"To strive, to seek, to find and not to yield"
- Alfred Lord Tennyson, 1833

"live deep and suck out all the marrow of life"
- Henry David Thoreau, 1845

"Some guys, they just give up living
And start dying little by little, piece by piece
Some guys come home from work and wash up,
And go racin' in the streets."
- Bruce Springsteen, 1977

"...to the heart, there's no time for you to waste.
You won't find your precious answers now
by staying in one place."
- Frank Turner, 2009

"The best things in life aren't things.
They're living and breathing."
- Michael Franti , 2011

"I owned every second that this world could give,
I saw so many places, the things that I did"
- Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, 2014

All written content and photos by Rob Fulfer unless otherwise indicated.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

44 Through the Door

Wednesday, April 20, 2011 We celebrated my 44th birthday tonight by grabbing some tickets to see the Nashville Predators hockey team hosting the Anaheim Ducks in the first round of the 2011 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. This was our first time seeing professional playoff hockey in person. Before the game, we made arrangements with our friend, Chris, to meet up for dinner beforehand at Big River Brewery & Restaurant. Chris has limited season tickets and since his wife had to work late tonight, he invited his friend, Stewart, along and he joined us for dinner as well. Our friend, Ryan, was also going to the game and stopped by our table for a couple of pre-game beers with us. Our tickets were in the lower bowl and in a very nice location. They were about 20 rows off the ice and against the first retaining wall with no one directly behind us. The game was fast and ferocious with the Preds falling behind rather quickly, 2-0. They battled back to tie in an exciting 2nd period; got behind again, 3-2, and drew again to a tie at 3-3 when the 3rd period started. Then the wheels came off and the team got dismantled rather quickly and easily with three unanswered goals by the Ducks. It was a resounding and stunning 6-3 loss. Not the greatest way to end one's birthday, but it was a good time and there was still a lot of excitement. Plus, the Preds weren't dead yet as the best-of-seven series moved back to Anaheim tied at two games each. (Happy Note: The Preds went on to win this series 4 games to 2!) Friday, April 22, 2011 With the Good Friday holiday upon us and my birthday just a couple of days old, we grabbed a cheap rental car at the airport and packed up for the rest of my birthday present from Ashlee, a weekend road trip down to the North Georgia mountains for some hiking and relaxing. We broke up the 5 hour drive with a stop in Chattanooga for a late lunch at Blacksmith's Bistro & Bar in the St. Elmo area at the foot of Lookout Mountain. This funky little restaurant sits near the famous Lookout Mountain Incline entrance, islanded off between two busy streets. We sat outside on the patio with cars whizzing by us in different directions. The food was surprisingly good, plentiful and unique. We had nice large gourmet burgers, a heap of yummy fresh fries and a fried shrimp-roll appetizer that was very tasty. Thanks again, Groupon.com! With our bellies full, we headed on east briefly into North Carolina via our beloved Highway 64 (we have traveled this road many, many times in our early pre-blog years as a couple, hiking and canoeing in the mountains of TN, NC and GA) and then dipped south into Georgia to the tiny town of Lakemount which sits on beautiful Lake Rabun which was our final destination. The weather cooperated nicely despite a forecast of showers and we pulled into the Lake Rabun Hotel well before sunset. The historic hotel built in the 1920's is lovingly maintained and gets rave reviews. We could see why very quickly. Its beautiful grounds and charming woodsy lodge-like interior (downstairs lobby, photo below) are eye-popping. With only eight rooms currently available, it is also fairly hard to get into without advance reservations. We were set up in the Andreae Room on the second floor which had a view of the lake across the road as well as the hotel's front garden and koi pond. The room's original fireplace has been converted to gas, but still retains it's charm. The hotel is almost as well-known for its restaurant and we had reservations for dinner there tonight. The food was delicious (especially the homemade pimento cheese, served warm for dipping) albeit too much since we had eaten so well and so much so late in the afternoon in Chattanooga. After dinner we enjoyed a little time out on the second floor public balcony with our new friends, Chloe and Meow, the hotel's resident cats. The hotel retains its 1920's charm by not having TVs in the rooms although there is a public sitting room downstairs with one in it. We were too stuffed and tired to make it downstairs, so we opted to curl up in bed with a movie on the laptop that we brought along (Wedding Date - a hilarious romantic comedy) and that worked out great as we drifted off to a peaceful sleep in the ultra-comfortable bed. Saturday, April 23, 2011 We arose not so early this morning (in fact, we missed the complimentary breakfast served from 8 to 9:30), but still in the A.M. as the chill moved out of the mountain air and the sun flooded the area for what looked to be a great spring day. Waterfalls were our destinations today and we had several in our plans to seek out and hike to before the day's end. This beautiful area is chock full of falling water and includes several cataracts that have eluded my collection of over 300 visited in the last 20-plus years, many of which we have visited together. First up was nearby Angel and Panther Falls which are reached by a mile-plus hike from the Rabun Beach Campground. Angel Falls is reached first and by the time we arrived at it, a rather large group of ladies in a hiking club were slowing moving on past it to Panther Falls which lies a short, but steep, distance beyond in the same cove. The falls which can dry up in the summer months was running nicely thanks to an abundant amount of spring rains lately. We opted to check out Panther Falls later since the trial was narrow to get to it and we wouldn't be able to pass by the large, albeit slow-moving, group ahead of us. We backtracked to our car (finding another creature out enjoying the spring weather, photo above) and consulted my now rather aged hiking book of the area and attempted to find a smaller falls nearby, but could not locate the trail head. Our stomachs were starting to growl from missing breakfast, so we opted for an early lunch before pressing on to our next waterfall. We stopped at a small deli/cafe in the area called Annie's at Alley's which is housed in another historic building of the area. We had large, bountiful sandwiches and fresh, red-velvet cupcakes. Not a bad little find! Our next waterfall was not hard to find. In fact, Minnehaha Falls is considered one of the most beautiful in the area and with a short, albeit steep, hike in to its base, it is also one of the most frequently visited. It is amazingly lovely for sure with it's stair-step design, great green canopy of framing and beautiful rock colors. We were fortunate enough to get some alone time at this beauty before a throng of people descended upon it with their loud kids and louder dogs ruining the tranquility of the moment. Trying to guarantee more solitude and a more peaceful setting, we next opted for a longer hike to two waterfalls in a very remote area. We drove over 6 miles on a forest service road (the book said it was more like 9 miles) that we kept expecting to be too rough for our rented Nissan sedan, but it trudged along nicely and the road was quite manageable up to the parking area at the trail head to Holcomb Creek Falls and Ammons Creek Falls. Well, we got what we came for, that's for sure. There wasn't a soul out here with us. These two creeks fall wildly and beautifully in a steep cove of huge trees. It was a tough climb in and out of over a mile each way, but well worth the effort and the long, slow drive back in here. By the time we got back to the car, the sun was dipping behind the high mountains and we were ready to call it a day with four waterfalls visited and over 4 miles of serious trail hiking recorded. We showered and rested up when we got back to the hotel and opted to have dinner across the road tonight instead of the hotel. That was our only mistake of the trip. The place looked promising, but in the end was a real disappointment. We choose not to mention it's name here in this blog so as to keep criticism to a minimum. We got back to the room and put a cheap bottle of bubbly on ice that we got at the local Wal-Mart that afternoon...yep, it's a great state that sells wine at the grocery store...come on Tennessee, get off your "moral laurels" already and join the modern world. Oops, more criticism. Sorry about that. Back to a more positive focus and the good times that were had. We opted for another movie in bed (this time, Proof of Life - one of our favorite action films). Sunday, April 24, 2011 We woke up in time for breakfast this morning and man, did we miss out yesterday! It was delicious, and we were able to eat outside on this beautiful Easter morning under a canopy of trees with a view of Lake Rabun. Not a bad substitute for church, and we figured The Big Guy didn't mind since we were sitting out among some of his best handywork. After breakfast, we packed up and said goodbye to the beautiful hotel and its super-friendly staff and headed back the way we came. We definitely want to come back to this area when the opportunity arises. Perhaps rent a lake house for a long weekend in the summer, or again at this time of year which is stunning with all the spring colors. We stopped for a bathroom break back in Tennessee on the Ocoee River at the lovely visitors center built back during the 1996 Summer Olympics. We stretched our legs with a nice walk on a few of their maintained trails and bridge over the river. We met up with Ashlee's family that afternoon in Chattanooga for Easter brunch at Tony's Pasta in the Arts District...it's always a crowd-pleaser. We got back home in time to drop the rental car at the airport (you couldn't even tell it had been "off-roading" in the N. Georgia mountains). Addendum: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 - We had a great 3-course dinner and wine flight at Miel in West Nashville tonight for "Dining Out for Life" which benefits Nashville Cares with our friends, Danny and Brenda. Our friend, Caroline, was also there and a few other folks we know from her Christmas party which happens to be where we met Danny and Brenda.

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