The 50-80 Tour of Utah National Parks

The year 2022 is significant in the life of my family in that I will reach my 80th birthday on November 8 and my son Peter reached his 50th birthday on March 21.  This seemed like a coincidence (?) requiring some kind of recognition, so when we planned a tour of the “big five” national parks in Utah, Peter immediately named it “The 50-80 Tour.”  Introducing ourselves along with this name for the tour at the first evening meal proved to be popular, and many of our co-travelers readily adopted the name.

I came to the tour prepared to photograph almost everything, including the “smiley-face” chrome wheel of the coach.

Some of the photo ops were truly spectacular, like the sunrise on Earth Day, April 22.  We were staying at the Red Cliffs Lodge on the Colorado River near Moab, Utah and we had waked up before dawn to see (and hopefully photograph) the Milky Way.  This was a bust since there were clouds and a half moon obscuring the starfield but being out and about for the sunrise was a big winner!

Sunrise on the Colorado River at Red Cliffs Lodge near Moab, Utah. Earth Day, 2022.

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Calvary Episcopal Church

Calvary Episcopal Church in Fletcher, NC was established in 1859 and it still catches the eye of travelers on US 25.  The architecture is distinctive and the setting is attractive with the winding drive through the front lawn of the campus leading to the various buildings in the rear of the property.

The churchyard on the left of the main building is balanced by the rows of standing stones on the right along Old Airport Road.  A number of folk tales are tied to this historic churchyard, and the telling is best left to the church website.

The main entrance to the sanctuary.

This quiet place behind the screen of blooming shrubbery offers opportunities for meditation.


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Biltmore Gardens in August

Billie and I visited the flower gardens on the Biltmore Estate on August 15 and found that some policies are now in place to cater to those primarily interested in visiting the flower gardens and greenhouse area.  A parking attendant met us as we approached the house and asked our interest in visiting the Estate, and when we told him we did not plan to go to the house but were rather more interested in the flower gardens, he suggested that we turn on our flashers and proceed through the parking areas to park near the greenhouse area below the house.  This was welcome because it saved us a bit of a walk and we got to our primary interest much more quickly.

Lawn ornaments are for sale in the Garden Shop

The primary color on display during our visit is RED.

Masses of burgundy coleus dominate the gardens today

Amaranthus caudatus continues the theme of burgundy and red

Amaranthus caudatus is a species of annual flowering plant. It goes by common names such as love-lies-bleeding, pendant amaranth, tassel flower, velvet flower, foxtail amaranth, and quilete.  I was not familiar with this striking plant but am happy that we found it in the gardens.

Red and pink blooms abound in the gardens

The Biltmore House looms above the shaded walkway leading to the gardens.

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The Book and Bee

We found a neat little restaurant named The Book and Bee which follows a literary theme and serves lunch and afternoon tea.  We went there for lunch last week and enjoyed it a great deal.


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Bearwallow Mountain Hiking Trail

The Bearwallow Mountain Hiking Trail is part of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail system,  comprising a 1.0-mile access trail climbing from the trailhead to the peak of Bearwallow Mountain.

Bearwallow Mountain Trailhead

The trail is steep and littered in many places with moderate-sized rocks and boulders, and in some sections the footing is quite treacherous.  Near the top hikers are likely to meet cattle along the trail, in the woods, and certainly in the open bald at the top of the mountain.

Fire tower and antenna array at the top of Bearwallow Mountain

The top of the mountain hosts an array of antenna systems and a working fire tower that is not open to public exploration.  The view is impressive in all directions and is well worth the climb.

View from the top of Bearwallow Mountain

Following the climb, hikers spend time admiring the view and recovering from the steep trail.  Dogs are welcome on the trail but must be leashed at all times since this is actually a farm with a number of cattle pastured here.

Enjoying the view from the top of the Bearwallow Mountain

Cattle watering trough along Bearwallow Mountain access road

The return to the trailhead can be accomplished by going back down the same route or by following the gravel access road which is used for servicing the antenna systems and fire tower at the top of the mountain.  We chose to follow the road on our return to the parking area.

Grand Highlands housing development near the Bearwallow Mountain Trailhead

Bear statue in the Grand Highlands development near the Bearwallow Mountain Trailhead

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Brother John’s Birthday

Billie and I joined my brother Jim and his wife Susan at the gathering for brother John’s 77th birthday.  John’s three children – Todd, Christy, and John Michael – and spouses Jessica and Darren were there, and John’s two granddaughters Reese and Emerson brought a smile to John’s face.

We had cake and ice cream and spent some time sharing stories as brothers will do.  The three brothers posed for a picture to commemorate the gathering.

Jim turned 75 on July 1, John is 77 as of July 31, and Tom will be 79 on November 8.

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Waterfalls in the DuPont State Recreational Forest

The Dupont State Recreational Forest near Hendersonville, NC offers a variety of hiking trails and access to four waterfalls – Bridal Veil Falls, Hooker Falls, High Falls, and Triple Falls.  We recently hiked the High Falls Loop trail which begins at the Visitor Center and leads to views of High Falls and Triple Falls along the Little River.

Moss growing at the base of a conifer in the DuPont State Forest

The trail is well-maintained and is an easy hike through the shaded forest, with lots of mosses and wildflowers for those interested in looking for them.

Indian Pipe growing in the DuPont State Forest

On this trip, we found Indian Pipe, a species we had not seen in many years.  Moving back to the mountains offers opportunities to find many Appalachian wildflowers we haven’t seen while living in the South Carolina Lowcountry.

High Falls in the DuPont State Forest

Triple Falls in the DuPont State Forest


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Hendersonville Street Dances

Billie and I went to the county seat (Hendersonville) for ice cream yesterday evening.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll the entire length of Old Town Main Street which was alive with people enjoying the music from the downtown stage and the classic cars parked in two or three blocks of the barricaded street.  This happens on summer Friday nights in H’ville, and the ice cream is always there.  What’s not to like?

Live street music and dancing are a hundred-year tradition at the Hendersonville Visitor Center.

The H’ville Street Dances began in 1918 when the town welcomed home its soldiers from WW I by dancing in the streets.

Classic cars are parked in two or three blocks of Main Street near the stage at the Visitor Center.

A Star Wars theme decorates this person’s favorite toy.

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Hiking with the Grands

We went on a number of hikes during the recent visit with our grandchildren.  Lyra and Freddie are real troopers, and we enjoyed being out and about with them and their parents.  We explored the Catawba Falls trail and the Cane Creek Greenway.

The Littler family with Nana along the Cane Creek Greenway trail.

Nana, Freddie, and Odie hiking the Cane Creek Greenway trail.

A lower portion of the Catawba Falls

Catawba Falls

This woodland flutist produced an eerie sound in the forest.

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Luna Moths

While walking with our grandchildren Lyra and Freddie we were privileged to find two luna moths along the Cane Creek Greenway Trail.  These moths are unusually large and quite beautiful, and the children were duly impressed that we were able to find them.

Found by Lyra and Freddie on the Cane Creek Greenway Trail, July 2021

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