Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Dominos and No Llamas

Monday July 23 & Tuesday July 24, 2018                                                     Most Recent Posts:
Great Smoky Mountain National Park                                                           Other Not So Pleasant News
Tennessee                                                                                                    Late Breaking NEWS!

As you know from my last post, David was in the hospital for 10 days and finally was released on Sunday. He is extremely weak and disoriented.  I haven’t been doing much at all since coming back to Virginia other than trying to get rid of my bronchitus, being at the hospital all day and now trying to keep on top of the PT and medications he is supposed to be taking.  So far he is sleeping most of the day when he’s not eating and simply doesn’t have the energy for the respiratory exercises and walking they want him to do. 

While he naps, in an attempt to have at least something in my records of all the absolutely wonderful hikes I took in the amazing Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I’m going to try to continue posting about them.  It brings happy memories into my life.

On Monday I foolishly suggested to Nancy and Bill that we play dominoes.   Of course, Bill won again and I lost again.  Oh well, it was fun just playing and laughing about it.

Notice the sly smile and thumbs up as he sits in front of one domino getting ready to play it.


Let’s see if I can add that high.


Map to trail headOn Tuesday it took me nearly an hour to go just over 20 miles to the Trillium Gap Trailhead for a hike to Grotto Falls and beyond.  I drove through the park to miss going through Gatlinburg.  

The trailhead is on the very popular Roaring Fork Motor Auto Trail which makes a circle through the former community of Roaring Fork and at the end goes by a large rock called The Place of 1000 Drips.  There are stops all along the way.  I did not stop on the Motor Trail either coming or going.  I was focused on my goal of seeing Grotto Falls before it was inundated with people..

Even with the drive, I was on the trail by 7:30 am.  Again the trail was rocky and rooty with several smaller falls along the way.




The Trillium Gap Trail to Grotto Falls is one of five trails which climb to Mt Le Conte.  The shortest, at 5.5 miles, is the Alum Cave Trail about which I have previously posted.  To take the Trillium Gap Trail to Mt Le Conte is less steep but 6.8 miles.

The large boulders on the trail obscure it from view until I’ve nearly reached it.

Grotto Falls is the only fallsin the park that you can walk behind and if you are lucky, which I was not, you might see the llama train walking behind the falls on its way to or from delivering supplies to the Mt Le Conte Lodge.

In this photo you can see the path that runs under the rock and behind the falls.  Imagine a llama train walking behind there.  The trail continues on up the mountain from here.

I was actually happy some other folks arrived since I wasn’t able to get  pictures like these with my camera without a second person to do it.



This picture is looking out from behind the falls.  It is just so cool to be able to be here both literally and figuratively.


This picture is taken from the other side just before I finally move on up the trail


One last look including the log jam at the top of the falls.  Here is a video that gives a better sense of being here.

Beyond the falls the trail is less well traveled.  

Some of today’s beautiful fungi.



As I wind around and around up the mountain I enjoy wonderful rock faces.

After I cross this stream I spot some scat that someone else hasn’t been so careful about.  I wonder if it came from the llamas?  Not sure who else it could be given its shape.



Some of the large boulders are covered with Rock Tripe.


If you’ve ever hiked in the Appalachians, I’m sure you’ve seen it.


I know that it is edible but have never tried it until today.  As you can imagine, it would be less tough cooked but I’d have to be pretty hungry and without food to eat more than one.


From here I can turn onto Brushy Mountain Trail or continue on the   Trillium Gap Trail 3.6 miles to Mt. LeConte.  The Trillium Gap Trail comes from the exact opposite direction from the Alum Cave Trail.  I really wish I could have gotten reservations to stay at the lodge since I have done now two of the trails that ultimately go there..   Instead I head up to look out at the views from Brushy Mountain.


It’s pretty clear that this is not a heavily traveled trail.  It’s also clear that it is a running stream in the rain.

It gets narrower and narrower as I go and all of the side greenery is still dripping with water.

It widens at points and the pictures do not do justice to the green of the moss covered banks as it winds in and out of rhododendron “hells”.


The trail is also getting wetter and muddier as I go.


Getting seriously muddy with no way to avoid walking in it.

I’m still climbing up to the point when I get my first views.  I’m hoping the clouds are lifting.


But when I see the path that goes the last stretch to the top, it’s just too narrow and too muddy to continue so at this point I turn around.  I need a nicer and dryer day to do this trail to the top.


As I head back, it’s cleared a little bit but I still can’t see the rolling ranges of mountains in the distance.  The skies are completely white.

The further I go, the more the clouds roll in to cover the mountains.   Here they are live in this video.


On the way back I notice along the edge of the trail, red berries or buds that I didn’t see on the way up.  Not sure what they are but apparently they don’t mind having wet feet.


They are quite profuse.  Could they be members of the heath family?


One last picture from the Brushy Mountain Trail as I enter the Rhododendron tunnel


When I return to Grotto Falls it is 11:30 and the crowds have arrived.  So glad I was here at 8:15 this morning.


Going back down the trail from the falls to the car felt like being in a line in Disney World at one of their most popular rides during the holiday season.


I would definitely do this hike again with two changes.  I’d have an over night reservation at Le Conte Lodge and I’d try to find out when the llama train heads up the mountain.

Thanks to gettyimages of the Charlotte Observer for this picture of what I didn’t see for myself
– this time.


Other Not So Pleasant News

Friday September 14, 2018
Charlottesville Virginia

I mentioned in my last happy post that both David and I had colds which were keeping us from visiting our new grandson. 

Since he was not feeling well with the cold, we left the Great Smoky Mountains early and moved to Charlottesville on Tuesday August 29.  He was at the doctor the next day,  They did some tests and put him on antibiotics.  When things had only gotten worse in the next week and I could not keep his fever down without giving him 1000 mg of tylenol every 6 hours, I took him to the ER and he was admitted to the hospital with  pneumonia on Thursday September 6.  They put him on a wider spectrum antibiotic and on oxygen as his O2 count was low upon admission. 

It has been up and down since then.  They have done all sorts of tests, cultures and procedures in an attempt to see if there are other agents at work here and have come up with nothing but the rhino virus.   This past Monday they did a bronchoscopy which seemed to go well until a couple hours after the procedure when his temperature spiked to 104, his respiration dropped precipitously, his BP shot up as did his heart rate.   He was on the edge of ICU admission but they managed to stabalize him.  VERY scary.

It has taken 3 days to recover from that but this past 24 hours he has had no fever which is a very good thing.   Still he remains in the hospital until he can breathe on his own, is strong enough to climb 5 steps. and continues with no fevers.



The pictures are telling.

Feeling well enough to insist on having his head shaved to get rid of the Einstein look and to smile about it.  Tylenol must have been keeping his fever must have been normal at this point


Six days later, the day of the bronchoscopy


Through it all, the one thing that never faultered was his appetite.  No matter how badly he felt, he was able and anxious to eat.  Such a good thing since it has helped him to weather yet another storm.

This picture was taken yesterday.   He’s looking and feeling much better and this morning had gone for 24 hours with no fever for the first time in nearly three weeks.

We’re hopeful that this is the start of the recovery that will lead to his discharge.

We want to advise you to be grateful every minute for your good health and to get a full physical at least once a year.  Things can change over night as they did for us.  David was the healthiest person we knew until that surprise day in January of 2012.

Late Breaking NEWS!

September 1, 2018
Severn, Maryland

We interrupt this lengthy blog series on the Great Smoky Mountains to announce the birth

at 9:42am on September 1st of Colin Harrison Iwanowski, brother to Celia Claire,  son of  Matthew and Carrie and our new grandson. 

We managed to get to Virginia in time for this but both of us have had horrendous colds since returning, guess that’s a hint, and haven’t been able to visit this precious baby.

But as soon as we are confident we will bring the family no germs we’ll be going to meet this sweetheart in person.


They are home now and all are fine and adjusting to this  new four person family.

They got outside for a family portrait.   It’s the wind blown hair look.

9_7_2018 New Family windblown hair

Welcome to the world Colin, we  couldn’t LOVE you more!!
I think your big sister loves you too.