Tennessee Smokies & Horsin’ Around in Kentucky

We packed up all our stuff for my wife’s first getaway in my campervan. We started in Lexington Kentucky for some fancy horse dancing event that she loves. It was the Kentucky 3-day 5-star event. A real equestrians dream. In my house we call it Rolex not Rolex. After that went to spend some time in the Smokies.

Day one was spent getting to Western Maryland where we spent the night in a very quiet rest area. A couple of gentlemen in the car next to us were there all night also. I don’t think their wives would have been happy.

Day two was a leisurely morning getting up, followed by driving most of the day to Lexington Kentucky. We made the usual pitstops for tinkling and geocaching. Travel days are great days to fill in calendar dates with unusual types of hides. Throughout the trip I was able to check off question marks and multis during all travel days.

Once we arrived in Lexington the real horsing around fun began. We spent Saturday and Sunday watching horsie jumpers at the horse park. I had much more fun than I imagined. What a fun and unique experience I was lucky enough to experience. In between horse jumpings, I found a bunch of nearby caches. This was definitely a 5-Star weekend for The Kid!

On Monday after the horse event, we climbed all over the Via Ferrata in Kentucky. That is 3 that we have done in the US, with hopes to one day do all the Via Ferrata’s in the US. It was amazing, and definitely the most difficult of the 3 we have done. We spent the night in Compton before heading to Tennessee for a week in the Smokies.

While in Tennessee we did all the perfect tourist stuff. We saw 2 of the shows, ate at the famous places, spent a day in Dollywood, and spent a bunch of time in Smoky National Park. I spent 2 nights in the park in my campervan, taking night time and sunrise pictures, while my wife stayed at the Dollywood hotel. Lucky girl.

One day we spent driving Cades Cove, and it was amazing! The weather was perfect, and we had 3 different bear spottings. I was finally able to use the widow’s peak on my adventure van for photography purposes! It was a dream come true.

There are a bunch of pictures in a photo album if you click somewhere around HERE.

PA Grand Canyon getaway April 2022

HERE is an album of pictures I took, mostly waterfalls.

Wow! What a great weekend away in my campervan with my best non-geocaching buddy, Chappy. We left home on a Friday morning with a weekend planned at the PA Grand Canyon. It was an amazing weekend of outdoor fun, with an amazing friend, all happening under the umbrella of perfect spring weather. We left Maryland Friday and took our time getting to Leonard Harris state park. This is where we would sleep with each other in my campervan for 2 nights. On the drive up we stopped for some fun sites, a meal, and a few geocaches. Chappy is not a geocacher, but he indulged me in my obsessions.

On Saturday, our first full day, we started early with the hike down and back on the east side of the Pine Creek Gorge Turkey Trail. After that, out to the overlooks. I took waterfall photos and am very happy with how some of them turned out. Regroup for a quick snack and then onto bike riding on the Pine Creek rail trail. We did 25 miles total on bikes, just over 12 out and back to where we parked. From the parking we then went another mile north on the rail trail, finding the 3 geocaches from Darling Run parking and north. Chappy is not a geocacher, so he could not care less, but also was very understanding and indulging about my addiction and personal needs. 25 miles of riding my bike, and 3 geocaches. That has to be a record for a geocacher.

After a long day on this side of the creek, we crossed over to Colton State Park. We drove along the creek side road to Chimney Hollow waterfall. I wanted to be here to get some pictures of the waterfall just before sunset. I think they turned out great. We never did find the trail up to the top and simply walk the creek all the way up. We did see a semblance of a trail to get us down 100 times easier. It was quite an adventure just to get some waterfall pictures. Well worth every second.

After this unbelievably fun and adventurous day, it was time for a steak dinner in the nearby town of Wellsboro.

Back to our campsite and a night’s sleep in my camPERVan.

The next morning started lazily with some breakfast and coffee at the campsite. After that we went back across to Colton State Park and walked a bunch of the miles of trails over there. We ran into a Boy Scout pack from New Jersey on the orange trail, and learned all about the possible overnight backpacking options in the future.

Throughout the weekend I found mystery caches and multi caches on days I needed them to fill the calendar. That’s one nice thing about traveling further away from home.

I had a great weekend of fun, excitement and adventure while camping and playing outside with one of my best pals and my favorite thing, my CAMperVAN! 

Catskills New York with a Dog in a Van=Perfection

In October 2021 I took my best girlfriend and my new Storyteller Overland Van to the Catskills in New York. Emmy Lou the Puppy was such a trooper. I hope she had a nice time, and wish she had a way to tell me. We set off from home with plans to take sunrise pictures at Overlook Mountain near Woodstock, New York. From there we went further north, and into southern Vermont. We stopped for a  lot of fun geocaches along the way, and played frisbee golf in another new state. If ever there has been a success story, this is it. I took some pictures of sunrises, pictures of our visit to the land of Oz (yes, from the Wizard of Oz), and Emmy Lou being extra pretty.
Interested? Those pictures are HERE.
     

McAfee Knob and a Juggalo Wedding

Recently I was invited to a wedding in the mountains of West Virginia. I was not going to miss it. A beautiful place, the most magical time of year, autumn with the leaves changing, and a chance to take a road trip in the Storyteller Van. Sign me up. The wedding was adorable, a cute little family of Juggalos. It was absolutely perfect by all standards. These young kids today kill me with their creative ideas. I spent a few days in the area, around the wedding date. I woke and hiked in the dark up to McAfee Knob in Virginia for sunrise one morning. The Knob is spelled Mc and not Mac, so it is pronounced with the common Irish Mc pronunciation. Some of my idiot friends say it with Mac in front, like some kind of Scottish garbage people. McAfee Knob is one of the most iconic and photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail. I have seen all kinds of pictures and I wanted to make my own. I did OK with the photographs, but I had a blast doing it. I also played a few rounds of frisbee with some other wedding-going pals. It was a 100% successful trip. There are a bunch of pictures located HERE.

Anyone ever been abandoned on a glacial mountain? I have.

Recently I was part of a photography and hiking adventure, courtesy of REDACTED. I had the time of my life. It was a blast hanging out with a group of strangers, all in Glacier to take pictures, and a couple guides who knew all about the park, the light, and a wealth of photography knowledge to pass along. On the final evening together we hiked Grinnell Glacier up and away from Many Glaciers Lodge. It was 3 miles, 1 way up, to a lookout, over the lake, where the sun would be amazing to photograph as it set behind the mountain/glacier, and over the lake below. I knew there was a virtual Geocache along the trail, and the guides knew it is something I would be setting my sites on, once at the top. Turns out, 3 miles to the lookout is only half way to the top, where I ultimately wanted to be.
Our guide Michael told us that we made it to the overlook spot much quicker than the last hiking group he brought up here. So much so, that we would be another 2 hours before the light was any good for taking pictures. I knew what I must do, grab a can of bear spray from our guide Kenton, dash all the way to the top, get my pics, claim my virtual geocache, then brag to everyone how much cooler I am. I had 2 hours, it was another 3 miles 1-way, so 6 more miles round trip. I set my telephone alarm for 1 hour and started moving up the mountain. If at an hour (the half way point) I was not close, I would reassess and maybe come back down to the group gathering spot. Jumping way ahead, I was actually on my way back down as the 1-hour alarm sounded. No possible way this story could go wrong from here.
I make it to the top of Grinnell Glacier. It is going to be 12 miles round trip now. the last 3 miles was almost all up, the entire way, along the ridge line of the mountain. It was stupendous, some of the most amazing views I was treated to during my trip. As I get close to the top, I pop off my 40+ pound water and camera backpack, and place it gently on the ground. As I do this, I exclaim, ‘shit!’ I could have left this entire pack down below with the group, and just brought my single camera. Oh well, too late now, smooth move Exlax. I snap a bunch of pictures, take a ton of mental memories, and set off back down to the group. It is all downhill from here, I can jog quite a bit. Almost immediately when starting down, I get roadblocked by a mountain goat. I wait him out for a few minutes, then another group comes up from behind, looking to pass. This guy didn’t hesitate, he immediately tossed some rocks, and went toward the goat with a big stick. I was so prepared to photograph and film a man get murdered by a mountain goat. There was a pretty intense stare down, but ultimately, the human won and we were on our way down again. The newcomers downhill were a young couple from Montana, they were making a great pace downhill, so I stuck close behind. Conversation picked up almost immediately, pleasantries exchanged, and a nice rapport was set quickly. A few more minutes in, I am asked if I had a first aid kit. I was embarrassed to say I did not, but I was only meant to have been separated from a larger group (which included a first aid kit) for at most, 2 hours. I inform them that I did not, but at this pace, they were going to pass a group of 7 photographers, with first aid kids there. Tell the group Jimmy said to ask for a bandage. Or, if we keep up this pace, we will get there together, very soon. About 30 minutes goes by, we all know that downhill is easily twice as fast as uphill. I blurt out, “We are almost there! Just around this corner!” We get around that corner, everything looks kind of familiar, except there is no humans to be seen, other than our small group of 3 travelling quickly downhill. In the back of our minds, it was sunset, daylight would be leaving us very soon and we were miles from the trailheads and parking areas. I had the luxury of knowing there was a group of 7 waiting for me below, I would not be nearly alone traveling down this mountain in the dark. You know the old joke…I don’t have to outrun a bear…
I must be wrong. It is the wilds of the Rockies, a lot of spot looks alike. It must be the next corner, or the next corner, or the next corner.
That corner never came.
About 10 minutes past the spot I thought to be the correct photography gathering spot, I stop and looked around. We are far below the overlook view, which means I was correct about the spot I should have seen 7 photographers setup to take sunset pictures over Grinnell Glacier. A bit of panic sets in, how could I have missed 7 people?! I ask my new best friends, they assure me that we did NOT see any other people since the top. I politely tell them, I am a bit unsure what happened, but sorry, I have to abandon them and start to run down the hill now. They completely understand, given the circumstances.
A few different possibilities ran through my mind, as my body ran through the bear-infested forest of Glacier National Park. First, they hated me. This was their excuse to get rid of me completely. Second, they forgot I existed. That is about the correct impression I am sure I leave behind. Third, someone got hurt, and they had to evacuate to the bottom. That one I ruled out pretty quickly. Most of these thoughts were going through me rather quickly. My final possibility was the most likely. As I looked around the sunset was a complete bust for photography. Just a miserable scene. They packed up the site and headed back to the Sprinter Van, or a bar for drinks more likely. The guides had full confidence in me as an outdoorsman, and a man who could handle himself if the need arise. They were basing their decisions on knowing me for the past week. I did a good job presenting myself as a mostly normal person. Not someone riddled with social anxieties and fears of judgement.
Turns out that final option was exactly what happened. One of them wrote a note for me in the dirt, but I didn’t see it as I jogged past. In all honesty, leaving me is possibly the hugest compliment I have been paid in my adult life. Other adults thought I was a competent human being, and could care for myself. I was 100% completely flattered. I caught up to the group just a few minutes after starting to jog on my own. I caught the group just in time to do a naked cannonball, off a boat dock, into glacier water! Very refreshing.

All the pictures from my wild west trip can be seen HERE if you are interested.

August 2020 Stir Crazy Cross Country Drive

Apparently I never posted anything here about this Cannonball Run. The pictures have been up since I got back. Last august I went stir crazy, had enough, and drove cross-country with a couple friends. We made it as far west as West Yellowstone, and then spent about a week in Yellowstone. Those two bozos flew home after a week, and I took my time driving back. If it was up to me, I’d have never made it. Sadly, I can’t convince my wife to get the dogs and horses and join me. I stopped in and visited many National Parks and Monuments on the way back home through, Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Sadly the California wildfires of the time ruined most of the trip for photography. I was able to get a few days in the beginning, but after that, the skies were wrecked.

Below are a few, but if you want to see all the pictures, they are HERE if you are interested.

Coudersport, PA Cherry Springs Park – New Moon Astrophotography

I went all the way north to Potter County, Coudersport, PA a few weeks ago for the last new moon. Me and my favorite Juggalo, John, drove the 5+ hours each way to try and take pictures of the dark sky, stars, and the galactic center and band. We got up there a day early and the weather was nice, but the sky was completely cloudy with no chance of seeing stars. The next day, which was the actual new moon night was perfect. Clear skies all day and night. We woke up bright and early from our sleeping bags and tent and spent the entire day driving around the area looking for places and times to take pictures. The scouting was a huge success. We found a few geocaches during the day, which lead us to some great spots to photograph the night sky goodness. We ended up at 4 different locations throughout the night, as the galactic band/center moved across the sky. I am very pleased with some of the astro-photos I was able to make, being so new to astrophotography. There are some pictures HERE if you are interested.

A short day on the Mason Dixon Trail

Went out with a couple of new hiking friends last weekend. I got invited to do what I love most and just could not say no. In a happy addition they were going to one of my favorite, local places. We spent the day on the Mason Dixon Trail along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. We did about a 10 miles out and back, with the first few miles in the dark using a head lamp. The leader of this hike is Glynn, and he is a ‘get it in’ type fella. I am much more about looking around, taking pictures, and searching for hidden treasures in the form of geocaches. We were done by 10:30am, WOW! The other 2 split, but I stuck around for another 5 hours and about 8 more miles. I also found a few geocaches along the way that I have wanted to search out for a while. It made for a great half-day, close to home adventure. Here are a couple pictures of the sunrise over the Susquehanna River with some mist I really enjoyed.

The new moon at the Pinnacle in Holtwood, PA

My buddy John and I went to the Pinnacle in Holtwood, PA for the last new moon a couple weeks ago. This is one of the highlight spots of the Conestoga Trail. The hopes were to find some place dark enough for star photos. We did not get anything amazing because the clouds kept coming through. But we did end up with a couple of lightening strikes and some nice dark sky shots. It wasn’t the greatest, but we had a lot of fun goofing off and I did end up with a few decent photos.


You’re not going to believe what my wife did

Recently we went to the mountains of West Virginia to a place called Nelson Rock. Nelson Rock is set up like an outdoor adventure park where hiking meets rock climbing. It is a feature made popular in WWII by the Italians in the Dolomites called a Via Ferrata. It is a series of steel cables, ladders, and fixed anchors around a mountain that allow human beings to climb around ‘easier’. It was amazing, the best thing I have ever done. It is a perfect combination of doing something that feels risky or adventurous while still remaining completely safe…that is if you are not afraid to look down into the abyss. I can’t wait to do it again and again. More than anything, I can’t believe my wife did this! I am so proud of her.
While we were down in West Virginia we also visited Seneca Rock. Someplace I have wanted to go for a long time, but found it hard to drive 5 hours 1-way for a short walk up Seneca Rock. We were only 20 minutes away and also checked out Seneca Rock. It was great, especially the rock scramble after the path to the top.
Here are some pictures if you are interested.