Monday, May 19, 2014

Flat Stanley Visit

Flat Stanley Visits South Carolina
May 2014

As part of a class project, my nephew Liam arranged for Flat Stanley to visit us here in Spartanburg, SC.  If you are not familiar with Flat Stanley, you can learn more about him here:

Flat Stanley Arrives in Spartanburg, SC!

Shortly after his arrival, Flat Stanley helped us plant some flowers.

Flat Stanley with some newly planted flowers

In Liam's letter to us, one of the things he specifically requested is that we show him something special about my remote control helicopter.  So I showed Flat Stanley how it worked and even arranged to give him a little helicopter ride around our house!

Flat Stanley goes for a helicopter ride

Flat Stanley goes for a helicopter ride

Flat Stanley goes for a helicopter ride

I had planned to take Flat Stanley on some hikes, but the timing of his visit did not correspond to any of my hiking plans.  However we did show him a few other things.

Our county, Spartanburg County, is the home of the only North American manufacturing facility for the German car company, BMW. We took Flat Stanley to visit there. When this plant opened in the early 1990s the Z3 and Z4 coupes were made here. Later, they began making the X3, X4, X5 and X6 BMW models. 

Flat Stanley at the BMW Manufacturing Plant in Spartanburg County, SC

Aunt Amy with Flat Stanley at the BMW Visitors Center

While he was there, Flat Stanley made friends with an angry bird.

Flat Stanley makes friends with an Angry Bird!

Flat Stanley also joined us to see a production of the Broadway play “The Phantom of the Opera” at the Peace Center in Greenville, SC.  Since Flat Stanley is short in stature and rather thin, we were able to get him in to see the show without having to purchase another ticket.   He was delighted with the front row balcony seats we had so he could see all the action on the stage. 

Flat Stanley goes to see "The Phantom of the Opera"

Flat Stanley with a Front Row Balcony Seat for the show

Last Christmas when our nephew Liam and our niece Marielle visited us, we took them to see the Liberty Bridge and Reedy River Falls in downtown Greenville, SC. We decided to show Flat Stanley these sites as well. The Liberty Bridge is a very unique suspension bridge and the only one of its kind in the United States.

Flat Stanley on the Liberty Bridge overlooking Reedy River Falls

 Flat Stanley hanging out by Reedy River Falls and the Liberty Bridge

Flat Stanley Crashing a Wedding Party

We showed Flat Stanley a few other interesting spots in downtown Greenville, SC

Flat Stanley hanging out on some impressive tree roots

We call this "The Hobbit House"
It is actually part of an old mill that use to operate by Reedy River Falls

Flat Stanley wanted to go play in the Fountain

He got a little wet, but fortunately he is laminated!

Flat Stanley goes for a trail ride

Flat Stanley wanted to get a few souvenirs from his visit to South Carolina.  He decide on a couple of magnets since he likes to use them to hang out on the refrigerator.

 Flat Stanley hanging out on the refrigerator with the souvenirs from his trip to SC

We had a wonderful visit with Flat Stanley, but his trip is about over.  He has to be back with Liam in Virginia before the end of the school year.

Monday, May 5, 2014

2014-05-03 Douglas Falls, Walker Falls, and Beyond

Douglas Falls, Walker Falls, and Beyond
A "Team Waterfall" Bushwhacking Adventure
Big Ivy Area of the Pisgah National Forest, NC
Saturday, May 3rd, 2014

Group Photo along our Bushwhack
L to R:  Andy, Jess, Jonathan, Me  (with Boone and Kona at the Bottom Center) 

By studying the topo maps, Andy decided that there was a high probability of additional waterfalls downstream from Douglas Falls and upstream from Walker Falls.  So for Saturday's adventure we decided to do a bit of off trail Bushwhacking and see what we would find!

Jonathan and Jess also decided to join Me, Andy, and the dogs on this adventure.  The hardest part about getting to Douglas Falls is the drive.  It is a bit longer than I usually like to travel for a dayhike and the last section of the drive is about 10 miles of a narrow dirt road.

Fortunately there are several roadside waterfalls along this dirt road to make things interesting.  Many would be worth a stop during times of heavy flow, but we decided to skip most of them.  Except for Walker Falls.

 Walker Falls (an impressive roadside waterfall)

Our plan was to explore upstream from Walker Falls, but we would save that for later if we still had the time and energy after our main hike.

The dirt road dead ends at a small parking area at the Douglas Falls Trailhead.  The hike to Douglas Falls is short (less than a mile) and easy. 

 Andy and Boone hiking by a cool tree root along the Douglas Falls Trail

Douglas Falls is spectacular!  Much more impressive in person than I could capture in photos!

 Douglas Falls

 Andy, Jonathan, and Jess checking out Douglas Falls

After our short break at Douglas Falls we began our adventure downstream.  Starting out there was actually somewhat of a path to follow, but that eventually fizzled out and the bushwhacking began.

It was a tough and very steep bushwhack through thickets of Rhododendron and Briers!  It was a good thing that the morning temperatures were a bit cool because we all still had long sleeves and pants on.  We would have been a bloody mess if we were in shorts and t-shirts!

We descended down to the creek and arrived at the point just downstream from where Douglas Creek and Waterfall Creek join together.  What a great place to shed our packs and set up "base camp" for a while.

There were some nice flat boulders to hang out on, a nice little cascade, and an awesome swimming hole.  It was a bit too cold to take advantage of the swimming hole, but it was still a pretty sight.  The only downside was the bright sun did not make for optimal waterfall photography.

 Nice cascade and an awesome swimming hole

From there, we worked out way upstream a short ways to the point where Douglas Creek and Waterfall Creek join together.  This is a pretty sight as you have two waterfalls plunging into the same pool.  Douglas Creek on the left and Waterfall Creek on the right.

A pair of waterfalls where Douglas Creek and Waterfall Creek join together

We figured that Waterfall Creek was called Waterfall Creek for a reason and we knew there just had to be more upstream!  Heading up the right side did not look possible.  And heading up the left side would required climbing the logs in the center of the above photo (more difficult that it looks), or crossing Douglas Creek somewhere above the waterfall on the left. 

Andy didn't feel comfortable with either option, so he elected to stay behind, while Jonathan, Jess, and I bushwhacked up the left side of Douglas Creek and managed to find a spot to cross.  Not the ideal spot, but a spot where a slip would result in a wet butt slide and most likely not involve serious injury.  Fortunately the rock surface was surprisingly grippy and the three of us made it across without any issues.

Jess Crossing Douglas Creek

And we were rewarded with another impressive waterfall!

 Me by the waterfall on Waterfall Creek

Jonathan crossing a huge log, Jess on the Right below the log

 Jonathan dismounting the log

Continuing upstream from here would be impossible without finding a significant detour route and with Andy waiting down below, we didn't want to take the time for that, so we returned back the way we came.

Just downstream from where we set up "base camp" was another nice sliding waterfall, which I snapped a few shots of before we began our bushwhack back up to Douglas Falls

Andy by a nice sliding waterfall

For the return bushwhack, we stayed a little further away from the creek and managed to avoid the worst section of briers and rhododendron thickets.  It was still a steep climb and we had all worked up a good sweat by the time we made it back to Douglas Falls.

So we all decided to cool off by taking a Douglas Falls shower!

 Jonathan and Jess having fun under Douglas Falls

 Andy having fun under Douglas Falls

 Kona cooling off

Boone was the only one that decided to stay dry

We made it back to our vehicles and declared the day a success!  However, Andy still wanted to explore upstream from Walker Falls.  Jonathan and Jess decided they had enough for the day and headed on back home, while Andy and I stopped at Walker Falls.

A faint path leads up the right side of the waterfall and with one of the few good clouds of the day passing by, we decided to stop and photograph the upper portion of Walker Falls.

The Upper portion of Walker Falls

The path fizzled out at this point so it was pretty much a bushwhack upstream from here.  Compared to the bushwhacking earlier in the day, this was a piece of cake!  And we did find another waterfall at the end.  Not a super impressive one, but still a nice way to end the day!

 Andy by the waterfall upstream from Walker Falls

The complete set of photos from our adventure is posted here:

Thursday, May 1, 2014

2014-04-24 Wine Tasting with my Mom and Dad

Wine Tasting with the Parents!
Green Creek Winery
Overmountain Vineyards
Parker-Binns Vineyard
Polk County, NC
Saturday, April 24th, 2014

Last weekend my Mom and Dad came down for a visit.  On Saturday we took them up to Polk County, NC for a little wine tasting tour.

First stop was the Green Creek Winery
The Green Creek Winery

 Amy and my parents enjoying a wine tasting at the Green Creek Winery

Amy and Jack at the Green Creek Winery

 A couple of friendly dogs hanging out with us at the Green Creek Winery

Next up was Overmountain Vineyards

 Amy and Me with my parents at Overmountain Vineyards

 Amy at Overmountain Vineyards

 View from the Front Porch of the Tasting Room

 Cool Car parked at Overmountain Vineyards  (A Lotus)

 Overmountain Vineyards

Our final winery of the day was Parker-Binns Vineyard, which turned out to be our favorite of the three.  Amy's Mom and Dad also decided to stop by and join us!

 Amy's Parents at Parker-Binns Vineyard

 Amy's Dad and My Mom

The gang enjoying a wine tasting at Parker-Binns Vineyard

There are also some cool animals to check out at Parker-Binns, including goats, a Llama, and a couple of nice Asses!

 A pair of cute Asses!



After an afternoon of wine, we finished up with a nice dinner out our favorite Pizza Place!  The Brick in Columbus, NC!

It was a very enjoyable day and a wonderful visit with the folks!