Sunday, October 31, 2010

Jack and Amy's Weekend Getaway to Georgia

Day 1 - Friday, October 29th, 2010

Photos are posted here:
http://community.webshots.com/album/578913691EDdOfD

Since my company's fiscal and vacation year end on October 31st, we planned a little trip to use up the last of my vacation days. Plus my Virginia Tech Hokies had a bye week making this last weekend of October the perfect opportunity to get away.

I have been wanting to visit Amicalola State Park for quite some time, but since this was a last minute trip, the accommodations there were all booked up. However, Amy was able to find a room fairly close to the park at the Lily Creek Lodge just outside Dahlonega, GA.

There are about 100 different routes that you can take from Spartanburg, SC to Dahlonega, GA. I chose one that would take us through Toccoa, GA so we could make a stop at Toccoa Falls.

Toccoa Falls is an almost 200-feet high waterfall located on the campus of Toccoa Falls College in Stephens County, GA. Of all the Georgia waterfalls that I have been to, this one is probably the most impressive! It is definitely a must see if you are in the area. Plus it is handicapped accessible, so anyone can make the few hundred yard stroll to this awesome sight.

The trailhead is located behind the college bookstore/gift shop. A nominal $1.00 fee per person allows access to the trail.

Even before we checked out the waterfall, we immediately spotted something that we had never seen before in the parking area. This one goes into the redneck files!

If you have too many kids to fit in your minivan and decide to create one of these:
You might be a Redneck!

Now on to the waterfall!

I was optimistic at first because the creek downstream from the falls was 100% shaded, but unfortunately we arrived at the waterfall under the worst possible photographic conditions. The top of the falls was in the bright sun, while the bottom was in the shade. This intense lighting contrast would make it impossible to get a good shot of the entire waterfall.

Toccoa Falls (see what I mean about the poor lighting!)
So I settled for trying to get shots isolating either the top half or the bottom half. The nice fall color and bright blue sky above at least made for some interesting shots! Plus, since I still don't have a good photo of the entire falls, it gives me an excuse to get back next time we are passing through the area!

Jack and Amy at Toccoa Falls


Nice Fall Color and a bright blue sky above Toccoa Falls

After Toccoa Falls, we continued on to Dahlonega and arrived downtown just in time for lunch and a stroll around downtown. This was my first visit to Dahlonega and I was very impressed with the downtown area. It is very touristy and has more than its share of unique little shops, but still a very neat place to visit.

Next we continued on to the Lily Creek Lodge. We were a bit early for the official 3:00pm check-in, but since our room was ready, we were allowed to check in early.

Since Amy accused me of getting her up too early, she decide that she was due for a nap. I decided to head on to a nearby waterfall.

Cane Creek Falls is located on the grounds of Camp Glisson just outside Dahlonega. When camp is not in session they allow public access to the waterfall between the hours of 9:00am and 5:00pm. You just have to check in at the visitors center and sign a liability waiver to get access.

Cane Creek Falls

This is another waterfall that is accessible to just about anyone and well worth a visit if you are in the Dahlonega area. Again, the bright sun made for less than desirable waterfall photography, but I still managed a couple of good shots.

Cane Creek Falls

I returned to the lodge and found Amy refreshed and ready to explore. I decided on the Falls on the West Fork of Montgomery Creek.

I got information on this waterfall from Jack Anthony's Georgia Waterfalls Website.  This is the best resource on Georgia Waterfalls that I could find!

One nice thing is he includes the GPS coordinates of the waterfalls and parking areas. However, it turned out to be a mistake plugging the coordinates in the GPS and trusting Tom Tom! We would have been much better following the directions on the website.

After travelling about an hour on a goat path like dirt road we finally reached the point we could have gotten to via paved roads in about 10 minutes. From here we were able to pick up the directions from Jack Anthony's site.

This is one of those spots that very few people end up getting to. Even with good directions, you still need a vehicle that you are not afraid to ford creeks in. The trailhead is not marked and not easy to spot without good directions.

The trail starts out heading steeply downhill through many areas of deadfall for about a half mile. It crosses a small tributary before gaining elevation and meeting up with the main creek. The last part requires a steep scramble down the bank to the base of this 20-foot waterfall.

Waterfall on the West Fork of Montgomery Creek

Amy elected to skip the descent to the base and waited for me while I went in search of photos. As usual, the best angle was on the other side of the creek, so I just had to trek across. Amy was looking down at me like I was crazy, but the lighting was perfect and I didn't want to miss the opportunity.

Waterfall on the West Fork of Montgomery Creek

Waterfall on the West Fork of Montgomery Creek

If you are the adventurous type waterfall seeker, this one is definitely worth a visit! Total hike is a little over a half mile one way, but it felt a lot longer!

After our hike, we enjoyed a nice dinner in Dahlonega before heading back to the Lodge. Once the stars came out, I decided to attempt some night time photography.

The Lily Creek Lodge at Night


Starry Sky

The full set of photos from Day 1 of our Georgia Weekend Getaway are located here:
http://community.webshots.com/album/578913691EDdOfD

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Pumpkin Patch Treasure!

I spotted this treasure sitting in a Pumpkin Patch today!

My Wife Amy

Friday, October 29, 2010

Toccoa Falls

I found myself in Toccoa, GA this morning and decided to make a quick visit to Toccoa Falls.  Lighting was about as bad as you can get with the top half of the falls in full sun and the bottom half in full shade.  There was some nice fall color near the top of the falls and a beautiful bright blue sky.  So I settled on just the top half!

Here's something you don't see every day!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Seed Pod

Today's Photo is a seed pod from an Impatiens Plant.
This annual blooms from early spring through first frost. 
In the fall they start producing these seed pods.
The Pods gradually blow up like a balloon until they eventually burst
releasing new seeds down to the soil below.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ghost / Image

2 Things Challenge

Ghost

Image

These are the 2 words for this week's 2 Things Challenge

2 Things Challenge Rules:

Interpret the 2 weekly subjects any way you wish, in a photograph, collage, painting, poem, song, or whatever you can dream up and post on your blog.

For this weeks challenge, here are a few recent images where I captured some ghosts!  These are straight out of the camera with No Post Processing Editing (except for reducing the size for web posts).


Ghost in the Graveyard

Ghost walking behind a Waterfall

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A few photos from today's hikes

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

Looking Glass Rock
Pisgah National Forest, NC


My favorite tree on Looking Glass Rock


Maidenhair Falls
Translyvania County, NC


Me at Maidenhair Falls


view from the Caesars Head Overlook
Caesars Head State Park, SC

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Afternoon Picnic at Milliken

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

I thought about heading up to the higher elevations to try and find some peak fall color, but decided that can wait until tomorrow (Sunday).  My Virginia Tech Hokies were playing at noon and I had some things I wanted to get done around the house.

I got my chores done in the morning and enjoyed watching my Hokies dominate Duke.

Note for any Duke fans out there:  Don't worry, Basketball season starts soon!


After the game, Amy suggested going for a little picnic.  It was a beautiful afternoon, so we took the bug, stopped at a local sub shop, and headed to the Milliken & Co. corporate headquarters in downtown Spartanburg.

You might not think this sounds like the greatest place for a picnic, but you would be wrong!  Milliken's Spartanburg campus consists of about 600-acres of beautiful land, most of which is a park like setting and open to the public.  Not sure why I don't visit here more often.

Here is a series of shots from our afternoon picnic and stroll around the Milliken Campus.

Jack and Amy


Doesn't she look cute in the Hokie Shirt!


Don't take a photo of me with a mouth full of food!


Feeding the Ducks


Amy and Jack


Amy taking a nap


Jack and Amy by our Bug




Me (Jack)


Milliken Spartanburg Campus


Milliken Spartanburg Campus


Milliken Spartanburg Campus


Milliken Spartanburg Campus


Milliken Spartanburg Campus


Milliken Spartanburg Campus


Amy

The Flock

 A Little Plug For My Buddy Bob!

James Robert Smith (aka Bob) has been one of my hiking buddies for about the past 8 or 9 years.  Bob works as a postal carrier for the US Postal Service.  He is also a writer having had more than 60 short stories and comic book scripts published over the years.

A few years ago his first full length novel was published.  When it first came out I was really looking forward to reading it and it definitely did not disappoint!  I would recommend it to just about anyone!

The original Hardcover edition of "The Flock" is now out of publication.  However, the mass market paperback edition is now available.  You can purchase a copy of "The Flock" at http://www.amazon.com/

In addition to "The Flock", Bob also recently completed it's sequel, "The Clan", which is now in the editing phase.  I will be sure to be one of the firsts to purchase "The Clan" once it is released.


For the mass-market paper back release of "The Flock" and the upcoming release of "The Clan", Bob will be doing a series of Book signing tours.  For these tours, he had a bunch of bookmarks made up.

The other day, I received an envelope in the mail containing a few of these bookmarks:

Front                   Back                    Front
(click to enlarge)


Last year, Bob also sold the movie rights to "The Flock"
http://scjack.blogspot.com/2009/07/bobs-big-break.html
So in the future, we may be seeing "James Robert Smith's" name on the Big Screen!

A few more links:

The official website of James Robert Smith (aka Bob)
http://www.jamesrobertsmith.net/

Bob's Blog:
http://tilthelasthemlockdies.blogspot.com/

Friday, October 22, 2010

Drive / Round - 2 Things Challenge

2 Things Challenge

Drive

Round

These are the two words for this weeks 2 Things Challenge

This is another example of where the 2 Things challenge motivated me to compose a shot I would not have thought of.  This photo fits the them in a couple of different ways:


1.  Many people like to "Drive" these little round balls
2.  Dayton USA - People drive miles to watch other people drive round and round in circles

Thursday, October 21, 2010

SSPBDT Poker Night!

SSPBDT Poker Night
Wednesday, October 20th, 2010

Last night was our monthly SSPBDT Poker Night.


Joining me at the Poker table were my buddies Jeff, Tom, and Chris.

At the Poker Table
L to R:  Me (Jack), Jeff, Chris, Tom


Also coming along to keep my wife Amy entertained were Jeff’s wife Lorie and their son Austin.

Baby Austin
Doesn't he look cute on that Hokie Blanket!


For the Evenings meal, I made up some Stromboli with home-made Marinara Sauce and heated up some store bought garlic bread. It was pretty darn tasty and judging by the lack of leftovers, I think the others agreed!

At the Dinner Table
L to R:  Lorie, Tom, Chris


On the poker table things were pretty even for the first couple of hours, but eventually I saw my chip stack dwindling. It was time to make my move. I tried to steal a pot by bluffing with my largest bet of the night. But Chris called my Bluff and it seemed like I would be destined to be the big loser of the evening.

Towards the end, the only way for me to escape the title of Biggest Loser would be to bet big! I started throwing in the $1.00 chips (that is betting big at our table) every chance I got. It paid off as I got lucky and took in the biggest pot of the evening just before last hand.

Tom also managed to escape being the biggest loser of the evening by winning the last hand of the night. However, he was still down $2.00 for the night!

Jeff, who seemed to be on the plus side for most of the night ended up on the losing side when the betting got big and was the biggest loser of the evening being down a whole $3.00.

I ended up winning a whopping $2.00, but it was Chris who ended up the biggest winner as he took home $3.00!

Win or Lose, everyone had a great time as always! And we ate pretty well too!

Chris and Austin

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

SSPBDT Mancation Day 3 - Saturday, October 16th, 2010

The 5th Annual SSPBDT Mancation

Mortimer Campground
Wilson Creek, NC
Thursday, October 14th thru Sunday October 17th, 2010

Day 3 – Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Day 3 Photos are posted here:
http://community.webshots.com/album/578830007xNGIow

As expected, after a late night of good times around the campfire, I did not emerge from my tent in time for any early morning photo opportunities. Long before I got up, Johnny and Skip left camp to try and catch a sunrise somewhere.

The rest of us spent a lazy morning hanging around at camp, enjoying some camp breakfast and coffee.

Camp Stove Breakfast (Photo by Blair)


Eventually I got up enough energy and motivation to do a little hiking. Blair and Jeff decided to join me for a hike to Little Lost Cove Cliffs.

The Wilson Creek area is known for its many creeks, streams, and waterfalls. However, there are also places that offer some pretty good views. Little Lost Cove Cliffs is one of those places.

Blair and Jeff at Little Lost Cove Cliffs

It is about a mile long hike (two mile round trip), up hill all the way to one of the best views in the Wilson Creek area. We were a bit to early for peak fall color, but it was still a great day to capture a view. I figure in another week this view will be even more spectacular.

view from Little Lost Cove Cliffs

In addition to the mountain scenery, we also spotted a group of rock climbing girls from nearby Montreat College.
Rock Climber at Little Lost Cove Cliffs

After our hike to Little Lost Cove Cliffs, I decided there was time for one more short hike before Jeff had to get back to camp to start preparing the evenings meal!


Even though I just led Johnny and Skip there the day before, I decided to take Jeff and Blair to Little Lost Cove Falls. We were already near the trailhead and it is one of my favorite waterfalls in the area.

Me at Upper Little Lost Cove Falls

Back at camp, Steve and Johnny both had to leave prior to the final night of Mancation. Taking their place would be Tom and his son Lee, both first timers to the SSPBDT Mancation camping trip!

Lee decided to join me for a hike to Harper Creek Falls. It is about a two mile hike (four miles round trip) to this impressive waterfall.

The first half mile is a steep climb, but after that it is an easy hike until the very end when you have to rope climb down some rock walls. If it is dry, you can probably make it up and down without using the ropes, but if the rocks are wet, you will definitely need the ropes.

Lee Repelling down the rope to Harper Creek Falls

There was some really nice fall color at Harper Creek Falls. Unfortunately the lighting was as bad as it gets, with half the scene in full sun and half in full shade.

Fall Color and a Bright Blue Sky at Harper Creek Falls


Harper Creek Falls (Lousy Light)


Once Lee and I got back from our hike, the smell of smoked chicken filled the campground air. Jeff was cooking up a trio of Beer Can Smoked Chickens on his Beer Keg Smoker.

Beer Can Smoked Chickens in a Beer Keg Smoker

It would still be a few hours before the birds would be ready, so I made one last visit to Thorps Creek Falls.

Thorps Creek Falls

Once darkness hit, Skip suggested visiting some of the Mortimer Ruins about a mile from the campground. We had a good time experimenting with different lighting techniques to photograph this interesting scene.

Mortimer Ruins

It turns out that the “drunken buddies with flashlights method” can give you some pretty cool results!

Lights On

Lights Off

Once we returned to camp, Jeff’s Chickens were finally ready and they were delicious!

After dinner a group of us made another night time visit to the Mortimer Graveyard!

Mortimer Graveyard at Night

The rest of the evening was spent contributing to the delinquency of a minor and to seeing how high we could get the campfire!

Blair and Jeff hanging out by the campfire


Hanging out under the Tarp by the Campfire

The next morning, it was time to pack up camp. For the first time ever, we were packing up dry camping gear, tents, and tarps. Every previous SSPBDT Mancation included Sunday Morning rain showers! In fact, except for a few drops on the drive up, it didn’t rain a bit on this years camping trip.

A great time was had by all!

Additional photos from Mancation Day 3 are located here:
http://community.webshots.com/album/578830007xNGIow