The Beauty Around Us

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Posts tagged ‘Elk’

North Carolina Vacation – Day 5 of 9

It has been two weeks since I last blogged about our North Carolina vacation, which happened in May.  You might recall that we planned to spend 3 nights (May 12-15) in Asheville and leave for Maggie Valley on the morning of Thursday, May 15th.  We changed our minds about staying 3 nights in Asheville. The weather forecast for Wednesday night and throughout the day Thursday called for rain and thunderstorms. The chance for precipitation was 100%. To avoid riding / driving in the rain we decided to depart Asheville Wednesday afternoon, rather than on Thursday morning, and arrive in Maggie Valley a day early.  I am so glad that we decided to arrive in Maggie Valley on Wednesday afternoon, rather than on Thursday morning. Bob would have gotten wet, and it would have been a chilly ride.  I want to remind you, too, what brought us to Maggie Valley.  We traveled to Maggie Valley to attend the South East Vulcan Riders and Owners Club (SEVROC) motorcycle rally.

We began the fifth day (May 15) of our 9-day vacation in North Carolina at Country Vittles, where we ate breakfast with 10 other VROCers.  Bob ordered a three-egg omelet with toast and potatoes. I ordered two scrambled eggs, toast, bacon and potatoes. Breakfast was good, and the conversation lively.

After breakfast, Bob and I went on a drive to Cataloochee Valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  My blogging friend Betsy, of Joyful Reflections, suggested that we visit this valley.  If you type “Cataloochee” in the Joyful Reflections “Search this Blog” box, you will find many references to the Cataloochee Valley in Betsy’s blog.

According to the National Park Service website, “Cataloochee Valley is nestled among some of the most rugged mountains in the southeastern United States. Surrounded by 6000-foot peaks, this isolated valley was one of the largest and most prosperous settlements in what is now the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Some 1,200 people lived in this lovely mountain valley in 1910. Most made their living by farming, including commercial apple growing, but an early tourism industry developed in Cataloochee with some families boarding fishermen and other tourists who wished to vacation in the mountains.”  The drive to Cataloochee Valley was a bit hair raising, especially the entrance road.  The entrance road to the valley is a winding, gravel road with steep drop offs and no guard rails. We lucked out, as it did not rain while we were on our Cataloochee Valley trip.

Our first stop was at the Cataloochee Overlook.  This overlook provides beautiful vistas over the Big Cataloochee and Little Cataloochee Valleys and to the mountains beyond.

Cataloochee Overlook

Cataloochee Overlook

Cataloochee Overlook


Once we reached the valley floor, we drove to several historic frame buildings.


Palmer Chapel

Palmer Chapel was the only church in Big Cataloochee.  This church was built in 1898.  Church services were held once a month, on Sunday.  Services consisted of prayers, singing and sermons.  The sermons were delivered by circuit riding ministers from the Western North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Beech Grove School

Beech Grove School

There were three schools in the Cataloochee Valley.  Big Cataloochee’s Beech Grove School is the only one of the three that remains.  It was built in 1901 and replaced an older log building.

Inside Beech Grove School

Inside Beech Grove School


Caldwell House
(This photo was taken by Bob.)

Hiram Caldwell and his family lived in this stylish frame house.  The Caldwell House was completed in 1906.  The shingled gables reflected the popular Eastlake house style of the day.

We had to cross a creek to go to the Caldwell House.
(Bob took this picture.)

We walked on a wooden boardwalk across the swampy ground.

There were stone steps that led to the front porch.

The Caldwell House had interior paneling.

We walked upstairs.

This was one of the large upstairs rooms.

We walked downstairs.


We saw some wildlife, namely one turkey and elk, while in Cataloochee Valley.

Cataloochee Turkey

We saw 4 or 5 elk; however, I was able to photograph only one.


One last photograph of Cataloochee Valley


We returned to our hotel in the early afternoon. We spent 2-3 hours hanging out with VROC friends. Around 5:00 pm Bob and I drove to Waynesville. We picked up a few groceries at Food Lion and ate dinner at the Sagebrush Steakhouse. The restaurant was a good choice. Bob said the steak he ordered (ribeye) was the best he had in a while. My sirloin steak was very good as well. Accompanying Bob’s steak was a salad and broccoli. I had a loaded baked potato and cinnamon apples with my steak. Cheddar cheese biscuits, reminiscent of those served at Red Lobster, were provided as part of our meals.

A must-have feature at every VROC motorcycle rally that we have attended is a campfire.

Hanging out at A Holiday Motel

It was a chilly, wet night around the campfire. The weather, however, didn’t stop us from spending an enjoyable evening with friends.

Benezette Daycation

There is an elk herd located an approximate 1 1/2-hour drive from our house.  We like to drive to Benezette, PA a few times a year to check out the elk herd.  Yesterday was one of those days that we went in search of elk.   The overcast, cold day didn’t provide much motivation to get out of the house.  When we drive to Benezette, we usually leave early to mid-morning.  Yesterday we left home late, around 1:00 pm.

There is an area known as “the saddle” that photographer friends have hiked numerous times, looking for elk.  Bob and I had never been to the saddle area, until yesterday.  After parking our car, we hiked up to the saddle area.  There is a path that surrounds the saddle area.  We stayed on the path for our first saddle hike.

We didn’t see any elk during our hike in the saddle area.  However, we were rewarded with wonderful views of the countryside!

After our hike in the saddle area we returned to Winslow Hill Road.  Immediately, we saw an elk herd in a field across the road from the Winslow Hill elk view area.

I spotted one elk with spikes.
He spotted me too!

After a few minutes, we continued on our way down Winslow Hill Road.  We stopped for an early dinner at the Benezette Hotel.  The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner.  Bob ordered a steak salad; I ordered a taco salad.  Bob had to help me eat the taco salad, as it was huge.  Both salads were delicious and reasonably priced.

After dinner we drove back up Winslow Hill Road to see if the elk herd was still grazing in the same area.  They were!  I took some more photographs.


We drove back down Winslow Hill Road and turned right onto Route 555.

We saw more elk at Benezette Store Campground.

An elk at the Benezette Store Campground

I am happy that we got out of the house yesterday.  Our visit to Benezette provided us with fresh air, blue skies and sunshine and, yes, elk views!

Sunday Drive: Benezette to Warren

Bob and I went for a drive on Sunday.  We were gone all day and covered a little more than 200 miles.  We drove along the Clarion River; through Brookville, DuBois and Reynoldsville; saw elk in Benezette and ate an early dinner in St. Marys before heading back home.

In yesterday’s blog post I shared photographs taken during our drive from Warren to Benezette.  The portion of our drive from Benezette and back to Warren is highlighted in the following map.

Today’s blog post shares photographs taken while in Benezette.

Upon arriving in Benezette, we continued to drive on Rt. 555 to Grant Hill Road.  Grant Hill Road eventually turns into Winslow Hill Road.  I noticed a sign that read chains were required for travel on Grant Hill Road.  Chains were not needed on Sunday, as the road was clear of snow and ice.  I can see, though, where chains would be needed when the road is covered with snow and ice.  Grant Hill Road is very steep!

Our first stop in Benezette was at the Dents Run Elk Viewing Area along Winslow Hill Road.  We didn’t see any elk in this area; however, we did enjoy the view.

MacDarvey Castle is visible from the
Dents Run Elk Viewing Area.

Our next stop was on Dewey Road, at Elk Viewing Area #348.  We didn’t see any elk, at first.

There were blue signs posted all along Dewey Road.

I was reading one of the signs, when Bob said “there they are!”.  I looked in the direction in which Bob pointed.


An elk herd was resting near the top of a hill.

We returned to Winslow Hill Road and had just passed by the Winslow Hill Elk Viewing Area, when we spotted another elk herd!

Elk Seen on Hillside just past Winslow Hill Elk Viewing Area

elkBob took a picture of me photographing this elk herd.

We continued our drive down Winslow Hill Road to the Elk Country Visitor Center.

This was the only elk that we saw at the visitor center.

After our stop at the Elk Country Visitor Center, we made one other stop before leaving Benezette.  We turned onto Gray Hill Road from Rt. 555.  Gray Hill Road becomes Mt. Zion Street, along which is a field on which stands a wooden cross.  You will not be able to see the cross from the road.  Watch for “the cross” signs on both sides of Mt. Zion Street.  There is no parking lot, so you have to pull off on the side of the road as best as you can in order to park.  You will walk across a field to reach the cross.

There is a sweeping view of the countryside from the cross.

The Cross

We returned to our vehicle and continued driving on Mt. Zion Street to Rt. 255.  We followed Rt. 255 into St. Marys, where we enjoyed steak dinners at Hoss’s Steak and Sea House.  After dinner, we departed St. Marys and made our way back home to Warren.  It was a beautiful day for a drive.  The morning started out cloudy and cold; however, by afternoon bright sunshine made the temperature bearable and brightened the day considerably.

Day at Camp

Bob and I spent the better part of the day, Saturday (July 13th), at my brother’s camp in Jay Township near St. Marys, Pennsylvania.   Most of my brother’s family was there, as well as a few of Jim and Judy’s friends.  Everyone had fun that day, especially the children.

More Fun

My brother’s camp

My sister-in-law asked me to take a picture of all the children at camp.  This photograph shows all the children that were at camp, minus one.  My brother was gathering up the children for this picture.  When these six children were in the wagon, I asked Jim if all the children were here.  He counted them and said “yes”.  We missed one … sorry Kaitlyn!  I do have a photograph of Kaitlyn, though.  She can be seen in the second collage displayed above, in the photograph of the hula hoop contestants.  Kaitlyn is the girl on the far left.



We left camp around 7:45 pm.

We saw this deer within minutes of leaving the camp.

When we reached the end of the camp road, a right turn would take us home.  A right turn also would make us drive into the setting sun.  The sun was very, very bright.  Rather than drive into the setting sun, we opted to turn left and go into Benezette to see if we could find any elk.

We saw a few elk.
This one lone elk, though, provided the best photo  opportunity.

By the time we made it home it was 11:00 pm.  What a great day we had!  I am happy that we were able to spend time with my family.  It had been six long months since we last saw them.

Family Visit and an Elk Sighting

On Saturday (March 10) Bob, Raphael and I enjoyed lunch and conversation at Hoss’s Steakhouse in St. Marys, Pennsylvania with my brother, his wife and their 6-year-old grandson. Raphael had seen Jim and Judy in July 2008, when he last visited. It was the first time Raphael met Kaleb. Can you believe it? I forgot to take a picture of Raphael with Jim, Judy and Kaleb!

After lunch Bob, Raphael and I went to Benezette. Jim, Judy and Kaleb returned to camp, where they were spending the weekend. In Benezette we stopped at the Visitor Center.

Raphael in front of the Elk Country Visitor Center

We didn’t see any elk at visitor center. We drove up Winslow Hill and saw a large number of elk grazing on hill, too far away for a great-looking picture. We did see four elk on private property along Route 555. I photographed the closer of the four elk.


Benezette Elk

Yesterday, after admiring the variety of chainsaw sculptures at the Ridgway Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous, Bob and I decided to drive to Benezette in the hopes of seeing one or more elk. Before sharing photographs that I took of the elk, I want to share with you what we did prior to arriving in Benezette.

Our first stop, after leaving Ridgway, was at Elk County Medical Center in St. Marys, PA. My friend Gretchen’s son, Trevor, was in the hospital after suffering a perforated lung. I met Gretchen through her blog, Gretchen’s Travels, and we met in person at last year’s Ridgway Chainsaw Carvers Rendezvous. You can read about that meeting here. We met Trevor at the Rendezvous as well. I guess we didn’t make any impression on him, though, because Trevor doesn’t remember meeting us! I did what I came to the hospital to do. I gave Gretchen a hug. In fact, I gave her two hugs. I wanted Gretchen to know that she had the support of her friend. Gretchen’s husband was at the hospital as well. Randy, it was nice to meet you finally! Trevor was admitted to the hospital on Thursday, February 16. Hopefully he will be released from the hospital today.

Our second stop was at Hoss’s Steak and Sea House, also in St. Marys. We enjoyed steak (me) and chicken and ribs (Bob) for lunch, accompanied by the bountiful salad and dessert bar. No one ever leaves Hoss’s hungry!

After eating lunch we drove to Benezette. We stopped at the Elk Country Visitor Center first. We didn’t see any elk in the field, as we circled around the parking lot. There could have been elk at any of the viewing stations; however, we didn’t get out to look. The weather had turned cold and blustery, and I had no desire to brave the elements! We continued on to the Winslow Hill viewing area.

Winslow Hill Elk Herd
as seen from Dewey Road

After photographing the elk herd, we returned to Route 555. Just prior to Route 555 we saw four elk, located a lot closer than the Winslow Hill Elk Herd!

These elk were grazing on private property
near the intersection
of Winslow Hill Road and Route 555

After viewing the elk, we returned home. What a wonderful Saturday we had! I hope your Saturday was just as enjoyable.

Our Saturday Drive

What a lovely week it was! I’m happy that we had the opportunity to enjoy the lovely weather this past Saturday. We drove to Benezette, PA, which is located an approximate 1 1/2-hour drive from our house. The purpose of a trip to Benezette was to visit the recently opened Elk Country Visitor Center.

We made two stops prior to arriving at the visitor center.

The Cross

Our first stop was along Mt. Zion Road, near Benezette, where we walked through a small wooden gate and walked across the field to this cross. There is a sweeping view of the countryside from the cross.

Mt. Zion Road becomes Gray Hill Road, as you continue into Benezette. Shortly after turning left onto Route 555, we saw three bull elk at a campground.

The first two bull elk that we saw.

The third bull elk that we saw.

After admiring these three elk, we continued to the Elk Country Visitor Center.  We arrived at the visitor center shortly before its 9:00 AM opening time.

Elk Country Visitor Center

Elk Country Visitor Center

Elk Country Visitor Center

While at the visitor center, we watched a 4D theater presentation about the elk herd in Benezette. We experienced our first snowflakes while watching the multimedia presentation! We walked all three trails, which led to overlooks where elk may be seen. All three trails were short and easy to walk. We didn’t see any elk at the visitor center. We spent a couple hours at the visitor center. If we could have found more to do in the area, we would have stayed around until dusk. As it turned out we didn’t find anything to do in Benezette, so we started our drive back home. We made a few stops on our way back home.

We ate a late breakfast at the Hilltop Diner, located about 5 miles outside of St. Marys. Breakfast was a leisure affair; it was close to noon when we left Hilltop Diner.

We stopped at Straub Brewery in St. Marys, where Bob enjoyed a complimentary 5-6 oz. drink from the Eternal Tap.

Our Saturday Drive
Bob took this picture of the Eternal Tap.

We stopped at Clear Creek State Park, at Beartown Rocks. The main attraction at Beartown Rocks is the collection of enormous rocks and rock/tree formations.

Bob at Beartown Rocks

These house-sized rocks had a wooden staircase. We walked up that staircase to the top of the stack of rocks.

We could see a far distance from atop those rocks!

Several rocks created a tunnel-like formation

We returned home around 4:00 PM.
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