Winter Walk: Stonybrook Park

I know I have written about Stonybrook before, since it is our closest gorge park. For more see posts: Here Comes the Sun!: Stony Brook Park and Kira’s first outing.

This winter we were able to share this wonderful place with my parents. While my parents were here we had settled in, caught up,  eaten many yummy cookies and great meals, and we were ready to walk some of it off. So we took my parents to Stonybrook.

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Because of our mild December, we were able to enjoy a winter walk without any rain or snow and mild weather walking down the gorge trail.

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We also had the chance to try out one of Kira’s Christmas presents: a fleece camo vest my mom made her for the winter and hunting months.

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Again we did not make it through the whole trail (still a goal of mine) but we made it further down the path then we had before and boy was it worth it!

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In spite of the dry day we had enough rain and snow recently to still have beautiful falls to discover.

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It was the perfect winter walk and picture spot. Afterwards we came home and enjoyed hot coco by the lit fireplace.

What type of outdoor winter activities do you enjoy?

Backlog: Summer Vacation: Smokey Mountains day 2

On Thursday of our vacation we had many options to choose from. We wanted an outdoor activity to explore the area but were not sure which to choose: kayaking, ziplinging, horseback riding.

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Well, because of constant concern with thunderstorms we decided to not go kayaking. And although zip-lineing would have been a new fun adventure for both of us, we were having a hard time choosing a company from all of the reviews.

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Instead, we decided to go horseback riding at walden creek stables, a fully functioning dude ranch which provides wagon rides, and weekly rodeo dinner shows in the summer.

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We signed up for the 2 hour trip and were lucky to have a tour to ourselves. We were given a very knowledgeable guide who had been riding horses since he was very young. We enjoyed hearing his many  experiences in the rodeo, riding the trails, and working as a stunt double for shows including as chuck norris stunt double in walker texas ranger. It has been a long time since I had been on a horse and this was not a pony slow ride. We worked are way up the hill into the smokey mountains over rocky terrain and to a beautiful outlook where we took a break for the horses.

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Then as we came back down we rode along a creek through a dense forest of more rohdi’s and pine trees. It was at first a little difficult but by the end I was grateful for the challenge and experience. (We didn’t take our camera and just enjoyed the experience for ourselves so pictures are from hikes later in the day).

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After this, we decided to return to the smokey mountain park for a few more trails and driving. We started out once again driving out to Cades cove but this time we stopped along the drive to take in a few waterfalls. Then at the end we decided to do one more last hike before leaving.

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The hike itself was again beautiful as this time you had clear views of the foggy mountains on one side all of the way to the falls. You could hear the falls before you got to them and they were beautiful, even though it was crowded.

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We returned back into town, got dinner and prepped for our next full day . . . at Dollywood.

August backlog: Summer Vacation: The Great Smokey Mountains

Tuesday night we settled into our hotel right next to Dolly’s Dixie Stampede and try to adjust to the Vegas-like touristy area we found ourselves in. (I think I could have prepared Luke a little better for what this would be like).

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We decided to start our adventure by exploring the Great Smokey Mountains. We drove through Gatlinburg and into the national park. As we got out of town and into the park the temperature dropped with the dense forest. We took a few minutes at the sugar land information center to orient ourselves with the park and get maps.

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Then we took a windy road all the way across the park to the observation site. The road up was beautiful even though windy as we climbed in elevation and began to discover why it’s really called “The smokey mountains” covered in fog.

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We got out of our cars in the very cold and foggy weather and climbed the path to the observation tower. From the observation tower we could see . . .nothing-some pine trees and fog. If it was a clear day then we would have seen into several states and most of the park.

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No matter what it was worth it to be at the highest point of the park and say we had been “on the top of old smokey”. As we drove back down we stopped at several view points to take in the mountain sides and beautiful wild flowers.

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We rerouted past the sugar land center and drove to Grotto falls. Again, a windy road uphill this time with limited and difficult parking. This hike was just as much if not more fun on the way as it was at the final destination. The hike took us through a dense old rhododendron forest and required working around several streams and rocks in the clay mud. The air was dense, musty and humid but cool. It was so densely green yet the ground was still sticky with mud.

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When we got to the falls we could see several people swimming in the pool beneath it and others enjoying walking behind the falls into the cave enjoying the change to cool off. We dipped our feet in to clean off the mud the preceded back down the trail only to get covered in more mud.

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After making our way down the windy path we decided to drive out to Cades Cove before sunset. Everything we read said to tour this part of the park at dawn or dusk when animals are most apt to be out. The drive to Cades Cove is long but again beautiful as you loop across and around waterfalls and rivers.

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We reached the cove right around dusk and drove the loop slowly taking in the wildflowers, tall grass, and sunset over the hills. Codes cove is also well known for many old settlers buildings which can be toured everything from mills, to farms, to churches, and schools.

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Many of these are right along the main road side and we could see from our car. We had hoped to see some elk, and if we were lucky a black bear but only encountered wild turkey, a coyote or two, and some deer.

Flashback: Botanical Gardens

Yes, I am still writing posts at the end of April to catch up to March but this is the last one, I promise. During our mini spring-break trip to Buffalo we also went to the Buffalo Botanical Gardens.

logo Luke at first seemed uneasy about going until I explained to him that it was a giant greenhouse; almost completely inside. Then he was all for it.

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The wind was blowing hard as we went to the main entrance. Once we got inside we were able to take off our jackets and breath deep the fragrant air of many plants and trees inside the greenhouses.

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The Botanical Gardens has many different rooms each focused on different types of plants and their locations. We first stepped into the tall atrium called the Palm Dome. It was the first time Luke had seen palm trees since leaving California.

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Then we went through the fern collection (we see plenty of those where we live) and onto the topiaries and coy pond. Here all topiaries are shaped to look like dinosaurs.

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We went over the pond bridge and found a great place to sit and drink our coffee while watching the waterfall covered in purple flowers and moss.

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After sitting for a while we move onto the much warmer dessert room filled with cacti and succulents. Although I am much more familiar with these plants ( my dad/brother had a cactus garden in my backyard growing up) I was impressed to the variety they had in their garden.

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We probably spent the most time in the next room which housed several plant collections including the largest ivy collection in the world, a substantial bonsai collection and medicinal herbs/plants. Luke enjoyed the boxed-in exhibit of carnivorous plants as well.

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The next room: Archangel Room housed the brightest of spring flowers: roses, tulips, sweet broom and more. Here they had a water fountain in view of a ivy wrapped sitting bench, and a table to play checkers at. The room was decorated for spring including kites flying above and plastic easter eggs strung across the room.

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As we continued to wind around we saw one of my favorite new editions to the gardens: an orchid house. After that room we thought we were almost done exploring; surprised by  how detailed each room was.

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But we still had yet to pass through house 10 where they hold indoor events/weddings, their Panama cloud forest, and Florida Everglades.

By the time we were done exploring the gardens we had finished our coffee, warmed up from the cold wind, and relaxed taking in the peaceful gardens.

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To learn more about the Buffalo Botanical Gardens click on the link below:http://www.buffalogardens.com/pages/our-gardens

Our First Camping Trip: Part two

For the first part of our camping trip please see: our first camping trip: part one

Sunday was had set aside to be my birthday outing day. The campsite became quiet as the local campers packed up for check out at 11am. We both took the morning slowly and took quiet showers. I had the bathroom all to myself, which on top of the fact that the shower was decently clean and had hot running water is a luxury in the camping world.

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We prepped for a day in-town then drove back into Ithaca. Starting our outdoors in-town visit we parked at the Mulholland Wildflower preserve aka Six Mile Creek gorge then walked across the street and down a small hill to the base of a beautiful waterfall known as Businessman’s Lunch. Here many people had already set up blankets on the large smooth rocks in the middle of the creek for sunbathing, picnic lunches, or for reading.

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College students and local couples alike enjoyed dipping their feet in the water and taking in the sun. Luke and I picked a large rock to share and joined them laying back and taking a mini nap in the sun to the sound of the waterfall. By lunch time the spot was getting busy with college students bringing their lunches and books so we decided it was time to move on.

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We walked back to the car where we had a snack lunch then took off on the Mulholland/Six Mile Creek trail along the water way that flows down the falls down the street. It was a beautiful walk through wooded trees and along rolling waters, we passed many people exercising, walking their dogs, and more college students hiking up from the bottom of the trail towards the waterfall with coolers in hand.

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After this we drove up to the Cornell campus. All this time we have lived an hour away from an Ivy-leauge school and have not even by car toured the campus. When I discovered they had Cornell Plantations: a botanical garden, and arboretum open to the public I decided we had a good excuse to check out the campus.

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We arrived at their botanical garden welcome center and were surprised to discover that the Cornell campus actually was placed right in-between two gorges/river that ran through campus. These gorges parallel each other; one Fall Creek Gorge flows through the top of campus to a Tripplehammer falls before flowing into Bebe Lake at North Campus to past the Arboretum and Garden. The other Cascadilla Gorge runs on the South end of Campus closest to the City of Ithaca and was closed for reconstruction being done this summer by Cornell students.

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The botanical gardens were beautiful; although not as expansive as I am used to in SoCal they had well-labled areas for herbs, ground coverings, winter plants, etc. After wandering the gardens at the hottest and most humid part of  the day we decided to climb up the hill past their vegetable garden to their food sciences center. Why did we go to a science building? It is well know for Cornell’s Dairy Bar. A modern sculpture of a glass milk jar marks the entrance to the campsus’ dairy/creamery.

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We entered the lowest level and turned the corner to find the dairy bar, here locals and students alike can by pudding, yogurt, cheese and ice cream made by Cornell students as part of their food sciences and creamery. I got a scoop of Bavarian Raspberry: Bavarian cream ice cream with dark chocolate chunks and raspberry swirl. Luke got a waffle cone with mint chip and kahlua. We sat enjoying our sweet (early b-day) treat in a air conditioned room decorated in red, black, and white with cow spots.

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We then got back to our car and drove up to the Arboretum. From the car we enjoyed a tour of the grounds including their crabtrees, wildflower garden, past their ponds with lily pads and geese and back out onto the main road. We drove back down past campus and got a car view of  Triphamer Falls on our way back into town.

Ready for an early dinner, we drove to a  Thai restaurant called Tamarind.  For my early bday dinner we enjoyed red curry with chicken and spicy beef with crispy noodles. To top off the best Thai food we’ve had here in New York we got amazing (non-powerederd) Thai teas! The perfect end to my second in a row b-day outing in Ithaca.

 

Our First Camping Trip: part one

Although Luke and I have been together for more than 3 years we have never been camping just the two of us. So this summer we are staying local and enjoying some of the amazing sites here in upstate New York.

Luke took off work June 20th-June 24th and we reserved a camping spot at Tauhannock Falls State Park outside of Ithaca. After several trips to Walmart for supplies, we packed up and left after Luke got off work on June 19th. We found our site, ate dinner and set up camp just before it got dark then enjoyed some hot cocoa and looking at the stars.

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Saturday we enjoyed coffee from the percolator and decided what our day of  exploring would look like. With more coffee in to-go cups, we started the morning with a drive up the West side of Cayuga lake, it was a beautiful day as we passed by small towns wineries, cideries, and farms. We picked up some free firewood along the roadside then made a plan to head back down towards Ithaca to explore Alan Tremen State Park.

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By having a campsite at one of the state parks entrance into the other parks for the duration of camping was free. I’d looked into the local waterfalls and gorges we had yet to explore in the area and found Alan Tremen State Park. When we arrived we parked the car and explored the welcome center and historic Old Mill.  Because of the waterways in the 1800’s a large Mill was made here using the water to power to mill’s grinders for production of flour and buckwheat. Luke and I enjoyed exploring the three story workings of this old mill with a back porch view to a beautiful waterfall. We set up a snack lunch along the water in prep for our hike along the gorge trail.

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We got a small way down the gorge trail path before realizing that it was going to dead-end because of repairs and construction. We decided instead to take the North rim trail to where we could see an outlook over Lucifer Falls; although it was not a clear shot it gave us a better ideas of the gorge trail. We walked back to the car deciding this was definitely a place to return to once repairs were done.

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our glimpse of Lucifer Falls

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We then drove back up to Tauhannock State Park and up the hill to a outlook for the Tauhannock Falls. This gave us a almost bird-eye view of the tremendous thundering falls. It is here the the north rim trail of the fall gorge area ends.

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Afterwards we drove back to our campsite to regroup then walked down to the trail for the Tauhannock Falls gorge. Unlike most of the gorge trails in the area this one stays open year round; the pathway is wide and flat so people were bringing strollers and wheelchairs down the path easily. Many people wore swimsuits stopped somewhere along the trail to dip their feet (or more) into the river as we headed upstream towards the falls.

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At the end of the path you turn a corner and there is Tauhannock Falls; crossing a bridge over the roaring river you come to a picture/spot and standing area. The falls are so large that you don’t have to get too close to the edge of the viewing area to get covered in a rain like mist. Fortunately we came near the end of the day so taking picture without mass amounts of people was easy.

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After the walk back to the campsite we were ready to settle in for the night. We finished off our first full day of camping with some pre-made shrimp pasta, games of cribbage, and a campfire with s’mores for dessert.

Stayed tuned for Part Two of our Camping trip

Playing tourist with the Grandparents

It’s always fun when family come in from out of town; we love to play tourists and being hosts.  The season they come during and their personal interests determine which types of activities and locations we get to share with them.

This past week my grandparents (dad’s parents) came into town for a visit on their month long travels. They started from their home in California in their camper-van and are on their way up to Maine and back again. The last time I’d seen them was at my brother’s wedding last August (see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/snapshots-halvorson-wedding-behind-the-scenes/)

So I was thrilled to get some time with them.

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My husband took off work on Friday so we were ready for them when they rolled into town that afternoon. We took them downtown Market street on a walk after some much needed catching up. While downtown, we stopped in the Crystal City olive oil store. My grandpa took samples of everything and enjoyed talking to the store workers since we had the place to ourselves. Luke and I bought a bottle of lemon basil white vinaigrette we thought would go well on both salads and for marinades and my grandmother picked up some very early christmas gifts for a few friends.

For more on Corning’s Market Street see:https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/02/22/my-new-hometown/

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We came back to our little rented house and made them our traditional Greene pizza with a twist. Instead of the usual ingredients we used artichoke hearts, olives, crushed fresh garlic, grape tomatoes, onions, and spinach with an Alfredo base instead of tomato. And for meat? Chicken breast pan fried in olive oil and oregano. It was extremely delicious and a great experimental sucess.

For more on our homemade pizza see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/02/05/pizza-a-la-greene/

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The next day we took the grandparents on a hiking/nature tour. We stopped by their beautiful campsite with my homemade quiche and fruit for a picnic lunch (see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/03/26/a-good-spring-quiche/)

Then we took off in our car to Walkins Glen to hike the Gorge Trail. Although the parking lot was crowded the trail was not too busy and my grandparents had not problems keeping up on the incline of stairs (which is pretty great since my grandfather turned 80 this year!) It is just as beautiful as last year when we first discovered this amazingly breathtaking view.

For more on Walkins Glen state park see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/walkins-glen-state-parkgorge-ous/

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Next we drove up to Ithaca passing by one of the finger lakes (Seneca) on our way to the base of the other (Cayuga) through beautiful country. We stopped by the Ithaca Farmer’s Market where we split off: grandpa and Luke sampling cheese and other foods and Grandma and I tasting local ciders and wines.

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We left with some local maple syrup and hard cider and headed to another state park: Buttermilk Falls. We chose not to conquer two gorge trails in one day but instead enjoyed the view from the picnic tables at the base of the falls.

For more on the Farmer’s Market and Buttermilk falls see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/06/27/an-ithaca-birthday-adventure/

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We drove back towards Corning a different route to show more of the country-side then ended up in Horseheads for dinner and dessert. We took my grandparents to our favorite little mom-and-pop sushi place where we enjoyed our delicious sashimi, miso soup, and traditional rolls while my grandparents enjoyed yakisoba  (although they did try a shrimp, avocado, and egg roll). And for dessert? We went to sweetfrog; the local frozen yogurt joint where we could all get a variety of topping and flavors for our unique personalities.

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On Sunday after church we went to lunch at one of my favorite spots: Walker Cake Co.: Barn Owl Cafe where we got breakfast for lunch: breakfast burritos, gluten-free breakfast sandwiches, and traditional two egg breakfasts all with coffee.

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After a hearty brunch we took our grandparents to the Corning glass museum (how could we not?). They were concerned that we would be bored since this was our fourth or fifth time in the museum. We assured them that we weren’t; the contemporary art exhibit had completely been changed out; the demos were being done by new people which always means different information, each live glassblowing creates new and unique items, and the main art display always has a changing/rotating exhibit.

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So although we had taken my parents  at christmas we were far from bored. We also did a very early christmas gift ; the grandparents made a sculpture at the art-glass studio. Much like what we did from my parents; grandma chose the colors and grandpa made the sculpture. Since they are traveling they chose to have it shipped to my parents place where they will end their travels.

For more on the glass museum see:https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/12/28/a-corning-christmas-present/

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After a long tour day at the museum we headed back to our house for another Greene dinner: fish tacos. My grandfather tries every fish taco place in California when he has the chance and gave ours a thumbs up for approval

For more on our fish tacos see: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/greenes-tilapia-fish-tacos/

We finished our last night together enjoying the thundering rain storm on our porch while eating some of my homemade popsicles.

See some of them at: https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/tropical-banana-creamsicles/

As a parting gift as we took my grandparents back to their campsite I gave grandma one of my swedish rye loafs (will be my bread of the month post) and little horseradish cheese from our trip to Ellicottville.

For more on Cuba cheese see:https://agreenesadventures.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/wine-tasting-in-ellicottville/

It was a great weekend playing tourists and hosts. It was also a fun overview for us of what we have explored, learned, and discovered in the past year living in the Corning area. Can’t wait to see what we will explore and discover the rest of this summer and into next year as we transition into a new location (but more on that later).

Do you enjoy hosting friends and family?

What are some of your favorite meals to cook for them?

What local restaurants/tourist spots do insist showing them?