Linville Falls Winery, Linville Falls, North Carolina

A “little” Blue Ridge treasure!

Linville Falls WinerysJust off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina, at mile marker 317, we found a wonderful surprise.  After driving along the parkway for the day, we needed a break and saw that there was a winery nearby.  We decided to search out this “little place” and see what it was like.  We were so surprised to see that what we assumed was a “little winery” was a large and beautiful estate.  Linville Falls Winery is hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains, but it a very popular and busy place.

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A member of the newly established (2016) Appalachian High Country AVA, the 40 acre vineyard includes varieties that grow at an elevation of 3,200 feet.  The steep terrain, cool nights, and low humidity lead to superb growing conditions for cool wine varietals.  The first grapes were planted when the owner, Jack Wiseman, was in his mid 70’s and the winery opened for business when he was 80 years old.

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We were welcomed into the Tuscan styled tasting room with its’ beautiful artwork. There were a variety of tastings offered:  dry, sweet, or a fortified wine tasting.  We chose the dry tasting and enjoyed 6 different wines. Linville Falls Winery-16

After our tasting, we purchased a bottle of Chardonnay to enjoy on the outdoor, covered patio.  There was a live band to enjoy and the grounds were beautiful to explore.

In addition to the winery, there is the Red Barn Tree Farm.  The property actually started as a tree farm in the 1960’s and continues to grow trees to sell at the choose-n-cut farm.

After a visit to the winery, you can take a side trip to hike the beautiful Linville Falls on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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A wonderful day spent in the Blue Ridge Mountains!

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park, Carlsbad, New Mexico

Things are a little “batty” here!

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Carlsbad Caverns National Park is located in the Guadalupe Mountains and has a long and interesting history.  The limestone cave was probably first entered by Jim White in 1898.  In 1923 the General Land Office took surveys and created maps of the cavern, it then became a National Monument on October 25th of that year.  The first cave trail was made in 1926 by the National Park Service followed by the first wedding in 1927.  In 1930 the caverns were finally pronounced a National Park and were given the designation of a World Heritage Site in 1995.

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The Natural Entrance Trail is a 1.25 mile self-guided hike that has a quite steep entrance.

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Looking back up at the entrance hole, you can imagine the wonder of the first explorers of this amazing discovery.

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As you continue on the hike you will see a variety of formations within the cave.  The majority are now inactive formations due to the dry desert climate above.  If the climate conditions were to ever change and become moist, then the formations would become active again and continue to grow.

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A stalagmite and stalactite have almost come together.

These images show Flowstone and Popcorn formation development in the cave.

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And sometimes you just get a cool photo when your camera lens fogs up in a cave.

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Devils Spring contains a beautiful column formation that reflects in the pool.

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Soda Straws cling to the ceiling.  These are the beginning formations of a stalactite.

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From spring to fall, the natural entrance is the stage for the nightly outflights of the Brazilian Free-Tailed bats.  Several hundred thousand bats exit the cave at twilight and fly over the amphitheater only to return at dawn.  If you look closely, you can see a few bats flying during the day.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park is an amazing place to explore.  There are more trails to hike than I have talked about.  An the area surrounding is beautiful.

To plan your own adventure, head to http://www.nps.gov/cave

McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks, Thurmond, NC

A Yadkin Valley Gem!

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On a beautiful piece of land in the Yadkin Valley sits a wonderful vineyard, winery, and ciderworks.  McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks is a great North Carolina destination for anyone who loves wine.  Sean McRitchie grew up in Oregon wine country and developed a love of crafting wines.  He began his career in the Willamette Valley and then proceeded to work and learn in Alsace Lorraine, Napa Valley, and Australia.  After moving to North Carolina and helping start another vineyard and winery he and his wife decided to start their own.  We are the lucky ones that get to taste wine created from all of the experience that Sean has gained.

Your visit begins in the comfortable tasting room that has a

Your visit begins in the tasting room that is comfortably decorated with a beautiful wood topped bar and a wine room with a grand piano for entertainment.

The tasting includes a variety of wines and a couple of ciders.  We really enjoyed The Road, which is an incredible red blend.  This Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot blend tastes of ripe blackberry and cherry with notes of coffee and cedar.  Their aromatic dry Muscat Blanc was also wonderful with notes of honeysuckle and apricot.McRitchie Winery_

After tasting their offerings, wander outside to see the vineyards that are farmed using sustainable and low-impact methods.  A perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon!

McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks has won many awards for their elegant wines.  They are expressive and reflect the terrior of the North Carolina region.  Enjoy a Yadkin Valley gem.

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To learn more about McRitchie Winery & Ciderworks visit http://www.mcritchiewine.com

Ocoee Whitewater Center, Tennessee

A Summer Olympics Wonder!

A drive on Hwy 64/Ocoee Scenic Byway takes you through some incredible scenery in the Southern Appalachian Mountain range.  This journey in East Tennessee leads you to an amazing area that is part of olympic history.

The 1996 Centennial Summer Olympics held in Atlanta, Georgia hosted a canoe and kayak slalom event.  Without a suitable location near Atlanta, an area was chosen on the Ocoee River near Ducktown, Tennessee.  The venue, within the Cherokee National Forest, is down river from the Lake Blue Ridge dam.  This hydroelectric dam releases water to increase the flow in the Ocoee River for recreational purposes at varying times from June to September.  It made a perfect location to create a whitewater course on a natural river.Ocoee Whitewater Center-6

The stunning Ocoee Whitewater Center was built by the US Forest Service within the Cherokee National Forest and is still managed by them.  This area of the river was modified with the addition of natural and man made boulders to narrow it and create the competition course.  Today it is a highly used recreation area during times of water release.

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This photo shows the walking/observation area along the river. You can also see a camera post that was used during the olympics.

It is difficult to tell which are the natural and which are the man made boulders, but the combination makes for a stunning location.

There are also plenty of other outdoor recreational opportunities within the area. I hiked the Rhododendron Trail which follows the by the edge of the river.  You could also do some biking if you like.

A stop at the Ocoee Whitewater Center is worth the trip for the history and the beauty.

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To plan your visit, go to http://www.fs.fed.us and search for Ocoee Whitewater Center.  You will want to check their hours and months of operation to be sure to be there when they are in operation.

Roaring River Vineyards, Traphill, NC

A Hidden Gem!

Tucked away next to the Roaring River in Traphill, North Carolina is a French inspired vineyard.  If you are lucky enough to book a stay at this hidden gem, you are in for a relaxing getaway.  You will find a rustic tasting room, which is also home to Chez Josephine an amazing restaurant.  You can book lodging at one of the 3 room suites that overlook the river or at the cute cabin on the property.

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The tasting room overlooks the tranquil and clear Roaring River!

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Festus and Rusty are the official greeters that welcome guests to their home!

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The tasting room is beautifully decorated and very comfortable.  You could spend hours here.

Staying at the vineyard is like having your own private oasis.  You have a beach to use, stunning views of the river, and an outdoor fireplace to relax.  You can also use the hot tub or play horseshoes.

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The river is full of trout for fly fishing or you can throw for bass in either the river or pond.

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The highlight of this trip is of course the wonderful wines and the amazing food at Chez Josephine.  The chef and her staff really care about your experience and create some amazing menu items.  I really can’t say enough about the food and wine.

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I thoroughly enjoyed all the wines we tasted and purchased.  There is definitely a spirit of France in the air.

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There is also some fascinating history at the vineyard.  The tasting room is built on the site of the former Brewer Mill gristmill and looking across the river you can see the 1870 historic area where there is a cabin and the colums that held up the sawmill.

 

Exploring the hiking paths on the property take you around the vineyards and also to a beautiful cross that has a story attached to it.  Hearing the story from Tom the owner, makes you believe that all things happen for a reason.  You will have to ask him when you go visit.

To plan your getaway to this amazing hidden gem, head to http://www.roaringrivervineyards.com

 

Victoria Valley Vineyards, SC via The Cradle of Forestry, NC

A Forest Exploration and then a little wine!

A short 4 mile drive off of the stunning Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, North Carolina will lead you to The Cradle of Forestry.

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 Blue Ridge Parkway views

This American Heritage Site is the location of the first School of Forestry in the United States.  The Biltmore Forest School was founded in 1898 by Dr. Carl A. Schenck on the property of Biltmore Estate owned by George W. Vanderbilt.

The location in the Southern Appalachian Mountains was perfect for Dr. Schenck to operate his “practical forestry” school.  A native of Germany, he believed that a hands on approach paired with classroom learning was the best way to create knowledgeable foresters.  The US Forest Service and The Cradle of Forestry Interpretive Association jointly manage the 6500 acre historic site.

Forest Discovery Center

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Biltmore Campus Trail

A historic 1 mile paved trail that has many original buildings to the Biltmore Forest School.

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The trail includes a tunnel under the road above.

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The Ranger’s Dwelling constructed in 1882 housed Vanderbilts rangers and 8 forestry students.

Rock House Creek Lodge and Cantrell Creek Lodge are two Black Forest Lodges.  These lodges are post and beam construction and built imitating the architecture of Germany’s Black Forest lodges.

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Interior of Cantrell Creek Lodge

The Forest Festival Trail

A peaceful trail with the sounds and smells of a vibrant forest with active study sites.

On the way to the trail you pass the Moon Tree.  The seed for this tree orbited the moon in 1971 with astronaut Stuart Roosa, a former Forest Service smoke jumper.

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Peaceful pond and retaining area.

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Life and decay!

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Forest of beauty

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A trial area to see what grows best.

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Pink flags mark newly planted trees.

A 1914 Climax logging locomotive was restored and brought to the site to teach about the logging industry.

Unfortunately, the school closed in 1913.

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After a morning of exploring, I was off to Victoria Valley Vineyards in Cleveland, South Carolina.  This European styled vineyard and “chateau” is a perfect place to relax and enjoy some wine.

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Victoria Valley Vineyard

European styled “chateau” awaits you

Unique wine tasting flights.            Stunning tasting room!

Beautiful views from the outdoor patio.

To create your own forest adventure, check out http://www.cradleofforestry.com

Head to http://www.victoriavalleyvineyards.com to plan your next outing.

 

Yosemite Magic

So Easy to Fall in Love With!

If you don’t already have a love affair with the outdoors, Yosemite will be the place to start one.  You can feel the magic of Yosemite all around when you enter the park.  From the grandeur of the mountains to the pounding of the waterfalls to the peace in the meadows, you can feel the history and wilderness calling your name.  It doesn’t matter the season because they are all beautiful, though I do recommend spring or winter for fewer crowds.

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There are many names associated with Yosemite National Park, but two come to mind most frequently.  First, John Muir, who lobbied for the creation of Yosemite.  He inspired others to protect natural areas for the beauty and ecological importance of an area.  With his help and persuasion, Yosemite became a National Park in 1890. As president of the Sierra Club, his travel and writing was a huge influence in the wilderness community.  Second, Ansel Adams whose stunning photographic work within the park is known worldwide.  He saw Yosemite as art and not just nature and was able to capture these images with an uncanny ability.

Let us start your love affair!!

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The iconic Half Dome is a recognized rock formation that many take on the challenge to climb.

 

 

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Yosemite Chapel is the oldest structure in the Yosemite Valley and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Mist Trail Hike to Vernal Falls

A strenuous, but beautiful 2.4 mile hike.  Getting to the top is so worth it!

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The over 600 stairs on the steep granite stairway!

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Vernal Falls rainbow

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Looking down over the 317 foot tall waterfall.

 

Mirror Lake Loop trail is a moderate 2 mile hike in the Yosemite Valley

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul    -John Muir

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The beautiful Sierra Nevada Red Fox

In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration. -Ansel Adams

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Amazing explorations with my son and travel buddy!

To start your exploration of Yosemite, go to http://www.nps/gov/yose

Please leave a comment and let me know what you think of my blog. Thanks!

A Tennessee and Kentucky Tasting!

Road trips take you to the best places!

Who doesn’t love a road trip!  It doesn’t matter if I have a destination or if I wander aimlessly and end up at a great place.  The journey is always the fun part and where I end up is usually a surprise.  On a couple of road trips, I travelled through Tennessee and Kentucky.   I stopped at a few vineyards and wineries along the way.  Hopefully I can inspire you to journey to a few new places of your own.

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Stonehaus Wines are the featured wine of the Grand Ole Opry and a great accompaniment to blogging! They are located in Crossville, TN.

Located just off the Hwy in Crossville, TN.

Onto a neat little place in Bybee, TN, even in the rain!

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Next, was a winery close to Mammoth Cave National Park in Park City, KY.

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The tasting room is in the lower level and there are great views!

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A pretty vineyard onsite.

Who wouldn’t stop at a place called the Purple Toad Winery!  I found this one in Paducah, KY

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To discover more about any of these vineyards and wineries, check out their websites below:

http://www.stonehauswinery.com

http://www.chestnuthillwinery.com

http://www.goodwatervineyards.com

http://www.kentuckywine.com

http://www.purpletoadwinery.com

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

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South Carolina’s first and only National Park is an amazing adventure.  Congaree was named a National Monument in 1976 and then a National Park in 2003.  It is also a National Natural Landmark, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Globally Important Bird Area.  This floodplain forest is flooded approximately 10 times a year by the Congaree River and has several of the tallest bald cypress trees in the world.  You can walk the wooden boardwalk trail, which can be flooded at different times of the year, hike trails, or go canoeing or kayaking.  Which ever you choose you are in for a magical and mystical exploration.

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The flooded forest floor is full of “knees” from the roots of trees.

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Bald Cypress Trees reach for the sky.

To learn more about Congaree National Park and plan your adventure go to http://www.nps.gov/cong

Beachaven Vineyards & Winery, Clarksville, TN

A Judge, his Wine and a Winery!

Just off of Highway 24 in Clarksville, Tennessee sits a vineyard and winery started by Judge William O. Beach.  After helping to revive the wine industry in that state, he took his amateur wine making skills and decided to open a vineyard and winery.  The result is a wonderful stop that has award winning wines, an active event schedule, and a beautiful display of artwork by a former employee that shows his dedication to the vineyard.

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A colorful entrance

Just a few of the 500 awards over 23 years.

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The property

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Self guided tour explaining the Champagne process

A Labor of Love!

The ends of many barrels were carved by the vineyard pruner!  An incredible artist that was able to bring to life the sketches that he drew.  It makes an incredible display.

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I hope you are inspired to have an adventure and head to Beachaven Vineyards & Winery!

To learn more, please go to http://www.beachavenwinery.com