the mountains. We did so this last time, and guess what? Somebody had already created such a cart. It was just what I needed.

I move things from our van into the cart, move them to the eating area, cook and take them back. That’s a whole lot easier than moving each container individually multiple times a day
I also broke down, during the same shopping trip, and bought a cooler with wheels.

Time has taken a toll on me and my physicality (hate that word when its used on sports talk shows) and so the new additions are great.

Boy, am I now in high cotton.

Next post: October 21, 2014

PS: The Park Service's move to help protect bears (and humans) seems to be working. I haven't seen a bear in a campground in more than about 15 years.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cades Cove traffic sometimes heavy

Saturday nights in remote Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is like most weekend nights in anyone’s city— bumper-to-bumper traffic.

On our last trip to the area in the middle of September, that’s what we found. It wasn’t the first time we encountered such a situation, and it is getting more rare that there isn’t heavy traffic anytime during the tourist season.

But its not like the traffic is bumper-to-bumper for the whole 11 miles. It just comes in spurts.

Cades Cove is located on the west end of the park. It is unique, but the one catch is that traffic has only a one-way road to get through it.

The road is 11 miles and makes its way over hills and through valleys and a verdant forest.

On occasion we have seen bear, ground squirrels and plenty of deer.

On this one trip, we did run across four deer with two of them frolicking in the meadow, running after each other and jumping up and down like a couple of kids (not billy goats).

Everyone who circumnavigates the cove (well most everyone), knows that it can be slow going, although on one of our expeditions, I did hear someone blowing their car horn — a very rare experience.

We made the trip on bicycles years ago, but its just too much on one’s body for us to try that at our age.

It doesn’t matter how often we go to the Smokies, we always manage to head to the Cove. It’s like a magnet. And we enjoy being pulled.

Next post: Oct. 14, 2014