Fantastic Frozen Waterfalls!

Hiking the frozen Smokies!

By Rachelle Siegrist

Smokies in winter

Uncle . . . Uncle!” I cried in hopes that my verbal surrender would somehow cause the relentless ice cap that had descended upon us, to lessen its grip. Alas it did not help, but it never hurts to try I thought. At this point I would try almost anything to bring a bit of warmth back into our part of the world! I know many of you are much colder than we are and for that I am truly sorry, and so I try to remain positive. So while wrestling with a dozen layers of clothes, which I must somehow manage to get on to keep warm, I realize I’ve burned as many calories as one would in a 10-minute intensive aerobic workout! “Now there’s a benefit” I thought to myself.

frozen waterfall in smokies

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade I say, and we did just that this past week, taking advantage of some amazing effects of the current frigid weather.  Friend Kit joined us and we hiked to a nearby waterfall, which of course was frozen!  Wearing enough clothes to fill an entire clothes rack, we started our icy adventure, and I found that as soon as we started ascending the mountainside, all was warm and toasty except for my fingers, which I kept glancing at inside my mittens, just to be sure they were still there and attached.

rachelle siegrist with frozen smokies waterfall

WOW!” I exclaimed seeing the frozen falls for the first time!  They were truly stunning and unlike anything I’ve ever seen in person!  Carefully we crept over scattered large rocks, until we had reached the bottom of the falls.  There the usual dark pool of water, was frozen over entirely, having turned a milky white instead!  Only a couple of small openings remained where the water gurgled over cascades, trapping bubbles under the ice, that spun in circles as the water flowed underneath.  I sat there on a large rock watching it, becoming entranced by the abstract movements of the trapped bubbles and accompanying sounds.

smokies wintertime

The waterfall was gloriously mounded over with great globs of ice and icicles, that hung like long crystal tendrils, some three-foot or more in length!  Water still flowed behind the ice curtain, and the muffled sound of the falling water deep inside, made it sound like a waterfall off at a distance.  A couple of small cave-like holes in the encasement of ice allowed peaks inside the icy sculpture.

icicles in smokies

Every blade of grass and leaf scattered about the bank was completely encased in ice and frozen in place!  It was truly a magical winter wonderland and I felt very blessed to have the opportunity to see it!

winter in the smokies

Standing on frozen ground while admiring the scene, I remembered that just a week and a half ago, I was standing on the beach in Florida about the same time of day.  There I stood barefoot, wearing only shorts and a tank top, relaxingly gazing out at the horizon where water meets sky, each receding wave gently tugging at my ankles.  There the warmth of the sun could be felt all over.  Two encounters with water, but drastically different indeed!

rachelle siegrist hiking the smokies

Returning back to the vehicle, we enjoyed hot chocolate and fresh baked blueberry scones, while thawing out and recounting what we had seen.  Now back in the studio, I still have to check and make sure my fingers are still there, and am donning enough clothes to once again fill a clothes rack.  It is then while painting at my easel, I imagine running toward the beach, leaving a trail of discarded winter clothes behind me.  Arriving at the water’s edge wearing my swimsuit, I am faced with a big decision, do I dive into the warm water and blissfully float about or fall back into the warm sand, letting the sun thaw my frozen flesh.  Perhaps I’ll enjoy both by going only halfway, or perhaps returning back to reality, I’ll add another layer of clothing and keep on painting.

smokies winter photo

~ Fresh off the Easels ~

This week brought more easel time, and I finished my current dog commission.  Wes is also working on a commission, which is a surprise, so I’ll be sharing them with you as soon as the recipients have excitedly received them.  I’m currently painting a pelican which I photographed at Sailfish Marina recently, while Wes finished a western landscape painting with several wee bison in it.

Wes’ “Crossing The Land Time Forgot”

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Until next time . . .





Outdoor Fun With Family and Friends!

From Mountain Tops to Streams!!!

by Rachelle Siegrist

Hiking GSMNP with rachelle wes siegrist.jpg
Wes, Tom, Sharon, me, George and Jeanie on our way to the bald

Wes’ parents were visiting us here in the Smokies this past week, so we took advantage of the beautiful weather and headed outdoors!  Friends, Tom and Sharon, joined us this past Monday for a day of adventure, which started with a hike to one of the lovely balds in our area.  Brilliant blue skies accompanied us overhead, as we started our hike upwards and onwards.  At 5,560 ft in elevation, the trees were still mostly bare, sporting only a few baby leaves in spots. After walking along a tree lined path, you round the corner and Voila’ . . . the woods opens up revealing the first glimpse of the grassy bald.

wes siegrist huckleberry bald
Sharon asks Wes . . . “What do you mean we’re still not to the top?”


Walking farther along we reached the crest of the lower bald, covered with yellow Buttercup blossoms, where Wes’ parents decided to stay while the rest of us hiked to the very top.

hiking the balds.jpg
A trail leading to the top of the world!

Up and up we went until we came to the very top.  It was truly magnificent, and no matter how many times I visit there, I never tire of this splendid view, while feeling on top of the world!

wes and rachelle siegrist on huckleberry bald.jpg
In one of my happy places!

Upon reaching the top of the bald, I said “I have always wanted to do this up here.” So after fixing my jacket to look like a skirt, I started spinning around slowly, arms outstretched to the side, while belting out “The hills are alive . . . with the sound of music!”  Then somehow I managed to convince Tom and Sharon to spin along with me while I sang, and so we spun . . . round and round . . . until we were totally dizzy to the point of nearly falling down and overcome with laughter!  We thought it a most brilliant performance and considered Wes lucky to have seen it!

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A slideshow of our amazing performance for your viewing enjoyment . . . Ha Ha!

We could see Wes’ parents on the lower bald, appearing as two wee white dots on a canvas of blue and green!  We felt on top of the world up there while enjoying the splendid 360 degree view, feeling as if we were earth’s only inhabitants!

lower huckleberry bald.jpg
Yep . . . the two wee white specs are Wes’ parents

Descending the bald, we found Wes parents sitting on a rock, just relaxing and enjoying the grand view!

Sittin’ on top of the world!


We enjoyed a relaxing stroll as we descended the bald, serenaded by numerous birds, such as the Chestnut-sided Warbler, singing their springtime songs and the sound of a gentle breeze blowing softly through the still barren trees.  Returning to the trailhead, we headed to our next adventure where we cooled off a bit.

rachelle siegrist swimming.jpg
Part of the gang cooling off!

It was a perfect day for a dip in the water, and even though Tom bravely dove right in, Sharon and I weren’t so brave.  It took us quite sometime to finally go under, as we competed seeing who was in farther, while inching our way into the frigid water!  Just as Sharon was proudly announcing that she was in deeper and thus winning, I suddenly went under, quickly popping back up and announcing that I had won!  Of course a few seconds later, she too was in all the way!  We floated blissfully around while Wes’ mom sat at the water’s edge and Tom snorkeled.

rachelle siegrist cold
OH . . .  it’s SOOOOOO cold!!!

Finally when we were both started shaking uncontrollably, we decided it time to get out and warm up in the sun for awhile.  Later a picnic supper was enjoyed as well as another delightful walk in the woods, and as we returned home that night, decided it had indeed been a most delightful day!

wes and rachelle siegrist with John Agnew
Wes, me, Pat and John

Thursday we met up with artist friend John Agnew and his wife Pat at the Abrams Creek Trailhead.  It was another lovely day as we started our hike and quickly found ourselves hiking up some pretty steep inclines, making our way up and over a couple of high sections before descending back down to the creek’s edge.  Of course it was great fun stopping at each stream crossing to look for salamanders and since we were with John, a salamander hunter extraordinaire, we met with great success, as it seemed each rock he gently lifted, revealed another adorable resident below!

John searches for salamanders, Wes, John and Pat taking a break, and a wee worm snake

I don’t think we have ever seen such a splendid display of the delicate light pink blossoms of the Mountain Laurels, as there were along that trail and lining the banks of the creek!  It was spectacular to say the least, and at times the breeze caught their soft scent filling the air and delighting our noses!

rachelle siegrists photo of Mountain Laurel Bloom
A stunning Mountain Laurel blossom

It seemed every curve in the trail brought more stunning pink blossoms, making it feel as if we were walking through a natural botanical garden!  It had gotten quite warm during the day, making it perfect for a wade in the water, which I did several times over!

Of course salamanders weren’t the only treasured finds of the day, as we also found several centipedes and even a worm snake which was adorable! Returning to the trailhead, we realized the day had passed and it was now evening as we said our goodbye! More wonderful memories made!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

Fun In The Woods With Wes’ Parents

Walking in the Woods!!!

by Rachelle Siegrist

cades cove cabins wes siegrist
Wes and his parents by the Lawson Barn in Cades Cove

Wes’ parents arrived at our home here in the Smokies this past Wednesday and we have been on the go ever since!  We enjoyed a picnic in Cades Cove and riding around the loop road, while counting turkey and deer the first evening.  It was a beautiful one too, complete with a gorgeous sunset over the mountains!

turkey in cades cove
A couple of resident turkey in the cove

No matter how many times we visit Cades Cove, it’s always a joy and inspiring as an artist, as we love painting the historic barns and home places located there, as well as the numerous gorgeous vistas, scenes and resident wildlife!

cades cove barn
The Lawson Barn in Cades Cove

The next day we headed over to Roaring Fork near Gatlinburg, but recent high winds in our area combined with the wildfires last year, had caused numerous trees to fall, therefore temporarily closing the loop drive.  So after visiting one accessible log cabin and barn, we decided to hike the Gatlinburg Trail.  Following alongside the river, it’s always a pleasant relaxing walk, and was gorgeous, dressed in lush green foliage.

hiking the gatlinburg trail
Wes’ parents and me on one of the bridges

Numerous Mountain Laurel were blooming showcasing their delicate light pink flowers dotted throughout the woods, adding even more beauty!

gatlinburg trail
Jeanie and George by one of the Mountain Laurel

Of course if there’s water around and it’s not frozen I usually get in . . . most of the time!  I just couldn’t resist the stunningly clear water, and after my legs went numb, it didn’t feel too bad . . . Ha Ha!  Sadly I couldn’t convince any of the others to play in the water with me though.

rachelle siegrist gatlinburg trail
Brrrrrr . . .  so refreshing!!!

Yesterday was spent at the 27th Wilderness Wildlife Week event held in Pigeon Forge.  What a fun and interesting day it was as we attended several different lectures and presentations, including a hammered dulcimer concert, as well as an old fashioned harp note singing!  We really enjoyed “The People of Cades Cove” presentation and were thrilled to hear stories about life in the cove from about a dozen people who were actually born inside the cove! I learned that “When you can step on your head, it’s 12 noon”, in other words being able to step on the shadow of your head.  Another person told about living in the cove after it became a National Park, that it was like the goldfish bowl effect, as people were always watching them and asking questions, mostly kind of ridiculous ones.  One tourist asked the cove resident if he realized there was a deer pasturing with his cattle, to which his father quickly replied, “Why yes I do . . . I milk her along with the cows!” (They had a Jersey Cow among their Herefords) I found this a brilliant answer to a silly question!  Another highlight was the presentation “What is it?” where the audience was shown objects found in the cove and we were to guess what they were, and I was thrilled to have guessed one correctly!  I also learned of a few more awesome places to camp, kayak and hike!  Needless to say, we came away more knowledgable in so many ways!


What a better way to cook a gourmet Mother’s Day lunch than over an open fire, so we did just that, and it was delicious! I want to wish all of you special Moms out there a very Happy Mothers Day, especially to my own amazing Mom who has loved, prayed for and taken care of our family in tremendous ways throughout the years, and to my special Mother-n-law Jeanie!

rachelle sirgrist and parents.jpg
Happy Mother’s Day to my most precious Mom, whom I love SO very much!!!

~ Fresh off the Easels ~

I finished my latest dog commission this past week featuring a mule seat full of joy and love!!  I had so much fun painting this adorable bundle of fur and told their mommy I would love to sit on that seat and hold them all in my lap! You can’t help but smile when looking at this fun painting!

dog painting commission by rachelle siegrist.jpg
My “A Mule Full!”

Wes finished his landscape painting of the John Oliver cabin in Cades Cove this past week, as viewed from a seldom seen angle.  We never tire of seeing, hiking to and painting these great historical beauties and national treasures!

“A Cabin in the Woods” by Wes

yellow lab painting, yellow Labrador Retriever painting, dog commission by rachelle siegrist

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle