Monday, August 13, 2012

15 parks in 17 days - part three

Great Smokey Mountains national park - (North Carolina/Tennessee)
Hot Springs national park - (Arkansas)

Yes, I'm still behind, so here's two together since my visit to each was pretty short.

I got up into the mountains pretty early, so they were quite, ahem, smokey.

Exiting of the Tennessee side, there's a weird town at the foot of the mountains called Gatlinburg.  It's one of the most bizarre places I've ever been to.  The highway becomes more or less a 5 mile strip mall, but instead of shops, each side of the road is endless tourist attractions.  Go-karts, roller coasters, water slides, magic shows, mini-golf, and all kinds of things.  And I'm not exaggerating... this goes on for FIVE miles.  The road was largely under construction and Iw as in a bit of a hurry, so I didn't stop to take many pictures, but here's one from the road.

Hot Springs.  This place is a tourist trap, and as a result I didn't care for it much.  It's the smallest national park, and has been essentially swallowed up by the surrounding town.  Not only does the park itself suffer from poor signage, but the baths and hotels in the area trying to advertise their own hotel springs blast you with similar signs, making it difficult to navigate, and frustrating if you're in a hurry.  Which I was.

But, me and the dog took a little time for a break and climbed Hot Springs mountain, which as quite peaceful.  This little water fountain was spitting water continuously.

Stone trenches crawled along the slopes to divert water.

I allowed Rygel to lead me off the path and straight up the trenches a few times.  Bad idea.  We got lost pretty fast because we'd essentially jump from one trail to the next without knowing it.

Eventually we made it to the top.

More soon!  Today on my list, Great Sand Dunes!!!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

15 parks in 17 days - part two

Shenandoah national park - (Virginia)

This was actually yesterday and mostly just a stop because it's on the way, but I have to say, Shenandoah was really impressive.  Well done, Virginia!  Of course, I got to my hotel about 3 hours later than expected because I stopped so often to take photos.

I also managed to get in a couple short time lapses (I'd recommend watching in HD):

It was really a great day... perfect 80 degree weather with a slight breeze and low humidity in the mountains.  Visibility was great!  And just a well designed road (Skyline Drive) with some well kept and well-placed lookouts.  I highly recommend it!

To top off the day, a trip down 26-E into Tennessee (which is a fun drive too!)  offered a great sunset:

I'll upload Great Smokey Mountains when I can.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

15 parks in 17 days - part one

If it seems like I've been neglecting the blog lately, well, I actually have an excuse this time.  I'm moving to Seattle (from Rhode Island), and there's been a lot of planning to do.  But beyond just moving I'm taking some time to explore the country a bit (again).  After all, what's the point of moving from coast to coast if you can't meander around in the car for a few thousand miles on the way.

To that end, I've got a 6000 mile trip ahead of me spanning 19 days.  Today was the 1st of those and I'm avoiding the VERY humid outdoors of Virginia at the moment by writing this in my hotel room.  But why the 15 parks in 17 days title?

One of my bucket list items is to visit each one of the USA's 58 beautiful National Parks.  I've been to 6 already and this trip will check off 15 new ones.  17 days because it sounds more impressive and there's no parks the first or last day.  Hence the boredom in my hotel ;)

Despite no parks today, I promised to share pictures, so here's what I've got:

Yep, 8 hours of this today.  In my experience, everything east of the Mississippi looks the same.  Hills change size and that's about it.

This is Rygel, my traveling buddy.  He's quite pleased to have the second queen size bed in the room all to himself.

Tomorrow - Shenandoah!