Thursday, April 30, 2009

Mansions and Trail Riding (sort of)

So we're still enjoying our vacation in Tennessee. On Tuesday we got up early and drove over to Asheville, NC to visit the Biltmore Estate. I had a couple meetings to attend to for work so Jackie, Noelle and Curt went in without me initially, then Curt headed back out and picked me up. The home is amazing and over the top. It reminded me of some of the castles we visited in England with Dave and Allison. The house was really cool, but the gardens were even cooler. Plus there's a bridge on the property that was in the Last of the Mohicans, which is my favorite movie so it was cool to see that in person.

The next day we did some trail riding, not the type I thought I would be doing down here though. We did a one hour horseback ride through the Smokey Mountains. It was Jackie's first time on a horse and only my third. Actually I think the last time I rode a horse was at the same stables in Gatlinburg with my dad and sister about 20 years ago.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ramsay Cascades Trail, take two

So we wanted to get a nice hike in on Sunday, our first full day down here. Curt had a couple books and we got a big map of all the trails so we spent the morning looking at our options. We wanted to start out with something relatively easy to get the girls used to being out there and not wear them out on the first day. After looking at lots of options we decided to just go back to the Ramsey Cascades trail we had hiked part of the day before. It was a four mile one way hike, so pretty far, but it was listed as moderate and the part we had hiked was relatively easy. Well, we were wrong and we did wear the girls out on the first day. The first mile and a half was relatively easy, following an old jeep trail. Then the trail turned narrow, rocky and extremely rooted. It was a great trail, though a really strenuous hike, and the waterfall at the top was absolutely worth it. At 100 feet high its the highest falls in the park that can be accessed via trail. We had looked at some pictures of it online, but they really didn't do it justice.

After hanging out at the top for a while we made the trek back down. It was tough descending through the rocks and roots, but still a lot easier than the hike up. Once we got off the trail we all wanted nothing more than a big dinner so we drove straight to a restaurant in our hiking gear and had a big meal.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


Jackie and I are on vacation in Gatlinburg, Tennessee with Curt and Noelle right now. We left on Thursday evening, drove down to Cincinnati, OH where I worked for part of the day Friday. Then we drove down to Knoxville last night. Today we headed down to Gatlinburg, had some lunch, and drove the Roaring Fork Motor trail. Its a five mile narrow road that winds up and down the mountains, with a bunch of turn offs for trails and scenic views. While on it we saw the black bear below, about 10 feet off the road. He didn't seem to mind the cars, just went about his business.

We finished the loop pretty quickly, since we wanted to go get checking into our cabin. The cabin is great, very new, three bedrooms. After hanging out there for a bit we decided to get a short hike in. We drove up the road to the Greenbriar area of Smokey Mountain national park and headed up to the Ramsey Cascades trail. It was a little late and there were a few thunder clouds moving through so we didn't go too far, but it seemed like a cool trail, following a rocky river uphill.

Tomorrow we're going to do some more hiking and maybe some riding. Later in the week Curt and I plan to head over to Tsali in North Carolina for some riding. I'm very excited about that, those trails look awesome.

Friday, April 3, 2009

In the Windy City

I'm out and about for work again, this time in Chicago. Downtown Chicago is by far my favorite "big city" that I've ever visited. Maybe it because I've been here more often, but I feel comfortable here. Whenever I visit I drive down since its relatively easy to get to, only about 5 hours without traffic. I don't bring maps any more, I just know where to go. And once I'm here I love walking around. I took the picture above last night from the Michigan Avenue bridge over the Chicago river. It had just started raining so I was headed back to my hotel.

Now I have another day and a half before I head home. If we had planned a little further in advance Jackie could have joined me and we would have stayed until Sunday, but she couldn't get the time off. Oh well, next time hopefully. Chicago was the first trip we ever went on together, almost 6 years ago. I would really like to come back with her, not for business but just for fun. Hit the museums, walk Michigan Avenue, sit on the beach with the city behind us, get some deep dish pizza, have dinner at Harry Caray's, hit my favorite Irish Pub at the Chicago Hilton. So much stuff to do.

Well, time to get ready for work.