My Birthday hike to Andrews Bald and a visit to Indiana!
by Rachelle Siegrist
We started this past week celebrating my birthday a day early, with a hike to Andrews Bald. It was a beautiful, chilly morning, as our neighbor friend John, Wes and I arrived at the trailhead located at Clingmans Dome parking lot. The mountaintop was shrouded in clouds, obscuring the view to the point of not being able to see anything over a few yards away!
I love hiking in the clouds, so it was a grand start to the day for me, as we hiked along the twisty, rock path following the mountain’s edge. The mist of the clouds surrounding us, added to the illusion of being far . . . far away from everything!
About an hour into the hike, the clouds began to part allowing us glimpses of the surrounding mountains at points. Drawing near to the bald, I began hearing a “Hmmmmmmmm” off in the distance. It grew louder the closer we got, and I soon realized it was the sound of thousands of bees, happily working while gathering nectar from the abundant flower blossoms!
The Catawba Rhododendrons were at peak, showing off their gorgeous pinkish lavender flowers in full splendor! As we explored the bald, we found several areas where the Flame Azaleas were also in full bloom, covered in their sunny bright orange blossoms! Needless to say, there were hummingbirds zipping back and forth, along with Cedar Waxwings and Slate-colored Juncos, and many others. Truly a botanist and birder’s delight!
Flame Azaleas, Catawba Rhododendrons, and an interesting gall growing on an azalea
We found the perfect spot for our picnic lunch, and afterwards we enjoyed laying there while watching clouds form in the blue sky and pass over us, finding all sorts of interesting animals in their ever changing shapes. Nothing beats spending time atop a mountain, but soon it was time to leave our little slice of paradise and head back.
Tuesday evening, after helping friends Fred and Barb take down their display, they surprised me with a dark chocolate birthday cake, topped with chocolate mouse-like frosting which seemed to melt in your mouth. Needless to say it was a real treat and a great end to my birthday!
With a change in the weekend’s weather forecast, it was decided that we would drive to Indiana to help Wes’ parents with a yard sale, since they are planning to downsize and move soon. We left for their house early Thursday morning, arriving in time to carry up stuff from the basement and get ready for the big sale. They were blessed with beautiful weather for the two-day sale, and at the conclusion, the remaining stuff was donated to a local thrift store benefiting the animals. Friday evening we enjoyed an outdoor concert featuring music from Star Wars, as well as a lovely mix of Henri Mancini’s songs and others. A gorgeous, cool evening and great music made for a delightful time!
Wes, his parents and I were joined by Wes’ brother Tony and wife Karen for a Fathers Day lunch yesterday. Later that afternoon the four of us took a scenic drive to O’Bannon Woods State Park, a place where Wes went as a kid. We had just enough time for a quick walk through the old pioneer farmstead and were greatly impressed with the unique and fully restored 3-story hay press barn on site! Of course no visit to his parent’s place is complete without going to Rural King to buy peanuts for all of my critter friends, and I was thrilled they still had them available! We said our goodbyes this morning and headed back to the Smokies, where it’s time to get back to work at our easels again!
~ Fresh Off the Easel ~
Wes recently finished a miniature painting of an Amish farm located in nearby Etowah. We photographed it during a visit several years back. With close inspection with a magnifying glass, the viewer can see the wee little man, bent over with his hands in a 5 gallon bucket!
Until next time . . .