The loneliest spot on earth

“Mono Lake lies in a lifeless, treeless, hideous desert, eight thousand feet above the level of the sea, and is guarded by mountains two thousand feet higher, whose summits are always clothed in clouds. This solemn, silent, sail-less sea–this lonely tenant of the loneliest spot on earth –is little graced with the picturesque. “

– Mark Twain

My first glimpse of Mono Lake was late at night. We had just driven up and over Sonora Pass, which had opened for the season a few days earlier. The road had been descending out of the snow covered mountains for quiet awhile when I caught a glimmer out of the corner of my eye. I glanced out of the window and saw nothing but thick darkness. A few minutes later we rounded a bend and there far below us was a glistening moonlit lake. The road continued down and ran alongside the lake. From this viewpoint the lake seemed to go on forever and it was impossible to tell where it began or ended. Then we rounded another curve and it was gone and we were left to stare into the inky blackness of night.

A few days later we made it back to Mono Lake, this time in daylight. Even in the light, we still felt a moment of surprise to round a corner and come upon the lake. A shimmering mirage in the middle of a dry, dusty landscape.

Continue reading “The loneliest spot on earth”

the most romantic picnic spot

It’s difficult to find a more beautiful place than the Smoky Mountains in June.  Spring’s lush green is everywhere.  Colorful wildflowers blanket the hillside.  The sun sets late, slipping slowly behind the mountains as lightening bugs flicker in the evening sky.  The heat and humidity of later months has yet to arrive.  And, best of all, the rhododendrons are in full bloom.


Catawba Rhododendrons, native to the Southern Appalachians, bloom in late-May at lower elevations and in mid-June higher up. The purple-pink bloom lasts only for a short time but is beautiful. One of the best places to view them is at the Roan Mountain Gardens on the North Carolina side of the NC/TN state line.  

Here you can wander through a naturally occurring rhododendron garden high up at an elevation of over 6000 feet. The main path is paved so it is accessible to most people. The bushes are dense and, when in bloom, make for a magical hike.


But the best part are the picnic areas. Tucked away in corners of the park are picnic areas. Moss covered tables nestled under pines and the rhodendrons. As the flowers fall they cover the ground creating a pink carpet. A fairytale setting for a romantic picnic!

You can find more information about Roan Mountain Gardens, including its exact location, here.




New discoveries of the old

looking into camp buildings

Most days I drive the streets of the county I live in thinking of the day’s activities, where we need to go, how late we are running.  Always in a hurry, I give little thought about the surroundings I know so well.  I drive the kids to school, drive around for work, take the kids to their activities, all the while passing homes and farms and buildings and stores without notice.  When we go to a new location my eyes are open taking everything in; it’s all so new and exciting.  “I wonder what that building was originally used for?” or “Where could that trail lead?” or “How old is that house and who might have lived there?”.  But here in my own county I know have seen it all, heard it all, I know the history and events of the area.  I take the kids to a park and they run around in the open field, climb around on the monkey bars, my son plays hockey with his friends, we have a snack on a picnic table without a thought to what might have been there.  I guess if I would think about it, perhaps the playground was once a farmer’s field or a wealthy homeowner’s  property deeded to the town.  But who has the time to wonder about the history of a playground, I need to gather the kids into the car and hurry home to  make dinner!

But, I do love history and this past weekend while searching online for some information about a different possible adventure to take the kids on, I discovered the history of that exact park!  The one mentioned above that I have been to numerous times, talking to other moms while our kids run around and have fun.  They play and laugh and run on the same property where, sixty-some years ago, different children met, only their reason was much more sinister. Continue reading “New discoveries of the old”