Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Appalachian Trail Part 2

Yesterday's post told the story of our adventure in the Smokies. Today I just wanted to share some more of the photos we took because I just think nature is beautiful and thought you might enjoy them. So here they are.
On the parkway heading to Gatlinburg.
Between Clingman's Dome and the Siler's Bald Shelter.

The two pics above were taken near the Spence Field Shelter where we stayed on the 3rd night. It was my favorite shelter and one of the prettiest parts of the trail.
Fontana Lake

We saw lots of wildflowers, especially on the Eagle Creek Trail.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Appalachian Trail

Last Monday, Daniel and I started our "vacation" together. I put that word in quotations because, although we had a lot of fun, it was a lot of work! We spent 5 days backpacking in the Smokies. We were supposed to stay along the AT the whole time, but Daniel hurt his knee Wednesday and we thought it would be easier on him to take an alternate route on Thursday. We started at Clingman's Dome and ended at Fontana Dam. It was 32 miles overall. We hiked the AT until we got to the Eagle Creek Trail. On Thursday we hiked all the way down the Eagle Creek Trail to Fontana Lake. Friday, we took the Lakeshore Trail (which, despite its name, does not offer views of the lake) around the lake to the dam.
This is me on the AT near the beginning of our journey in the higher elevations. There were some beautiful views from the ridge up there.

Daniel is holding a MRE (meal ready-to-eat). These are what we ate for lunch and dinner everyday. Soldiers eat these when they are in the field. They are actually pretty tasty. We wouldn't have chosen to take them because they are kind of heavy for backpacking purposes, but they were free and saved us from spending a lot of money on dehydrated meals.

This is me on the top of Rocky Top on Wednesday. And, yes, we did sing Rocky Top while we were there. Go Vols!
This is what a shelter on the AT looks like. Nothing fancy but they keep you out of the wind and rain (Fortunately, we did not have any rain the whole trip. The weather was quite perfect.). We stayed in these the first 3 nights.

Inside the shelter.

Every shelter had bear cables where you could hang your bags away from the shelters and out of reach of the bears. We saw one bear on the trail on the second day. Fortunately, he ran the other direction as soon as he heard us. That's my kind of bear. We also saw deer, wild turkeys, a red squirrel, lots of cute chipmunks, millipedes and various other insects, butterflies, and a few birds.

This is me on the fourth day in Eagle Creek. The decision to take this trail instead of continuing on the AT turned out to be a good decision - Daniel's knee didn't bother him at all on this trail. When the trail was actually on land, it was quite easy - gradual downhill for the first 4 miles and pretty flat for the last 4 miles. The only catch was you had to cross the creek 21 times. It had been raining a lot the week before, so there was a lot of water and some fast currents. Some of the crossings were a little scary for me. Only the last crossing had a bridge.

At our campsite on the fourth night trying to dry out our stuff that got wet during the creek crossings.

Overall, we had a wonderful time and hope to take more extended hiking trips in the future. It's nice to really get away from it all sometimes. It was really peaceful and quiet. There were no cell phones, no cars, and very few people. The people we did meet were very friendly and I enjoyed talking to them over the campfires at night. I also have a greater respect for the people who spend 4 - 5 months hiking the whole trail. That is quite an accomplishment. I hope to hike the whole trail, but in bits and pieces over the years. The hard work is worth the beauty and peace you can find on the trail.

Monday, May 25, 2009

South American Adventure - Part 5

On our last day in South America, Desi and I went to the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires while we waited for our 8:00pm flight. We spent most of our time in the cemetery there where everyone who was anyone (and Catholic) is buried. I guess buried is not the right word - there are no tombstones anywhere or grass for that matter. Everyone here is housed in a mausoleum.
It really seems like a city for the dead. There are cobblestone pathways not grass and the mausoleums all next to each other look like a bunch of houses in a zero lot neighborhood.
The mausoleums themselves are works of art. They are by no means plain. Each one is unique. I loved all the statues. The one above was my favorite.
A lot of them had windows, whether plain or stained glass. Although overall they were well maintained and beautiful, some of them seemed to lack care - caskets would be partially hanging out or a door would be gone and you could just walk inside (we did not walk inside any of them for the record).

This is where Evita was buried. It was the only one covered in flowers.

These two pics are Desi and I enjoying our last bit of Argentinian gelato. So delicious. I fell in love with everything made with dulce de leche, whether it was gelato or the all too wonderful alfajores that I'm so glad they do not sell in the U.S. (or at least not in Knoxville). Soon after these pics, we were on our way to the airport, and I was already beginning to plan my next trip to Argentina.

Friday, May 15, 2009

South American Adventure Part 4 - Colonia, Uruguay

We spent Saturday and Sunday in Colonia, Uruguay. It is a small town on the Uruguayan coast across from Argentina. It was were we got to relax. We never needed a map and it was so beautiful just to stroll around the old city and to look out over the water. We enjoyed the slower pace and were glad to spend 2 days here.

On the coast at sunset.

A lot of the houses here had flowering trees and shrubs like these around the doorways. I wish I could do this around my door. Most of this post will be just pictures. We basically walked and ate all day (and shopped some too).

This is the building for the small branch in Colonia and where we went to church on Sunday. Everyone was so friendly - maybe it was because they thought we were sister missionaries! All the women came and kissed us on the cheek and they tried to talk to us even if they knew very little English. It would be nice to serve a mission in this area. I would love to get to spend a few months in Colonia. The Branch President and his wife were actually missionaries from Utah or Idaho, I forget. Maybe Daniel and I can serve here someday...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

South American Adventure Part 3 - Tigre

On Friday, we were ready to get out of the city. Desi and I both prefer to be in smaller towns and more rural areas. Since we only had a week, we couldn't go very far unfortunately. I really wanted to explore southern Argentina, but a flight was too expensive and a bus took too long. So, we decided to head to Tigre, which is just north of Buenos Aires and the gateway to exploring the beautiful Prana Delta. After getting a place to stay, we headed out on a canoe trip of the Delta. Our canoe is pictured above. The people who run the canoe tours build their own canoes and they are beautiful. I wish I could have bought one, although I doubt they'd let me take it on the plane.
While on the canoe trip we explored what everyone refers to as "the island". Its the land mass that lies across the river from Tigre. There are no roads here - just waterways. Everyone who lives on the island has to use a boat, canoe, or kayak to get around. I loved paddling around the waterways. It was so quiet and peaceful. It was a nice change from Buenos Aires.
This is a picture of Desi and I after our canoe trip. Our guide Rogero took it. The building in the background is the yacht club. Looks nice, huh?

Next, we headed over to the art museum in Tigre. Getting to explore the building itself was worth the price of admission to me. It was old and big with huge windows and ceilings painted with various scenes and figures. It also had a spiral staircase with granite steps. I love old staircases like that. The landscaping outside was also gorgeous - very open and green with colorful flowers - and it was right on the river.

There wasn't a whole lot of art too see because they were preparing to open a new show in a few days and that area was closed off. However, I enjoyed the work I did see. The painting above was one of my favorites.

The bed and breakfast we stayed at was wonderful. The lady who ran it, Ali, was an artist and she had her artwork hung everywhere. She was also very nice and helpful. The whole place was just peaceful and beautiful. Desi and I would have been content to stay here the whole time, but we really wanted to see Uruguay. This picture is the view from our balcony - the pool and pool house - which was all part of the bed and breakfast.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

South American Adventure Part 2 - Buenos Aires

Before I went I had been told that Buenos Aires was the most European city outside of Europe. I believe it. This statue is just one example. This statue was at the zoo. Not exactly what you'd expect to find at a zoo in Buenos Aires, but I think that's why I enjoyed the place so much. I would expect to see a statue like this in a European art museum and in fact, a lot of the statues were replicas of statues I would find in Europe. I loved all the statues and took lots of pictures. I also loved all the wonderful bakeries and candy shops like I remember from France and lots of pizza and gelato like in Italy. Needless to say, Desi and I ate a lot.
This is Hotel Chile where we stayed. Great price, great location, and a very friendly staff. The guy who gave us our room seemed to really like us, but I didn't know how much until we stepped outside and looked at the building. See the huge balcony at the top there? That's the room he gave us, and the view from the balcony was magnificent!
There was a huge international book fair going on while we were there so we stopped in to check it out. Lots of books, mostly in Spanish of course. I did buy Finn a beautifully illustrated book in Spanish. I also learned that Star Wars and Elvis are truly universal and can be found anywhere.

This is me at the Botanical Gardens. I wish we could have been there in the Spring! It was beautiful without a lot of flowers, but I would love to be there when all the flowers are in bloom.

There were also lots of cats at the gardens running around everywhere. I guess the piles of cat food left for them on the sidewalks in the gardens keeps them hanging around.

South American Adventure Part 1 - Buenos Aires

I have so many pictures that it is really hard to choose which ones to include in my blog. Desi and I spent Wednesday (We had an overnight flight that got in at 7:30am on Wednesday. We were so tired, but we did get to fly first class!) and Thursday in Buenos Aires. These pictures are actually from our second day there when we went to the zoo. The zoo was the most beautiful zoo I have ever seen. It was so open and green and had beautiful old buildings everywhere (I love old buildings). The pictures just don't do it justice. The above pic is just one of the many gorgeous old buildings there.

The zoo was also huge. They had every animal it seemed, except my favorite the red panda. Knoxville has that going for it. They also let you feed most of the animals with special food you could buy, so the animals were always at the fence where you could see them.
There were also just random animals running around free like peacocks, nutrias, and some animal that looked kinda like a miniature kangaroo. Neither Desi or I could figure out what it was.

This is just a random statue at the entrance to the zoo that I found amusing. I don't know who that guy is supposed to be (maybe the founder of the zoo?) but he looks a lot like Colonel Sanders.
This is a picture from our first day. For the first day we pretty much just walked around and saw the sights. This is the Plaza de Congresso. Most monuments and fountains were behind fences so you couldn't get to them. I assume this was to protect them from vandalism because any statue not in a fence had graffiti all over it - kind of sad.
In this picture we were standing in the Plaza de Mayo looking at the Casa Rosada. This is where Evita gave her famous speech. There were lots of protests here and in the Plaza de Congresso during the days we were there.
This is the Avenida 9 de Julio - one of the widest streets in the world. Oddly enough, this is also almost the exact same place where, 2 days later, 2 ladies would attempt to steal from Desi and I using an elaborate scheme involving bird poop. I was the unfortunate one who got pooped on, but fortunately the "poop" was only lotion.