Posted by: Rachelle Siegrist | July 20, 2014

Indians…Whitewater…and Waterfalls!

By Rachelle Siegrist

Visiting the Oconaluftee Indian Village

picnic at chimney topsBarb, Wes and I enjoying our picnic at Chimney Tops

We recently enjoyed an exciting day with friends Fred and Barb, which started off with a fun picnic at Chimney Tops picnic area located in the Smoky Mountain National Park. There was a chill in the air as we left the wooded picnic area and continued our winding drive over and through the Park until reaching Cherokee, NC. Our first destination was the Oconaluftee Indian Village, where we enjoyed a guided tour while strolling through a forest lined path, and enjoyed watching Cherokees demonstrating many different crafts along the way. Later we were treated to an exciting event, where several “warriors” in full dress complete with face paint, demonstrated how they would’ve fought off intruders back then. We then attended a pretend council meeting inside a council building, which proved to be most interesting and very enlightening!

blowgun demonstration at the cherokee indian villageA blowgun demonstration

canoe building demonstration at the cherokee indian villageBurning and chipping to make a canoe

potery demonstration at the cherokee indian villageA potter at work

rachelle siegrist by the cherokee sweat houseA Cherokee sweat house . . . I want to build one in our backyard, in which to stay warm during the winter!

Visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian

Leaving there, we drove to the nearby Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and upon entering we embarked on a moving journey through intriguing displays of the Cherokee people, with their amazing resilience and will to survive well documented and told. We learned so much about the history of the Cherokees and found the displays and stories both amazing and sad. Having always been fascinated with Native Americans and their history, I found it completely fascinating and felt tremendously heart broken for all who were forced to leave their beautiful homes here in the Smokies, and made to walk hundreds of miles leading to Oklahoma, with thousands of them, mostly women and children dying along the way . . . truly shameful it was!

the cherokee indian museumA life-sized diorama inside the museum

Watching the “Unto These Hills” Drama

After a quick supper, we made our way to an outdoor amphitheater, where we were treated to a spectacular production entitled “Unto These Hills”. Having wanted to see this since I was a young girl, I was totally thrilled! This amazing drama has been in operation for over 60 years now, and takes the audience through Cherokee history, from their first contact with Europeans to the tragic and infamous “Trail of Tears”. As the story unfolded on the larger than life outdoor stage, the sun set behind the mountains, and under the glow of summer stars above the stunning Eagle Dance was performed, transporting the mesmerized audience to another time and place! All too soon our delightful day was coming to an end, as we drove the winding Park road back home, while enjoying the stunning views created as the  light from the “super moon” danced across the ridges of the mountains, falling and rising, lighting up the nighttime sky, while illuminating the valleys and crevices below. It was both magical and beautiful, and a perfect end to a perfect day!

eagle dance performed at unto these hillsThe stunningly beautiful Eagle dance being performed

eagle dance at unto these hills

two clans from unto these hillsTwo Indians representing two of the Cherokee Clans

Another morning this past week we were joined by Kit, and enjoyed tubing the Little River here in Townsend, which we thankfully had mostly to ourselves! Starting our whitewater adventure inside the Park at the Wye, I followed behind Kit as he started down the first rushing cascade. I was most impressed when he unintentionally left his tube, and body-surfed down the swift moving white water! A small group of kids watching from the nearby river’s edge were thoroughly impressed as well! Having already started making my way down the cascade when it happened, I suddenly found myself heading directly for Kit who was by this time perched on a rock in the middle of the river. No matter how frantically I tried to redirect or stop myself, the water was much stronger than I, and after plunging over the cascade I plowed right into him! Miraculously, instead of bowling him over, I grabbed onto his arm, thus helping him to stand against the amazingly strong current, where he was able to make his way over to the bank. Needless to say, we have to go back, since he has a score to settle with the river!

rachelle siegrist with horses in cades coveTaking a break from petting the horse for a photo-op

copperhead snakeA Copperhead we saw along the way

Hiking to Abrams Falls

We were blessed with amazing weather here in the Smokies last Thursday, and decided to take advantage of it with a hike to Abrams Falls. Wes, Kit and I started our five-mile round trip hike to the falls, while admiring the clarity of the mountains and enjoying the cool, fall like air, complete with a most delightful breeze! The Rhododendron tunnels were still quite full of blossoms as we hiked along the rock-studded path. Having stopped to enjoy several lovely vistas, take advantage of photo-ops and walk down to the river in inviting spots, we soon reached our lunchtime destination Abrams falls. With recent rain, it was in full splendor as it thundered over the edge, plunging into the cold deep pool of water below.

kit gentry and wes siegrist hiking to abrams fallsWes and Kit along a very rocky section of the hike

the siegrists at abrams fallsWes and I in front of the falls

wes siegrist at abrams fallsWes atop the fallen trees which we climbed over and across

With Kit already having gone to the other side, Wes and I followed suit, and after crossing several large downed trees, we too arrived at the other side of the river. We were treated with a spectacular view of the falls, and I quickly found another favorite spot of mine! A large flat rock at the pools edge, proved perfect for lounging on while letting my feet and lower legs soak in the icy water. I felt as if I were at an exclusive tropical resort somewhere, and decided to happily pass the time just enjoying this amazing place in nature! Having basked in the sun for quite sometime, I decided to join Wes and Kit, who had crossed back over earlier. This time I choose to just wade through the water, which proved to be more fun and refreshing! Returning home later that afternoon, we decided we had enjoyed yet another wonderful adventure and made a great memory!

rachelle siegrist at abrams fallsOne of my new happy places!

Rachelle at Abrams FallsKit is quite the photographer and took this beautiful photo of me with the falls

rachelle siegrist and rhododendron bloomA big Rhododendron Bloom and a little person

rachelle siegrist in abrams creekAh . . . this is the way to do it . . . at least in the summer!

~ The latest paintings off of the Siegrists’ Easels ~

I finished my miniature painting of the White House, which I must say proved to be quite challenging at times!  Wes finished his painting of a beautiful White Egret, which we photographed during a visit to Florida. We also finished two other paintings, “Bunny Slippers” and “Is That Ewe?”, both of which we’re happy to say have sold already!

A Cattle Egret painting by Wes Siegrist                               “Dependable Deckhand” by Wes

The White House painting by Rachelle Siegrist                                 “The White House” by me

                              Until next time . . .

Posted by: Rachelle Siegrist | July 13, 2014

Our Anniversary Hike to Charlie’s Bunion

Hiking to Charlie’s Bunion

By Rachelle Siegrist

wes and rachelle siegrist on charlies bunionWes and I on top of Charlie’s Bunion with Mt. Le Conte in the background

We were in the clouds as we left the parking lot atop Newfound Gap and started up the Appalachian Trail to Charlie’s Bunion early this past Monday morning. It was our 24th wedding anniversary and what better way to celebrate it than on a hike enjoying “God’s Country”! There was a pleasant chill in the air as we started our steady ascent up approximately a hundred dirt and rock filled steps at the beginning of the trail leading through a shady mixed forest. Soon it changed from steps to a narrower winding rock-studded path, which we contentedly plodded along. We remained in the clouds for much of the hike on the way in, which limited our views from small outcroppings along the way, but we sure enjoyed the trade off of the welcome cooler air!

hiking the appalachian trailI’m pointing to a “Blaze” mark on a tree along the Appalachian Trail

teal mothWes spotted this gorgeous teal-colored moth along the way

Recent rains made the lush green moss look and feel amazing, and some patches would mash down a foot or more when gently patted and pressed! So as you can imagine, Wes had to graciously wait for my numerous moss petting breaks along the way. The divine trilling song of the Winter Wren,  filling the heavy morning air, then slowly drifting away, serenaded us as walked up and up, drawing ever nearer to our ultimate destination.

tree near charlies bunionAt that elevation, it’s moist enough that these tree roots were growing out into the air

thick mossAh . . . luscious clumps of moss

After passing the intersection with the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail and then sometime later the Boulevard Trail, we took a sharp right and the trail soon became even more narrow and soon we found ourselves walking the ridge line of the mountain. The steep sides hugging the trail were filled with dense green bushes adorned with hundreds of yellow blossoms, which the bees found irresistible! The air was alive with the buzz of what sounded like thousands of bees as we caught our first glimpse of Charlie’s Bunion. There it was in its entire splendor and I grew even more excited, now knowing what our destination entailed!

charlies bunion trail signThe “Big kid” by the control your kids sign

top of charlie's bunionOur first amazing glimpse of Charlie’s Bunion

Carefully following the narrow dirt path, we came to a sign reading “Closely control children”, so Wes knew instantly he would have his hands full with his “big kid”! A few steps more and we came to a great outcropping of rock. I quickly laid down my hiking sticks and scampered up the first large rock! Once atop, I was afforded a spectacularly stunning view of mountain ranges, including Mt. Le Conte and Brushy Mountain and felt like I was on top of the world! It was breathtaking, as I stood there absorbing the beautiful scene. Then after a quick photo, I carefully climbed back down and we found our perfect lunch spot.

rachelle siegrist on charlies bunionMe on the highest point!

view from charlies bunionA view with my shoe, to show how steep it is!

Our lunch spot was a small semi-level outcropping on a larger rock. So Wes handed up our packs and climbed up, where he joined me in what I deemed another favorite lunch spot destination of mine! We felt so very blessed once again to have the chance to enjoy such amazing beauty. We spent quite some time there eating, enjoying the view and talking with a “new friend”. Leaving the top, we hiked around along the other very narrow side of the rocky mountain top, where we enjoyed grand views of Porters Mountain and the surrounding area. This section thrilled me as it greatly resembled some of those risky hikes to Chinese tea houses on top of the mountains, which we’ve seen photos of on the internet.

charlies bunion lunch spotA new favorite lunch spot on top of the world

lunch on charlies bunion

junco on charlies bunionA Slate-colored Junco sits atop a tiny tree on the rock

leaving charlies bunionComing down!

We stopped by to see the Icewater Springs shelter and take advantage of the outdoor composting privy. The open-air privy, built on the side of the mountain, has two buckets of mulch inside, which the visitor is to toss a small shovel full of into the opening at the conclusion of their visit. Having had yet another new experience, we began our descent to our next stop . . . the Jump Off.

AT shelter near charlies bunionWes standing by the Icewater Springs Shelter

composting toliet near charlies bunionOkay . . . I just had to share this, since I know most of you have never seen one either

You reach the small rocky area, called the Jump Off, situated atop the mountain, by leaving the Boulevard Trail and climbing an extremely rocky and somewhat steep trail for about a half a mile. Once there, we were rewarded with yet another breathtaking view, this one including a teeny-tiny Charlies Bunion way off in the distance. After a yummy snack of chocolate, it was time to head back down. We were serenaded this time by the songs of the Dark-eyed Junco and the spiraling trill of the Veery, as well as the melodious fast pitched song of the Winter Wren. As we enjoyed the relaxing drive home through the Park, we concluded that this had been a wonderful anniversary day and another awesome memory had been made!

the jump off near charlies bunionOn the edge of the Jumpoff

view from the jump offWes sitting at the Jump Off

charlies bunion photoI’m pointing to the “little” Charlie’s Bunion in the distance

~ The latest paintings off of the Siegrists’ Easels ~

I finished my painting of two precious little chicks, which our friend and fellow artist, Kit Gentry, photographed for me during a recent trip to Hawaii, thus the title “A Couple of Hawaiian Chicks”.  Wes finished his painting of a handsome rooster, which we photographed during a visit to the Museum of Appalachia last spring.  Happy to say that my chicks have sold already along with several other paintings this past week!

Baby chicken, chick painting by Rachelle Siegrist                               “A Couple of Hawaiian Chicks” by Rachelle

Rooster Painting by Wes Siegrist                                “Baron of the Barn ” by Wes

Next week I’ll be sharing stories from our day spent with the Cherokee Indians and more whitewater adventures.

Until next time . . .

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