Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Fort Custer National Cemetery

Monday was Memorial Day in the United States, a day which we set aside to remember those who have given their lives in military service to our country.

If you've been reading my blog for awhile, you know that Doug and I have been doing some funeral planning. But we still haven't nailed down where we want to be buried. As a veteran, Doug is eligible for burial in one of our National Cemeteries; and, as his wife, I'm eligible to be buried with him.

So, on this Memorial Day, Doug and I, along with Doug's brother, visited Fort Custer National Cemetery, in Augusta, Michigan. At this cemetery, depending on which section the cemetery decides to bury us in, our graves could be side by side...or we could be stacked in the same burial plot.

Doug, ever the competitor, says that, if we have to be stacked, he wants to be on top because he wants to be the first one out of the hole when the Lord returns for His own.

The Avenue of Flags along the entrance road

Fort Custer National Cemetery is a beautiful place, heavily wooded, with sections cleared here and there for burial plots. The markers are flat, ground-level, stones; but each burial site was decorated with American flags on Memorial Day. Otherwise, it would pretty much look like meadows amidst woodland unless you were standing right over a marker.

One section of the cemetery

During World War II, more than 5,000 German prisoners of war were held at Fort Custer. Finding able farm labor during the war became a problem as more Americans were drafted into the military or worked in the factories producing war materials. Putting Fort Custer’s POWs to work seemed an efficient solution to the labor shortage.

The last German prisoners repatriated to their homeland departed Fort Custer in 1946. They left behind 26 comrades buried in the old post cemetery. Sixteen of the German POWs were killed in an accident when their truck collided with a train as they were returning to the fort from a work detail on a sugar beet farm near Blissfield, Mich. The other 10 died from natural causes.

The German Memorial

The 26 German graves

This shows a section of American burial plots adjoining the graves of the Germans.

Memorial Day is a holiday; and, like most holidays, it often means family gatherings, picnics, trips to the lake, etc. But I hope that this Memorial Day also included remembering...remembering the sacrifices others have made, allowing us to continue enjoying all of those pleasures.

And may remembering stir our hearts to gratitude for all of the men and women who have served or are currently serving in our armed forces.

Friday, May 24, 2013

A Few Birds and an Azalea

Recently, Doug and I and our friend, Pat, spent an afternoon at a nearby state park, just enjoying the spring weather and some good books. Pat had eaten an apple and tossed the core to the water's edge. Immediately, from across the lake, two Canada geese headed our way. Apparently, they had seen the apple core hit the water and they were coming to investigate.

The first goose on the scene plucked the apple core from the water.

The arrival of the second goose

On another day, as I was walking at the reservoir, I captured a short (and shaky) video of a meadowlark. The quality isn't good because I had to zoom pretty far, but it was the best I could do.

Then, on another trip to the state park this week, a beautiful bluebird landed on a nearby tree and posed for us.

And, finally, here are a couple of pictures of the azalea bush in our front yard.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Cades Cove, Cataract Falls, Little River Trail, and Foothills Parkway West

After our hike on Middle Prong Trail on May 7th, we drove out to Cades Cove to see what we could see there. The valley of Cades Cove was home to numerous settlers before the formation of the national park. It's a popular destination for visitors to the park because of its well-preserved homesteads, scenic mountain views, and abundant display of wildlife.

Cades Cove

Carter Shields Cabin at Cades Cove

This deer was foraging near the Carter Shields Cabin

On the way back to our hotel that evening, we stopped to see a small waterfall near the Park Headquarters.

Cataract Falls

On Thursday, May 9th, we drove to the Elkmont area of the national park and hiked up the Little River Trail. The following pictures are from that hike.

Stone bridge near one of the now-abandoned home sites

A White Violet

I don't know if these are white violets or something else. They look a little different than the first one.

I'm not good at identifying things, so I just call this one "Yellow Butterfly."

Doug took this river view with the camcorder.

Huskey Branch Falls
This is another of Doug's camcorder shots.

Friday, May 10th, was our last day of this visit to the Smokies, and we spent it relaxing in another favorite place in the park: the Greenbrier area. There is a spot by the river where we just enjoy spending an afternoon of reading.

The river at the beginning of the trail to Ramsey Cascades

A pretty little wildflower, also near the Ramsey Cascades Trailhead

Later that day, we drove out on the western Foothills Parkway, where I took the following panorama shot of the view from the parkway.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Wildflowers and Waterfalls in the Smokies

On Tuesday, May 7, we drove to the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and hiked a little way up the Middle Prong Trail. The following pictures are some scenes from that day.

A yellow wildflower, growing on the riverbank

I loved the blue in this one.

I just liked the way the light was hitting these leaves.

I thought these looked like little brides. (Update: This flower is a Showy Orchis.)

This waterfall is usually just a trickle of water flowing down from the hillside next to Tremont Road.

Lynn Camp Prong Falls

This three-tiered waterfall is just up the trail from Lynn Camp Prong Falls

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Assorted Photos From Our Smokies 2013 Trip

On Monday, May 5, after driving the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail, we drove to the nearby Douglas Dam for a picnic lunch and an afternoon of reading.

Douglas Lake from the Douglas Dam Overlook

We didn't get much reading done, though, as we were frequently distracted by the large birds flying over the lake. It was difficult to get pictures because of the distance, but that never stops me from trying. The following image, of a crow chasing a hawk, is not sharp; but I still liked it.

Crow chasing a Red-tail Hawk

Back at our hotel in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, we were treated to a lovely sunset view from our 7th-floor balcony.

Sunset over Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

The sunset reflecting on some of the hotels and condos in Pigeon Forge

An enormous King Kong sits atop the Hollywood Wax Museum in the lower left corner of the above photo. I zoomed in on him in the photo below. Both pictures were taken from the balcony of our hotel room.

King Kong on the Hollywood Wax Museum in Pigeon Forge

Above is a view of King Kong from the front, as we drove down the Parkway a few days later.

On Tuesday, the 6th, we drove down Little River Road toward Cades Cove and just had to stop at The Sinks to see how it looked with all the recent rainfall.

The Sinks

This is a look at the river from the other side of the bridge at The Sinks.

Just a mile down the road from The Sinks, and easily viewed from the roadway, is Meigs Falls.

Meigs Falls

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail

This week, we were finally able to get away for a week in the Smoky Mountains. We had postponed our trip twice due to illness. As a result, the trees were all leafed out and green and gorgeous. Usually, we go in the early spring or late fall, so we don't often see the lush green of summer.

Today's photos were all taken along the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail, outside of Gatlinburg. I highly recommend this drive to anyone who doesn't have time to fully explore the national park. It provides a nice introduction to the park.

Most of the dogwoods had already shed their blossoms, but there were a few that were still in their full glory, like the one above.

River along the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail

Jim Bales Place, a historic homestead site along the  Roaring Forks drive

This fungus-covered stump on the Jim Bales Place caught my attention.

This is a close-up look at two mushrooms on the top of the stump.

Dogwood blossoms on the Jim Bales Place

The "Place of a Thousand Drops" was transformed into a lovely waterfall by recent rains.

The "Place of a Thousand Drips" side view

Our love affair with the Smokies began in 1990. We went twice that year and have averaged about two visits a year since then...sometimes three or four...sometimes only one. That's roughly 45 visits to this national park. I won't even attempt a guess as to how many photographs I've shot there. Thousands, I'm sure. And still there are sights beckoning to me and my camera.

Different seasons, different times of the day, different annual rainfall, different daily weather conditions...all combine to make even the familiar look new and different. And so my camera is kept busy.

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Oh My Broken Key!

Is it a sign of how many typing errors I make when my backspace key pops off? I never knew how often I used that little bugger until it was gone. Oh, I can still back space, but I have to hit that little dark spot in the center of where the key used to be. That's tricky when I'm used to a larger target.

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