Saturday, February 27, 2016



The Fat Bald White Guy and his Faithful Hiking Companion found ourselves in Atlanta and took a few hours to visit one of the city's most popular attractions, the Georgia Aquarium.

Located in downtown Atlanta near Georgia Institute of Technology, the aquarium is the second largest aquarium in the world.  In over 10 million gallons of fresh and salt water, there is displayed over ten thousand species of marine life.  From the ordinary to the exotic, the aquarium allows its visitors to view some of the most incredible species in the world.
From the large atrium in the center of the facility, the visitor can choose many habitats from the deep sea to the river banks of the world.  On a Saturday in February there were a couple of thousand of visitors milling about.  If you don't like people or children, you will not enjoy your visit on a busy day and should plan to visit on a weekday.  We had a blast interacting with folks.

There is no order to this blog as we went from exhibit to exhibit taking pictures and marveling at the complexity of marine life.  This creature looks like a swimming mushroom!

And this creature looks like something you may see in a petri dish viewed by the lens of a microscope.
Everywhere you look are many well designed exhibits of marine life creating a natural habitat for the many species.  Love this zebra striped eel!

There are also many opportunities for interaction with the creatures in their habitat.  In the Aqualab, this kids got to touch star fish.  There also many large tanks with clear acrylic walls from which you can see a broad expanse of a habitat up close!

There is a great exhibit of Penguins...they waddled around and swam to the entertainment of the visitors. 

On the far end is a children's exhibit in which kids can climb through a tunnel beneath the water where the Penguins swim....and being a big kid, the FBWG had to feed his inner child!  Even a Penguin dipped his head beneath the water to check out the FBWG as he posed for a picture.

Not sure the Penguins ever figured out the FBWG....but I am sure my visit struck up a conversation among them! 

We also found a couple of albino alligators.

The Beluga Whale is a majestic creature who despite its size easily glides beneath the water.

Nearby was a giant Japanese Crab.  Along with delicate Sea Dragons.

My favorite creatures were the Sea Otters. Their energetic play was fun to watch. 

Still it was the underwater view of the giant Manta Rays and the Whales that were amazing!

The Giant Manta Ray is over 20 feet wide and looked like an exotic underwater bird as it glided about our heads as we rode a people mover through a tunnel beneath the largest tank in the Aquarium
From this view we got to experience what it must be like to be a fish...looking from the bottom of the ocean and seeing the community of marine creatures displayed in a most majestic way.  My thoughts were how interesting it must have been for our Creator to have designed such uniquely beautiful creatures.

I have never seen a sword fish...what a wonderfully exotic fish it is!
The reflection of the sunlight as it filters through the sun roof of the aquarium provided a colorful backdrop for this bottle nosed fish.

The color of the many different species of fish provided a natural rainbow beneath the surface of the water and because of the way the exhibits were laid out we got to enjoy it up close! 

I love the way the reflection caught my fellow visitors in full enjoyment of the moment!  It is as if the photograph capture the feeling of the moment.  Though it is an illusion to think that we belong in this habitat, it was however, for the moment a reality!  Perhaps Sebastian was right: "Ariel, listen to me: The human world is a mess. Life under the sea is better than anything they've got up there."

There were many unusual creates such as this fellow whose appearance easily blends in with a coral sand reef.  But the other fellow has a face of a man....don't know the name of the fish but I think calling him "Donald" might be appropriate!

These fish look like delicate fabric floating beneath the water. Pinstriped Catfish is what I would name them!
A visit to this magnificent place must be on everyone's bucket list.  The marine species on display offer a once in a lifetime experience.  There are many informative and interactive displays for children of all ages to learn about the habitat of each creature.  You must plan to spend a couple of hours in the aquarium. 

While this is not a hike, I feel like I need to rate it anyway....Access is a 8...downtown Atlanta is not an easy place to navigate during the week....parking is in an adjacent deck or in nearby vendor lots... The path within the Aquarium could be more organized especially with a large crowd, some limiting of the number of people in an exhibit would enhance the enjoyment of all....8...the scenery is beyond breathtaking....10.... effort to view....admission is pricey at $40 per adult but it is worth every penny!  Overall a 9 rated experience...

Saturday, February 6, 2016


LOVE VALLEY- McCarran Trail

My Faithful Hiking Companion has been lobbying for a hike at Love Valley. Today I relented and off we went to this iconic village nestled in the Brushy Mountains between Statesville and North Wilkesboro.   Founded in 1954 by a 29 year old general contractor named Andy Barker who fulfilled his boyhood dream of living in a TV Western town which he built. 

I remember learning of Love Valley in 1970 when Andy hosted a rock concert featuring the Allman Brothers which drew 100,000 visitors.  Over the years, the village has become a horse haven and is billed as a "Cowboy Capitol of North Carolina"

On a warm day in February, the village is a ghost town.  Heck there are vacancies at Miss Kitty's but the Moonshine Gifts as well as all the other businesses are closed. 
One comment.  It would seem that folks in Love Valley have not heard that in the battle between Heritage and Hate....Hate has won and that flag might be better displayed elsewhere....just sayin.

The Main Street dead ends at the Jett Barker Memorial Garden, where I assume cowboy weddings are held.  Right next to the garden is the trail head of the McCarran Trail.

The Trail is a wide and well traveled horse trail which has been more recently used as a logging road....which means it is wet and muddy.  It begins with a heart thumpin slog up to the top of a ridge which forms a "U" embracing the a cove at the eastern end of Love Valley. Leafless trees allowed us to look down on various cabins and horse castles.

Interspersed along the trail are blue trash barrels  which serve the dual role as trail markers.  But if you can't see a blue barrel, there are empty blue beer cans to guide you as well.
At the half mile mark along the trail we found ourselves emerging into a large open space where several trails intersected.  Spotting a sign, I seriously pondered a trip down the Pinto Bean trail until I realized the Pinto Bean Trail was a muddy gully and the Ridge Trail was just a muddy logging road.
The Ridge Trail is moderately steep and we were able to bypass many of the most muddy spots.  The climb is about a half mile long and reaches the top of the ridge where we found the best views.  The area has been recently timbered and there are many logging roads one of which provided a nice view to the east.  To my surprise I saw the distinctive silhouette of the Saura Mountains in Stokes County.
Never have I seen the Saura Sisters displayed so well.  The distinctive Pilot Mountain is the typical landmark but today you could see Suaratown Mountain and Moores Knob as well.
The views were hard to come by but with a little effort we were able to get a great view of the small valleys interspersed among the Brushy Mountains.

The Ridge Trail extends another mile.  We could see clearly the extent of the logging as the hillsides were lined with red muddy logging roads.
Looking to the west we could see many house dotting the Love Valley, from the smoke coming from the chimney had nice fire warming their home. 

Along the trail we followed the tracks of many horses and even one large dog.  We also saw many deer tracks as well.  But sticking from the mud I spied a horseshoe....guess I found some good luck!   
The trail is a little over two miles long and ends rather strangely.  There is a large scary half constructed house reminiscent of a scene from the TV program "Criminal Minds".  Fortunately the muddy road kept my curiosity in check and I photographed this abode from a safe distance
We elected to take a logging road to bypass the muddy trail which resulted in some nice bushwacking and scrambling but it knocked about a quarter mile off the return trip but gave us a glimpse of the Love Valley Village.

I really am glad I relented and took this hike.  It was a 3.47 mile trail which provided a needed workout on a beautiful February afternoon.  I am sure I would have enjoyed the trail more from horseback while drinking a Bud Light but it was enjoyable nonetheless.  One of those Been There/Done That kinda hikes.

So how do I rate this hike....Access is a 9... Love Valley is off NC 115...take I-40 to exit 150 and watch for the signs.  Trail is a is a 10 rated logging trail but a 4 rated hiking trail.  Scenery is average at best....glimpsing the Suaras added to view for sure- 6;  Effort to view is about right....good work out mainly because of the traction that muddy trails provide. It is a moderately steep trail so you can get some good thumps going.  Overall a 6.5 rated trail....worth the trip but not good enough to return... at least not without a horse!

I am sure Love Valley is a great place to visit in the summer time when all the Carolina Cowboys are there with horses and fun...and from the looks of things there are not many rules!

By the way.....since it is February....and Valentine's Day is upon us....How about a Valentine from the Fat Bald White Guy?!