Posted by: Rachelle Siegrist | May 24, 2015

Launching the “Triple P” and Real Men Wear Skirts . . .

The Maiden Voyage of The “Triple P”

By Rachelle Siegrist

Rachelle Siegrist kayaking in the smokey mountains

I’ve been patiently waiting since last December to take my beautiful pink kayak out for it’s maiden voyage! I felt like a child excitedly anticipating their first visit to Disney World, as we drove the 30-minute winding road leading through the Foothills Parkway. We finally arrived at our destination, and it was time to unload and carry the kayaks down to the waters edge. I was the first one in, with Wes soon to follow in his blue kayak. I was thrilled to say the least and was happy to be back in the water paddling and in my very own kayak at that! Why the “Triple P” you may ask.  Well, Wes knowing my deep love for anything to do with water, knew this was my pink passport to paradise, thus it’s name the Triple P.

Rachelle Siegrist in her kayak

We immediately noticed large groupings of white in the woods, and quickly realized that it was the beautiful blossoms of the Mountain Laurels!  Being one of my favorite native flowers to our area, I always consider it a real treat to see these blooming beauties! They were everywhere . . . all throughout the woods and lining the bank, gracefully hanging out over the water in many locations. It felt as if I were paddling under a tunnel made of white and pink petals as I went along, absorbing in the natural beauty! A little farther along, we decided to take a side trip, paddling down a stream leading off of the main creek. The water level was down, so the stream became increasingly shallow and narrow, but we continued on curious to see what was around the next bend.

rachelle siegrist kayaking in abrams creek

Eventually the water became to low to continue, so we turned around and paddled back down a ways, before finding the perfect spot for enjoying lunch. There we connected our kayaks, and floated along by a rocky ledge topped with more Mountain Laurel blooms, and it was truly delightful! We then paddled back out to the main creek and went up as far as we could.

rachelle siegrist kayaking in the smokies

Suddenly Wes spotted a water snake sunning itself on a large rock out in the middle of the creek. Looking up, we saw a hawk soaring above, silhouetted against the brilliant clear blue sky, until it few over and landing atop a tall tree nearby. After enjoying the sun and sounds of rushing water a bit, we started paddling back down, and soon were treated to watching a Belted Kingfisher as it dove headfirst into the water, sending up a splash and coming out with a fish. About the same time, a Great Blue Heron flew right by us, following the curve of the creek until it landed on an exposed beach of muck up a ways. “Wow . . . this is just great!” I thought, as we continued paddling our way back down the creek.  I love silently gliding along, viewing the creek’s world from the level of a duck!  We returned to the spot where our adventure had started earlier that morning and before the kayaks were both even loaded back into the van, I was ready for our next trip!

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Attending the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games

us with mike

Okay . . . I know they’re not skirts, they’re kilts. Regardless, I’ve never seen so many men in kilts before! I think everyone there had on kilts and/or plaid except for Wes and I! It was our first time attending the Smoky Mountain Scottish Festival and Games held at Maryville College, so we weren’t sure quite what to expect. We went to visit a dear collector friend who was helping to man the tent for the McGregor Clan, and took advantage to check out everything else going on during last Saturday afternoon, a week ago. After watching the dance competition for awhile, we then watched the very large men participate in the weight throwing competition, where they hold on to the end of a chain or stick attached to a metal weight weighing 26 to 58 lbs for men. After spinning in circle a couple of times, they let it go where it flies through the air as far as possible, with each man hoping to be the one to throw it the furthest!

weight throw at smoky mountain scottish festival and games

Next we watched them do the sheaf toss, where a 20lb bundle of straw is wrapped in burlap, and they use a pitchfork to stab it and toss it up into the air while hoping to clear the raised bar above!

sheaf toss at smoky mountain scottish festival and games

Next on the agenda was the caber toss. As I excitedly exclaimed to my mom on the phone afterwards, “it’s where a big Scottish dude in a skirt, somehow picks up and balances a telephone pole, then hurls it into the air and if he’s lucky it flips over once!” However, it’s actually a tapered pole and the man is wearing a kilt, but it’s pretty much the same as far as the rest.

caber toss at smoky mountain scottish festival and games

caber toss at smoky mountain scottish festival and games2jpg

Up next, we watched something I had never seen before, a duck herding demo! One of the attending Border Collies actually worked and herded the ducks, even getting them to walk over a little white bridge! I’m sure in the ducks’ minds, they were really doing exactly what they wanted to do, and were just letting the dogs think they were herding them.

duck herding at smoky mountain scottish festival and games

Then the Collies got to herd the sheep, which they seemed to enjoy very much, taking the duty quite seriously! Each time the sheep got to rest, they immediately started eating the fresh supply of grass at their mercy. Both demos were quite fascinating to watch indeed!

sheep herding demo at smoky mountain scottish festival and games

Telling our friend Mike goodbye, and heading out, we stopped to watch the band competition for awhile, and I then realized why they had been playing the same song on the bagpipes all afternoon long . . . they were competing with it, and were quite striking looking while doing so, dressed in formal matching kilts and attire!

band at smoky mountain scottish festival and games

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~ The latest paintings off of the Siegrists’ Easels ~

Wes and I have finished a few paintings during the past couple of weeks.  These two dog portraits were both commissions which were given as Mother’s Day gifts, so I had to wait until they were no longer a great surprise to share them with you. I had lots of fun painting these beautiful babies!

chocolate lab dog painting by Rachelle Siegrist

                                                 “Bailey and Lacey”

chocolate lab and yellow lab painting by rachelle siegrist

                                                   “Cassie and Molly”

These beautiful fish miniatures are two of Wes’ latest paintings. The reference photos were taken at different aquariums during fun visits to see and watch the fish!

Butterfly_Fish_painting by_Wes_Siegrist1

                                                                 “Butterfly Fish” by Wes

Dwarf_Yellow_Seahorse_painting by_Wes_Siegrist1

                                                        “Dwarf Yellow Seahorse” by Wes

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Until next time . . .

Rachelle

Posted by: Rachelle Siegrist | May 17, 2015

Fun in the Sun at Sanibel Island and Lovers Key!

Lovers Key State Park and Sanibel Island

By Rachelle Siegrist

swimming at Lovers Key state park

Yep . . . that’s me, the wee tiny little spot, with touches of pink showing, on what seemed like our very own personal island!  Now come a little closer . . .

rachelle siegrist at gulfside beach park on sanibel

I only had to share it with the occasional bird flying over or walking by.  “Nice!” I thought, as I happily floated in the emerald colored sea, seemingly without a care in the world, just enjoying to the fullest, one of my favorite happy places!

rachelle siegrist swimming at lovers key

Feeling the gentle rise and fall of the waves passing under me, I contentedly floated, with the warmth of the sun on my skin and the soft saltwater caressing me, I felt as if I could float there forever, never tiring of this most relaxing hobby!  Wes floated with me for a short while, then dove wearing a mask, looking for shell treasures, of which he found a perfect one during one of his underwater searches.  He walked along the beach, taking photos and looking for more shells, while I happily floated . . . and floated!  I love being in the water, on the water, and swimming, and was so thrilled to spend at least half of our time during our week in Ft. Myers in the water!

ibis  at lovers key state park

We ended up spending 3 days of our week long vacation at Lovers Key State Park, since we fell head over heels in love with it after our first visit!  Lovers Key use to be a group of Wilderness Islands, covered by dense tangles of mangroves and pines. Walking along the beach was just about impossible, and very hard to reach, since you had to crawl through thick underbrush and mangroves, which extended in some places to the shoreline, just to reach the gulf.  In 2004, Hurricane Charley changed it completely, and it now consists of  2 1/2 miles of sun drenched sand and beach! Wes and I never tired of walking along the beach while looking for shells.  Having walked some distance, we came upon a tree skeleton, which had fallen over and was covered with shells in assorted shapes and sizes.

rachelle siegrist with shell tree at Lovers Key state park

I thought it was most interesting and added a shell each time we passed by this adorned tree, with hopes of returning to this beautiful destination some day!  There were snags in all shapes and sizes lining the water’s edge in some areas, creating stunning landscapes, with the gray color of the bleached wood against the backdrop of the turquoise water and clear blue sky!  We felt as if we were far, far away, on a deserted island somewhere, relaxingly walking along,  with the gentle waves and calls of Ospreys and Seagulls serenading us as we went.

old tree snag at Lovers Key state park

Leaving the beach, we decided to walk a couple of the trails located inside the park, which lead you beside mangrove lined lagoons.  We saw numerous Gopher Tortoises in all sizes mostly by their burrows, with a couple crossing the trail in front of us.  I think it’s the most that we’ve ever seen in one place!

gopher tortoise at  lovers key state park

Then Wes just happened to look up and spotted a beautiful Yellow Rat Snake laying on a branch of a nearby tree!

Florida yellow rat snake

We were always seeing something new and neat, Sheepshead fish and mullet in the lagoon areas near the bank, along with assorted warblers and lots of nesting Ospreys, flying above and returning with freshly caught fish to feed their young.

osprey at Lovers Key state park

We came upon a most impressive tall bloom on a large Century Plant! My granny had them in her yard, so I’ve always been fond of them finding this to  be quite a treat!

large century plant bloom

Next along the hike, we stopped by the Gator Pond, where there were indeed several gators . . . 6 young ones to be exact!

baby gator at lovers key state park

At the end of the day, we had worked up quite an appetite, so we went to Doc Fords Rum Bar & Grille, where we enjoyed a delicious dinner.  The view from the outdoor dining porch, located directly on the water, was delightful and offered views of boat filled marinas, complete with numerous pelicans flying over and seagulls passing by.  We had so much fun that first day that we returned again a couple of days later and spent most of our time swimming in the Gulf and combing the beach for shells, of which we found a great and stunning collection!  Each time we headed for the beach, it was always fun walking through the mangrove lined lagoon areas once again, to see what we might spot in the shallow water below.

walkway to Lovers Key state park

That day there were a few more people out enjoying this beautiful sunny spot, with several of them fishing.  One Blue Heron decided it was easier to try and steal an occasional small fish, rather than catch its own!  Several Snowy Egrets also tried this mostly unsuccessful tactic as well.

blue heron at lovers key state park

While floating and swimming, we found ourselves at times surrounded by schools of small fish, catching and reflecting the bright light of the sun when they would quickly turn sideways. Wes also found a few starfish, and we thought this small one was so delicately beautiful!

little starfish at Lovers Key state park

We were so excited to have my family join us for the weekend, and started off our fun with a swim in the heated pool at the hotel on Friday night when they arrived. Saturday, we spent on Sanibel with a visit to the Ding Darling Refuge, followed by lunch at Island Pizza Company where we enjoyed delicious pizza with curly crust! That afternoon we spent swimming and playing at Tarpon Beach there on Sanibel Island.

rachelle siegrist with family at Lovers Key state park

Although Wes and I had also spent an afternoon swimming at Gulfside beach on Sanibel Island, we personally liked the expanse of Lovers Key better, so that’s where our family spent Mother’s Day Sunday. We had a wonderful time, most of it spent in the water with the kids having a ball, especially playing with their water guns! Wes and Tyler really got into it while trying to blast down the sand castle they had built earlier in the day!

wes siegrist with family at Lovers Key state park

We only got out of the water long enough to enjoy a picnic lunch on the beach under the shade of my brother’s beach tent. And as usual, the average sandwich tasted totally delicious just because it was being eaten on the beach! We graciously let my parents take a wee nap, while we all continued to enjoy the surf and sand! Even though we hated to leave, the day was growing short, so after changing and packing up, we all headed to the Bass Pro shop in Ft. Myers, where we spent time checking out the enormous collection of outdoor goodies they have as well as the aquariums.

rachelle siegrist at bass pro in ft. myers

We enjoyed a delicious and fun supper at the Islamorada Fish Company, located inside the Bass Pro store. With a wonderful view of the large saltwater aquarium, we talked, laughed and ate, while being happy to just be together! Needless to say, I was also thrilled to be able to spend Mother’s Day with my Mom as well! Lots of wonderful memories were made during the weekend and our time there that week, and I’m ready to go back already!

Islamorada Fish Company at bass pro ft. myers

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Until next time . . .

Rachelle

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