Last April Hodgepodge

If you're looking for my final post for the A-Z Blogging Challenge, click HERE.

1. April showers bring May flowers or so the saying goes. Are you blooming where you're planted as we begin the month of May?
Are you kidding me?  It's almost the end of the school year (12 1/2 more school days!).

2. On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being no big deal, and 10 being full scale panic, rank your fear of spiders.
3.  I'm not fond of them, but I don't mind stepping in them/killing them if I need to.  I do admire the beauty of a spiderweb, long as I'm not walking through it.

3. May is National Salad Month (who knew???)...besides lettuce, what are two must-have ingredients in your favorite salad?
Mushrooms & cheese.

4. I mentioned on my blog last week that my Daughter1 will be moving to Washington State after she is married. Of the following sites in the Northwest, which would you most like to see in person-Crater Lake (Oregon), Seattle (Washington), Vancouver (British Columbia), San Juan Islands (Washington),  Mt. Rainer (Washington) Oregon Coast (Oregon), Mt. St. Helens (Washington), or Olympic National Park (Washington)
All of those sound wonderful!  I'd really like to go to Banff, especially after seeing CH's pictures from his trip to Alaska a few years ago.

5. This coming weekend marks the 140th running of the Kentucky Derby...when did you last race (literally or figuratively) to cross a finish line?
At the risk of sounding like a broken's the end of the school year.  I've been racing all year long!

6. What is something little you love?
My Ally-ba.  This sweetie is really showing her age, and is having trouble walking.  Her legs will just all of a sudden give out on her, and she'll be on her belly on the floor.

7. Would you say you are more of a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learner? Elaborate.
Definitely kinesthetic.  I learn best by doing.  Don't tell me or show me how to do something, walk me through it.

8.  Insert your own random thought here.
I made it through the A-Z Blog Challenge!  YAY!!!  It's been fun rediscovering places in the Great Smoky Mountains that I haven't thought about in a loooong time, and discovering new places to go.  
It's also the end of "Autism Awareness Month", and the beginning of "Better Hearing and Speech Month".  Oh, and the end of the school year is coming up (12 .5 more school days, but who's counting?).  


If you're looking for the Wednesday Hodgepodge, click HERE.

You may be wondering what in the world "Zodiac" has to do with the Great Smoky Mountains.  As I was looking over things for previous posts, I came across the fact that the farmers in the mountains used to use the zodiac and the phases of the moon to know when to plant their crops.
According to the National Park Service website, "each of the 12 astrological signs is associated with a part of the body and each day of the month is dominated by one of the signs."  For example:  Scorpio, Pisces, Taurus, and Cancer (signs associated with the neck, loins, feet, or breast) indicated that planting should occur.
I've heard that there are certain times when you should get your hair cut, and supposedly it works for cutting the lawn as well.  I know it sounds strange, but there are people out there who swear by it.

I can't believe how easy this challenge turned out to be!  Thank you for joining me on this journey to areas of "my mountains":  The Great Smoky Mountains National Park.    

The "Y"

Although many people think of this place as "The Y", it is actually "The Wye".  It is actually a "Y" in the road coming out of Townsend:  if you take the right arm, you go into Cades Cove, if you go left, you go toward Gatlinburg or Cherokee (and go through Newfound Gap).  
Just to the left of the road, you can see the river.  In the summer, it is covered with people enjoying the cold water on a hot summer day.  You can also see people tubing here.  Growing up, we were never allowed to swim there due to the undercurrent.  There have been several drownings at that particular spot in the river.
There is a parking lot, but during the summer it stays full. The picture below makes it look pretty peaceful and calm, but there are sections that can get a little "hairy", especially after we get some rain.

(For photo credit, click on picture)

The science teacher at one of my schools took this picture of the Wye partially frozen this winter, after we have several very cold days:
Photo: Frozen – Tarah Green - After my school's 5th grade trip to Tremont had been cancelled for the 2nd time due to different circumstances, another teacher and I drove to Tremont to re-reschedule. The river was amazing. On the way back, we stopped at the Wye, which was frozen all the way across. I thought it was simply amazing. The currents were frozen in time, at least for a little while

The  Y (or "Wye") is yet another place the locals go to cool off on hot summer days!

Weekend Wrap-Up

If you're looking for my A-Z Challenge Post, click HERE.
What an absolutely gorgeous weekend!  When I left school on Friday, this is all I took:

I wouldn't have even taken my iPad, but I need to make sure it's charged up for today.  This was the first weekend in I don't know how long that I've brought nothing home to work on.  This was a much needed weekend...a getaway weekend.  A CAMPING weekend!  Yep, the first camping weekend of Spring!
The Tn. Chapter of "TearJerkers & Tiny Trailers" had our Spring Campout, and it was in my favorite far.  CH had to go to a meeting out of town on Friday morning, and the campground was kind of on his way, so he took our camper down Thursday night and left it in the parking lot.  He had most of the campsite set up by the time I got there after work.  CH's brother and his wife joined us for the weekend, too.
It was cool enough Friday night that we turned on the heater, but Saturday night we slept with the windows open.  Talk about some great sleeping weather!  At one point Sat. night, CH's phone beeped, and I thought it was my alarm. It took me a few seconds to realize I wasn't in my house, I was sleeping so well.
Saturday was a lazy day of walking around and visiting, and napping.  My BIL got out his "quad copter" (I think that's what it's called).  It's really cool:  he can fly it, and it has a go-pro (or something like it) attached to it so he can take videos and pictures from it.  He also has a mount on the controller so he can attach his phone to it and see what's being filmed.
My BIL made a "Low Country Boil" for Saturday's lunch:  shrimp, sausage, potatoes, onions, and corn on the cob.  OOO-EEEE it was good!  For breakfast that day, we CH fixed french toast and sausage; on Sunday he fixed sausage, scrambled eggs, and cinnamon rolls (in the dutch oven).  Saturday night was our pot-luck, and, as always, there was way more food that people!
Here are some pictures of our campsite:

My "Niece-Dog" found a way to be inside their camper and still keep an eye on them!
I don't care what side of the fence you're on, what this couple put on their teardrop is funny!
(Just in case you can't read it:  Our new home Tks Obama!)
Laika had plenty of romps in the water and proclaimed the weekend a complete success:

X-tra information

If you're looking for the Weekend Wrap-Up, click HERE.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited National Park with approximately 9 million visitors per year.  The Grand Canyon is the 2nd most visited, with approximately 4.4 million visitors.

(The following facts are from

There are 384 miles of road in the Park.

800 miles of hiking trails can be found in the Park.

1600 different species of flowering plants make their home here.

GSMNP is an International Biosphere Reserve, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In addition, there is no admission charge to the Park.  There is also no cell service available.  A few years ago, there was a survey conducted regarding cell service.  The people emphatically said that the Park should remain as cell service!

There is a memorial on the Newfound Gap Road called "Rockefeller Memorial".  It was on this spot that Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1940.

The "Road to Nowhere" is an unfinished road that begins in Swain Co., NC.  The road was to be built to connect  Bryson City with Fontana.  The making of Fontana Lake put the main highway under water.  The government promised to build another highway, but the building of the road stopped 6 miles into the Park, stopping at a tunnel.  There was an "environmental issue", which eventually was resolved, but the road was never finished.  To this day, the Park Service ferry family members across the lake in the summer so they can visit family cemeteries.  In 2010, it was determined that the road will not be built, and the citizens of Swain Co. were granted $52 million.

Wears Valley

 Wears Valley is another little community just outside of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  There's not much there...just some little tourist shops and some rental cabins.  If you like to get away and not be around the hustle and bustle, then this is the place for you!  If I were to describe it to you, it would sound similar to Townsend...except there's a lot more going on in Townsend!
Wears Valley is in Sevier County (home to Dolly Parton, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, and Pigeon Forge), while Townsend is in Blount County.  To get to Wears Valley, you can turn left at the stoplight in Townsend, or take 321 out of Pigeon Forge.  This is a place you definitely have to look for...and know it's there.
Townsend has its festivals, and Wears Valley has just one:  Octoberfest. Now that I know about this, I'm definitely going to look into it this October!  
Wears Valley is convenient to the GSMNP, Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, and Townsend, and is the ideal place for people to go to so that they can relax after a day of being a tourist!
The following are pictures taken from our cabin during our "Sisters' Weekend" in September of 2013.  The cabin was on the top of a mountain overlooking Wears Valley.

This picture was taken on Saturday morning.  The fog settling in the valley was absolutely gorgeous!

Challenging Friday Frags

If you're looking for my "V" post in the A-Z Blogging Challenge, click HERE.

Half-Past Kissin' Time
~  First things first:  Mrs. 4444 is having a giveaway in honor of her birthday!  I'm not going to divulge her age, but know that she's 1 year younger than I!  If you don't already follow her, head over to see her!  She is a HOOT!!!

~  Did anybody catch "Black Box" last night on ABC?  I don't know where creators are getting ideas for some of these shows.  It was really strange, but I couldn't stop watching!

~Another show I got caught up in last weekend is "Orphan Black" on BBC America.  This one has to do with cloning.

~  YS earned quite the honor last night.  He beat the "Blazing Challenge" at Buffalo Wild Wings:  He ate 12 blazing wings in 5 minutes and 31 seconds.  His prize?  A t-shirt and a picture on the wall.  I have a feeling he's going to be taking several trips to the bathroom today!
~  Yesterday at one of my schools, students who beat the reading challenge got to take some turns on a climbing wall.  It was a beautiful day for it!  It reeked a bit of havoc on my schedule, but I was able to do quite a bit of paperwork and just breathe!
 ~  Wednesday was Special Olympics.  The olympians were met in the hall by every student in the school.  It was so sweet to see how excited they were!
~  OS' Picture of the Week:
This picture was taken a week ago:
My grand-dog:
Have a great weekend!


 If you're looking for Friday Fragments, click HERE.
There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.  Friends of the Smokies provides different ways to volunteer.  Tn. & NC both have license plates.  In NC, $20 of the $30 for each plate is donated for improvements in the NC side of the Park, while in Tn., $30.75 out of the $35 is donated for the GSMP.  As an added bonus, when you let the organization know that you have the plate, they will give you a free year of membership.  
Friends of the Smokies also organizes trail maintenance, as well as office or special event volunteers.  They also have "adopt a campsite" and "adopt a trail" programs.  They even have the need for volunteers to help search for new species. 
The "Volunteers in Parks" is directly affiliated with the National Park.  Some of the opportunities available are in conjunction with Friends of the Smokies.  For a complete list, click here.  
In addition to the "VIP" program, the Park also has a Student Intern program, Scout Rangers (for boy scouts & girl scouts), and a Student Conservation Association.
Since there is no charge for admission to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, it is truly the people's park.  The people are allowed to take ownership of it by taking care of the upkeep.

Under Seige

The Hemlock trees in the Great Smoky Mountains are under siege by Hemlock Woolly Adelgids.  Also, the fir & spruce trees are also being attacked by Balsam Woolly Adelgids.  
Every 6 months-1 year, the trees are sprayed in an attempt to get these bugs under control.  In 2002, the Park began releasing beetles as a means of controlling the outbreak of the Hemlock variety. estimates that approximately 70% of the fir trees in the Park have been killed by the Balsam variety.  The hope is that a fir tree that is susceptible to the adelgid will be found to replenish what has been lost.

Back to Hodgepodgin'

If you're looking for the "T" in the A-Z Challenge, click HERE

After a week off, it's time to get back into the swing of the Hodgepodge!  

1. April 22nd is Earth Day. Are you inspired by nature? In what way?
From time to time, I'll post pictures of my drive in to my mountain school.  The drive is just amazing, and every time I get to drive there, I have to say a little prayer of thanks to God for making that view.

2. Down to earth, four corners of the earth, move heaven and earth, not have an earthly chance, or salt of the earth...which earthly idiom have you most recently encountered? Explain.
Not have an earthly chance.  It has to do with work, so I can't elaborate!

3. Share one piece of advice you might give a newly engaged couple.
Keep the communication lines open.  Don't assume that he knows what you expect, even with picking up his clothes or taking out the trash.  Guys don't notice those things.

4. When did you last engage someone to perform a job, task, service, home repair, or improvement? On a scale of 1-10 (ten being the best) how would you rate their work and/or your satisfaction with the job or service provided?
We finally got someone out to mow our grass yesterday.  It was exceptionally high, and for some reason the guy who usually does it wasn't answering our calls or texts.  It was so high that I couldn't see Ally (my schnauzer) when she was out doing her business.  The guy did a good job, and the best part was that he didn't charge us any more than the other guy had.

5. When did you last find yourself engaged in small talk? Are you awkward or an expert or somewhere in between?
I have to engage in small talk quite a bit.  Between parents and teachers, it's a continuous thing.  I guess I'm okay at it.

6.  What was the last historic place you visited?
St. Augustine.  CH & I took a little side trip on the way back from The Keys over Christmas Break.  It would have been great if it hadn't been so cold...and if some kids hadn't stolen our cooler that we really, really liked.  And, apparently those coolers aren't being made anymore.

7. The world would be a better place if we just__________________________.
Could all get along.  (I wonder just how many people are going to say that??)

8.  Insert your own random thought here.
I have to include a couple of pictures from OS.  Aw, what the heck!  Here are some pictures that he posted from the last couple of weeks:


If you're looking for the Hodgepodge, click here.

(For photo credit, click on the picture)
The official name of Tremont is "Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont".  Its website describes itself as "...a nonprofit residential environmental education center that provides in-depth experiences through education programs that celebrate ecological and cultural diversity, foster stewardship, and nurture appreciation for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park".  
My 5th grade class spent a few days/nights there way back when.  One of my sisters said that when she went, one of her teachers loved it so much that he quit his job as a teacher and went to work at Tremont. 
It's an exciting trip for the kids:  they stay in the dorm, go in informational hikes, and have meals in the cafeteria.  The staff has several different options for the teacher to choose from, so that their stay is tailored just for them.
But, Tremont isn't just for kids.  They have programs for all ages, as well as programs for homeschoolers.  They have hiking adventures, workshops, and special events throughout the year.  They have summer camps (with scholarships available) for all ages.  There's even a "Teacher Escape Weekend".
They have an extremely dedicated staff.  This year, the 5th graders at one of my schools were scheduled to go on their Tremont trip, but the government shut-down kept them from going.  The staff felt so bad about it, that some of them came to the school (it's not that far away from Tremont) and did some lessons with them for 1/2 of a day.  They did this on their own, knowing they weren't going to get any kind of reimbursement.  It brought tears to my eyes.
The 2nd time this group was scheduled to go, there was a snowday, so they didn't get to go.  3rd time's a charm, so they finally got to go.  Here is our science teacher's tshirt:
(For photo credit, click on the picture)
The clip below will give you an idea of what the campus looks like:

Synchronous Fireflies

This is a phenomenon that I haven't taken the time to see.  This has become a huge event over the past few years in the Great Smoky Mountains.  In order to see the fireflies synchronize their flashing (part of their mating ritual), you have to park at the Sugarlands Visitor Center and take a shuttle to Elkmont.  You also need to have a reservation, or you won't get in the parking lot.  The tricky part of the event is that there is only a rough estimate of when this will happen.  There is a 2-week window, usually the 1st 2 weeks of June, when you can see it.  And, just because they start doesn't mean you're going to be able to see it.  Temperature, the moon phase, and rain can hamper how well they can be seen.
There are only 2 places in the world you can see this:  In the Smoky Mountains, and in Asia.  When you watch the video, you will see the males flashing first, then the females.  The fireflies die after mating.

Rich Mountain

Rich Mountain Road begins in Cades Cove.  It is a one-way, dirt road up the mountain, but the views are gorgeous; especially in the Spring.  You can see all over the Cove during the drive.  
Views of Cades Cove:

A small waterfall seen on the drive up the mountain:

Rich Mountain Road comes out just above Townsend.  Just after you get onto the paved road, you will see this chimney covered in vines: 
Rich Mountain Road isn't a very well-traveled road, but, if you're not interested in going around Loop Road, it is a nice alternative.

Quaint Town

Townsend is a quaint little town at the entrance of the Smoky Mountains.  It's nickname is "The Peaceful Side of the Smokies" (TM).  This is a town that has managed to escape all of the commercialism of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, and has stayed true to itself.  While it is still "touristy", you won't find many "chain"-anything here. There is an IGA Supermarket, Dollar General, and Subway, but just about everything else is a "mom & pop" kind of place.  In the summer, you can see tubers floating down the river alongside Townsend.  There are a few hotels, as well as a few campgrounds.  
From Maryville, Tn., you take Hwy 321.  The 4 lane highway turns into a 2-lane, then, once into the "city" limits, it turns back into a 4 lane.  As you come out of Townsend to go into the Park, the road turns back into a 2 lane.  There is 1 stoplight in Townsend; turn left and you go through Wears Valley to get to Pigeon Forge.  Also, if you turn left at the light, taking a right onto Lyon Springs Road will take you right to Metcalf Bottoms.  
The Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center finds its home in Townsend.  Here you can learn about the history of the Great Smoky Mountains.  From time to time, they have live demonstrations so that visitors can see what life was like in the area.    Some weekends, there will be bluegrass bands entertaining visitors.
The Visitors Center hosts "Old Timers Days" in the Spring and Fall.  Get a taste of the mountain culture through arts & crafts, cloggers, demonstrations, as well as story-tellers.  
There is fishing, horseback riding, tubing, biking, hiking, and golfing in the area.  If you want to explore a cave, Tuckaleechee Caverns is in Townsend.
To learn more about Tuckaleechee Caverns, click on the picture above.

Little River Railroad Museum  is open June-November.
Townsend is one of my favorite places in the area.  If you're looking for someplace "peaceful" to stay, then Townsend would be your place!
Townsend TN in the Smoky Mountains

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