Monday, September 25, 2017

Happy Place & Accidental Family Reunion

Come on Daddy, I am ready to GO!

 For a long weekend get-a-way, we headed to Lake Wateree State Park. Lake Wateree State Park remains one of our favorite state parks.

Sunset over Lake Wateree.

Our campsite, #49.

Park office and tackle shop.

A touch of Fall can be seen in the trees around the lake.
Not long after checking in, we discovered our site was next door to extended family we have not visited with in a very long time. We spent the next several days catching up, sharing meals and enjoying entertainment provided by Mark Taylor. 


Even Lex enjoyed the entertainment.

Someone wants Dad to come to bed.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Patriots Point and Charleston, SC in August

Arthur Ravenel Jr. bridge.

This is our second stay in Charleston this year. Our first was our annual June trip when we stay with a large group of friends. This stay was a two fold trip; the first was for my three month post cancer treatment check-up. The second was just a end of summer before work schedules begin.

As part of my three month check-up, I had a PET scan, lab work and several doctor appointments. I am very happy to report that the scans do not show any signs of cancer. The labs were all good and the doctors expressed amazement at how well I have been. 

(Click on images to enlarge)
Our campsite, number 111, James Island County Park.

Patriots Point

Located in the Charleston harbor at the mouth of the Cooper River is Patriots Point. Patriots Point is a World War II naval museum. The center piece of the museum is the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown. The floating museum also includes the Sumner class destroyer, USS Laffey and a Balao class submarine, USS Clamagore. Personally, one of the more moving displays at Patriots Point is the Vietnam Experience.

The Vietnam Experience

Setup to look like an actual American military encampment, the sights, sounds and feel is so realistic that it feels as if you were there.

Just inside the entrance to the exhibit is a board. This board has dog tags representing each serviceman from South Carolina who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam conflict. One cannot help but have an emotional moment at the thought of the names on each tag.

Hundreds of dog tags.

CH-46 Sea Knight used to transport cargo
and troops from ship to shore.

Inside view of CH-46.

From 1965 - 1973, the Bell UH-1 "Huey" was the most common helicopter used in Vietnam. Many veterans describe the Huey as the "sound of war." Because of it's versatility, the helicopter was used for a variety of missions, from troop insertion to medical evacuations. Records show that over 90,000 patients were airlifted. Over 7000 of these helicopters survived the war.

In the early 1980's, as a young paramedic working in Richland county, I had the privilege to fly in these several times airlifting critical patients to area hospitals. The experience was very memorable.  

UH-1 "Huey."

During the Vietnam war, the United States operated what was called the "brown water navy." It was a joint navy and army operation aimed at slowing the flow of arms and supplies into South Vietnam by the waterways. Designated Patrol Boat - River, (PBR) the 32 foot long fiberglass, jet driven, shallow draft boat, was the workhorse of the brown water navy. They were usually maned by a 4 man crew. 


USS Laffey

Nicknamed "the ship that wouldn't die," the USS Laffey was commissioned in February, 1944. She was given her nickname from her exploits during the D-Day invasion and the battle for Okinawa. During the battle of Okinawa, the USS Laffey withstood attacks by 22 Japanese kamikaze aircraft. Laffey took hits from six planes and 4 bombs killing 32 sailors and wounding 71. Despite suffering major damage, Laffey survived. 

After the war, Laffey participated in atomic bomb test off Bikini Atoll. Radioactivity required the ship to be completely sandblasted to decontaminate. In June, 1947, Laffey was decommissioned and placed in reserve. In January, 1951, she was updated and re-commissioned for service during the Korean conflict. Laffey remained in service until March, 1975, when she was decommissioned and stricken from the records as the last of the Sumner class destroyers.

The bridge of the Laffey and Captain's chair.

Wheelhouse, from here the ship is driven.


Kitchen, serving and dinning area for the crew.
Below is the medical office and radio room,
sleeping area and engine room.



USS Yorktown

The USS Yorktown (CV-10) is one of 24 Essex class aircraft carriers to be built during World War II. Originally to be named Bonhomme Richard, she was renamed under construction to commemorate the Yorktown, (CV-5) which was sunk by the Japanese during the Battle of Midway in June, 1942. Commissioned in April, 1943, the USS Yorktown participated in several Pacific campaigns. In January, 1947, she was decommissioned and placed in reserve.

In June, 1952, the Yorktown was re-commissioned and began modernization. Construction was completed in February, 1953. Modernization was not completed in time for her to participate in the Korean conflict. In 1964 and 1965 she conducted numerous special operations during the Vietnam conflict. The Yorktown was used to recover Apollo 8 following it's return from the moon. (Apollo 8 was the first maned crew to leave earth's orbit, orbit the moon and return to earth.) The Yorktown was in the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! which was a factual recreation of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The USS Yorktown was decommissioned in 1970 and was moved to Patriots Point in 1975.

A large walkway leading to the USS Yorktown.

Half of the massive hanger deck with displays of various
World War II aircraft.

The "island" rising above the large flight deck. The island
houses the ship's navigation, air traffic control, flight operations
 and other functions such as radar and communications.
The USS Yorktown had a crew of 2600 officers and enlisted men. These ships were a floating city. They had everything including kitchens, barber shop, laundry, ship store, operating room, medical and dental offices. Space is very limited and does not allow for many personal items. One point you have to keep in mind, warships are built for one purpose - to fight a war. 





Flight operations including air traffic control and pilot briefing rooms are all on board ship.



Rank does have some privileges. Generally, officers have a little better sleeping quarters that are shared with one or two others and they have separate dinning areas.

Warrant Officers dinning area.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Annual "Beat The Heat" Trip

If it were practical to do so, I think I would move here! I love Maggie Valley and the surrounding area. For the last several years, we have come to the area in the heat of summer. This year, the temps were absolutely perfect! There were even a couple of nights we had to use the heat as the nighttime temps dipped below 51 degrees.

Again this year, we chose to stay at Stonebridge Campground. It serves as a convenient location to the surrounding area.

(Click on images to enlarge)
Our campsite at Stonebridge Campground.

The campground provides weekend entertainment during
the summer including various bands.

Charlie's Bunion

Much of the Smokey Mountains were heavily forested until large scale logging operations of the early 20th century. Heavy logging operations in the Oconaluflee valley left large amounts of dead brush scattered about the area. In 1925, feeding off of the dead brush, a massive forest fire ravaged the area. The fire was so intense that it left the soil sterile. In 1928, a massive rainstorm washed away much of the soil leaving the rocky appearance to the mountain.

A few days following the rainstorm, a group of men climbed the mountain to survey it. As the story goes, Charlie Conner, a mountain guide, removed his shoe revealing a badly swollen foot. Upon seeing it, Horace Kephart, the group leader, remarked, "I am going to get this put on a government map" for you.

In 1935, the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corp.) constructed a portion of the Appalachian Trail across the northern face of Charlie's Bunion. Today, Charlie's Bunion provides spectacular views of Tennessee and other mountain peaks.

During a portion of our trip, Karen and I hiked along the Appalachian Trail (AT) for 4.5 miles one way to Charlie's Bunion. 

Hiking the Appalachian Trail to Charlie's Bunion.
Note the white blaze marking the trail.

It smells like Christmas!

One of the many views from the trail.

"Closely Control Children" as noted on the sign.

The trail runs along the edge of the cliff to Charlie's Bunion.
The rock formation that forms the "bunion" is pictured above Karen's head.

Karen and I standing atop Charlie's Bunion.

Along the Appalachian Trail, there are shelters located every 5-10 miles. There are over 250 shelters from Georgia to Maine. Most of the shelters are similar to the one pictured, a three walled shelter with elevated platforms for sleeping. The shelters usually have a privy nearby and either a bear box or cable. The cable or bear box is used to keep human food away from bears.

Ice Water Spring shelter.

The typical interior of trail shelters. Most do not have a fireplace.


Much wildlife can be seen along the trail. Sightings of deer, bear and many other animals is not uncommon. 

Clingmans Dome

Located a few miles from Newfound Gap is Clingmans Dome. Clingmans Dome is one of the mountains in the Smokey Mountains. At an elevation of 6643 feet above sea level, it is the highest point in the Smokey Mountains, the highest point in Tennessee and the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. The observation tower was built in 1959. It is 45 feet tall and the winding access ramp is 375 feet long.

The observation tower on the peak of Clingmans Dome.

Cades Cove

Before the formation of the national park, Cades Cove, an isolated Tennessee valley within the Smokey Mountains, was home to many early settlers. Cades Cove is the single most visited area within the park. Each year, over 2 million people visit the area. There is an 11 mile one way loop you can drive through the valley. Along the way, you can witness an abundance of wildlife, former homesteads, scenic mountains. 


The 600 acre home site of Rebecca Cable was purchased in 1887 by her and her brother, John. Rebecca remained on the farm until her death in 1940. In addition to farming duties, Rebecca cared for her brother's children once he became ill, and she ran a store on the property. She never married.

Home of Rebecca Cable.

Cable Mill, a working water powered grist mill
owned by Rebecca & John Cable.

The National Park Service operates a store on the property.
One item for sale is fresh cornmeal ground at the grist mill.
Another view of the valley and surrounding mountains.

Dan Lawson home, built in 1856.

Overview of the Lawson home site.


Why They Are called the Smokey Mountains