Saturday, July 25, 2009

Great Smoky Mountain National Park

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park celebrated its 75th anniversary as a national park in June 2009. Besides have fantastic soft rolling mountains, lush forests and beautiful streams and rivers the Smoky Mountains is also a place to discover Appalachian history. There are many places inside the National Park to see historic structures and artifacts. The park also has a lively animal population. More than 1500 black bears live in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Most bear encounters can be found at Cades Cove or Cataloochee Valley.

The Great Smoky Mountain National Park is about 800 square miles of the Appalachian Mountains. Admission to the park is free. Here are some of the great things you can see and do while in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park… (Maps are available at the visitor center and at many visitor centers on the way to the park)

Newfound Gap: Is located at the center of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is a gap that crosses through Sugarlands and Oconalufree. You can view this from Newfound Gap Road. The Newfoundland Gap crosses east to west across the Tennessee and North Carolina borders. The elevation at Newfoundland Gap is 5,046 feet.

Alum Cave Bluffs: Here hikers will enjoy the 2.5 miles of bluffs some reaching 100 feet high. The trail is strenuous and the trailhead is located on Newfound Gap Road.

Andrews Bald: Balds are large portions of the mountain ridges that have no trees. Andrews Bald is the easiest bald to reach in the park. It is located 1.8 miles south of Clingmans Dome. You can only reach it by hiking in. Instead of trees you will see a field of grass and flowers.

Charlies Bunion: is a 1000 foot rock cliff. There are great views of Mount LeConte and a portion of the Appalachian Trail goes through the area.

Cherokee Orchard Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail: Historic sites of the people who lived in the Smoky Mountains after the civil war. RVs and trailers will find the Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail impassable.

Chimney Tops: The chimney tops are twin peaks that many enjoy visiting. There are overlooks on Newfoundland Gap Road where you can photograph the twin peaks. If you are a hiker you can hike a steep 4 mile round trip trail that will give you even better views of the peaks.

Clingmans Dome: is the highest spot in the Smoky Mountains at 6,643 feet. There is a ½ steep hike to the observation tower that will allow you to see more of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park than anywhere else. It is often colder up there then other part of the park so make sure to bring a jacket just in case.

Mingus Mill: Is on Newfound Gap Road. Here people can see two water powered mills that are still operating, in fact you can buy corn meal and wheat flour at Mingus Mill. It is a short hike through the trees to the first mill.

More pictures of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park can be found in my flickr album.

More information about the Great Smoky Mountain National Park can be found here . There is also a great booklet that can be found at many visitor centers in North Carolina and Tennessee called “Oh Ranger… Guide to the Great Smoky Mountains” that will give you history of the park and things to see and places to stay and eat.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Carolina Landing Thousand Trails

Where is Carolina Landing?
Carolina Landing is just inside South Carolina. Close by are Georgia and North Carolina. It is on Lake Hartwell. If you are traveling with GPS the correct address to put in is…

120 Carolina Landing Drive, Fair Play SC
Directions are correct on TomTom.

How many campsites does Carolina Landing have?
Carolina Landing has several forms of accommodations. There are…
217 RV and tent sites (only 94 of the 217 are full hookup- some are 30 and others are 50 amps)
18 Rental Cabins (actual log cabins not trailers)
The preserve map is available online at...

The preserve map is not entirely accurate. Sites near the Family Lodge are not accurately depicted and there now appears to be more sites (some still look like they are under construction) down by the lake. Although the map designates the sites as “tent site” we did see RVs down there.

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The sites are somewhat smaller than other Thousand Trails parks and the steep hills inside the park may pose a problem to larger RVs or those who are pulling near their limit. Many of the roads appear very small (almost like sidewalks) but we were able to pull our 30 foot fifth wheel around the roads. It is not recommended that larger RVs (we would not attempt it) travel to the C section (down by the lake).

What amenities does Carolina Landing offer?
There are two pools (one up front by the store and one near the family lodge). There is an adult lodge and a family lodge. The adult lodge is located in the same building as the store. It is just a room with long tables. There is no bookshelf or brochure rack. There is Wi-Fi available in the adult lodge.

The Country Store is a typical Thousand Trails store with a few necessities and DVDs for rental. The store is where you will check in. The laundry is also located in this building.

The Family Lodge is across the road and up a small hill from the main gate. It is a much larger building than the adult lodge and country store. It has a large area where there is a stage, and several hang out areas. Downstairs in the family lodge is a workout center that actually has decent equipment. During our July visit the workout area was locked. There is also a pool located outside the back of the Family lodge.

The largest attraction at Carolina Landing is the Fishing Dock and lake (Lake Hartwell). There is a large portion of beach that is dedicated just for Thousand Trails members. It is a popular spot even in the off season. You can find lots of boats and fishermen hanging out down there.

Additionally there is a playground, mini golf course, sand volley ball court, horseshoe pits and basketball courts. Although it is listed on the Thousand Trails website that Carolina Landing also has a petting zoo, we did not find one in July 2009.

Things to do near Carolina Landing Thousand Trails:
South Carolina Botanical Gardens: Located about 20 miles from the Carolina Landing preserve the South Carolina Botanical Garden is 295 acres of beautiful gardens and nature trails. If you are traveling with GPS the address you want to put in is…

102 Garden Trail Clemson, SC 29634-0174

Admission to the Garden grounds is free and they are open from dawn to dusk. There are also a couple of museums on the grounds and admission is around $3 for adults to each.

Smoky Mountain National Park: The Smokies are about 100 miles from Carolina Landing to Cherokee (just before the entrance of the Smokey Mountains). Cherokee is a nice little town that has a lot of Cherokee Indian Art, restaurants and it is the last chance to get gas before entering the Smokey Mountains. From Carolina Landing to Gatlinburg is a drive of about 135 miles (at the other end of the park).

The Smoky Mountain National Park full of sites to see and trails to hike. Some of the popular sites include: Newfound Gap, Alum Bluff Caves, Andrews Bald, Charlies Bunion, Cherokee Orchard Road and Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail, Chimney Tops, Clingmans Dome, Mingus Mill, Mount LeConte, Mountain Farm Museum, Cades Cove, Cades Cove Loop and Cataloochee Valley.

Admission to the Smoky Mountain National Park is Free. If you are traveling with GPS you can put in Cherokee North Carolina or Gatlinburg Tennessee and then follow the road signs to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Some GPS units will also find it if you put in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Here is some more information and photos of the Smoky Mountains.

Anderson South Carolina: is the nearest “large” town to Carolina Landing. There is a Sams Club and Super Wal-mart in Anderson. There are also several large shopping areas and many antiques stores. Anderson is easily accessed from I-85 (exit 19-B). Most GPS units will find the Sams Club in Anderson (which is the city center with many other places to eat and shop).

Whitewater Falls: Near Brevard North Carolina there are many waterfalls that are worth seeing. Look for a brochure called Water Falls of North Carolina for a detailed map. GPS is not much help when it comes to finding many of these waterfalls and the directions on the website listed are not that clear.

Thousand Trails page about Carolina Landing

Photos of Carolina Landing Thousand Trails:

*Carolina Landing is a Thousand Trails, Naco and RPI park.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sitting in Peace

By simply being on the spot, your life can become workable and even wonderful. You realize that you are capable of sitting like a king or queen on a throne. The regalness of that situation shows you the dignity that comes from being still and simple.

~Chogyam Trungpa “Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior”

"Sitting in Peace" is available for sale at Zerepa: Zen Buddhist Art.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Zen Meditation

Zen Buddhist meditation is referred to as Zazen. Zazan is the heart of Zen Buddhism. Meditation differs for each person, but essentially Zazen is the “study of the self.” Zazen is performed seated in half or full lotus position (or any seated position you find comfortable).

There are three ways to practice Zazen…

Concentration: To achieve concentration you are encouraged to focus on your breathing. Counting can help to focus on each breath you take. Another way to help focus on your breathing is to repeat a mantra mentally (For example: Om Mani Padme Hum).

Koan: Once you have developed your concentration in your meditation sessions you can then move onto Koan, which is introspection. Koans are often a paradox that will not have solutions but they will allow you to intellectually think about various subjects.

Shikantaza: is basically just sitting or objectless mediation. It is a state of awareness not based on any object but a peaceful existence in which you are aware of the present moment.

Zazen is meant to be a relaxing practice so, no worries if do not achieve all levels or if you modify zazen to suit yourself… just relax and enjoy.

Past Present and Future is available for purchase on My Red Bubble Site.It is also available on greeting cards, mugs and Sigg bottles at the Zerepa Cafe Press Store.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Awakened One

"Any perception can connect us to reality properly and fully. What we see doesn’t have to be pretty, particularly; we can appreciate anything that exists. There is some principle of magic in everything, some living quality. Something living, something real, is taking place in everything."

~ “Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior” Chogyam Trungpa

The Buddha pictured above is commonly referred to as “The Awakened One” or the Gautama Buddha. For more information on the life of Siddhartha there is a brief history on Wikipedia…

Awaken is available for purchase at My Red Bubble site.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Happiness Sigg Bottles and more

“Happiness” is my latest Buddhist Art piece. It features the Happy Buddha (Budai in Zen Buddhism). Budai was said to be based on a Chinese Zen Buddhist monk during the Liang Dynasty. He has been part of Buddhist and Taoist folklore in the past and today he is classified as one of the Seven Lucky Gods of Taoism.

Budai (Happy Buddha) represents happiness and abundance. With the Happiness products by Zerepa you can give Sigg Bottles, T-shirts, tote bags, and greeting cards featuring the laughing buddha. To see the products that are available with the Happiness design by Amanda Perez-Carroll check out the Zerepa Café Press Store.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Sounds Like Summer Concerts at Epcot

Last year Norwood and I had a blast at the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series but this year either rain or golf has kept us away. This week was orignally supposed to be Bjorn Again: A Tribute to the Bee Gees but the schedule was changed and now you can see 52nd Street: A Tribute to Billy Joel. In about two weeks my favorite of the entire series will be there.... 2U A Tribute to U2. Neither rain nor golf will keep us away.

July 9 - July 17: 52nd Street, A Tribute to Billy Joel

July 18 - July 26: Sounds of The Supremes, A Tribute to The Supremes

July 27 - August 2: 2U, A Tribute to U2

August 3 - August 9: Petty Theft, A Tribute to Tom Petty

Shows are held at the America Gardens Theatre at the following times...5:45 p.m., 7:00 p.m., and 8:15 p.m.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Monorail Accident at WDW kills one

This photo is from the article by Fox News about last night's accident at the Ticket and Transportation Center in WDW. One cast member died (the driver of one of the monorails) in the accident. The Pink and Purple monorail were involved. Here is the story from Fox News....,2933,530102,00.html

Here is another link about the story...

My condolences to the family of the driver who was killed. And I hope those who were injured will recover fully.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri

Title: Unaccustomed Earth: Stories (Vintage Contemporaries)

Author: Jhumpa Lahiri

Publisher and Date: Vintage Contemporaries, New York 2008

Unaccustomed Earth is a collection of short stories that explore emotions, relationships and Indian culture. There are eight stories in all and at the end of the book there are three that are connected together by characters.

Favorite Quotation from the Book:
“How freeing it was, these days, to travel alone, with only a single suitcase to check.” (from the short story “Unaccustomed Earth”)
“I returned to my existence, the existence I had chosen instead of you.” (from the short story “Going Ashore”)

3 out of 5

Lahiri wrote a collection of short stories in 1999 called “Interpreter of Maladies” that blew me away. It was emotional... with a range of emotion not just sorrow and heartache, and it was a nice insight into Indian culture. When I saw “Unaccustomed Earth” at the bookstore I picked it up thinking that it too would be a delight to read. In no way is this review going to be a bad review. Lahiri did indeed write a collection that was full of emotion, but this time “Unaccustomed Earth” did not sit within a spectrum of emotion but instead it was full of disappoint, sorrow and heartache. It was hard to read and not become glum. Some of the stories ended with deaths and unrequited love, others ended without hope.

The language, as you would expect from Lahiri was vivid and poignant. Some stories are better written than others. The namesake of the collection is by far my favorite. A father travels to his daughter’s house after many years of not seeing her to tell his daughter of his new relationship. The time they spend together is a relief to the daughter Ruma but the father never tells his daughter what he traveled so far for, instead he spends his time with his grandson. During his visit he writes a postcard to the new love in his life and meant to send it the next day but could not find it again. After he left Ruma finds the postcard written in Bengali. Unsure of whom the woman is and what the card says Ruma contemplates the postcard before putting a stamp on it and placing it in the mailbox. I absolutely loved the ending of this story. When Ruma finds the postcard there is so much confusion and emotion there and the acceptance of her father’s ability to move on after her mother’s death was a beautiful way to end the story.

I gave “Unaccustomed Earth” 3 out of 5 because there were two stories that really moved me in this collection; Unaccustomed Earth and Hema and Kaushik (a collection of three). The others were good but not fantastic. I do recommend it to other readers, but beware it is a collection of gloomy stories.

"To Travel Alone" was inspired by the short story "Unaccustomed Earth." The moments when we hear the thoughts of Ruma's father and what it felt like now to be without his wife and in love with a new woman made me think of this shot where the lonely statue is looking out into a vast sea.

Buy the Book