Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Black Mountain

The highest point in Kentucky lies just over the Virginia line, and probably directly over enough coal to light Atlanta for a day or two. The road between Appalachia VA and Lynch KY winds up and over the ridge -- the Virginia side is a big strip mine and the Kentucky side is a historic coal mining town, so one can probably assume that the fossil swamp (the coal) lies beneath Black Mountain, too.

Compared to yesterday's summits, this one is pretty lame. Not just because it is lower (4145'), but because it lacks a certain respect. It is privately held by a coal company, although apparently the mineral rights to the coal beneath are now owned by the state? - presumably to prevent the top from being removed to get at the coal beneath. The waiver we downloaded online and signed before arriving made it clear who WAS NOT responsible for anything foolish we might do on the summit.

The waiver also required us to agree that we would not "under any circumstances, nor at any time, assert that the property ... has become or should be deemed a public park." Which I will not assert. On the other hand, I think Kentucky should make the second highest mountain in the state a park (if it hasn't already been strip mined away), so if this one were to collapse, or the mountaintop were to accidentally be removed, they would be ready to give the highest point a bit more honor than they have this one! Sort of a public lands investment strategy.

I understand the desire to exchange fossil carbon for heat and light, but given that these coal beds pretty much underlie most of western Appalachia, it doesn't bode well for the future scenery of eastern Kentucky and West Virginia!

Mount Mitchell

When I was a kid in Maine, I remember being surprised to hear that the highest peak in the east wasn't Mount Washington (from last October), but some mountain in western North Carolina. Today D and I drove to the top -- well, except for the short walk up to the brand new observation tower on top. Standing at 6684', D pointed out that the top of Dad's head was higher than anything in eastern North America (at least that wasn't flying). Given that many of the summits around here are called "balds", it seemed fitting!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway

We followed the Parkway north from Sylva to Grandfather Mountain (except for the section that was closed between Asheville and Mount Mitchell). The hardwood forests were still pretty bare, but the trees are starting to bud out. The road cuts were cascades of ice and in the morning sun they were dripping and the icicles were falling and shattering on the rocks.

The Parkway is a great road to drive -- especially today in nice weather, with the sun at our back, and with virtually no traffic. D would love this, but the rental company requires drivers to be 21.

Brasstown Bald

We got up to a beautiful, cold morning and headed for the Waffle House. It took another hour or so to make it to the mountain. We were the only car in the big parking lot. It was a brisk 15 minute hike up to the summit (the tower was closed for the season), the whole time in a shower of ice crystals falling from the thawing trees.

At 4784', Brasstown Bald is the highest point in Georgia. We could see north to the Smokies and Mount Mitchell (I think) and I suppose as far as the Atlanta suburbs to the south. What an absolutely perfect morning to come up here!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Rock City

Rock City is a labyrinth of rocky slots and cliffs with a pricey admission. But for that price you get background music along the paths, gnomes, a cavern filled with fairy tale dioramas, and at night, I assume everything is lit with colored lights. The waterfall (fake, I think) beneath Lover's Leap is tinted turquoise. You also get some spectacular views (although today is pretty gray) and a great swinging bridge.

D tolerated the 30 minute walk, but said it reminded him of the decorated wait lines at theme parks - not that it was crowded, but you kept expecting a sign saying "the wait from here is 45 minutes."

Lookout Mountain

Lookout Mountain rises on the western edge of Chattanooga. Perched on top is an upscale residential neighborhood (great views), several tourist traps, and a National Military Park. We wandered out to the point overlooking the Tennessee River and the city, before checking out the small visitors center describing the events of 1863.

We passed by, but didn't stop at, the Tow Truck Hall of Fame.

Road Trip

The objectives of this trip are a bit fuzzy, though they involve multiple states, maybe some of their highest points, a couple of civil war battlefields, and making it back to Nashville by Thursday night.

We've already checked off several states. Yesterday it was Washington, Colorado (15 minutes at Denver International), and Tennessee. Today it was Alabama (just the northeast corner), a brief swing into Georgia (more tomorrow), and North Carolina. That's where we are tonight - and given their current lead against Oklahoma, I suspect the dinner crowd will be in good spirits.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

South Park

It seemed somehow ironic that D had an Ultimate game on Saturday in South Park, given how much time he spends watching the show! But that's a very different South Park.

Seattle's South Park neighborhood is a wonderful industrial neighborhood across the Duwamish from Boeing. The river is still a bit hard to get to, but I discovered a couple nice little parks and made a note to come back with a kayak someday. The big red gears at the site of the old 8th Avenue South Bridge are actually from the Fremont Bridge.


This was a really busy week and unlike some other busy weeks, there was no time in the field. But you take what you can get and even the worst weeks always contain cool stuff - you've just got to make the effort to notice it. Like bald eagles flying over I-5 during the commute. Or a brief glimpse of the Sound while driving across the Nisqually. Or Wednesday's early morning mist over the lake behind the Community Center.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Puget Sound

I hope I never have to ride the ferries so often that I stop wanting to come upstairs during the crossing. Before sunrise or middle of the day, sunny or stormy, it still beats sitting in the car on a lower deck. These all are from two Wednesdays ago -- three are from the Edmonds-Kingston ferry run (two sunrise, one late afternoon) and the other is from Salsbury Point, looking at the Olympics across the Hood Canal Bridge.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Mount Vernon

Our team was disappointed that they didn't clean up like they did last year, but Interlake and Lakeside have accumulated a deep stack of very good players and are awfully hard to beat. These two teams put on a great show - tied going into the last round, played each other in the last round and drew, and then went into a blitz playoff. Five rounds of three-hour games and it all comes down to the best of five simultaneous 3-minute games. Interlake won.

D managed to win all his games but the one against Michael in round four. He was down all through his fifth round game against Lynden, only to pull off an amazing end game victory at the very end.

We converged on Red Robin in Marysville at 10 and got back to Seattle after midnight.

Chuckanut Drive

M decided to hang out at the tournament during Round 4 (Saturday afternoon), so I headed off for Fairhaven on my own. It stayed dry, although the gray skies sure limited the photography. I checked out several spots along Chuckanut Drive. I swung by Taylor Shellfish, but decided NOT to buy a couple bags of oysters to take back to the team (I did pick them up cookies at Safeway on the way back)!

Then I checked out Clayton Beach, one of those great spots where geology and beaches and railroad history all converge. I was leaving Village Books in Fairhaven and heading over to Tony's Coffee, when M called to tell me D was done and wanted the football that was in the back of my car.

Little Mountain

Round Three began at 9AM (Garfield was playing Lakeside). I grabbed coffee and headed off to explore the outskirts of Mount Vernon. I circled Big Lake and then looped back by way of Little Mountain (creative geography, huh?). The road to the top was closed - too icy - but I parked at the gate and scrambled up the steep half-mile trail. Great view points - both north toward Mount Vernon and Chuckanut Mountain and south across the Skagit Flats toward Camano and Whidbey and the Olympics.

Samish Overlook

I wanted to wait until the tournament got underway before heading out but was concerned that by the time I found the viewpoint, the sun would have already set (assuming I could find the viewpoint at all). But it all worked out. The last mile was in several inches of two-day old snow and ice, but I still arrived 15 minutes before a great sunset over the San Juans. The panorama extended from the Cascades in the southeast to Lummi Island in the northwest.

I made it back to Mount Vernon High for the end of the first round. We stuffed the team with pizza and then, once the second round started, Michele and Kathy and I headed back up this direction (not quite so far or as high) to Bow for a great dinner at the Rhododendron Cafe.