Monday, March 30, 2015

Over the Hills and Through the Woods

The Civil War Trail, Kentucky

For the past 2 weeks we have been wandering through the mountains of North Carolina; the rolling hills and hollows of Tennessee and the rocky cliffs and blue grass hills of Kentucky. Our favorite so far has been North Carolina, probably because we could see the Smokies and the Blue Ridge Mountains on any given day.  We pretty much have committed to avoiding the interstates and sometimes that adds hours to our journey, but after all we have nothing but time.  Today was the first day we entered the interstate and we were in traffic shock !  We took I75 north from London,KY to Berea,KY.

I love taking the road less traveled.  You see old farmhouses from the 1800's; ancient run down cabins from the pioneer days; fields of daffodils and wild creeks cascading along the roadway. Today as we left Tennessee we took what they had labeled as the Civil War trail.  We were a little edgy because before we came upon the road we passed house after house with the Confederate Flag displayed.

Then we stopped at a little market and when walked in the flag was all over the store for sale.  We didn't stay too long,being Yankees and liberal ones at that ! So when we took the road we both had some slight anxiety,especially after passing the warning " Caution, very narrow road with hairpin curves and no guard rails".  But it was so beautiful,it was narrow and a water delivery truck almost ran us off the cliff on a blind curve.  Once we caught our breath we continued on enjoying the beauty.  I think I told you once how I like to imagine the occupants of the houses and farms we pass and wonder who they are and what they are doing.  Today, with the sun shining quite a few people were outside getting the ground ready for their gardens or just cutting grass. The road was up and down and very winding but oh so pretty.  It started out as Tennessee Route 28 and then turned into Kentucky 200.  If you get a change take the route-but don't expect a welcome to Kentucky sign when you cross the border !

When we lift Symmes Chapel two weeks ago we stopped off at Dupont Recreation Area on the advice of Bob and Tracy who we met at the chapel. If you enjoy hiking (not killer strenuous but a good workout) stop and do the hike to the falls.  The water is beautiful even with the starkness of the bare trees.

From there we were headed to Davidson River State Park where Jim had planned on doing some fishing.  The park was nothing like I imagined-more of a fish camp which is okay for fisherman I suppose. And the funny thing was (not so funny for Jim) he was getting his equipment ready for fishing so he could get an early start when he discovered he had left his waders in storage in Florida !  And since we were basically in the middle of nowhere he had no place to go to buy a replacement pair.  Of course I had to gently remind him that my obsessiveness with list making didn't look so terrible now did it ? It pretty much rained the entire 4 days at Davidson for us and really poor Internet reception , even with the booster so we caught up on reading.  I've gone through about 12 of Michel Connelly's books and I feel like a partner already to his Harry Bosch character!

Our spot at Bear Creek
From Davidson we made a quick stop in Asheville at the Bear Creek RV park.  We caught up on emails and laundry !

Then we journeyed to Huntersville to meet some Roadtrek friends in person that we had met on line. Well I have to tell you, I felt like I met a true soul sister !  Yvette was even more warm and welcoming in person and her husband Paul was too.  We just clicked.  Of course we have so much in common-art,good food,music, adventure and traveling.  Yvette is a talented artist and just a bundle of energy.  She kept us enthralled with stories of Canada and her family and her adventures.  She has brought to life so many of the places we plan on visiting.  And I know I have a friend for life.
It was sad to say goodbye but I know we will see them in Ottawa during our travels.

 From Huntersville we headed to New River State Park in North Carolina.  We both fell in love with this campground. So beautiful and well taken care of.  We hiked a great deal down to the New River, the second oldest river in the world according to locals.  And they are quite proud of it and their efforts to keep it clean and pristine.

The park has a wonderful visitor center and one of the trails-the Dogwood Trail ends at an overlook where you can sit and watch the deer come out in the valley in the evening.  The ranger told us that in Spring you can go at sunrise or sunset and watch the mating flight and listen to the songs of the woodcock. We tried, but alas, it was too early to see any this time of year.

 But we did find wild onions and grilled them with our steaks for our goodbye dinner and they were delicious !
Our view downriver from our "premium" riverfront site

From New River we headed towards Knoxville with a TVA camp in mind-Douglas Dam.  We had heard that TVA campsites were pretty nice and not expensive.  We camped at the Tailwaters (there is also a headwaters camp) and we paid premium for a riverfront site-still only 18$ per night with the Access Senior discount. It's not a campground I would want to spend a week at, but it's a nice place for a 2 day layover R & R.

 The water was extremely low, normally that bank on the right is covered

 The lodge restaurant at Cumberland-was doing a booming business on Sunday and smelled so good !

If you Google Cumberland Mountain State Park you will see the difference in water levels, this is usually a gorgeous river shot but alas the water was too low.

We decided we really weren't ready for the big city so we chose not to go to Nashville, maybe on the return trip through the South. Instead we thought that the Cumberland Mountain State Park looked interesting.  It was also in the middle of nowhere-not a park you would choose for a quick overnighter because of the challenge of getting there-you know us we love those back roads. All the way up the curvy mountain road we kept seeing huge trees uprooted and tons of broken branches and couldn't imagine what had caused all of that damage. We quickly learned that they had a horrible ice storm followed by snow and more ice at the end of February-power was out for 19000 people and the kids were out of school for 2 weeks.  The park has just begun to clean up-the trails were still blocked by large downed trees and there were large branches still dangling in trees.  I just prayed that no heavy winds would come and cause those to crash down on us.  We escaped safely .

And now here we are in Berea Kentucky planning our walking tour of the Artisan area tomorrow. I'm so looking forward to it. From there we will head back into the wilderness of the Daniel Boone National Forest.

My favorite moment of this trip came to me one night while looking out the rear window of Ruby up at the stars.  It was so dark and so quiet and at that moment I felt a contentment so deep and so strong . I felt like the sky was my blanket and the twinkley stars were my nightlights and felt that all was good in the world and that I couldn't be more content.  I wish all of you this feeling at least once in your lifetime-I will cherish that moment.

Happy Trails my friends and wanderers and Safe Travels.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Symmes Chapel a Beautiful Moment in Time

Symmes Chapel or "Pretty Place" was a spot I knew I wanted to visit while we were in South Carolina.  I discovered Symmes Chapel on Pinterest and couldn't wait to see the sunrise from the chapel.  While we were at Table Rock State Park I kept checking the weather to ensure we would be there on a clear day. Since it had been raining so much during our camping I was worried it would be wet and foggy when we made the trip up the mountain.  Well the weather Gods were with us because the day we decided to go, the skies cleared up and the rain stopped.  The Chapel was about 25 miles from the campground but because the road is a very winding steep climb it took us about 50 minutes to arrive.  We left the campsite at 6am , and with the sunrising at 7:43 we had plenty of time.

I was actualy surprised that there were so many people here, I figured with how the weather had been running it would be pretty much deserted.  This is a very spiritual place-how could it not be, with the view and the constant reminder of how small we are compared to the Universe.

The Chapel belongs to the YMCA and it's rented out during the peak season for weddings-so if you go call ahead and make sure it's not closed for a wedding.  Fortunately we were pre busy season visitors.  The Chapel was built by Fred W. Symmes in 1941 and donated to the boys and girls of the YMCA for their use while at the camp. All throughout the open air chapel are memory plaques that have been placed there for loved ones lost throughout the years.

It was incredibly awesome and inspirational to watch the sunrise from here.  Some day we plan on returning and spending more time in the area.  We met Bob and Tracey who live down the mountain and they make the journey to the Chapel frequently and hearing them describe full moon rises and the hills in the Fall sealed the deal for our return .

Jim, Tracey and Bob

One of my favorite plaques and so appropriate for the location

I hope you enjoyed my photos, I tried to stay out of everyone's way while taking them and sometimes I would just stop and enjoy what was happening and watch the sunrise and feel the spirituality of the moment.  This is another one for your bucket list.

Happy Trails and Safe Travels my Friends.

Monday, March 16, 2015

9 Days at Table Rock

Spending March in the mountains and hills of South Carolina was so peaceful.  We have been camping at Table Rock State Park, just outside of Pickens,SC for 9 days.  And for most of those 9 days there were only 2 or 3 other campers here.  For 2 nights we were the only campers here, it was nice to see the ranger drive by and wave to us !

Table Rock is a sweet campground and I'm sure it's jammed pack in the summer.  There are miles of great hiking trails. Unfortunately for us the weather didn't cooperate . but for the couple of days it did we really enjoyed hiking the trails.  South Carolina Parks does a wonderful job of trail maintenance!

We were in space 37 which sits on a little plateau, so when there was sun we enjoyed it from sunrise to sunset.  The road in the campground winds up to the plateau so if you camp in the lower sites you are pretty much in the shade most of the time.  The restrooms are nice and clean, the only problem we had is that the restroom on the plateau isn't heated-not a problem in the summer, but when temperatures were averaging 30-45 it was a little chilly even with really hot water.  The restroom at the base of the campground is heated so we would make the long walk down to it to ensure that we didnt' have to shower and dash ! Plus we got our exercise.

It was actually kind of nice camping in a fairly empty campground.  It was so quiet-after coming from the beach it was strange not hearing the sound of the ocean for the first time in a very long time. Do I miss it ? Yes , I do and I'm sure I will for quite some time. We have so many sweet memories of the short time we were at the beach and we are ready to make new ones where ever the wind takes us.

Since we were confined to quarters by the weather for most of the time here, when we weren't hiking we were reading or I was spending more time than usual cooking !  One of the recipes I found was a Guinness Glazed chicken sandwich with mushrooms-this is really to die for-and will be added to my "will definitely make again list".  You could eat the chicken and mushrooms over rice and it would be incredible.

Guinness Glazed Chicken Sandwich-makes 2 large delicious sandwiches
Guinness Glaze:
2 cups of Guinness stout
3cloves of garlic sliced very thin and sauteed gently with the mushrooms in butter
1/3 cup  brown sugar
4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbs honey
salt to taste
Chicken Sandwich:
2 Medium sized Grilled Chicken breasts
6 slices of crispy bacon
Small red Onion-sliced thin
Sauteed Mushrooms-best sauteed in about 2-3 tbsp butter with the garlic
4 slices of Provolone cheese
Guinness Glaze

Guinness glaze: Combine all the ingredients for glaze in a sauce pot and set the heat to medium. Whisk the mixture with a silicone whisk until combined. Keep slowly whisking until sugar is dissolved. Let it simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 25-30 minutes. It will reduce in half. Raise the temperature to medium-high and boil for about 30 seconds. Stir and take it off heat. (Don't worry, it will thicken more as it cools.)
Sandwich: Grill the chicken breasts  and add a little glaze when it's their almost done. Saute the chicken in glaze until fully cooked. Build the sandwich-3 slices of bacon, red onion slices,a slice of provolone, then chicken breast , topped by mushrooms,pour a little more glaze on top of mushrooms,topped by the 2nd slice of provolone cheese, add a few more mushrooms and little more glaze before topping with the bun.

You will have Guinness Glaze leftovers-maybe-unless you pour it on your plate and use the sandwich to sop it up (yes I'm guilty of doing that ).

Bon Appetit- and caution this glaze is addictive.  I played around with the amount of Worcestershire, honey and brown sugar until I liked the flavoring so feel free to do the same.

Happy Trails my little chefs and traveling friends-safe travels.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Edisto Beach Seashell Heaven

Our last day at Hunting Island was perfect.  Beautiful sunrise, gorgeous sunset, quiet walk on the beach and a blazing campfire.  We were looking forward to Edisto Campground in spite of the negatives people had been sharing with us when we mentioned that was our next destination.

As the crow flies we were less than 20 miles from Edisto, but because all the land between Hunting Island and Edisto is either salt marsh, river or wildlife refuge , the drive is more like 90 miles.  And a very pretty drive.  Beautiful oak trees line most of the side roads; I could see them as we passed.  You don’t think you will ever find the island and then you are going down highway 174 and signs indicate you are only 15 miles away.  From photos that I had researched I imagined an Old South kind of place but what you encounter along the road isn’t that, but a struggling South-at least from the stories you can make up from the front yards and porches-people looked like they were struggling.

I was keeping my eyes peeled for a place called King’s Market.  I had read about it and knew it would be one of those cool little grocery stores with a zillion interesting items.  It was closed-going to have to ride my bike back once I find out the hours.  We did find another place that was on my “keep your eyes peeled” list-Flowers Seafood.  Just a little blue house along the side of the road-but oh me oh my-fresh shrimp.  During the season they cook up a little low country boil that you can buy, but of course they weren’t cooking for another two weeks.

 We bought some shrimp and went on our merry way.  The shrimp was perfect-we boiled it and had it with a side of sauce-peel and eat, my favorite way to eat shrimp and as far as I am concerned the only way!

Then out of nowhere you see a True Value and the entrance to the beach side of Edisto (there is an “oak” side with cabins too).  Instead of pulling into the campground I asked Jim to drive through town to get an idea of the lay of the land.  It definitely looks like a resort town-at least I’m guessing during the season.  Right now it’s more like a ghost town-most people don’t want to come to the beach in February or March.  There is street after street of beautiful resort homes but all deserted-it doesn’t even look like there are any people who call this place home. It gave me a kind of eerie feeling.  I even said to Jim, maybe there’s an evacuation and we don’t know about it!

We headed back to the campground and checked in.  Our first site was surrounded by palm trees and Ruby sat parked under a huge oak tree.  We could watch the squirrels and raccoons climb up and down the tree while we prayed none of them would make a home in our engine!

Parked in the palm tree and oak area of the campground brought back memories of the movie Cape Fear for some reason-I know it’s crazy , but there was just this weird vibe about it.

You don’t have a view of the beach from site 12 but you can still hear the waves.  Once we set up we took off walking towards the beach.  I had read that this was a great place to gather seashells and I was not disappointed.

As far as the eye could see were nothing but shells, mounds of them.   I returned to camp with a bagful of beautiful whelks ( I have a plan to make another mermaid once we settle down).

After 3 days in site 12 we had to move to site 16-out of the palms and oaks and Cape Fear kind of place and in to wide open spaces with an ocean view.

Not the usual campground picture, I used an app called Snapseed to jazz it up !

Thank goodness because for the past week it’s been mostly cold, windy and rainy and the weather has kept us inside.  While reading or working on my jewelry projects  I can at least gaze out at the beautiful ocean and feel peaceful.

The park is getting ready for the busy season and only has one of two restrooms open. One building is being renovated and of course it’s the one closest to us.  So I’m at least getting my exercise because my Fitbit tells me its 966 steps round trip – thank goodness for Ruby in the middle of the night

This is a nice campground and the staff are super friendly-you don’t even have to go to the ranger station to check in-normally when we switch sites anywhere else you have to go to the station, check out and check into the new site-here they delivered our new campsite hanger right to our vehicle-sweet.

It’s been fairly busy, but we haven’t met a lot of people, I think the bad weather is keeping them inside. It was sunny for a bit yesterday and we took advantage and sat on the beach for a long time and walked and walked.  Hailey loves it-she’s even picking up shells and dropping them at my feet.
Isn’t it funny how campgrounds can affect you-some make you feel so present and so lively while others can make you feel dreamy and introspective.  The weather makes up for feelings too-I have discovered I enjoy walking the beach more when it’s cold than when it’s hot. I like being bundled up a little and I really like coming back to Ruby and having a hot chocolate.   Okay, I’m rambling now-it’s this campground affecting me.

So when I’m stuck inside I tend to cook more and when the weather is bad I tend to cook stick to your rib meals.  That’s exactly what I’ve done this week.

Crispy French toast; golden Belgian waffles with roasted strawberries; and Chicken Marsala.  I’ve gotten to this point in my life without ever trying Chicken Marsala-how could that be?  I love mushrooms, I love chicken and who doesn’t love wine?

Chicken Marsala by David Lebovitz
Four servings
If you can’t get Marsala, substitute dry sherry. I serve this with wide noodles, but it’s also
good with rice or orzo.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds ), cut in half crosswise
freshly ground black pepper
8 to 10 ounces button mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced
3 tablespoons (total) olive oil
4 tablespoons (total) unsalted butter
2 large cloves garlic, peeled and minced
about 1/3 cup  flour
1/3 cup chicken stock or water
1 teaspoon corn starch
2/3 cup Marsala wine (preferably dry)
1 1/2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1. Put the chicken pieces between two sheets of plastic wrap, or in a sturdy ziptop
freezer bag, and pound them with a rolling pin until they’re 1/2inch,thick. Put the pieces in
a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2. In a wide skillet, melt 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 tablespoon of butter over high heat
until the butter starts to sizzle. Add the sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, and
cook – stirring occasionally – until the mushrooms are seared and cooked through, 6 to 8
minutes. Add the garlic to the mushrooms during the lastminute of cooking.
3. Scrape the mushrooms onto a plate and wipe the pan clean with a paper towel to remove
any bits of garlic. (If not, those bits will burn when frying the chicken.)
4. To sauté the chicken, spread the flour onto a plate and dredge half of the chicken pieces in
the flour, shaking off most of the excess. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of
butter in the pan. Add chicken pieces so they are in a single layer; don’t crowd them in the
pan. (If you have a very large pan, you can sauté them all in one batch. But I use a 10inch/
23cm skillet, and do them in two batches.) Sauté the breasts, turning them over midway during cooking, until they are browned on each side. (They don’t need to be completely cooked through at this point.) When browned, remove the chicken pieces to a separate plate and heat another 1 tablespoon of oil and 1 tablespoon of butter in the pan, and sauté the rest of the chicken.
5. While the chicken is cooking. Stir the corn starch into the stock or water until it’s
completely dissolved, then mix it with the Marsala.
6. When the second batch of chicken is done and removed from the pan, pour about onethird
of the Marsala mixture into the pan, scraping the pan with a wooden or silicone spatula
to scrape up the browned bits, then add the rest of the Marsala mixture, as well as the
mushrooms and chicken pieces.
7. Cook the chicken and mushrooms with the sauce over medium heat, turning the chicken
pieces over occasionally, to make sure they’re wellbasted in the sauce, until the chicken is
cooked and the sauce has thickened, about 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in
another 1 tablespoons of butter, the balsamic vinegar, and chopped parsley. Taste the sauce
and season with more salt, if necessary.
Serving: Chicken Marsala is best served with warm, with wide noodles or another pasta.
Mashed potatoes would work well, too.

Jim loved it-it’s almost like the poultry version of beef stroganoff but better.  And it definitely sticks to your ribs on cold nights.  The recipe is another one by David Lebovitz-try it, it’s not difficult or complicated to make and I’m sure you will love it.

Another example of Snapseed-the creek that enters the ocean just up the beach from us

Well the rain has stopped so I’m putting my hiking boots on and hitting the beach.  Happy Trails my friends and safe travels.