Mountain Waterfall

Crabtree Meadown Falls, Blue Ridge Parkway
Crabree Meadow Falls – Blue Ridge Parkway, NC MP 339.5

A wispy line of water flows gently winding its way through a forest floor providing a moist habitat where ferns and purple flags grow.  Its trickling sound fills the forest with a sense of peace and serenity.  On its journey down the mountain side, the streamlet slowly transforms into a small creek.  As you round the bend in the trail, you hear the faint sound of rushing water.  The closer you get to the waterfall, the louder the sound becomes.  At the bridge crossing, you are greeted with the beautiful site of a wide, tall hillside of water.

During the seasons, this waterfall morphs from a roaring giant to a narrower rushing flow to a frozen silent wonder.  Nothing is so awe inspiring than standing in front of a waterfall.  The sheer power of the falling water is a wonder unto itself.  The cool mist from its churning spray refreshes a hiker on a warm day.  But the most interesting thing is how the roar of the waterfall totally disappears once you round the bend in the trail.  You are left with the gentle trickling of the small streamlet.

While hiking in the mountains, find a trail that will lead you to a mountain waterfall.  As you hike along that trail, you can create great sensory memories of your own.

First Snow of the Fall

Although we had 15 minutes of the prettiest snow flurries on Halloween night (31 October 2019), the ground was too warm for it to stick.  At times that night, it looked like someone had shaken a snow globe.  The first snow of the Fall arrived in early November.  Seeing the snow covering the ground stirred a longing to take a hike in the woods.

Nothing is greater than being one of the first people to break a trail through the newly fallen snow.  Snow seems to magically transform the barren woodlands and prairies into a landscape of lacey white.  The blade of the old prairie flower comes back to life as a frosted wand in a mystical wonderland.  The dusting of snow on the trees morphs them into silent soldiers that stand watch as you traverse the winding trail.  The crisp clean air fills your lungs with peace and tranquility.

The winter creek softly gurgles under the thin sheet of ice and snow as it winds its way beside the trail.  Deer, raccoon and other signs of life can be found in the tracks imprinted in the fresh snow.  Each step along the snow covered trail connects your soul to the beauty of the scenery washing away any cares and strife.

When the snow begins to turn the ground white, make sure to take some time to enjoy the beauty of the season!

A Country Ride

I have always loved to go to the mountains.  There is just something about the pine scented air that stirs a restless spirit into a longing for adventure.  One of my favorite places to go is Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  I like to use the campground as my main base camp while visiting the Tennessee side of the park.  The blaze of a campfire can be seen at many a camp site.  A lone guitar plays ballads in the distance.  A deer or two can be seen walking through the campground at dawn.  It’s just a magical place.

The campground has a camp store stock with all sorts of souvenirs and camping supplies.  The souvenir section includes a bicycle rental area where you can rent a bike to ride through the 11 mile loop road.  The loop road through Cades Cove is usually closed to motor vehicles Wednesday and Saturday mornings until 10 a.m.   If you get to the rental place when it first opens, you can start your journey early enough to finish before the first car comes through the cove.

Biking the loop road is my favorite way to experience Cades Cove.  The cool breeze that caresses your face as you pedal along the road carries you back to a simpler place in time where life wasn’t rushed and people were more entuned to the environment around them.  The wildlife that you encounter makes you feel like you could reach out and touch them.  The sweetness of the wildflowers in bloom and the rhododendron-pine scented woods creates the feeling of oneness with the land.

The long hills provides an opportunity to meet people from all over the world and share park experiences.  Coasting down the tall hills creates a sense of exhilaration.  There is one hill, near the Abrams Creek area, that you have to walk your bike down the hill due to the tight curves.  However, you can mount your bike halfway down the hill and pedal fast, then coast almost all the way to the spot where the road curves towards Abrams Creek.

The Visitor Center, which is approximately the halfway point in the ride, is a great place to stop and refresh yourself while taking in the beauty of the landscape around you.  The second half of the ride seems to go faster than the first half.  There are many historical buildings that you ride past.  When the creek starts to appear near the road, you start to feel a sense of sadness because your ride is almost over.  The rush of the things that you have experienced during that morning ride are memories that can last a lifetime.

When you are in the Smokies, take a few hours to experience the joys of a country road via the seat of a bicycle.

The Force of Nature

I have always enjoyed Memorial Day.   It has been a time for great reflection on the sacrifices that others have made which has allowed me the freedoms that I sometimes take for granted.  This year was the 75th anniversary of D Day with all of the pageantry that helped remind us of the great sacrifices that were made on that day to secure freedoms for the world.

As the day came to an end,  the night sky changed from a beautiful sunset to a summer like thunderstorm.   The pleasant thought of drifting off to sleep to the sounds of rain dancing on the roof with the roll of thunder in the distance was shattered by the sounds of tornado sirens blaring all around.

It was so dark and rainy that you couldn’t see anything.   My phone gave me a message at 10:45 p.m. to take cover because a tornado had been spotted in my area.  I went to the first floor of my house and turned on the TV to find out more information,  but my TV kept going to no signal.

All of a sudden the rain had stopped as if someone had turned off a faucet.  Everything got deathly still.  I called my parents to find out if they still had TV and could let me know what was going on.  Although the tornado sirens had stopped,  I had received another take cover warning on my phone at 11:06 pm.  My parents informed me that a tornado was on the ground in Trotwood heading towards my direction.

All of a sudden the wind picked up and the rain came pouring down.  Every time the thunder roared it shook my house so violently that I thought it was going to collapse.   Outside came loud noises that sounded like cannons and bombs going off.  I could hear things breaking and falling. This violent force of nature seemed like it was going on for an hour, but in reality it was only several minutes.

The TV flickered and all that I could think of was being ready to tell my parents that I loved them for the last time.  Looking out the windows,  all I could see was strong winds bending tree branches every time the lightning flashed.  The lights in my neighbors’ houses across the street went out.

As quickly as it came, it was gone.  My parents put the phone up to their TV so I could hear that the storm was over.  After telling my parents I loved them and hung up my phone,  I quickly checked the inside of my house for any damage.   Seeing none, I went back upstairs to bed.  When I reached, my bed my phone went off again warning me to take cover because a tornado was spotted in my area.  It was around 11:20 p.m.   However, the weather forecasters were saying that the storms had passed and we were in the clear.

I didn’t get much sleep that night for fear of another storm happening.   In the morning,  I noticed that the water in my sink was a low trickle.  I  wondered what my drive would be like heading to work since I live in a wooded neighborhood.   There was very little tree damage,  but several stop lights were either out or blinking red.

Later in the morning I found out that 2 pumping stations had lost power due to the storm and my area was under a boil advisory.   At lunch, I came home to check on my property.   The only damage that I had were a few large branches and several small branches in my yard.  My veggie garden with its fence was fine.  I moved the branches to my woods where I could retrieve it a few days later and with the help of a friend, take it to the yard waste place.

After work I decided to go to Huber Heights to get some water at a store as I knew that Dayton might be out of water.  On the drive there from my house,  I discovered how lucky I had been.   Just up the road and around the curve from my house is where the  major damage from the storm started.  There were several big trees down on houses, lawns and the road.  The drug store where I get my prescriptions had its entrance blown in and siding blown off its side walls.  The Family Dollar store was totally gone.  There were sheriff’s deputies manning the intersection of Siebenthaler and Dixie.   No driving north on Dixie was allowed due to downed power line.

The hotel and neighborhood east of I-75 looked like a war zone.   There were many destroyed houses along with some houses with minor damage.  The trees looked like toothpicks reaching up to the sky with their leafy arms.  Just to view this devastation, left a sickening feeling in my stomach.

Although there’s been much division in this country,  the citizens of the Dayton area have been rolling up their sleeves and helping out their fellow citizens.   The neighborhood chain saw brigade was out helping clean up trees that their skills allowed.   A neighbor was offering to sharpen chain blades for free for these responders.  African American churches provided food and water to everyone.   There’s a lot of love going on even though it has been nearly a month since the EF4 tornado ripped through my neighborhood.

Surviving a strong force of nature can wreak havoc on the psyche.   I still get extremely nervous when we have thunderstorms and strong winds.  I also have troubles sleeping when it’s storming.  My stomach gets very queasy and my head starts hurting.

The more I can share this story, the more healing I feel.   If you are ever helping someone who has lived through a tornado or other devastating forces of nature, please let them tell their stories.   It can go along way to helping them feel whole again.

Rescued

On a September morning, I got up early and went to Panera to pick up something for breakfast usually a fruit cup with a create your own breakfast sandwich.  As I was walking towards the door I heard a loud noise coming from the bushes.  Looking through the branches of the bushes, I saw a little orange tabby kitten.  I tried for a few minutes to catch the little kitten to no avail.  I went in and picked up my breakfast.  I decided to try again to catch the kitten when I came out.  I spent several minutes, but the kitten was too quick for me to catch it.

At work, I was really worried about that little kitten as the temperature was already 85 degrees and it was only 6:45 a.m.   It was supposed to be in the high 90s with over 100% humidity.  That was too hot for a little kitten to be out in the elements.  I was able to get a hold of one of my friends who said that he could meet me at Panera around 10 to try to get the kitten if it was still there.  Time seemed to go so slow as I waited to head out to try to rescue the kitten.

I was a little bit late getting to Panera.  My friend was already there and had captured the kitten.  He asked “Is this what you were looking for?  It’s a  boy!”  My friend handed the kitten to me and drove me to my house where we got the kitten a litter box, some food and water.  I made a vet appointment for later in the day and was eager to see what the vet had to say about the kitten.  I was hoping that my vet would be able to help me find a home for the little boy as I already had grown cats.

At the vet’s office, all of the staff were so enamored with the little kitten.  Unfortunately they were not able to help me find him a home because it was kitten season and there were too many kittens that needed homes.  When my vet saw the kitten, she fell in love with him.  It was hard for her to get his pulse because he was scared and his little heart was beating so fast.  Every staff member took turns holding him and giving him pets hoping to calm him down.  The vet said that he was a  healthy 2 month old baby that could eat kitten food.  They gave him some meds for worms and fleas.  She said that I needed to give him a warm bath around lunch time the next day to wash off all of the dead fleas.  I needed to bring him back in a few weeks so he could get the rest of his shots.

When I arrived home, I set up a room for this little baby and spent a lot of time with him.  Each day I got up early to spend time socializing the kitten and showering him with love.  Being a feral kitten he was slightly skiddish.  Every evening I stayed up late spending as much time as I could with him.  My other cats were curious about this new baby.  By the time of his next appointment, I decided to keep the kitten and had named him Binx.

I had gone through a major surgery earlier in the summer and was feeling a little bit down about it.  Binx filled the emptiness I was experiencing.  He needed nurturing and we spent many hours together bonding.   I looked forward to spending time with him.  It was a month before he was brave enough to meet the other cats.  I was so happy that he no longer had to be in a room by himself.  He had other siblings to hang out with, no more lonely days.

One of the things that Binx does that brings a big smile to my face is when it’s bedtime  he crawls under the covers, snuggles tightly against me, his paw outstretched, his sweet face laying next to mine purring.  He does this at least once a night and in the morning after having his breakfast.  It seems as if he knows when I need an extra hug or cuddling.  He has truly been a godsend.

It could be said that I rescued Binx, but I feel that he has rescued me.  He came into my life when I was experience a very “blue” time.  He has provided me with so much happiness and joy that I am glad he is a part of my family.  If you are feeling lonely or blue, check out a rescued animal.  They will fill your life with lots of joy and happiness.

 

 

The Power of Redemption

Last night, my sister and I went to go see a production of Les Miserables.  Although this is kind of a sad story, I love the message it gives.  The story starts out with Jean Valjean getting release from prison.  Jean Valjean’s only crime was to steal some food for his sister’s sick son.  The punishment for such a crime, 20 years of hard labor.  Javert, the law official, tells Valjean that he will always be a bad person… the old saying of “once a con, always a con”.  Valjean struggles to cope with his life outside the prison system which is very cruel to him because of his “con” status.

As he wallows in his despair, a Bishop takes him into his house and provides for his immediate needs…food, shelter, and a warm bed to rest his weary head.  But there is more thing that the Bishop provides to Valjean.  When the law confront the Bishop with the silver that Valjean has stolen from the Bishop, instead of calling Valjean a thief, the Bishop embraces Valjean’s soul by saying that the silver was a gift and that Valjean in his haste to leave, forgot the candle holders that were gifts as well.  After the law leave, the Bishop tells Valjean that he (the Bishop) has paid for Valjean’s soul with God and that Valjean now needs to pay it forward by doing good works for God.  Throughout the story Valjean continues to pay it forward by coming to Fantine’s aid, raising Fantine’s daughter after Fantine dies, saving Marius’ life and giving forgiveness to Javert.

Javert, the ruthless law official, spends most of his life hunting down Valjean, hoping one day to return Valjean to the tortured life of prison.  He truly believes that no man can change.  When Valjean shows mercy and forgiveness, Javert’s hardened heart begins to change.  He confronts Valjean once more as Valjean is trying to get Marius to safety.  Instead of preventing Valjean from continuing his journey to safety, he stands aside.  This sudden change of heart confuses Javert.  It shakes him to his very core so hard that Javert decides to seek redemption in the only way he knows how.  As he jumps to his death, Javert seeks God.

Eponine had grown up with Cozette, Fantine’s daughter.  She was treated better than Cozette and flaunted this.  Years later, Eponine is in love with her best friend Marius.  One day as they are walking down a street, Marius bumps into Cozette and falls in love with her.  Eponine helps Marius find Cozette and even takes a message from Marius to Cozette before the battle which she gives to Valjean.  Why does Eponine do this?  Would we have done the same?  She totally loves Marius, but he only has eyes for Cozette.  Eponine makes the ultimate sacrifice for her friend, when she takes a bullet for him.  Marius finally realizes as he is holding the dying Eponine in his arms that she loves him.  He comforts her through her last breath.  I think Eponine did what she did for Marius because she was secretly seeking redemption for the way she treated Cozette when they were children.

Isn’t this what Lent is all about.  We are seeking out redemption from God.  Didn’t Jesus share this good news with us?  When we do good works, we are seeing the face of God.  Whether we are providing food for the homeless, helping someone with daily chores or greeting a stranger and making them feel welcomed, we are doing God’s work.

Yes, Les Miserables can be seen as a tragic story.  But if all you see is the death and despair, then you miss the great message this story is telling.  The power of redemption provides hope, faith and love.  When we have those, we can do good things.  During this Lenten season, don’t be afraid to embrace the power of redemption.

An American Gem

Going to the Blue Ridge Parkway is always a special treat for me.  Every curve along the mountains gives you a beautiful view, especially when you are on a high elevation.  It is hidden below these majestic mountains that a national gem resides.  In a little town named Bedford in Virginia is where this treasure lies.

The National D Day Memorial was created through the vision of one of the Bedford WWII survivors, Bob Slaughter.  This memorial tells the story of the D Day Invasion through a series of different monuments, statues, plaques and very well versed tour guides.

Why is this national memorial located in such a small town instead of somewhere more prominent?  Bedford is a rural town located in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  During WWII, the young men of Bedford answered the call to defend their country.  Most of the young men were boys that were in their teens, which is why they are called the Bedford Boys.

At that time, Bedford’s population was 3,200.   Thirty of these young men made up Company A of the 29th Infantry Division of the National Guard’s 116th Infantry Regiment and were a part of the assault on the Omaha Beach.  There were Bedford Boys in other Companies that took part in the D Day Invasion.  By the end of the day, 19 men of Company A were dead.  Two more soldiers died in Normandy and another 2 died from other D Day companies.  Bedford’s loses were proportionally the largest casualty for D Day loses of any community in the US.  Establishing this national memorial here was to recognize Bedford for its D Day sacrifices.

The beginning of the tour starts at the Bedford Visitor Center where you can view a short video that tells of the D Day Invasion and you purchase your ticket.  Then you drive up a top of a hill and follow the memorial road to the Quonset hut where you park and meet your tour guide.  The tour guide takes you through the memorial via golf cart.  The first stop is the bust of Bob Slaughter, a Bedford survivor of WWII who was involved in the D Day Invasion.

Next you are taken to the area that was designed after the D Day Patch and has busts of the officers who served Eisenhower during the invasion strategy.  Inside the ceiling of the folly where Eisenhower’s statue stands is a mosaic copy of the invasion map.

The next level has very graphic statues and sculptures that depict the beach invasion.  There are also plaques and a huge open area that is to represent a quarter of the distance that the soldiers had to traverse due to the landing occurring during low tide.  There is a sculpture that depicts the two Army ranger groups that were assigned to scale the cliff and take out the German pillbox located at the top of the cliff.  There is a sculpture of what the landing craft looked like.

On the eastern edge outside of this area along the sidewalks around the memorial is the Gold Star Monument.  The center is a cut out of the soldier.  When the sun sets, it casts a shadow of a fallen soldier.  On the back side of this monument are pictures of the Bedford soldiers and their wives and girlfriends, the invasion and the burial during the invasion and afterwards.  The US is the only country in the world that lets families decide whether to bury their dead where they died or bury them in the US.

At the very top of the level is the Memorial Arch that stands 44 feet tall to represent the year of the invasion, has the word Overload embellished on the top crossbar of the arch which represents the name of the invasion and has the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background.  In an circle around the base of the arch are the names of the beaches where the invasion took place.  Down the sidewalk toward the entrance is a couple of statues, one that depicts two soldiers and the other is a replica of a French statue that has part of its face blown away.

This national memorial was dedicated on 6 June 2001.  President George W. Bush stated in his dedication speech “Fifty-seven years ago, America and the nations of Europe formed a bond that has never been broken. And all of us incurred a debt that can never be repaid. Today, as America dedicates our D-Day Memorial, we pray that our country will always be worthy of the courage that delivered us from evil and saved the free world.”

If you are ever on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Peaks of Otter Lodge, take State Route 43 South into Bedford and follow the signs to the D Day Memorial to explore this national gem.  Touring this site will definitely give you a special appreciation for the sacrifices that were made to keep world free from tyranny.