Monday, May 28, 2012

Flowers of Oak Ridge Reservation

I went on a few spring wildflower hikes, one at Haw Ridge Park, Frozen Head State Park and Oak Ridge Reservation.  The best of them all was at Oak Ridge Reservation which I wrote about last time, but did not post pictures of the flowers.  What set this trip apart from a trip to Haw Ridge with my housemate and another guided hike at Frozen Head was that there were flowers here that I did not see elsewhere.  In addition, the guided tour was very educational and the lack of trail added variety.  Unfortunately, being on a guided hike with a group of people, I didn't have time to assure all of the pictures were in focus, but here they are:


These below were the highlight of the hike.  At the end of the hike we got to this cave that is only visible when the water levels are low.  Along the walls of the cave was a "cave covering" of these gorgeous delicate white flowers.  Mixed in with the white flowers were these beautiful purple flowers.  The problem with posting entries 6 weeks afterward is that the names of all these flowers escape me.  Sorry!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Dreaming of Utah

Yes, I said Utah.  It started almost 3 years ago when we visited my mom's friends in Seattle and they just came back from a trip to Utah and raved about how beautiful it was.  I was like, "Utah???"  Really?  For vacation??  What's in Utah?  Just like the way people say, "Iowa???"  or "Tennessee" when I tell people where I went to college, or where I work now.  So I looked into what was in Utah.  Do you know what's in Utah?  There is A LOT OF STUFF IS IN UTAH!!  Sorry, for the all-caps, I'll try to compose myself.
Arches National Park
Photo: Jim Karczewski - National Park Service
The two national parks I'm most interested in visiting is Arches National Park and Zion National Park.  Super recently I came across a picture of Arches National Park, but I don't know where.  As for Zion National Park, I came across a picture of it on Budget Travel's feature 12 Most Beautiful Paths: No Car Required.  Most were hiking trails but there were biking trails too.  Sometimes I think that interesting land formations are more beautiful than beaches.  Then I see a picture of a beach and think, "Well, not to say that beaches are ugly.."  Anyway, all of that was to say that I find land formations to be fascinating and gorgeous.

Two Utah locations on my radar meant that I wanted to see how close they were to each other.  So I had an adventure on Google Maps.  Those are fun.  And totally cheap.  All it takes is time and internet connection.  After talking with my special someone we mapped out a dream itinerary.  It requires a lot of vacation time probably and it would be a long while before we could do it.  If you're reading this, feel free to hijack our dream itinerary, all I ask is you report back so we know how to plan our trip better!
Zion National Park
Photo: Tom Putnak - National Park Service
Driving time: 21 hours and 34 minutes, if stayed on route and skipped "Along the way" destinations.  If you wanted to fast track from Arches National Park to Zion National Park, you can save an hour and nine minutes by staying on 1-70 and then onto 1-15.  Then you would drive through Manti-La Sal National Forest and Fishlake National Forest.

  • A. Salt Lake City Airport
  • B. Arches National Park
  • Along the way: (On top of the 21:34 hours)
    • Capital Reef National Park
    • Carcass Canyon Wilderness Study Area
    • Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
    • Kodachrome Basin State Park
    • Bryce Canyon National Park
    • Dixie National Forest
  • C. Zion National Park
  • D. Grand Canyon-North Rim
  • E. Hoover Dam
  • F. Las Vegas Airport

The reason why you would start at Salt Lake City and end in Vegas is if you wanted a one-way rental car, rental car companies would prefer cars to move toward populated areas, instead of remote.  Sometimes, you can't even rent a rental car if your destination is considered remote.  Originally, I wanted to fly into Grand Junction since it's the closest major city to Arches National Park, but one-way rental cars were $800+ a week.  After playing around with other starting points, I found that starting at Salt Lake City's airport would cost $655/week, but $350+/week if you rented the car from town.  If you enjoy driving, then you could find a rental car a lot cheaper if you return it to the same destination.  Especially from Vegas, I've seen around $10 per day in Vegas.  After seeing these prices, we decided that we're definitely waiting until we're 25 so we don't have to pay outrageous underage driver fees.

Arches National Park
Photo: Tom Gray - National Park Service
One way tickets can be expensive sometimes (and other times they don't charge you a premium for booking only one-ways), but since this trip was a way of using my mileage, I searched and found one-way flights for 12.5k miles.  Leaving from Las Vegas, we thought we'd take Southwest and then skip baggage fees.

The major destinations of this trip were Arches National Park and Zion National Park, but since the Las Vegas airport was nearby, we added Grand Canyon's North Rim and Hoover Dam to the itinerary.  Most people who visit Grand Canyon see the South Rim (not coincidentally that's the rim both of us saw).  I've been to Hoover Dam before, didn't think much of it, but when you're with a nerdy engineer, I guess you have to visit these things.  :P

Monday, May 21, 2012

Erin's Meadow Herb Farm

I've been thinking about starting a garden.  So when I heard about a spring herb festival happening at Erin's Meadow Herb Farm, I wanted to seize the opportunity to check it out.  Turns out that this place was only 10-15 minutes away even though it's located in Clinton, TN.  It required driving up the steep ridge and then sliding down almost recklessly, but nonetheless, a pleasant drive.  I like visiting shops during busy days because when there's a festival, I can count on there to be a lot of other people.  Since I find it awkward to browse a nearly empty store and receive undivided attention from the store owner, when I usually don't have much intention to spend money, these events are the solution to my dilemma.  At this spring herb festival, there was a cooking demonstration, a few booths and a lot of people.

Funny story: at work, one of my projects is on our workplace sustainability employee and community engagement team.  So last fall there was a craft fair at work, so we had the idea to organize a display of sustainable crafts.  Someone wanted to display their fairy garden and none of us had heard of it before.

"Does the crafter believe a real fairy lives in it?"

Hahahhahha I mean, that was a real question.  So later we learned what a fairy garden was.  They're essentially small gardens with miniature furniture to make it look fit for a fairy to live in:

This lizard was totally trying to creep on the fairies!!

I was enamored with the themed gardens!  What a great way of categorizing different types of gardens, as a marketing tool and as a live demonstration.  Aside from the ones below, there was also a kitchen herb garden, butterfly garden, and a few others that I don't remember.

Save so so much with Kroger's 4x Fuel Points

I previously wrote about how to make the most of Kroger's 4x Fuel Points and now it's back!  It's always double the fuel points on your gift card purchases but in honor of graduation and Father's Day, from May 20 until June 16, you can receive quadruple the number of points!  It's awesome because anywhere you plan on spending money, as long as Kroger sells the store's gift cards, you can earn fuel points!  The deal gets even sweeter if you have a Chase Freedom credit card or other credit cards that award you a higher percentage of cash back on grocery store purchases!

Wow.  That was a lot of exclamation points.  No more.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Frozen Head Spring Wildflowers

As promised, the long overdue photos of wildflowers at Frozen Head State Park in East Tennessee from a month ago!  The wildflowers in East Tennessee have short growing seasons but there is such biodiversity that different species can be found year-round (except for winter).

I like the heart shape of the leaves

The shape is very striking

I like the soft edges of these petals
I like the very pointed petals on this flower

This one is on its way out of the season