Sunday, November 5, 2017

Camping in Grandfather Mountain


There I stood, at the edge of the cliff daring to look out into the wilderness with thousands of feet from where we were to the ground. The air was chilly, but with the frequent movement it was almost nonexistent or at least it seemed so. I just wanted to take it all in. It was like all the stress and anxiety was washed away and there I was feeling God’s presence in the most miraculous way. It had taken climbing steep hills and over large boulders to reach the top, but worth every step. And then as we looked out into the distance, a cloud was encircling the moutain. You could see the breeze pushing it around.



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Foscoe point

Grandfather Mountain State Park is known for the South’s most severe weather and most challenging terrain, but eight of us convened out on this trip with at least 35 pounds on our back and some around 45. We were courageous. The adventure seeker outers. It was my first time camping in a tent. I cherish the times my grandparents would take us camping in their airstream, but there is something way different when sleeping in a tent, cooking food on a small propane stove, filtering your own water from a stream, and the other little various things that we take for granted in city life. Camping takes us back to our roots. How we used to live before all the fancy appliances.


Picture to the left is us filtering our water and photo to the right is how we cooked our food on a portable propane tank cooker.


Conclusion to day one was experiencing a sunset at Grandfather mountain. The oranges and pinks lit up the sky and as the light grew dimmer, the stars grew brighter. Stars beyond our ability to comprehend with the distance and multitude of them all. What looked to be a satellite slowly went across the sky and then as we looked across the horizon, not only did we see the stars clearly, but also small lights coming from the city below.


The next day was even more adventurous. We found this trail and thought that this couldn’t possibly be a trail with the dangerous nature of it, but sure enough it was and as you can see the blue streak on the rock declared that it was. So despite the strenousness of the trail, half our group ventured forward into the unknown up what was quite a steep mountain. It was most assuredly worth it and though we didn’t have time to reach the swinging bridge, we shared the views and splendor of reaching the peak. It was an adventure of a life time and though the views and sites of a trip are astounding, the people you share it with is even more part of the memorability of the journey.

“Life is a journey, not a destination.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 8, 2017

Fireman Museum in New Bern


The conditions were perfect. The weather was dry and the firemen were all on their way to Raleigh for the Eastern North Carolina State Championship Football Game. And then it happened. The largest lumber company in 1922 caught fire on December 1, but that wasn’t enough. The fire began to leap to other destinations because the 70 mile per hour winds. People within the city were recruited to help. Within an hour a fire started in the chimney of a small house on Kilmarnock Street. The fire of New Bern was devestating. About 1/3 of the city was destroyed, over 3,000 were left homless and 40 city block were destroyed.

This is just the beginning of the history shared at the Firemen’s Museum, a museum established in 1955.


There were two rivaling firefighting companies that ended up being housed in the same building. Our story begins on May 14, 1885. On May 14, 1845 the New Bern Fire Department started the Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company. As the Civil War commenced in 1861, the company soon became inactive because so many members were serving in the Confederate Army. When the need for an active firefighting company again arose, the New Bern Steam Fire Engine company No. 1 was started up. As life returned to normal, the focus shifted. The focus for the firefighting companies was getting the biggest, the best, and the fastest equipment.

As you see above, the steam fire engine was all the rage in the later 1800’s. In 1879, The Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company received a new Silsby steam fire engine. In an attempt to out do the other, in 1884 the New Bern Steam Fire Engine Company No. 1 traded in their Amoskeag steam engine for the new “Button Steam Fire Engine.” There name was soon changed to the “Button Company.” The companies continued to compete with each other thorughout the state. The Button Company acheived the world record for running quick steam at 1 minute 46 seconds.


No, this is not a horse pulled fire hose, but a human pulled one!


This demonstrates how the hoses were hung up so they can dry.


The helmets were different than todays in that they were made with leather. You can only imagine how much that would cost today if they were still made in that fashion.


This is a very interesting piece used in the incident of a fire. Our guide explained that in a central location of a fire, there would be someone that would signal the alarm system which would be connected to the system at the fire station. They would go to that area and then be directed from there to the more specific location.


Fred was among the most faithful and loyal of the fire horses. He lived for 25 years doing a great service for the Atlantic Hook & Ladder Company for 17 years. Mr. John Taylor and Fred the horse were a team working together to combat fires. Fred was keen with his senses as he had the ability to recognize tones of fire alarms and then reach those locations on this own. He was no stranger to adversity, but when his well loved owner died in 1925 of a heart attack, Fred passed away soon after. The dedication of Fred to his owner was very admirable and just another piece of history that visitors will experience at the Fireman’s Museum in New Bern, North Carolina.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Tips for Visiting Navy Pier & Lake Shore View in Chicago


Going to Downtown Chicago three times during my stay in Illonois, made the trip feel like three trips rolled into one. I’m a more nature minded kind of girl, but big cities fascinate me. For the final visit to Chicago before flying on home, I got the best of both worlds. Seeing Lake Michigan was like a huge bonus. It wasn’t on my radar, so when I realized we were going to get to go along the famous lake shore coast line, I was very happy.


The Greatest Challenge…

Hands down is parking and so if you haven’t opted for the public transit, then check out Each time you park it can cost about $22 for just a couple hours and once you go through, even if you make a mistake, you’ve got to pay the price. I speak from experience. The lady though was kind enough to refund us, but don’t risk it! Do a search on your location and see which places are cheapest. If you’re planning to go to Navy Pier, the Lakefront Trail is a popular and well-known route. Just be prepared for lots of foot traffic, but it is worth it for the views.


A beautiful view of Navy Pier. Now, for the story and some words of wisdom. So, I found this nice little restaurant in the indoor eating area. I asked the cashier for advice about what to do. The insider info is that it is a tourist trap, but in my opinion, it is all in your perspective. We ended up just having to pay for the parking and for lunch which was well deserved anyway (the lunch that is). I was in it for the views, so in this case, it turned out okay.


Since the cheapest boat tour is about $40 a person (and way up from there), I chose to just get my picture in front of it. I saved a lot! The one behind me must have been over $100. I’m just guesstimating.


Another beautiful view. Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great Lakes when measured by the water surface. Another fact is that it is the only great lake that is entirely in the United Staes. The water covers 22,300 square miles touching the four states of Indiana, Illinois, Michigan (of course), and Wisconsin.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ascension to Chicago 360

Chicago 360

I thrive on adventure, going places, meeting new people. I’ve said yes to eating the hottest pepper in the world and going out on a piece of glass (the skydeck) to look straight down at the Chicago city below. The competition to the Sky Deck, meet the Chicago 360. It’s home is the John Hancock Center, a 100-story, 1,228-foot building. That’s a lot of floors! Designed by Brue Graham and engineered by Fazlur Khan, this building was brought to a completion on May 6, 1968. It was at the time the second tallest building in the word. It now holds the title of the eighth-tallest building in the US.

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The views are remarkable. You get to look out to an all around view of the city, see up to four states, and look a distance of 80 miles out.


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Some may say that facing your fears is the best way to cure them and I find it to be true. I have a “slight” dislike of heights and figured that going on the Chicago 360 and then the Sky Deck (a jump up from the 360) was a great way to cure those feelings. I can proudly say that on top of being 94 floors up, I was tilted outward over the city of Chicago, 1,030 feet to be exact. It was only a couple minutes for $7, but well worth the experience. Just don’t be embarrassed like me by being called out while trying to take a picture with your phone. I was so mesmarized that I didn’t realize that they were talking to me until they started counting. Super embarrassing, but what’s a good story without some personal accounts?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A Visit to Shedd Aquarium Chicago


If I could use two words to describe Shedd Aquarium, they would be, magnificant and mesmerizing. It’s not every day you get to hear balooga whales make sqeaking noises or watch a large sting ray glide by right in front of your face. Mind you, it’s $40 dollars for an adult ticket, but worth every cent. So here is a word of advice, when choosing to drive your car, park in the planetarium parking which is in walking distance of the aquarium. If you get there before 9:30 am, you get the early bird price which is $11 as of the time of this posting. Just be sure it’s not on the day of an event because when we came back to see the plantarium, parking was $49! For obvious reasons, we passed this up and called it a day. These are all the little things they don’t tell you in the tourist websites.



Shedd Aquarium opened on May 30, 1930 and for awhile was the largest indoor aquarium containing 5,000,000 US gallons of water! That’s far greater than your average pool. Just to get a little perspective an average depth for an inground pool is 5 feet. A pool that is 12 ft. x 24 ft. holds 10,800 gallons. Big difference, right?! (Photo of Copperband Butterfly Fish).


To me the Clown Fish will always be Nemo. It just instinctively comes out that way. Do I have any nods of agreement? With such a beautiful spectacule of creation, I’m reminded of how great God is and how detailed he is.

The Wild, The Wacky, and The Exotic:



Red-bellied Piranha that live in the Amazon River Basin. They are mainly scavengers and foragers, but they can pose a minor risk. So is what the movies show true? Here’s the truth, during the wet season, there is plenty of food, but caution is advised during the dry season around April to September when the waters are much lower and food is less plentiful. Above all do not swim with these fish with an open wound! Few of us will tred these waters, but hey, you learned something new!

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Looks like some sci-fi creature. Check out that glare!




Pictures of Exhibits at The Shedd Aquarium


With Lake Michigan being the over view for Shedd Aquarium, it makes sense they would have an exhibit dedicated to it.


The Carribbean Reef exhibit.


The smiling sting ray.




I hope you enjoyed getting a taste of this beautiful aquarium!

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Free Things to Do: NC Botanical Gardens at UNC Chapel Hill



As the weather increases in warmth, gardens are coming alive with activity. Before the heat really sets in, my family has been visiting as many local gardens and nature parks as possible. The best time to go to gardens are early morning. If your schedule permits, week days are best. We’ve done exceedingly well at finding the free ones and who wouldn’t go for that? Whether you want a nice morning stroll, want to spend quality time with family, or exerise your photography skills, there are so many options. It was well work the 45 minute drive out to UNC Chapel Hill. It is very well kept and tended for. You won’t be disappointed!!

Website for North Carolina Botanical Gardens at UNC Chapel Hill: 

Visiting hours: Tuesday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm
Sunday: 1 pm – 5 pm
Closed Mondays and University Holidays.


A spot you won’t want to miss is The Mercer Reeves Hubbard Herb Garden. There is said to be 500 species and cultivars. An important addition to the collection is the rosemary collection from the herb society of Americas. The herb amove is chives which is known for its oniony smell and flavor. I love adding a sprig of it to many different dishes.

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You won’t want to miss the carnivorous plant colection complete with pitcher plants, sundews, and butter warts which are all a part of the southeastern United States.


Herbs attract beneficial insects like this ladybug going for a spin on this cilantro plant.


Other gardens to highlight are the native plant border gardens with a variety of native perennials, shrubs, and small trees. Native plants are vital to our ecosystem. They provide homes for many creatures large and small. They are the plants that have resided here long before any ornamentals were brought in. They may not have the largest and showiest of flowers, but they belong here where as invasives can desimate a habitat literally squeezing the life out of plants. So do your research when choosing flowers!

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What I found most invigorating was the botanical garden’s commitment to using environmentally responsible gardening pratices. They work closely with local, state, and regional conservation organizations. They put to practice their mission which is “To inspire understanding, appreciation, and conservation of plants and to advance a sustainable relationship between people and nature.” When we support gardens, farms, and local places that are promoting environmentally responsible practices, we aren’t making an impact just a day or even a week, we could quite possibly be making an impact for generations to come. For it is one choice that can have a dominoes affect that will inspire other to make positive changes in their life. The NC Botanical Garden at UNC Chapel Hill is inspiring that kind of change.

Please drop me a comment and share with me your favorite gardening spots in Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham area. If you know of any sustainable projects locally, I might be able to take a trip there and feature it on my blog.