The Solar Eclipse And Hot Air Balloons!

The Solar Eclipse and Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Balloon Festival!

by Rachelle Siegrist

solar eclipse 2017
Watching in WOW . . . Helen, me, Cindy, Kit and Neal

It was quite hot and toasty as we excitedly started walking down the hill to meet up with friend Kit, and his visiting family, at our chosen viewing area for the solar eclipse. Minutes after arriving we could already see the moon inching its way in front of the sun, causing atmospheric and lighting conditions to take on a strange appearance, and the temperature to begin slowly dropping. We then noticed the shadows from trees were crescent shaped, and that our own shadows too became short and very crisp.  At that point, two kids walked up and were selling the appropriate eclipse glasses for $1 each! Wes and I couldn’t believe it, after the fiasco we had gone through with our friend Fred last week trying to find our own eclipse glasses!

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My eclipse shadow
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The interesting crescent-shaped shadows

Kit’s family took advantage of the cheap glasses being offered to watch with us, as the moon covered more of the sun making it darker and causing the street lights on sensors to come on. At that point the sun looked like a big sparkling diamond ring!

solar eclipse photo of the diamond ring effect
The “Diamond Ring” effect (Many thanks to Kit for the 3 awesome photos of the eclipse)
diamond ring effect photo of sun in solar eclipse 2017
With a solar flare (The sky was a very dark blue not black which is due to the camera exposure)

Seconds later just before totality, a weird wavy pattern shimmered on the ground all around us, and as darkness descended, the temperature fell about 20 degrees as well, until it was quite cool and comfortable! Thinking night had fallen, the crickets started singing loudly, and a beautiful sunset appeared over the mountains, surrounding us 360 degrees!

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A 360 degree sunset behind the surrounding mountains

I was covered in chill bumps from sheer delight at being able to witness such an incredible celestial  phenomenon!  Cheers and applause could be heard all over the hills as we watched in darkness, and I’m quite sure I heard the theme from 2001 A Space Odyssey playing on someone’s phone or radio nearby!

photo of sun during totality
During totality!

It all happened so fast, and before long it was all over, with shimmering waves appearing on the ground below once again and the diamond ring effect coming back on the opposite side!  Our shadows remained crisp as a paper cutout for quite sometime, and the patterns for the trees stayed crescent-shaped.  As the moon slowly passed, the light came back and the temperature started rising. We had witnessed a great event, which we’ll remember forever! 

Another fun event this past week took place in the sky as well!  The Great Smoky Mountains Hot Air Ballon Festival and Solar Eclipse event took place last Saturday here in Townsend.  Massive amounts of people poured into our tiny little town, most driving in traffic that took two hours to drive roughly two miles!!!  Cars were parking everywhere as our quiet town swelled past capacity!

great smoky mountain hot air ballon festival

We had never seen so many people here, but I decided to brave the swollen crowds to go watch the lighting of the balloons that evening.  I walked down with friends and convinced them to push our way through the crowd to be able to get up close to the massive balloons.  Close enough in fact, to talk to one of the pilots about how they operate them and even getting to peer into the big basket containing two massive gas tanks.

Having seen a ballon lighting once before in Florida many years ago, I knew we were in for a real treat once the sun began setting and the huge balloons lit up against the dark sky.  Of course the beauty of the mountains and fields behind them made for a stunning scene, as each pilot filled them with hot air, causing the flames to shoot up illuminating the large floating balloons!

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I must say that although we greatly enjoyed watching it, we were even more delighted when it ended and Townsend returned to a quiet, sleepy little town!


Our Model Railroad update ~

We’re continuing to make more progress on the model train set.  In this next step you can see we finished painting the dirt and stone work with different values of tans and darker browns to give it dimension.  Then we painted dark blue where the water is going to be.  Once dry, various lighter shades of blue were painted to create depth differences in the cascading stream and waterfall, as well as the more shallow areas of the deep water below.

building a model train set 1

A piece of plexiglas cut to the desired shape was put into place atop the deep water.  Next while Wes painted glue water on what was to be lawn and fields, I sprinkled on the grass mixture, made from tinted sawdust.  By this point it was really starting to look real!

building a model train setNext, buildings were glued into place and it was time to start adding the trees and shrubs, sticks and more rocks.building a model train set


~ Fresh off the Easels ~

While I’m continuing to paint on surprise commissions, Wes finished a couple of landscape paintings this past week, that feature our beautiful Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  The first painting is of what’s been called both the Avent and Artist’s Cabin, located inside the historic Elkmont area.  We’ve enjoyed hiking to this lovely little cabin several times and look forward to going there again sometime!

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Wes’ “The Avent Cabin”

The other landscape miniature painting is of beautiful Abrams Falls, a waterfall which is reached via a 2 1/2 mile hike form inside Cades Cove.  Another favorite of ours, we’ve hiked to this falls many times, and I personally look forward to hiking there again many times!

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Wes’ “Abrams Falls”

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle

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Magical Meadows, Rocket Stove and Eggs!

Hiking Schoolhouse Gap to White Oak Sinks!

by Rachelle Siegrist

tall phlox in smokies.jpg

It’s that time of year again, so this past Wednesday, we headed up Schoolhouse Gap Trail to see if the Tall Phlox were blooming. It was a beautiful morning, as occasional clouds passed overhead and the sound of springtime birdsong and gentle breezes filled the air!  As we started our descent into the woodland meadow area, clusters of the delicate lavender flowers started appearing, proving our timing was perfect!  Soon we found ourselves surrounded by a sea of lavender and their soft sweet fragrance filled the air! We found the perfect lunch spot, a big log with plenty of room for the four of us, and we were delighted to have this magical meadow all to ourselves!

A Swallowtail enjoys the Tall Phlox, Shooting Stars and Squaw Root

After lunch, we decided to hike up to a sinkhole where Virginia Bluebells bloom each year.  It’s tricky knowing exactly when they’re blooming, so we weren’t sure what to expect, but were thrilled to find that they were indeed at peak, and absolutely stunning! It was decided that it was a wonderfully peaceful place to just sit awhile, enjoying the beauty and quiet!

white oak sinks trailSoon it was time to start hiking back, and while winding our way through the woods, we heard what sounded like thumping on a large hollow log, growing in intensity and tempo as it went along.  Having an odd sound, it also seemed too slow for a woodpecker, so at first we thought perhaps it was a Ruffed Grouse. But after researching online, we concluded it was most likely a Pileated Woodpecker, since Grouse do the beating with their wings while standing on a log. However, I also discovered that it sounded somewhat like the tapping on a hollow tree made by Sasquatch!  Being a huge fan of Bigfoot, I decided to go with that theory in the end, thinking perhaps he was watching us from up on the surrounding hillside somewhere and was tapping out a “Howdy!” to me!  We strolled back down the path, and just before reaching the trailhead, we stopped for a short wade in the river, finding it most refreshing and a great way to end the hike!

rachelle siegrist hiking school house gap trail
Obviously Tom didn’t get the red shirt memo!

Yesterday was the perfect day for hunting Easter eggs with our little friend Chance, and so he, along with his grandparents and several others, spent time in our front gardens hiding and hunting the multi-colored eggs. Of course it all started with the guys hiding the eggs, while us girls kept him entertained with bubbles, a favorite pastime of his!

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Always fun playing with bubbles!

Soon the three dozen or so eggs were carefully tucked in secret hiding places and the hunt began!  Chance was having a ball locating the eggs and putting them in his red bucket, but stopped several times to watch the Swallowtail Butterflies that kept flitting above, occasionally landing to drink nectar from the abundant Azalea blossoms!  Each time he would sweetly say “Hi butterfly“, then proceed with his search for eggs.

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Looking for more eggs!

Upon finding them all, we hid them for him again, so he could enjoy the experience all over again.  Having worked up an appetite, our group headed to Pizza Hut for a tasty supper and ended the fun evening relaxing on the back porch while enjoying Sharon’s yummy chocolate cake!

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Found another one!

Wes recently discovered rocket stoves in a magazine and after doing some online research, built us one, for free no less!  Upon using it the first time, we were totally amazed, so he built another one right next to it the very next day!  Using small amounts of sticks collected from the woods, it concentrates the heat in one area, thus cooking food efficiently and for free!  A day or so later, he built a table nearby to set things on, so our outdoor kitchen is now complete and works great!

wes siegrists rocket stove
The initial rocket stove in action

Celebrate Easter . . . For He is risen!


~ Fresh off the Easels ~

Wes painted two landscape paintings this past week featuring gorgeous settings from our beloved nearby Smoky Mountain National Park.  Just a few minutes drive from our home, we love hiking in this area, and of course painting it for you to cherish and enjoy!

landscape smokies painting by_Wes_Siegrist
Wes’ “Still Waters”
lanscape waterfall painting by_Wes_Siegrist
Wes’ “Cascade Colors”

I have almost finished one of my current commissions which I will share with you soon, and started this commission “A Mule Full” featuring four precious little doggies belonging to dear collector friends!  As you can imagine, I’m having a ball painting this one!

dog commission in progress
My latest dog commission in progress

commission a painting by wes siegrist, landscape painting of the virgin islands

~ To Commission A Painting by Us Click Here!

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Until next time . . .

~ Rachelle