Saturday, October 14, 2017


The Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas, was founded by Alice Walton (daughter of Walmart's originator, Sam Walton), and designed by architect Moshe Safdie.  It opened on 11-11-11, and has been a great success in terms of providing access to acclaimed works of art to all who visit.  That is because it allows free public admission!  Since I have written several articles in the past extolling the virtues of Crystal Bridges (see "Blog Archives" on 12/12/11, 4/6/12, 4/5/13, and 7/23/13), suffice it to say I am a big fan of theirs!  This photo shows the entrance, as it is enhanced with red columns, announcing the Chihuly exhibit.

The indoor Chihuly exhibit had some incredible examples of blown glass that had been fused together.  This particular "bugle-shaped" piece reminded me of some on display at the Bridge of Glass in Tacoma, Washington.  Dale Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington, in 1941, and he has not forgotten his roots there. ( I wrote articles about how his work is showcased in Tacoma, in blogs dated 9/21/12 and 9/22/12, which the reader can find in the Blog Archives)

These intricate blue and clear glass spirals defy gravity, and make my mind try to grasp how difficult it was for the glass blower to create them.  We know that it was not actually Chihuly who blew these shapes, since he has not been able to hold a glass blowing pipe, since an accident in 1979.  Rather, he is seen as the "choreographer of a group of dancers".  He dreams up the concept and shapes he wants, then skilled artisans try to execute them.  Sometimes they work, and sometimes they crash to the floor and shatter into a thousand pieces!

My favorite in this section of the exhibition was the red and yellow piece pictured here, because it reminded me of sea anemones I have seen while scuba diving. 

An amazing aspect of the Crystal Bridges Chihuly exhibition was how close the viewer could get to the pieces on display.  The docents told us the only restriction was "No Touching", but we could get up as close as we wanted to view the artwork!  If I were the glass blower who created that piece, I would be much more protective! However, when I saw Chihuly interviewed on PBS, he said the fragility of glass is what makes his work so exciting and thrilling to him!  For me, the fragility of glass just makes me nervous!

Notice how there are no barriers between the large installation pictured here, and the visitors who are looking at it.  To me, it is a strange coincidence that it is glass that has made Chihuly famous, yet it was glass that resulted in the loss of his left eye in 1976.  That is when he was involved in a head-on car crash in England, during which he flew through the windshield.  His face was severely cut by the windshield glass, and he was blinded in his left eye.  The black patch he wears over that eye has now become his trademark. 

Chihuly collects Native American trade blankets, and that collection was also on display, along with his glass pieces.

Chihuly has commented that Northwest Coast Indian baskets that he had seen as a child, were the inspiration for some his his glass baskets.  This photo shows Native American baskets on the right, and Chihuly glass baskets on the left.

The first time I ever heard of glass artist Dale Chihuly, was the television coverage in 1998, of some of his work that was being installed in the newly-opened Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas.  When my husband and I visited the Bellagio later that year, I was looking on the walls and tables for these famous glass works, but not seeing anything.  Finally, I asked one of the female clerks at the Hotel Registration Desk, "Where do ya'll display that  Dale Chihuly glass stuff?"  In a very condescending tone ( no doubt brought on by my unmistakable Southern accent and hillbilly appearance), the lady said, "The MASTERPIECE is above your head, my dear."  And sure enough, when I looked up, there it was on the ceiling!  His installation, called Fiori di Como, is composed of over 2,000 hand-blown flowers, and covers 2,000 square feet of the lobby ceiling.  It truly was amazing, and I have been a Chihuly fan ever since!

In fact, I have a framed photo of "The Masterpiece" in my bedroom, that has an abstract appearance, similar to this tangle of colored glass tubes in this photo.  The "tubes" installation is one of the first pieces you see, as you start your 1.1 mile trek on the newly built North Forest Trail at Crystal Bridges. 

The preparation for the Chihuly exhibit at Crystal Bridges began in 2013, when Chihuly himself walked the grounds, as well as the indoor spaces of the museum.  For a complete listing of his past exhibitions, and future installations, you can visit his official website at .  This boat full of glass pieces reminds me of a flock of swans, all huddled together and extending their necks. One has to wonder, which future installation this boat will sail to next!

Chihuly has done numerous installations in public gardens, and my first time to see his work in an outdoor setting was when it was presented at the Missouri Botanical Gardens, in St. Louis.  (Photos from that installation are on my blog post dated 7/11/12).

The Chihuly team includes a lighting director, and visitors are being encouraged to view the outdoor pieces after dark, as well as in the daytime, to  fully appreciate the translucent properties of the glass.

Likewise, even without artificial lighting, the glass "reeds" change in appearance, depending on the location of the sun. 

These forms bursting out of the ground remind me of mushrooms that suddenly push their heads out of the soil, after a period of extended moisture.  (Although the indoor exhibition of Chihuly work at Crystal Bridges has ended, you can see the outdoor installation along the North Forest Trail until November 13.  For exact hours of operation, log on to )

This massive ten foot tall sculpture is called "Sol d' Oro", which means "Gold Sun".  The white spires remind me of those that make up a glass Chihuly Christmas Tree, on display in the Clinton Library, in Little Rock, Arkansas (See blog archive for 3/8/12).

I read that the spiraling columns of glass jutting out from the center were created in Seattle, where the piece was assembled.  Then they were individually numbered, and disassembled.  Then they were VERY CAREFULLY packed for shipping to Bentonville.  Then they were VERY CAREFULLY unpacked and reassembled on the grounds at Crystal Bridges.  I find this INCREDIBLE!

One of my photography instructors years ago taught me to experiment with backlighting from the sun on your chosen subject.  When I did this with the "Gold Sun" piece, I was able to see that there were indeed, pieces of GOLD glass, that are not seen in a quick glance of the piece. 

I am using the Chihuly "Gold Sun" sculpture, as the visual aid to help me learn my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse that says, "For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless."  Psalm 84:11 .  Several folks at the "Gold Sun" sculpture were getting their photos taken, with their heads being framed by the sculpture, and I was no exception!  It was fun reading the comments about the photo on Facebook, and getting more "likes" than any other photo I posted.  What the First Place 4 Health memory verse helps me understand, however, is that the "likes" of many, cannot compare with the favor of our Lord!  Having this promise from God, AND seeing the Chihuly exhibit at Crystal Bridges, gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia

Thursday, October 12, 2017


I recently had the opportunity to participate in Road Scholar Program #17288, called "Nature Hiking in the Southern Appalachian Mountains".  (Regular readers of this blog will know that I have completed over a dozen of these Road Scholar adventures, and direct links to the articles I published about them will pop up, if you type "Road Scholar" into the Search Box at the very bottom of the web version of my blog title page)
This particular program was being held in Hayesville, North Carolina, at The Hinton Center ( ).  Some of you may recognize the Methodist Church logo in their entrance sign, and it is, indeed, a wonderful facility for their denomination, as well as any other organizations that want to make use of what it has to offer. 

Our group stayed in the Joe Ervin House.  It has three levels, with the main public space being on the middle floor, complete with TV, full kitchen, game tables, and lounge seating.  When we had entertainment in the evenings, it was held on this middle floor public space. 

When our group traveled to off-site locations, we had the very comfortable Hinton Center Mini-bus (shown in photo above), and/or a large van.

When you sign up for a Road Scholar week ( ), you will be provided 8 guidelines to assist you in "Getting the most out of your program".   Those guidelines are Tolerance for Ambiguity, Ability to be Non-Judgmental, Flexibility and Adaptability, Sense of Humor, Open-Mindedness, Curiosity, Self-Reliance, and Communicativeness.  I think each program I have attended has helped me improve in a different area of development, and I can say with a certainty, that my September, 2017, Road Scholar program helped me develop in the area of "FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY"!  The "Trail Closed" sign in this photo is an illustration of why our group had to be flexible and adapt to a raging storm, known as "Hurricane Irma".  Even though we were several miles inland from the Atlantic Coast, the high winds, downed power lines, downed trees, electrical outages, and never-ending rain were being felt in the area where we were located.  Our leaders had a "Plan B" for us since we could not hike, so we took a drive through the Nantahala River, that is a popular rafting destination in western North Carolina.

We were told the river is usually crowded with rafters, but there was no one rafting at this location when we stopped here!

The boat access ramp leading down to the river was one of the nicest ones I have ever seen, and I hope to go back sometime and experience the Nantahala River, from the perspective of a river rafter!  Even though the river was still roaring through the gorge, the high water mark on the concrete access ramp indicates it was lower than it had been a few hours earlier. 

Our group continued on to Cherokee, North Carolina, where our leaders had put their "Plan B" into action, by arranging for a visit to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian.  There we were able to learn the story of the Cherokee Nation from prehistory to modern times, with exhibits that included crafts, clothing and weapons.  There was also extensive information on the tribe's resettlement to Western Reservations and the hardship endured along this "Trail of Tears".  I found all this of particular interest, since I have distant heritage from the Cherokee lineage, and grew up in the area traversed by "The Trail of Tears". 

In Cherokee, North Carolina, we stopped at a lovely park near the downtown area (Oconaluftee Islands Park), that had a covered pavilion, where we could enjoy the sack lunches we had prepared, without getting our sandwiches ( and our bottoms!) waterlogged from the drizzle!

The park has a stream that runs through it, and pedestrian bridges that provide access to the opposite shore, with additional PATHS to explore.  

After lunch, the group went to the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., that is across the street from the Museum of the Cherokee.  The cooperative shop had all manner of handiwork made by Native Americans.  For information on both the museum and the Qualla store, check out 

The final stop of our "Plan B" Day took us to the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum.  Since it also serves as an information center for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ( ), we learned while we were there that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was being totally shut down and closed, due to Hurricane Irma.  Highway 441 that goes down the center of the park, through its entrance in Tennessee, to its exit in North Carolina, was completely closed!  This made me EXTREMELY thankful I had been able to visit  Cades Cove and Clingman's Dome the previous Saturday, before it was shut down!

Since I had not been able to get much exercise the previous day, I got up early on Tuesday morning, to walk down to Chatuge Lake, which the Hinton Center property adjoins, and has access to.  ( Chatuge Lake is formed from a TVA dam across the Hiwassee River.) Although there was no sun on the horizon, at least I was able to make the quick jaunt without getting rained on!

On one of the days,  our group headed south to Georgia, to hike a trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest.  Because of the high winds, there were LOTS of trees across our "PATH"!!  Adventure travel magazines tout advertisements for what they call a "Treetop Canopy Tour through the Rain Forest".  Turns out, this Road Scholar program included a "treetop canopy tour" of sorts, because the tree tops had come down onto the PATH we needed to take to reach our destination! I think we burned off some extra calories breaking away tree limbs and climbing through tunnels of downed trees!  And I know, we shredded a few rain ponchos!

However, the payoff we received for all our efforts, was experiencing this beautiful location, called High Shoals Falls.  Needless to say, it was gushing with water from all the rainfall we had experienced!

On the drive back to the Hinton Center, we implemented a "Plan C", because one of the afternoon hikes the leaders had planned, got aborted because there was a tree across the only access road leading to the trail head.  And, it was not a little tree that all of us could have moved---it was BIG!  So instead, we stopped at the Chatuge Dam, and walked the wide asphalt "PATH" across the top of it. 

This particular Road Scholar hiking program was like a "fashion show", designed to illustrate all the many different types of rain gear that hikers have available to them!

Both sides of this PATH into the woods are lined with rhododendron bushes, that are prevalent throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains.

This PATH into the woods shows why tree roots are NOT your friend when hiking a heavily forested area!  They tend to rise up and grab your boot, causing you to trip, especially when you get tired!

Fortunately, everyone in our group followed the appropriate PATH, that took them to the top of Siler Bald, and we took this photo to prove it!

Wonder of wonders---there was a brief break in the weather, so that I could get a photo taken sans raingear!! 

A nice thing about all that moisture was the opportunity to see several species of mushrooms I had never observed before.  This very large specimen (note hiking boot in photo for scale), is called "Chicken of the Woods".

This photo is similar to the very first one in the article, except that it shows me hiking in what looks like a dress (It is actually a waterproof raincoat I always keep in my car).  That raincoat turned out to be my "Plan B" attire, after ponchos got shredded from attacking tree limbs!

This photo shows Liz Domingue, a highly educated naturalist and guide, who was one of our two hike leaders.  Besides her work leading Road Scholar hiking trips, she also operates "Just Get Outdoors" ( ) Phone 865-977-HIKE , which offers both scheduled outings, and custom adventures.  Everyone in our group has a brand new appreciation of salamanders, after hiking with Liz!  (She did advanced graduate study and research on salamanders, and was able to find SEVERAL in the rain-soaked areas we explored!)

The Group Leader for our week was Jack Loveless.  He did an OUTSTANDING job making the week's activities proceed smoothly, in spite of the many adjustments made necessary, due to the weather and road/trail conditions!

Jack Loveless, our leader, is the one in this photo, who DOES NOT have on a poncho.  Instead, he opted for a rain jacket, rain pants, and waterproof cover for his back pack.  Note to self:  Be like Jack next time!
Mrs. Foley took this photo of Jack with his "Three Muskateers", as we dutifully followed him down whatever PATH he took us on---having no idea where we were going!  (I am the one with the yellow caution tape on my hiking sticks. I put it there to make them easier to spot, whenever I walk off and leave them, as I often do!)

On the final day, we visited the natural areas of the John C. Campbell Folk School, in Brasstown, North Carolina, a section of which is shown in the photo below.  My week in North Carolina took me on many PATHS that were new to me, but I am using this photo of a STRAIGHT PATH in Brasstown, as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verses that says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight."  Proverbs 3:5-6.   I can assure you that every single PATH I took on this Road Scholar hiking adventure in North Carolina, gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!  Tricia

Wednesday, October 4, 2017


On  previous visits to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, I did not have the opportunity to visit the Cades Cove area, so I made it my priority on the trip I took there last month.  As I drove the 11-mile, one way loop road, one of the first observations was how obvious it was that the early settlers of Cades Cove were strong in their Christian faith.  At the beginning of the tour, you will see the Primitive Baptist Church.  Some of the earliest settlers established this church in 1827.  A log building served their needs until the white frame structure shown above, replaced it in 1887.  Although the church closed during the Civil War, the adjacent cemetery has many headstones that allude to victims of that most horrendous of wars.

Every church
that I went inside along the Cades Cove tour, had a Bible in the pulpit.  They represent a time when all a preacher had available to share God's Word, was that beloved tome.  There were no video screens, no flip charts, no "Power Point" computer programs, no microphones, or sound amplifiers.  It becomes understandable why preachers of that day may have had to SHOUT, to get their message across to a diverse group of pioneers!

Other churches along the Cades Cove driving loop are the Methodist Church and the Missionary Baptist Church.  The church above was a bit "fancier" than the other two, because of the circular bow-shaped addition behind the pulpit. 

Further down the road, in the mill area, visitors can see the LeQuire Cantilever Barn.  Large barns were common in the Cove, where farmers needed shelter in the cold months for the livestock they grazed in the mountains during the warm season.  The overhand in cantilever barns such as this one provided shelter for animals, as well as storage space for farm equipment. 

This photo shows the Cable Grist Mill, so named because it was built by John P. Cable.  The water wheel you see provided power for both the grist mill and a saw mill. 

One of the churches I visited along the route, was just dismissing a worship service that had been taking place.  I heard many of those in attendance mentioning they would see the others shortly at the "dinner on the ground".  Having grown up attending small churches in the South, I knew they were talking about an outdoor picnic.  I later saw many of those families in the mill area of Cades Cove, enjoying their potluck meal, under the shade of a big oak tree. 

the Great Smoky Mountains Association operates the grist mill as an historical exhibit, with the gentleman shown above, explaining that Mr. Cable had been a farmer, as well as a miller.  Therefore, he not only sowed the seed for the grains he raised, he also reaped its harvest.  I am using this image as a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( ) memory verse that says, "Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows."  Galatians 6:7 

The Visitor Center at Cades Cove is open most days throughout the year, barring flood or flurry or other times when the entire park is closed.  (For example, the entire park shut down for a few days when I was there in September, due to high-speed winds, associated with Hurricane Irma).  The Visitor Center was built in 1972, and is a place where visitors can obtain information, buy books, post cards, batteries, maps, guides, and pre-packaged snacks. 

After I completed my walk around the Mill Area of Cades Cove, I took the highway that leads to Clingman's Dome.  I had read there was a paved trail that led from the parking lot to the lookout tower, so when the highway ended, and I saw this ribbon of concrete in front of me, I knew I must be at the right place.  The trail is a one-half mile, asphalt trail, leading to an observation tower.  (Note: Pets are not allowed on this trail.)

When the paved trail ends, you will step onto a spiraling ramp, that will lead you to the observation tower.  Lest you think the dead trees readily visible at Clingman's Dome are the result of fire, the problem is actually an invasive species of insect that is decimating certain tree species in the park.

For those who do not want to take the spiraling ramp to the observation tower, they have the option of waiting in an area, suitable for sitting, at the entrance to the ramp. 

When you are on the circular observation tower, there are placards that tell you the names of the mountains you are seeing in the 360 degree view.  You will also learn that you are standing on Tennessee's highest point, and the third tallest summit east of the Mississippi.  The official elevation is 6,643 feet above sea level.

Adjacent to the parking lot are some very large rock formations, and several people were enjoying scrambling over them, looking for photo opportunities. 

The upper right corner of this photo shows the Clingman's Dome Visitor Center.  Besides the usual souvenir items for sale in this building, you can also use the FREE "passport stamps" available to record your location and date of visit, on whatever piece of paper you want to get stamped.  The logos available included not only Clingman's Dome, but also Appalachian Trail stamps, as the famous "A.T." goes through this location.  In fact, one of the reasons I was determined to visit Clingman's Dome was because some of my hiking friends had posted photos from here, when they were backpacking this section of the Appalachian Trail.  With some roads of the park already in the process of closing due to Hurricane Irma, I was giving thanks to God, that I was able to make it to the top before getting "run off" by Park Rangers, who were in the process of clearing out visitors, as a precautionary measure because of the severe storms that were being forecast. 

This photo shows the ominous-looking thunderheads that were starting to roll over the top of the mountain. 

Folks who like to participate in walking/running events might be interested in combining their love of foot racing, with a vacation to a popular tourist destination.  If that is you, check out the schedule for an organization whose motto is "Race Where You Play", at   I was able to see huge numbers of racers participating in an event called the Great Smoky Mountains Half Marathon.  They got a very early start, on a beautiful Saturday morning in the park, and walked or ran 13.1 miles along a paved trail (beside the highway and away from traffic) that leads to the park, from near the town of Townsend, Tennessee.  This photo shows the medals that would be waiting for them, complete with the emblem-shape of the National Park Service. 

Of course, you do not have to sign up for a race, to be able to enjoy the more than 850 miles of foot trails within Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  Considering the park is made up of a sprawling 520,000 acres spread out in both Tennessee and North Carolina, you are bound to find a trail activity that is to your liking and skill level. 

The National Parks of the USA are such an incredible blessing to all those who visit them, so let's get out there and enjoy them!  If you would like to start planning a trip to The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, just visit their website at   My visit to this remarkable area in the center of our nation gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!    Tricia