A couple weekends back myself, my boyfriend, my dad, my brother, and my smallest pup decided to venture into North Carolina and drive the Cherohala Skyway. We went there a couple years ago and did a short hike and loved it. I’m not sure why we waited so long to go back.
Not long after we turned onto the skyway a bobcat jumped into the road in front of us, crossed, and made its way up the steep rocky back on the other side. I REALLY wish I could have gotten a picture. It was beautiful! It was also my first time seeing a live bobcat in person. We get them on our trail cameras a lot, but to actually see them out and about is almost impossible.
Our first stop along the way was at Huckleberry Knob. It is the highest point in the Cheoah Ranger District that covers 120,500 acres of the Nantahala National Forest. At the highest point (5,560 feet) you have an amazing view of the surrounding Unicoi Mountains.
The trail itself is fairly simple. It is only about 2.5 miles round trip. The hardest part for me was adjusting to that altitude (which really wasn’t that difficult either). The trail is an old road that travels through a huge open field to Oak Knob. You continue on the road and eventually you’ll reach Huckleberry Knob. There is a slight incline, but it isn’t difficult by any means.
At the top of Huckleberry Knob there is actually a grave. No, I’m not kidding. An actual grave. According to the stone at the base of the grave on December 11, 1899, Andy Sherman and Paul O’Neil left the Tellico Creek logging camp (TN) where they worked in an attempt to reach Robbinsville (NC) by Christmas. Unfortunately, neither of the men made it home. The following year, on September 6, 1900 a man by the name of Forest Denton was deer hunting on Huckleberry Knob and found the two bodies… along with multiple empty whiskey jugs. Andy Sherman’s grave is marked by a large metal cross on the knob, while Paul O’Neil’s skeleton was used as a medical exhibit by Dr. Robert J. Orr. Tellico and Robbinsville are right at about fifty miles apart. FIFTY. Is it possible to walk 50 miles in fourteen days? That’s an average of less than 4 miles a day, so technically you could easily cross that in less than 2 weeks BUT right in the middle of winter? Not too likely. I guess it would mostly depend on how harsh/mild the winter was…and how much whiskey you consumed along the way.
We also stopped at Hooper Bald Trailhead (5,290 feet). I was the only one of group that wanted to hike this trail (mostly because according to the clouds a hellacious storm was coming… and it did. Oops). Anyhow, it was shorter than Huckleberry Knob (just over a mile). Another gorgeous field and wild flowers with spectacular overlooks. I had a couple pictures taken at one of the overlooks when it came a literal downpour. I didn’t mind getting wet honestly, but everyone else was not happy. We ended up huddled under my emergency blanket under a tree at the edge of the field. After a few minutes of that we trudged back down the trail to the car. I would do it again, too, even knowing the storm was coming. Oh and there was some interesting info about an old hunting preserve that used to be on the top of Hooper Bald with a huge variety if animals. I had never actually heard of this… I’ll attach a picture with more information if you’re interested.
From there we made our way back to Tellico and stopped by Bald River Falls, which was amazing as always. I snapped a few pics from the bridge and wanted to hike to the top, but no one else seemed to like that idea. 🤣
In all, we were gone just over 8 hours and made one big huge circle from Georgia to North Carolina to Tennessee and then back home to Georgia. It’s days like these that I never want to forget. I am blessed to have an amazing family and the luxury of being able to go on adventures like this with them.
So, as you can see, I never got the chance to post any pictures while we were in Arkansas. We were pretty much on-the-go 90% of the time, the other 10% we were sleeping. We traveled just under 2000 miles in 6 days. I suppose that was my first “official” road trip and it was amazing. We saw a lot of interesting things and beautiful places (7 states) and made some great memories.
Rather than post 50 pictures and completely over take the post, I made a few collages to share. If you’re reading this… I hope you enjoy them! 🙂
We started the journey by leaving Georgia (state 1) and heading north into Tennessee (state 2) and then west. Destination: Eureka Falls, Arkansas (It took us about 12 hours to drive there!)
Arkansas (state 3)
Hawksbill Crag is a must-see. If you’re physically able and ever find yourself in Arkansas (Kingston to be exact), do yourself a favor and hike to it. The hike was fairly short. Right at about 3 miles to the crag and back. The only steepness was a little bit of a climb at the end. Nothing difficult at all.
After our hike to Hawksbill Crag, the SO and I decided to venture to another nearby view. It was only about a 45 minute drive from the crag to Triple Falls Trail (Jasper, AR) to see the gorgeous Triple Falls. The trail into the falls and back was a short .3 of a mile. The view was gorgeous, but the drive down the mountain was horrendous (Sorry J). There were signs posted with “rules” for the trail/waterfall. I noticed one mentioned no animals, but on the hiking website I found the trail on it stated dogs were welcome on leash. That was a bit aggravating but overall, the falls were amazing. I imagine it would be an epic place to swim!
Missouri (state 4)
Our first stop was Branson. We wanted to visit the Bass Pro Shop there, so we did. From there we ventured further into Branson Landing (shopping mall there in Branson.) We went into a few stores but did not stay there long since we planned to travel a bit further into Springfield.
Okay, so the main purpose of us visiting Springfield was to see the Bass Pro Headquarters. We were lucky enough to see the NRA museum there as an added bonus! I took SO many pictures, I won’t bore you with all of them. If I manage to find the time, I might eventually make a post with all the pictures I took just from the museum. Make sure to check it out of you find yourself in Springfield like I did!
We got back from Branson/Springfield about an hour before dark. Unbeknownst to me, apparently the sunsets sooner in Eureka Springs than my little town. I thought we had about 25-30 more minutes of day time than we actually did. Thankfully, I always carry a LED flashlight in my purse as well as a headlamp. (Can you tell I’ve been out on a trail after dark before and needed a light?) I suppose that sounds like odd items to have in a purse… I guess I just prefer to have back-up (lights, first-aid kit, battery back-up charger, etc.) than make up, lotion, and mirrors. I suppose if I was stranded in the middle of the woods, the former would come in more handy than the latter.
Anyway, the hike around the edge of Black Bass Lake was fairly short (just under 2 miles) and mostly flat. There were numerous caves along the trail. As well as a few wildflowers. We ran into a few fisherman who seemed to have been having a good bit of luck fishing. They had several crappie and blue gill on their stringer. Was kinda jealous they were fishing and not myself. Funny story: The last 20 minutes on the way back with the flashlight/headlamp I kept seeing tiny glowing eyes ALL over the trail and around it. Turns out it was tiny spiders everywhere. It was a little creepy but cool. I suppose if you have arachnophobia it would not have been quite as “cool.” I enjoyed it though!
Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge-Eureka Springs, AR/Siloam Springs, Oklahoma (state 5)
While the animals at Turpentine Creek were beautiful and well-cared for, I could not help but be sad for them. We did the tour around the entire refuge and heard stories about many of the big cats (and the grizzly, coatimundi, macaque, and black bear) and how/why they ended up there. Most of them were previously pets. PETS. As much as I love tigers and I think I’d like the idea of having one as a pet, I’m intelligent enough to know how BAD of an idea that would be. One of the bobcats was there because a man attempted to raise it with his one-year-old son. You can imagine how that went. The cat bit him and then it had to go (understandable) but why have a wild animal around your baby in the first place?! Another story we were told was that a man had a tiger for a pet for several years and then got sick (I forgot what from) and decided he could no longer take care of it. Rather than turn it over to a refuge, he drove several miles (over 50 miles) away and released it into the wilderness (No, I’m not kidding). Apparently, it was back at his house the next morning. We were also told the story of how a breeding pair of big cats was turned over to the refuge. Apparently a company had them and bred the MULTIPLE times so that they could use the kittens for photo ops. Once the kittens were no longer kittens they were sent away. She had multiple litters in 3-4 years. The first litter at under a year old. If you know anything about big cats, you know how insane/sad that is. When they took the mother in there and gave birth soon after. The really sad part? After a week or so she began to reject her kittens. Why would she do that? She must be a terrible mother, right? WRONG. She did not know anything else to do. All she had ever known was to birth kittens and then a short time later they were gone and she never saw them again. That seriously makes me want to bawl my eyes out. That poor momma and those poor babies. Screw shitty pet owners and people who do stuff like this! (End rant….sorry)
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Also, huge shot out to Tyson Chick envfor donati approximately 300,000 lbs of chicken, beef, turkey, fish, and pork annually!
Natural Falls State Park (OK):
Natural Falls State Park was a short trip but it was worth the drive to Oklahoma! Dripping Springs Falls was epic. At 77 feet tall it is one of the two tallest waterfalls in the state (along with Turner Falls in the Arbuckle Mountains). It was also used in the production of Where the Red Fern Grows (1974). You’ve seen the movie, right? If not, go rent or stream it immediately. I watched this as a little kid and bawled my eyes out. Great movie nonetheless.
We packed our bags and said goodbye to Eureka Springs. We drove back east to Memphis (visited our third Bass Pro, the Pyramid) and then south to Tupelo.
Destination: Tupelo, Mississippi (state 6)
This was a quick stop on the way to Tupelo. Brices Cross Roads is also known as the Battle of Tishomingo Creek and the Battle of Guntown. The battle was fought on Friday, June 10, 1864 near Baldwyn, Mississippi. At that point in time, it was part of the Confederate States of America. Long story short, it was a victory for the Confederates.
Our last official visit was to the birthplace of Elvis, the King of Rock and Roll. The museum was well-laid out and an interesting visit for sure! Although we had not originally planned to visit there, I’m so glad we did!
After leaving Tupelo we headed east toward Alabama (state 7) and then continued on back to Georgia.
So, here it is… 4 am. I have to be up in 4 hours to make a trip out of town so the conclusion is going to be a bit short. Who knows, I made edit it later. (Not likely). Overall, our trip was better than I could have imagined. We are spur-of-the-moment kind of vacationers, which means we did not know we were for our vacation/road trip until the day before we left. (No, I’m not kidding!) I like spur-of-the-moment though. It keeps life interesting. If you’re still here, thanks for reading!
So, I found this little guy (or girl) while hiking with my Dad the other day. First and foremost, he was never harmed. A majority of the time I can ID any animal or insect on a trail, but I have a hard time IDing certain trees. Who knew there were so many different species of oak tree?!
Anyway, I was looking at my phone (not smart to not pay attention when you’re hiking) and just-so-happened to hear something rustle the leaves. I hear that sound often and 99% of the time it’s an Anole or Eastern Fence Lizard, but when I looked down it was this Copperhead!
He was slithering as fast as he could away from me. I was lucky that he never even struck at me. My dad held him in place (gently), so I could snap a quick picture of his gorgeous colors and then we all went happily on our way.
I adore snakes and it drives me INSANE when people kill them. I understand some people are scared of them, but does that mean everything we are scared of deserves a death sentence? No, it does NOT. I won’t get on my soap box for now, because I could on ALL day long.
Just do me a favor and remember everything has its place in the ecosystem. When we hike we are in their territory, not our own. Don’t let fear drive you and cause unnecessary harm to anything.
PS: I am proud to say I can now decipher Northern Red Oaks, Southern Red Oaks, White Oaks, and Post Oaks. That’s something at least, right? 😉
I went on a short hike with Dad Friday evening after work (3ish miles.) The plan was to walk to a spot we walked to a few weeks before and see if the wood ducks had managed to hatch and leave the box yet. (A couple months ago I found a screech owl [red morph] in the box and then 3 weeks ago found a sitting wood duck). We assumed they had, but wanted to check anyway. When we first dropped off the trail and down to the fields nearby we were instantly met with grunting, snorting, and splashing. Though we were unable to see them, we were very much able to hear a momma hog and her piglets splashing in the water/mud just through the large thicket where we were standing. I would have love to have gotten a picture, but the briars and trees were so thick it would have been damn near impossible… unfortunately.
We slipped passed them through an old trail that would eventually bring us to a little pond that is backed up off the Ocoee. Not a very big area but absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous. (See pic 1). It took us about 15 minutes to make our way through the briars and carry logs to lay across the water/mud in order to get across to where the wood duck box was. (Did not have to do that last time… but thanks to all the rain we have had lately, we had no choice this time. 😐) When I got to it, I managed to attach my phone to my selfie stick (yes… I have a selfie stick, it comes in handy!) and make a short video of the contents inside the box. (I am too short to be able to reach the box otherwise). The eggs had hatched (all but one) and the ducks were gone. I can’t even explain how much I’d LOVED to have seen them leave the nesting box. My only hope is they made it safely to the water and away from any predators. (I’m attaching a picture of momma duck and her eggs that I managed to take the last time we ventured that way. I can’t get over how adorable she is!😊)
After checking out the nesting box, we decided to walk back through the fields but venture a bit further to see if we could see any deer, the hogs we had heard, or the turkey we saw last time we were down there. We did manage to see the turkey again, but this time she wouldn’t really offer to fly or run away. Dad said she either had a nest nearby OR babies. He taught me how to chirp like a baby turkey and would you believe the momma walked right out of the woods and within 20 feet of us! When she saw it was us she turned and went back the direction of the bushes she had just came out of. My first time attempting to call a turkey. (And unlike my brother, I didn’t shoot it!) I got a couple pictures of her also. I posted one of them below. I’d love to go back soon and try to sneak a picture of her AND her babies.
On the way back to the car, Dad showed me a flower he said they always referred to as a “chigger flower” when they were kids because he said they got chiggers every time they touched them. I told him it looked like a sweet pea of some kind and when I pulled out my little guide it said it was called Goat’s Rue. Pretty nifty little flower. I shared a picture below as well. Dad and I have been on a kick lately with IDing plants and trees. Dad can name just about every damn tree in the forest, Me, not so much. I’ve almost got down the oak trees… Chestnut Oak is easiest for me. Post Oak, Red/Scarlet Oak, and White Oak are a little more difficult. There are like 8-10 different flipping oak trees here in the southeast but by golly I’ll be able to ID them eventually. The last couple weeks Dad and I have been attempting to learn some of the ferns that grow around here. It’s just that plants are so hard for me. I can almost immediately ID any snake, mammal, or insect you show me and tell you specific details about them, but if it has leaves, bark, or petals there is a 95% chance I won’t know what it is. Maybe eventually I’ll get those down…
The last picture is a shot I snapped as we were walking up the old logging road back to the car. I’m always a fan of sun pictures even if the right-of-way is right smack dab in the middle of where I’m standing.
Overall, it was an awesome little adventure. I’m always a fan of seeing (and hearing critters.) Perhaps we will sneak back down there again soon and try to get some shots of momma turkey and her babies or even Ms. Piggy and the piglets. If so, I’ll be sure to post an update.
During this hike, I had the opportunity to watch a crow and a raven battle it out in the sky. (This was only the second time I have ever seen a raven.) If you look close, just below the sun you’ll see the raven. I was super excited to have managed to snap this pic!