An Adventurous Week With Family!

An Adventurous Week With Family!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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Tyler and Haydyn enjoy walking on our trail with a wee bit of snow

We enjoyed an adventurous fun filled week with my parents, niece and nephew, starting with a happy reunion a week ago!  Last Sunday morning while driving to Fort Loudoun State Park, we stopped along the Foothills Parkway to play in the dusting of snow.  We managed to scrape up enough to build a small snowman, we named Poe and placed at the base of the windshield.  Poe managed to last through our picnic at Chilhowee Lake, and much of the drive until all that remained was his head and an arm, which blew off while driving down the road, obviously filling the truck with laughter!

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Mom, Dad, Haydyn, me, Tyler, Wes, Sharon and Tom at Fort Loudoun

Once at the fort, the kids enjoyed exploring the numerous buildings, finding old canons, and checking out historical artifacts!  Haydyn and I even made special brick oven “pizzas” for everyone, from pieces of bark, stones and sticks in a brick fireplace.  Blue skies above and ample sunshine made for a great day while roaming throughout the picturesque fort and the evening culminated with a delicious supper at a favoriteMexican restaurant.

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Haydyn and me making special brick oven pizzas

The next morning Wes showed the kids how to draw and design their own forts. Once completed, we each explained how our forts worked and what everything was, and Tyler informed me that mine called “NoNo’s Happy Fort” was going down, because of the chocolate fountain and palm trees in the center court yard, as well as the fact that the canons shot out chocolate kisses instead of bullets, and the alligators swam in a chocolate filled moat!  

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Drawing and designing our forts

That afternoon we hiked up nearby Middle Prong Trail, and the kids had a ball exploring and seeing the waterfalls and cascades!  We petted lots of thick green moss, skipped rocks and pretended how much fun it would be to tube down some of the big cascades!  They really loved the old, long, metal bridge and floating pieces of bark, our boats, down the white water!

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Haydyn and me

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Dad, Tyler and me found the perfect spot . . .  out on a fallen tree

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Dad and Tyler sitting by one of the many cascades

Clouds, cold and drizzly rain made it a perfect day Tuesday for spending the afternoon at friends Sharon and Tom’s house, while Sharon helped the kids make special cards and projects.  That evening they, as well as friend Kit, joined us for a taco party at our house, with everyone enjoying playing in ping pong tournaments!  

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Wes and I are happy to have influenced their likes … Bats and Rattlesnakes!

We spent Wednesday afternoon in Cade’s Cove, where we counted close to 80 deer while driving around the loop road.  We stopped to walk and see historical buildings and play in the wee dusting of snow at times, and I must admit we all just about froze to death!  That evening we joined several friends for a delicious supper at Pizza Hut, and played pool here at the house afterwards.

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Tyler, Mom, Wes, Haydyn and Dad in Cades Cove . . . I thought I saw the camera . . . obviously not!

Although Thursday brought clear blue skies and sunshine, it was still a cold one!  So we bundled up and headed for the Knoxville Zoo, where we had a great time seeing all of the animals and exhibits!  A highlight for the kids was riding a camel for the first time, and for me it was spending time singing a duet with Georgie the Gibbon, as well as watching a mother gorilla cradling and feeding her baby! Delighted to have captured the precious intimate moment in a photo, I can’t wait to paint it!

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Tyler and Haydyn having a blast!

Lots of fun and excitement at the zoo!

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Haydyn and I ride a friendly Komodo Dragon

Friday we hiked to a nearby waterfall, and I am thrilled to say I have two new little hiker buddies, who absolutely love hiking now, especially to waterfalls!  They had a great time climbing over the rocks and standing at the base of the falls!  We watched water striders and small minnows swimming, petted lush moss and smelled wee wildflowers. Needless to say, we had an awesome time!

Haydyn and Tyler by the falls ~ Dad, me, Haydyn and Tyler walking the trail

That evening friends joined us for fresh baked brownies on the screen porch and the kids, big (me) and little, had fun walking and playing on the trail in the back woods.  Little Chance immediately fell in love with my family, especially Haydyn, and while sitting by her on the porch swing, sweetly told her “hold hands” in his tiny little voice, and as you can imagine the rest of us said “Ohhhhhh” with big smiles on our faces!

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Tyler, Wes, Chance and Haydyn

Sadly, the next morning it was time for big hugs and goodbyes, and after our fun, adventure filled week, nobody was ready to go home!  Needless to say we’re already looking forward to their next visit!!!


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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

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Fabulous Fun With Friends in the Fall!

Hiking and Kayaking with Friends in Fall!

by Rachelle Siegrist

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Wes and me just relaxing

Boy has it ever been a busy week!  Not only are we getting everything ready to head to Easton, MD for the upcoming Waterfowl Festival, but I also finished my latest pet portrait commission, which will be featured on a special post this Wednesday, and we’ve been enjoying spending time with friends visiting the area.  One day this past week was spent on the water again, paddling with friend Linda, while taking in all of the stunning fall color remaining in our area!

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Boy . . . it doesn’t get much better than this!

Linda was delighted to paddle where water and mountains meet, enjoying the best of two worlds!  We spent time watching an Osprey soar above, then suddenly dive into the water below several times, sending great big splashes into the air each time!  While paddling along at times we were surrounded by dozens of warblers checking and calling to one another!  Turtles and fish were also spotted while heading to the perfect picnic spot.  The sounds of a gentle breeze rustling the leaves mixed with chirping crickets filled the air, as we watched golden leaves swirling slowly through the air, landing on the glassy water’s surface below.

It was mesmerizing to say the least, and soon we found ourselves completely relaxed as we sat there enjoying lunch!  But alas there was more exploring to do, so we loaded the kayaks and off we went, traversing different areas, joyfully finding more stunning fall color with every bend in the river!  Linda and I decided we could easily spend the entire day there on the glassy surfaced water, with blue skies above.  Truly a happy place, where time stands still and troubles disappear!

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Linda and me happily surrounded by the beauty of fall

We decided to take advantage of the unbelievably gorgeous fall weather and do an evening hike in the nearby Tremont region of the Smokies.  It was a glorious evening, with perfect temperatures, as we walked along Middle Prong Trail with friends Tom and Sharon.  We found just the right spot for a picnic supper, announcing that it’s amazing how much better everything tastes when eaten in the woods!  It was most peaceful hearing only the sounds of rustling leaves as we walked along the winding path.

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Tom, Sharon and me enjoying our rock top picnic

Friday we joined Wes’ childhood buddy, and best man in our wedding, Jim and his family, as well as about a dozen of their friends who were visiting the Smokies.  It was another picture perfect afternoon as we hiked in the Elkmont region of the Smokies.  After Wes gave a brief history lesson about the area and historical cabins still standing, we were off on a hike along the Little River Trail.

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A beautiful day for a walk in the woods

The air was filled with much conversation as we went along and I must admit a personal highlight was meeting a meteorologist named Randal, who shared stories with me about tornadoes and numerous storm chasing trips! That’s something my brother and I have always wanted to do, so needless to say I was thrilled to hear all about it, and totally impressed with his vehicle tag which, although missing letter, read as tornado!

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Wes and Jim demonstrate that even big boys like to climb on rocks

 

Saturday brought more fun with friends, as we met up in the Clingman’s Dome parking lot with friend David and his family visiting the area, Paul, Sharon and Daniel.  The frigid air had us suiting up before heading down the Andrews Bald trail!  It was yet another splendid fall day and I was dazzled by the beauty of the abundant bright red Mountain Ash berries everywhere, which were absolutely stunning against the brilliant blue sky!

Laughter could be heard miles away coming from our happy group as we hiked along telling stories  and catching up after us having not seen them in over a year!  Time flies when you’re having fun and we soon found ourselves leaving the seclusion of the forest and walking out onto the grassy topped bald, and of course it was beautiful!  We picked out the perfect location for our lunch, spread out a blanket and settled in for awhile.

 

Of course during our mountaintop picnic we did more laughing than anything, and at times I was bent in two, holding my stomach in pain and wiping tears from my eyes!  I love to laugh and play in the woods with friends, and can’t think of a better way to spend a day!  Both hillarious and unbelievable stories were told and even some with a bit of truth to them, all while enjoying the warmth of the sun and intense beauty surrounding us!  Then a smile covered my face, when our friends pulled out a brand new box of Swiss Miss Rolls, a special favorite treat that spans many years of hiking with the Wietlisbach gang!  Soon it was time head back down the trail, and we were off still talking and laughing as we went.

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Sharon, Paul, me, Wes, David and Daniel at the top

Sometime later we arrived back at the parking lot and couldn’t believe the amount of people and cars there!  It looked like we were at Disney World and was hard to imagine the complete serenity we enjoyed just a couple of miles away on the bald!  We had enjoyed another awesome day hike together and as soon as we said goodbye were already looking forward to their next visit!!

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Unbelivable . . . cars parked along the road way before the Chimney Tops parking area!

Come see us and over 40 of our exquisite miniature paintings during the upcoming 45th Waterfowl Festival, November 10th-13th.

Wes and I will be in the Avalon Theater this year!


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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

Mountain Streams & Mountain Tops In Fall Colors!

A Fun Visit With Wes’ Parents !

by Rachelle Siegrist

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My little buddy Chance and me in Cades Cove

Wes’ parents arrived here in the Smokies a week ago today, in time to join friends for a picnic in Cades Cove.  The next day friend Kit joined us as we headed over to Ft. Loudoun State Park. It was a magnificent drive along the Foothills Pkwy, with fall foliage peaking at the upper elevations,  surrounding us with brilliant reds, oranges and yellows!  The beautifully reconstructed fort sits atop a hill, now 17 feet higher, to raise it above the new summer pool level of Tellico Lake which didn’t exist when the for was originally built.

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Jeanie standing in the middle of the fort

 

Feeling threatened by French activities in the Mississippi Valley during the French and Indian War, the British Colony of South Carolina countered this threat by sending the Independent Company of South Carolina to construct what became Fort Loudoun.  During the fort’s four-year existence, relations between the Cherokee Nation and South Carolina broke down, and the Cherokee captured Fort Loudoun in August, 1760.

It was like stepping back in time as well meandered through the fort and its many dwellings!  Of course the fact that it’s surrounded by water adds to the beauty of this State Park’s setting!  The visitor center, with artifacts on display excavated prior to the Fort’s reconstruction, and an informative a 15-minute film on the area’s history proved to be quite enjoyable as well!

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Jeanie, Kit, me and George by Tellico Lake

Tuesday, friends Tom and Sharon joined us enjoying a beautiful drive through the Smokies, heading over to the Greenbrier area near Cosby.  There we had a lovely picnic in an enchanting little spot inside the forest, where falling leaves swirling through the air added a touch of fall to our outing!

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Jeanie, Wes, Sharon, Tom and George in Greenbrier

Leaving there, we drove a short distance to Carver’s Orchard, and were met by a very full parking lot, half full of gorgeous classic European sports cars and convertibles.  We thought how nice it was to also see a free car show while getting apples!  I was delighted that they still had some of my favorite . . . Honey Crisp apples, and of course while there, we all had to enjoy a fresh fried apple pie too!

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A lovely view of Carver’s vineyard and orchard

Sharon having grown up in the Gatlinburg area, took us on a most interesting tour through the back roads leading to Pigeon Forge, telling stories about the significance of different places along the way. We ended up at the Island Show Fountain located at the Island in Pigeon Forge, where we watched an entertaining show of dancing water choreographed to music!

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The gang relaxing by the Island Water Show
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Dancing water!

Blessed with more gorgeous weather that next day, we spent it driving through the park, with exclamations of “Wow . . . that’s gorgeous!” being heard numerous times along the winding drive, as we watched the seemingly never ending show of mountains decked out in splendid fall color!

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Jeanie and me admiring one of the stunning views!

Every bend in the road unfolded yet another majestic view of the Smokies looking their fall best, with Wes and I gleaning such inspiration for future paintings!

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This immediately reminded me of a Moran painting . . . one of my favorite artists!

After a chilly picnic at the Chimney Tops picnic area, we stopped at Mingus Mill. Built in 1886, it uses a water-powered turbine instead of a water wheel to power all of the machinery in the building. Nestled amongst a forest of golds, reds and oranges, it was particularly beautiful!

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Jeanie admiring the mill in the gorgeous fall setting

Leaving there we headed to Oconaluftee Visitor Center and Mountain Farm Museum just outside Cherokee, NC.  Having visited this delightful museum since I was a little girl, it’s always a treat to return and walk through the historic buildings, most of which have been relocated to the area.

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An old cabin located inside the Mountain Farm Museum

Next on the agenda was a visit to Mingo Falls, a short drive from the visitor center.  George joined me in climbing the 150 plus steps to see the falls, and although it was the smallest amount of water I’ve ever seen coming down, it was still strikingly beautiful nonetheless!

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Mingo Falls . . . in Fall!

As we drove to nearby Cherokee, I couldn’t believe our perfect timing when I looked down at the stream we were crossing and saw four Elk!  “Stop the car!” I said, as I quickly jumped out, running back to capture a few photos of the magnificent scene from a bridge!  The content little herd lazily drank water while absorbing the warmth of the sun, while I saw future paintings flash before my eyes!

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Four beauties in a stream

The next day we decided to enjoy in Cades Cove seeing more fall color.  We walked to John Oliver’s Cabin and other cabins, as well as a short distance up along the Abrams Falls trail, where I couldn’t resist wading in the frigid water a couple of times!  It was one of those amazing days weather wise, with perfect temps accompanied by clear blue skies and a gentle breeze, the kind I could personally enjoy every day of the year!  The week was filled with lots of gorgeous scenery, fun times with family and friends, and the making of numerous wonderful memories!


Wes and I were thrilled to discover that I won the John Richard Warren Award for $500 on my miniature painting A Magical Encounterand Wes won the Vaughn Insurance Award for $300 on his miniature painting No Laughing Matter” at the 2016 Kentucky National Wildlife Art Exhibit!  Our paintings can be seen and purchased at the exhibition located at the Henderson Fine Arts Center in Henderson, KY, which runs until November 30th.

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My “A Magical Encounter”
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Wes’ “No Laughing Matter”


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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle