Early

Several months ago in an attempt to be more cognizant of the amount of time I spend on social media and surfing the Internet, I had my computer tell me the time in fifteen minute increments.  Even though it does this twenty-four hours a day, I don’t hear it while I’m sleeping, even though the computer is just a few feet away from me. 

This morning as I woke, I heard, “It’s five-thirty.”  Are you kidding me?  Since I was all caught up in a book I was reading, I’d been awake until after midnight, which means it was a really short night. 

The truth of the matter is that I’m a morning person and I actually enjoy getting up early.  If I sleep until seven am it’s a major accomplishment.  On the very rare occasion when I’ve slept late, I feel like I’m way behind, that I’ve missed out on an opportunity to get some stuff done.  So I started the day the same way I start every day, by reading some devotionals, some blog posts from my favorite bloggers, and reading a chapter in my Bible. 

Hannah was extremely patient and allowed me to lounge in bed until after seven am.  This is not an easy thing for her, she too is a morning person.  She knows as soon as I put my Bible down, I’m going to get up and she is psyched and ready!

On non-work days, we walk on the Greenway, either the one outside our apartment complex or a longer trail that’s a couple of miles away by car.  This morning we took the trail that runs just outside of the complex.  One of the reasons I like to go early is because there’s no one else on the trail, except for maybe the occasional fitness nut who’s getting their miles in before it gets too hot. 

Sunrise through the Greenway

The sun flickering through the trees, the delicate spider webs that are still intact after a night of bug catching, the birds singing and flitting about – I love all those things and they tend to disappear as the day goes on and more people hit the trails.  I was thinking about how much I enjoy being out early and was asking Siri to make a note of it while I rounded a corner on the trail so I could remember to write about it later. 

Sunlight Through the Trees on the Greenway

The words were barely out of my mouth when I saw them – one – two – three – four – Whitetail Deer crossing the path just in front of me.  Equally stunned was Hannah who stood like a statue at my side.  Though she rarely barks, she uttered something that sounded like “Wulf,” perhaps a doggy version of gulp?  As I leaned down to praise her for being such a good dog, she decided it was high time to check out those deer, and now I’m pretty sure my right arm that was holding the leash is a couple of inches longer than my left.

It’s been a great morning so far and I haven’t even had breakfast yet!  How did you start your day?  Are you a morning person or do you prefer to sleep in?

An Open Letter To Dog Owners

It is commendable that you have decided to provide a home for a dog.  Over a million dogs are euthanized each year and your dog has been spared this horrific fate.  Really, you are a lifesaver and a hero in my book!!!

What you may not be aware of, however, is that there are certain obligations that need to be met as a dog owner.  In addition to owning your dog, you are also the owner of the by-product of their bodily functions.  Whether your dog leaves behind Tootsie Rolls or corn cobs, it’s all yours, buddy. 

Where it doesn’t belong is on the bottom of my shoe, because that makes me have a very bad day.  It makes me think mean things about you.  It makes me entertain fantasies of revenge.  It kind of makes me want to punch you, especially when I’m using a toothbrush to clean out the tread in my tennis shoes.  Since I’ve committed to a life of non-violence, these feelings cause me a lot of internal strife.

If your dog is a male, there’s one other thing you should know.  You can train your dog the difference between man made substances and natural substances.  For example, the post at the front of the building is man made and is off limits.  The same thing holds true for cars in the parking lot.  Trees, bushes, tall grass?  Go for it!  These are found in nature and are the perfect place to leave some pee-mail!

Boy Dogs

Thank you again for caring enough to provide a home for a dog.  And thank you in advance for your cooperation in keeping the grounds clean.  

Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains

It wasn’t exactly a Spring Break vacation, more like a Spring Break snippet, but this weekend I got to spend a couple of days near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  Bear Alley is a beautiful A-frame house, lots of rooms for lots of people, which is a good thing, because there were a full dozen of us. 

Thankfully I left work before noon on Friday.  It rained on and off and there was the usual construction on I-40, but the trip was uneventful until I got to Sevierville and Pigeon Forge.  For nineteen miles, I got to share the highway with approximately six million other people who were headed to their spring break mountain destination, Dollywood, shopping, or dining out. 

Despite the 40 minute delay, I arrived just before dinner: burgers, dogs, brats and all the right accompaniments. My contribution was ketchup, which sounds pretty lame, but everyone knows you can’t have that meal without ketchup.  It rained while Zac was grilling, but he hung in there and cooked everything perfectly.  Just before dinner was ready the rain stopped, the sun came back and we were blessed with the biggest, brightest rainbow I have ever seen.  This picture does not do it justice – it was gorgeous!  After clean up, I got to snuggle on the couch with some of my little cousins.  They’re really second cousins and some of them call me aunt but that’s all fine by me. That night I slept like a rock – once the light went out I was sound asleep until after 6:00 am. 

Rainbow over the mountains

Rainbow over the mountains

Despite earlier predictions of rain and snow, Saturday morning dawned bright and sunny.  We loaded up in three different vehicles, dropped my car off at a spot where some of us planned to do a hike later in the day, then continued to Cades Cove.  Cades Cove is an eleven mile loop through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There was so much to learn about life in the mountains in the 1800 and 1900’s! 

Dogwoods in Cades Cove

Dogwood trees in bloom at Cades Cove

A cove is a relatively flat valley between the mountains. The families that settled in Cades Cove came from Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina.  Imagine my surprise to learn that the founding families included some Sparkses!  It’s doubtful that we’re related, but it was interesting to see the Sparks name on headstones in the old Missionary Baptist Church cemetery. Historical sites are of great interest to me – I love seeing how people lived ‘back in the day,’ their ingenuity, their resourcefulness, their ability to survive in a world where everything was raised, grown, or created by hand, where weather and sickness and injuries threatened their very existence.

Mill in Cades Cove

The mill at Cades Cove where they grind corn every day

Our last stop on the tour was the Carter Shields Cabin.  This cabin is the perfect mountain home, a simple log cabin with a stream running through the backyard. Something about the place brought out some playfulness in our group – some of my cousins played king of the mountain on an old stump while the littles took turns holding a worm they found near the stump.  Love, love, love kids being outside and exploring all that nature has to offer!

Carter Shields Cabin

Half of the littles were brave enough to hold the worm

It was after noon when we left Cades Cove and headed back to my car, where three of us had a few snacks and set off on a five and a half mile hike in Elkmont.  The parking lot at the trailhead was full so we went a little further up the mountain to the overflow parking area.  We headed out on the Jake’s Creek trailhead.  Along this section of the trail there were all kinds of abandoned houses that at one time were summer homes for Knoxville residents back the 1920’s. According to the NPS website, some of the homes may be candidates for restoration, while others will likely be torn down.

These are not hiking boots

These are not hiking boots, but my Dansko’s were great on the trail!

Hiking Trails

Cucumber Gap and Jakes Creek Trail

Little River Trail

After about ten minutes we started readjusting gear and taking off our outer layers, despite the fact that the temperature was in the mid-forties. Even though I’d been on a six mile walk the prior weekend, I was doing some serious mouth breathing and could hear my heartbeat pounding in my ears before we actually got to the Cucumber Gap trailhead. Thankfully that was the roughest part of the hike and the next phase was a more gradual climb up the mountain. 

Trilliums ready to bloom

Yellow trilliums getting ready to bloom

Trillium

Trillium in full bloom

Stones across the falls

The stone path for crossing the falls

Waterfall

The falls cascading into Little River

There were a number of tree roots that tried to trip me up, but with my catlike reflexes I was able to avoid taking a tumble.  A rookie hiker, I’d never crossed over a body of water using rocks as a bridge, but I managed to get across the falls without getting my feet wet.  We got to the bottom of the mountain and turned onto the Little River trailhead.  This section was flat and wide and followed alongside the Little River.  At the end of the trailhead, we passed more of the old abandoned summer houses.

Little River Trailhead

Entrance to Summer Home

The entrance to one of the summer homes

The guidebook said to allow four hours for the hike, but we managed it in two and a half, even though I took a lot of pictures and we had to stop for a quick humanity break.  Thankfully I didn’t encounter any bears or snakes while I was in that vulnerable position.  The trailhead ended, but we still had to hike up the mountain to where the car was parked.  Some of us just wanted to stay at the bottom and wait for someone to bring the car around, but we hung in there, got to the car and headed back to Bear Alley.

Cozy Fire at Bear Alley

Ending the day with a cozy fire at Bear Alley

We had an early departure on Sunday as most of our group was heading back to Michigan, where they were greeted by snow/sleet/rain.  That’s April in Michigan and why Michiganders go south for Spring Break.  Thanks to all my family members for letting me crash at Bear Alley for the weekend!