Monday, September 4, 2017



As I have played Reynolds Park Golf Course in Winston-Salem since I was a teenager, I have known of the quarry on the ridge behind the fourth hole...even heard stories of cliff diving teenagers...but never ventured there until today.
The City of Winston-Salem unveiled this wonderful new city park last month and the Fat Bald White Guy just had to go visit...and get a hike in with the family too!

We elected to start at the newly constructed Salem Lake Marina and access the Salem Creek Greenway where it intersects with the Salem Lake Trail just below the dam.

The Salem Creek Greenway is a paved urban trail that links Salem Lake with downtown Winston-Salem.  It has existed for many years and is well used by bikers.  It generally follows the Salem Creek towards Old Salem.  Joining us today was Whitdawg and her two children, Awesome Possum and Billy Buck.  I billed this hike as a two mile out and two mile back...boy was I wrong!  But they were good sports about the extra two miles!

As I have never walked on this portion of the greenway I was ever so pleased with the scenery.   Salem Creek was alive and we were able to enjoy some very nice creek views.  Me and Billy Buck set the pace and soon found ourselves playing in the water.

The greenway is located between the railroad and the creek and generally follows the sewer line easement which occasionally is a bit ripe to the smell. 

The greenway passes over a low water bridge where there is evidently a nice fishing hole.  I don't think the fisherman minded much as Billy Buck had to check out the water. 

Just past the bridge the creek narrows between and rock wall and the railroad embankment. Some days this portion of the trail may be underwater I suspect.

Just below the narrows there is a small waterfall of note and some fast moving water that garnered my attention.

After passing the narrows, the greenway emerges into the sunshine and follows the back nine of Reynolds Park Golf Course.  Number 18 is rated as one of the tougher holes in the county.  The tee box is next to the greenway.

Passing the golf course the greenway turns to go beneath the Reynolds Park Road but due to the construction of the new bridge we found ourselves crossing the road and proceeding down the sidewalk of Peachtree Street.  Soon we found the greenway but it was going away from where I knew the quarry was so I hustled up the street and found the Peachtree Greenway.  Message to the City of Winston-Salem... you need better signs directing folks to the Peachtree Greenway....second you need to slow down the traffic on Peachtree Street if you expect hikers and bikers to cross that street to connect the Salem Creek Greenway to the Peachtree Greenway....or someone is going to get watch yourself here folks!

The entrance to the Quarry Park is about a quarter of mile up a sloping paved path.  The entrance is marked with a large boulder from the quarry and a brand new sign.  The trail slopes downward from the entrance to a bridge.  There you get the first glimpse of the quarry and its signature observation bridge.
The quarry was formerly owned and operated by Vulcan Materials and operated into the 1970's.  Neighborhood teenagers often jumped the fence for a swim and even some dangerous cliff jumping.  The lake is rumored to be over a 100 feet deep.  It was donated to the city of Winston-Salem in 1998.  A recent bond referendum provided the money for this park.  Architects provided the vision. 

The paved path from the park bridge to the observation bridge is a thumper of a climb of about a quarter mile.  Once you get there, there are several wonderful overlooks of the quarry to enjoy.  

These overlooks are on each side of the observation bridge.   The picture above is looking at the south quarry wall from an overlook perched on the eastern wall which can be seen in the picture below. 

But the real treat is climbing out on the observation bridge.  It is a metal beam structure that extends over a 100 feet above the quarry.  The floor of the bridge is made from metal grates giving you an extra view.  

On Labor Day the Quarry Park was a very popular place to be.  We had to wait our turn to take in the view.   Whitdawg and Billy Buck joined me enjoying in the view of the distant skyline.

I got a feeling that this park will soon be a popular view for marriage proposals, concerts, picnics and visitors to the Twin City.   But after hiking three miles to take in the view,  me and Billy Buck had to rest our dawgs.  For those of you not interested in a hike, you can access the park from Butler Street and there is a large parking lot.  It is also a handicapped accessible venue too!

The three mile hike back to the marina was much easier as it was mostly down hill.  As we approached the low water bridge, Whitdawg pointed out a Blue Heron perched on a log in the middle of the creek.

We tip toed around and he seemed unconcerned of our presence as we stood on the low water bridge to take in the scene.  

Finally we disturbed him enough and he took flight... a majestic sight for sure.

What I found today was a new urban trail.  A six mile greenway trail that has wonderful creek views that ends with a skyline view of the city over a quarry lake...Trail is rated a 9 only because of the poor directions to the Peachtree Greenway....Scenery is a 9... access is a there are several places to jump on this trail either by foot or bicycle.  Effort to view is slightly skewed toward effort...after all it is a six mile trudge that you would not want to take in 90 degree weather.  Overall a 9 ranked hike, one of the best urban hikes imaginable. The City of Winston-Salem has a gem with this addition to the Salem Lake Loop.  You can make this hike a 12 miler by adding the lake loop.  I would guess it is more suited for bicycles but I loved it!

Friday, August 25, 2017



Located in the Francis Cove community of Haywood County, stands the historic Francis Mill.  The restored mill faces NC 276 just outside of Waynesville, North Carolina.  Built in 1887 by William Francis, the mill is still owned by his descendants.


circa 1900

The original 24 foot diameter water wheel was made of yellow poplar.  It was replaced in 1914 by a metal wheel.  The mill was in the center of a square mile of land given to William Francis as a dowry when he married Polly Almon, daughter of wealthy western North Carolina landowner Gideon Almon.

The mill was entered into the National Historical Registry in 2013 and now is the site of many local events.  The mill operated into the 1950's.  

Thursday, August 24, 2017



"AYUHWASI" is a Cherokee name given for a section of Blue Ridge Mountains in northern Georgia.  Hiawassee means "large meadow".  It is the name given to a river that flows from Northern Georgia across North Carolina into Tennessee.  A dam was constructed on this river by the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1940's, the first of three, for flood control and hydroelectric power.  The dam at Hiawassee Georgia created Lake Chatuge, a 7,000 acre lake on the North Carolina-Georgia border.  We elected to visit there on the weekend of the 2017 Eclipse.  Nearby is Brasstown Bald, the tallest mountain in Georgia.


Brasstown Bald is a 4784 foot peak located near Hiawassee Georgia.  Known to the Cherokee as "Etonah".  It was named Brasstown by early English settlers who mistook the Cherokee word for "itse yi" which means "new green place" for the Cherokee word, "untsai yi" which means "brass".  Cherokee legend tells of a great flood when only the Cherokee people who sought refuge in a "great canoe"survived.  When the flood subsided, the canoe was resting on top of a forested Etonah mountain. Being no wild animals to hunt, the Great Spirit created a meadow for the Cherokee to raise crops.  It was thought by the Cherokee that this mountain bald was Etonah.
The mountain is accessed off of Georgia highway 180 up a steep winding road.  Several trails converge on the parking lot which is a little over a half mile below the summit.  A nicely paved but steep path provides access for hikers.  A shuttle bus operates for those not inclined to take the trail.   We got there late on our first day and scampered up the trail to take in the view.  
A top the summit is a large fire and communication tower which is not accessible to the public.  But surrounding the tower is a observation deck from where a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains can be enjoyed.  On clear days, we were told, the skyline of Atlanta can be seen.  
Scampering down the trail before sunset, we caught the view from an overlook on the south side of the parking lot.

There we were joined by a talkative retiree from Maine who worked part time at the park and a couple from England who flew in for the eclipse.  And a tired old dog who seemed to be only mildly annoyed by our conversation.
The setting sun created an orange backdrop to the distant mountains.  My Faithful Hiking Companion even caught the moon chasing the setting sun, aligning itself for the great eclipse the next day.

It was a spectacular orange sunset that seemed to illuminate the trees that framed the overlook.

 Arkaguah Trail

We decided to hike the Arkaguah Trail on our second day in the Hiawassee.  The trail is a ridge line trail of nearly six miles that connects the Brasstown Bald parking lot with Track Rock Gap.  Trail reviews warned of a steep 1500 foot climb at the Track Rock Gap trailhead.  We decided to access the trail from Brasstown Bald. 

Not wanting to trek 11 miles and endure a 1500 foot climb at the halfway point, we decided to hike down the trail until we tired and return.  The trail is a forested narrow path along the ridgeline.  We soon realized that the path was a steady descent away from Brasstown Bald.  The foliage limited the scenery to a few forest windows.

About 1.5 miles into the trail, we emerged onto a large rock from which we caught a view of the Brasstown Bald Summit.

Standing on my tip toes and braced against a tree I was able to zoom in on the summit tower and catch the American flag blowing in the breeze.

The trail would be a great winter trek as it is obvious that there were spectacular views being hidden by the thick summer greenery.  We decided to end the hike at this overlook and return to the parking lot, clocking about 3.25 miles.  On the way to the car, we looked to the summit of Brasstown Bald and saw Old Glory waving at us.


Leaving Brasstown Bald, we went off into the Georgia back roads looking for waterfalls.  After frustrating OnStar with our request to find a particular obscure waterfall, we happed upon a country store with a rather unique name.  There we stopped for gas and directions.   Fortunately for us the storekeeper at the Booger Hollow Store told us how to find the Helton Creek Falls.
We were instructed to follow Ga Highway 129 past the Vogel State Park and look for a sign on the right side of the road pointing to the access road on the left to Helton Creek Falls.  We easily found the road and proceeded down to the falls.  It was a narrow gravel forest service road.  We were amazed at the number of vehicles we encountered. When we arrived at the trailhead we discovered that we were two of nearly 100 people crowding to see the falls.

A short trail down to the falls revealed that there were two cascades, each over 50 feet tall.  At the upper cascade there were at least 75 people vying to wade, swim and gawk at the falls.  It was hard to enjoy the majesty of the waterfall but I understood the excitement that folks felt as they waded into the shallow pool at the foot of the falls...and I joined them!

At the middle cascade, some folks created a stir as they noticed that Mr. Nicholas Noneck was nearby!   We could only get a glimpse of the fellow as he hid beneath a log, but by the markings it appeared that all our tromping around had disturbed a Timber Rattlesnake!
As we proceeded to the lower cascades we found it to be shared by only 20 or so folks.  But we were all entertained by the exploits of a young lass who was sliding down the waterfall laughing with each plunge.  Her brother was a bit more timid...but all I could say is how wasted youth is on the young!


Right up Highway 129 from the Booger Hollow Store is a gem of a state park.   Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930's, Vogel State Park has a nice lake, cabins, hiking trails and a wonderful waterfall.  We elected to take the mile lake loop and the Trahlyte Falls spur trail.
The spillway of the lake dam creates a wonderful waterfall nestled in the woods between Highway 129 and Vogel State Park lake.

I scrambled across the creek so that I could get a better view of the falls as my Faithful Hiking Companion remained on the observation deck.  I am sure the waterfall is not a natural falls.  As it was created by the CCC some 75 years ago, the weathered rocks form a nice cascade.

Leaving the waterfall, as we completed the loop we stopped into the CCC museum dedicated to preserving the history of the young men who built this park during the Great Depression.

The park is a living legacy to these young men. The lake, the cabins, the dam, the waterfall together with the hiking trails would not have existed but for their labor.  The restored cabins have air conditioning and other amenities.  It is a great hidden vacation getaway.  Check it out.

Eclipse 2017

The small mountain village of Andrews, North Carolina found itself in the path of the total eclipse of 2017.   It dubbed itself  "Totality Town North Carolina" and we joined about 15,000 folks gathering there on August 21st.

Even Sasquatch joined the festivities....along with a grad student from Ohio University who walked around making folks think he was an astronaut....I dubbed him Rocketman!
Some of the most entertaining folks we encountered was a family of immigrants from India who used the occasion of the eclipse to host a family reunion.  They were easily recognized by their matching T-shirts...."Keep Calm and Eclipse On!"
There was a nice man from England who traveled the world following total eclipses.  He set up a simple shadow display that resembled a pair of eyes and sold me a piece of welding glass that I used to take a selfie of the eclipse.

As the eclipse began we donned our NASA glasses and used various techniques to observe the movements of the sun and moon.  Whether it was watching it through the telescope or lying on the grass field looking skyward, the event was spectacular!

Perhaps the most well prepared and most friendly of the folks we met was a guy from Andrews who set up his camera and no doubt captured some really nice images.  His t shirt was a reminder of the real message of the day. "Here comes the Son"

You see for two minutes and a half, thousands of people across the United States, some of whom traveled great distances, paused from their daily lives and looked to the heavens.  What we saw was an amazing display of God's handiwork.  The intricate balance of nature that sustains our daily life was on display in a spectacular fashion. For two and a half minutes, our world stopped. There were no political racial class conflict...we were neither rich nor poor...  We stood still.  The earth and the moon moved in a delicate celestial dance... a dance choreographed during the dawn of creation...played out over the ages to the awe, to the fear and to the amazement, and sadly, to the indifference of generations of mankind ....then when I had no words to adequately describe what I was seeing... I remembered..... 

 I recited Psalm 46:10

"Be still and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among all nations. 
I will be exalted in the earth"