Above the trees.

Tuesday morning we got up early and drove to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the most visited National Park, with over 12 million visitors a year. And it is stunning.

We made it up to Newfound Gap overlook, which lies on the Tennessee/North Carolina State line, as well as the Appalachian Trail.

I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail (100 feet of it!)
Standing in 2 states at once.

Then we drove up to Clingman’s Dome and walked up the steep climb to the observation tower for 360 degree views above the treetops. Clingman’s Dome, called Mulberry Place in Cherokee, was sacred to them. It is 6643’ high – the highest point in Tennessee.

View from Clingman’s Dome.
Clingman’s Dome observation tower.

After the park, we drove another 9 1/2 hours to Little Rock. One more National Park and then home tomorrow.

Three firsts.

We left Virginia early Monday morning, headed for the newest US National Park – New River Gorge National Park. It took us into West Virginia, my very first visit to the state.

The park is home to the New River and a 3000 ft long steel arch bridge, which was the longest in the world when it was built in 1977. Located in the Appalachian Mountains, the New River is actually one of the oldest on the continent, according to the NPS app (which I highly recommend if you’re a National Park geek).

The new bridge over the New River.
The New River gorge and its old bridge.
Sandstone Falls on the New River.

Visiting the park was a 2nd first for me. The 3rd first was grabbing my first geocache in West Virginia, for which I earned this nifty virtual badge. 🙂

Tuesday morning we’re in Tennessee, headed for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Stay tuned!

…And by car.

We left Annapolis yesterday, driving home to Austin. Our route takes us very close to four US National Parks along the way. So, we must see them!

Sunday’s park was Shenandoah National Park. It was the created in 1935 amongst the Blue Ridge Mountains. The winding, two-lane Skyline Drive takes you through the park along the ridge-tops with dozens of overlook parking areas along it. We drove it for 60 miles. The trees were turning red and gold. It will be even more stunning in a week or two.

It’s alive!

After the prolonged deep freeze we experienced in February, our giant sago palm appeared to be dead. Until about a month ago, I saw no signs of life. I’m very happy to report that now it is teeming with new growth. Yay, Nature!

We’re back.

Last week was busy. We rescued Nirvana from the boatyard, brought her home, and I spent the next few days schlepping 100 lb batteries up and down the ramp, and Monte made sure they worked. The old ones lasted 5-6 years. The new ones will hopefully perform similarly.

Out with the old. One starter battery and two house batteries. The big ones weigh 100 Lbs each.
She’s back home and shiny!

We got everything installed in time to race the beer-can regatta on her with Kurt and Kevin and she flew with her new bottom. We think she’s at least a knot faster.

Then over the weekend we anchored in the cove for a sunset grilled dinner. Nice. Very nice. We had our annual first jump in the lake, finally, a week or so past the usual Memorial Day dip. It was fantastic.

Ahhh, sunset.

Thriving.

It’s been raining since the end of April in Central Texas. A weird happening. It’s so humid and WET outside. The plants are loving it though.

Purple coneflowers in their 4th year blooming with little help from me.
Our sago palm is finally showing signs of life after the big freeze.
Zinnias abound with help from Monte’s green thumb
Impatient for impatiens, but they don’t disappoint.

Life is good on the ranch.

Days 9 through 11.

We picked up the anchor at sunrise Monday morning and enjoyed some good sailing across Albemarle Sound and Currituck Sound.

Lunch nibblies aboard

We hit the last bridge openings before rush hour and tied up at Atlantic Yacht Basin in time to watch the local rowing club practice alongside us.

For dinner we biked to a fantastic Italian restaurant for a delicious meal ashore.

Yummmmm

Tuesday morning we caught the 7AM bridge opening at Great Bridge and followed the parade of boats and geese into the lock beyond the bridge for the one foot rise in water level between the canal and the Elizabeth River beyond it.

We reached mile marker 0 of the ICW in Norfolk and kept going on past it and into Chesapeake Bay for some more good sailing. We anchored in the Piankatank River, on the west side of Chesapeake Bay for the night.

Sunset on the Piankatank River

Wednesday we picked up anchor at sunrise again, trying to get as far north as possible before sunset.

We crossed into Maryland before noon, and raced a thunderstorm into our anchorage at the Choptank River on the east side of the bay.

We made it before the rain and high winds came, and watched the full moon rise after the storm passed.

Tomorrow, Thursday, we will arrive at our destination. Annapolis, here comes Trident and her crew!

Days 1, 2, and 3.

We left Seabrook, South Carolina, on Sunday morning, taking the ICW to Charleston. We spent an hour or two getting fuel and a pump out, and then picked a spot in Charleston Harbor to anchor for the night.

Sunset at Charleston Harbor

Monday morning we left at first light, headed for Winyah Bay. We sailed on the outside with wind pretty close on our nose. We anchored near Georgetown Light.

Today, Tuesday, we are opting to stay at anchor for another day, as the weather offshore will be more favorable for where we want to go. The wind should shift from the NE to the East tomorrow making it easier to sail on a NE heading.

We’ll leave tomorrow for an overnight to Cape Lookout. More later.

Christmas sunset.

I grilled a delicious cedar plank salmon for Christmas dinner, recipe below. Julie joined us and stirred up a tasty risotto dinner. Nom nom. Sunset was fleeting, but lovely.

Grilled cedar-plank salmon:

  • soak a cedar plank in water for several hours ahead of grilling
  • slather a boneless salmon fillet with olive oil, then sprinkle generously with kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of garlic powder
  • place fillet, skin side down on the pre-soaked cedar plank
  • place cedar plank & salmon over direct coals for 20-30 minutes

Enjoy!

CBC 2020.

‘Tis the season of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count! I met up with Doray and a team of birders at Reimer Ranch yesterday. We hiked all day and saw so many birds. The first half of the day was cold, but by 4:30pm I had shed 3 layers. The former ranch, now a park, overlooks the Pedernales River. It’s a beautiful place to spend the day.

Pretty hill country cold-weather view

Looong Day 5.

We picked up anchor at 6:15am Friday in a thick fog.

Foggy sunrise

We left before sunrise because we had a long goal of making 68 nautical miles (nm), and a backup plan to go about 45 nm instead. The challenge is being able to gain more speed than the 5 to 5.5 knots (nm per hour) of the engine. Fog can hurt. Current can hurt or help. Wind can help.

We can’t just anchor anywhere along the way because there are long stretches of the ICW that are land cuts; very narrow, and the channel takes up the whole width of the cut. And you can’t anchor in the channel.

The fog eventually cleared and we had a little boost from the wind, so we made the farther anchorage after 11 hours.

As we exited the 20-mile Alligator River – Pungo River Cut the sun was setting. We went a few miles farther, anchoring right in front of the land on the far horizon in the picture above.

The sunset was beautiful.

Day 4.

Last night’s anchorage was in the Elizabeth River at Portsmouth. This is a view of the Norfolk waterfront across the river.

Today’s schedule was challenging. Ten hours of daylight to cover 60 statute miles, or around 52 nautical miles, while trying to navigate through 15 bridges and locks, 5 of which only open on the hour or half-hour, and maintaining an average speed around 5 knots.

We woke up before sunrise to be greeted by fog. We hoped it would lift quickly. We picked up anchor 15 minutes behind schedule, but only when we were able to see about a half mile.

Once underway we made up time and ended up a half hour ahead of schedule after the last bridge. The ICW was very crowded today, lots of boats passing one another only to have to wait together for the next bridge opening.

We were able to put up the jib to add a knot to our speed as we crossed Currituck Sound in the narrow channel. We needed all the time that we gained because when we made it to our anchorage it was 30 minutes after sunset.

Long day, but I loved it! Lori cooked a delicious dinner and we turned in early. More tomorrow…

Goals.

I found a poster on-line featuring scratch-off tiles for each of the 62 U.S. National Parks.   When you’ve visited one of the parks, you scratch off the gray-tone image for it to reveal a more colorful image beneath.   After framing the poster, I counted the parks I’ve already visited and was surprised that I have logged 10 already – without even trying!  I don’t really have a bucket list, but I certainly would love to see more of these national parks, especially those throughout the western part of the country.  Road trip!?

I bought it here, if you want to check it out for yourself.  Thanks to Monte for the handsome frame.  🙂

Early 4th.

Monte and I spent a couple nights at anchor on the lake this week. We chose to avoid the wake-heavy holiday weekend. It was hazy, I guess from the Saharan dust remnants in the air. But it was lovely. Keeto enjoyed it, too. We’ve launched the kayak for the summer, so I have resumed my treasure-hunt-paddling around the coves. I was rewarded yesterday with this long lost 11 lb. Lewmar claw anchor and stainless steel tackle that someone had to cut loose at some point months ago when the lake was much higher.

And we were rewarded again with this treasure at sunset last night.

I hope you enjoy a fun and safe 4th of July!