Sunday, October 19, 2014

Denver Downs Farm - Corn Maze and Punkin' Patch

This baby goat stood up and instinctively butted heads!
Though they are open from September thru November, it was the month of October that brought me to the Denver Downs Farm. Located in the Piedmont section of South Carolina, along the road to Clemson University, the rolling terrain is well suited for hayrides, hay romps and the like. Every day here is a fall festival, but they have fine-tuned the grounds to include lots of games for kids to enjoy, which extends the family fun time spent in the outdoors.

How 'bout a hey ride past the Punkin' patch!
A sunny and unseasonably warm day had visitors in shorts rather than fleece garb, but some Indian summer conditions are to be expected in the Palmetto State. A large parking lot in a field can handle crowds, and the kiosk to enter Denver Downs accepts both cash and credit payments. The ticket is all inclusive for games and rides but excludes food, beverage and pumpkins to take home. The day of our visit a nanny goat gave birth to two kids - and you can't put a price on the excitement and cuteness of such moments!

Good Info to Know
Youth activities included a climbing wall, zip line, hand-pumping water, a corn crib, tennis ball launcher, rolling races and jumping station. Livestock on display included multiple goats, a large sow pig, and a team of horses on a buggy ride option. Even some piglets ran in a four-way race, making the crowd 'squeal' with approval. Other activity stations provided the kind of variety where there is something to appeal to just about anyone.

2014 Corn Maze at Denver Downs
The corn maze and the hayride take the longest amounts of time and make good group excursions. Inside the corn maze of fresh green corn stalks offer plenty of directional options and everyone can take turns leading their people either deeper into the web of the maze, or perhaps to the Exit point. The hay wagons are pulled by large tractors and travel around the perimeter of the corn maze, giving visitors a different look at the splendid rural grounds at Denver Downs.

To view past blog entries about outdoor fun click on Sassafras Mountain or Sky Top Orchard.

To view Field Notes and Photos click here.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sassafras Mountain - Highest Point in S.C.

View from observation deck at Sassafras Mountain
Conservation is the name of the game in South Carolina whether in the coastal plain or in the scenic foothills. Pickens County is home to a wedge of the Appalachian chain and the peak of Sassafras Mountain marks the state line with North Carolina. Of course the mountains of Western N.C. and Eastern Tenn. are much more extensive and offers a home to the Great Smoky Mountains.

Elevation 3553 !!
Did you know that there is an observation platform already in place at Sassafras Mountain and that plans are in place to build a multi-level observation platform on the peak when fundraising can be completed. Phase One of the plan has been executed, removing many of the trees and other woody vegetation at the top to increase the viewing potential. To read more about the plan click SCDNR.

And what a view it is, with panoramic vistas looking back towards Jocassee Gorges in S.C., and across a wider range of mountains into N.C. it lies among the 77-mile long Foothills Trail. The terrain is steep in this area, and even driving to Sassafrass can be challenging, but it's worth the trip. This area should provide a lot of enjoyment for the public, especially when it is the fall leaf viewing season.

To view past blog entries with mountain vista photos click here.
I parked my Toyota Avalon hybrid very near the Over Look

Artist's Representation of Tower

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

50th Ann. of Southeastern Outdoor Press at Fontana, N.C.

2014 is the Golden Anniversary for SEOPA

Those passionate folks in the Southeast who felt a calling to write about the outdoors banded together five decades ago to found a media organization while gathering near the Smoky Mountains in Fontana, North Carolina. The steady march of time from 1964 included plenty of hunting seasons and fishing opportunities, before it became time to plan and celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association. Though the recent changes in the publishing industry have been numerous it was a return to Fontana that brought attendees a tangible connection to the past.
NBCI Outdoor Communicator Award Winners at SEOPA
The conference kicked off with a concert by local bluegrass band Balsam Range, and their lead singer quipped that they were proud to be Appalachian Americans. The business of the annual conference is always to help the media members to become better at their craft, and to remain mindful of their professional responsibilities. Workshops at Fontana included adventure photography, writing outdoor stories for youth readers, first aid in the field and newspaper reporting. One session about the tribulations of blogging held particular interest for me since I began my own blog back in January 2009.

A large crowd gathered for the 50th Anniversary
 Ron and Karen Presley traveled from Florida
Fundraising for SEOPA includes silent and live auctions during dinner banquets at the conference. The annual awards banquet is a time to recognize the best of the best from the Southeast for their prowess in outdoor communications. While there were too many awards to list them all it is worth noting that members Bodie McDowell and Thayne Smith were inducted into the Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame while at Fontana.

Viewing the mountain vistas and could be enhanced by taking a tree canopy zip line tour, or by riding on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. Driving along Highway 28 includes tight turns coupled with steep inclines and is nicknamed the Tail of the Dragon. Visitors can simply stop at any of the roadside viewing areas to enjoy the visual dynamics of the mountains and to make photos. If looking for a place to spend the night while visiting, to enjoy nature and experience family fun then visit the Internet at

To read this feature article in the newspaper click on Colletonian.

To view past blog entries from SEOPA click 2013, 2012 or 2009.

To view the latest Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report click here.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Report - 10/14/2014

Fishing Report for the Coastal Lowcountry of South Carolina:
The Osprey is also known as the Fish Hawk
Inshore Report: Scott Hammond at Haddrell's Point West says it's wide open for some flatfish right now! The local flounder bite has exploded the past couple weeks, with numerous reports of 15-25 fish per trip and some quality size as well. Live minnows or live mullet fished behind a Zman FlatZ jig have been slaying the flounder in 3-6ft of water along rock banks and creek mouths with a hard bottom. Trout numbers continue to be on the increase as anglers report back some decent reports of catching trout by slow trolling grubs for them, as well as some solid topwater action early in the mornings producing some large trout. Sheepshead are also starting to turn on fire, with great reports from inshore bridge pilings and the jetties using fiddler crabs and even live shrimp under a small float. Shrimping season continues to be under way with solid reports coming from St Helena sound as well as crab bank in the harbor. For the latest seminar information visit the Internet at Haddrell's Point.

Some beautiful weather recently has allowed numerous boats to slip out in the past week and get some trolling in, with boats like the Summer Girl slaying great numbers of wahoo and numerous sails and even a couple blues being caught as well. Blackfin tuna are just starting to show back up along the ledge as well. Bottom fishing in 70-100ft continues to produce some large triggers and b-liners with some fair numbers of grouper being caught in the same depths using live pinfish and vertical style jigs.

To view past Lowcountry Saltwater Fishing Reports click here.

Field Notes and Photos in Fontana, N.C. - October 2014

Mountain Caterpillar - Which makes me want to go fly fishing
Monarch Butterfly on Zinnia flower
Keeping one's eyes open for the appearance of wildlife in the natural world is just one part of being an outdoor enthusiast. Attending the 50th Anniversary meeting of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association brought me to Fontana, N.C. on the doorstep of the Great Smoky Mountains. Despite the warmer than usual temps I was able to spot a few critters moving around and spot a few flowers still in bloom. The larger than life vistas associated with the old Appalachian mountains are hard to put into words, but the grandeur of the setting keeps one thankful that the creator has a place for all the flora and fauna that require a hilltop paradise to reside in. Another thankful thought goes out to those who protected and preserved these lands, and to those who practice modern upkeep and conservation here now.

To view past Field Notes and Photos click September 2014 or August 2014 or June 2014.

This Cooper's Hawk paused for a sunroof photo

Mountain wildflowers found along the road

Monday, October 13, 2014

2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid tames N.C.'s Tail of the Dragon

2014 Avalon at a scenic boat ramp

The 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid is one QUIET driving machine.
Literally when you push the Start button, you cannot hear the car start up.
I will report that I am new to the hybrid market, but others around me have the same reaction.
Those standing outside the car, cannot tell when I have hit Start and when I turn it Off.
Reports of electric and hybrid cars being too quiet may be right on the money.
Then again, what can be deemed too quiet when touring the scenic N.C. mountains.

I tamed the Tail of the Dragon!
The 50th Anniversary meeting of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association brought me to Fontana, N.C. which includes a drive along The Hellbender 28. This curving road with steep inclines and declines is also known as the Tail of The Dragon for its serpentine-like pathway that continues for several miles. Driving this road in the 2014 Toyota Avalon Hybrid was one of the finest driving experiences this middle-aged writer has ever felt. The quiet power of the vehicle and and the extreme comfort inside the auto combined for an exhilarating combo.
Pulling out of Fontana Village

Another calming effect on this driver is the 40 gallons per mile fuel economy that this Avalon registers when on these remote roads. There are not many gas stations in rural Swain County but that brings little worry when your auto doesn't need to stop for fuel too often. The dashboard speedometer is accompanied by a dial that shows when the auto is in eco mode, charge mode or power mode and gas mileage can also be selected to display.

Hybrid Dashboard View
Other points of interest include the handsome exterior of the Avalon which has been rounded at the truck, a definite improvement from the first Avalon models. The back seat is roomy with leg room for two adults, providing just a bit more space than a Lexus ES 350 in comparison. Adding features like satellite radio, navigation and cooling seats only make this hybrid a better product. Moderate temps while in Fontana allowed me to keep the sunroof open for maximum viewing of the leaves that were just beginning to show their fall colors.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

50th Ann. of Southeastern Outdoor Press - WNC Vistas

Fontana Dam - Built by TVA in 1942
Here are a small sampling of the views and vistas I saw in Western North Carolina during the 50th Anniversary meeting of the Southeastern Outdoor Press Association.

Smoky Mountain Majesty

Welcoming newbie Roger Metz to SEOPA

Higher elevations were just starting to show fall colors