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Epic Summer Road Trip – Day 2 Ketchup and Superman

by JP on Oct.11, 2009, under Day 2, Roadtrip

Waking up in a place called Paducah, Kentucky does something for the spirit of a roadtrip. The very purpose of a roadtrip, in my eyes, is to see things unseen, stay places you have never heard of, and capture quintessential Americana. Waking up in Paducah, Kentucky for me was a great way to do all of those things. When I woke up early that morning in the cool Kentucky air, I was raring to go. We cooked breakfast on the portable stove, packed up the tent, and hit the road bound for St. Louis, on this day we would cross three state lines, the last inadvertently.


Metropolis, IL (2)

My wife drove the first leg of this short drive into the land of Lincoln, and so I spent sometime getting acquainted with St. Louis attractions via my laptop and Internet card. Fortunately, I stumbled on a very cool website called RoadSideAmerica. This unique site provides user-generated stories of roadside attractions throughout the United States. They also provide maps of each state with locations for these attractions. This site became one of my secondary maps for the duration of the trip, and I had quickly discovered two roadside attractions that I had to see, that also sat along my route to St. Louis.

Metropolis, IL (19)

Metropolis, IL (6)

Metropolis, IL

The first stop was the small town of Metropolis, IL. As you can imagine from its  name,  this is the hometown of everything Superman. I read about a giant Superman Statute at the town’s center as well as museums of Superman memorabilia throughout the town. As we pulled off the exit of I-24 we knew we were in the right place based on the huge watertower supporting a flying Superman. Entering town, I quickly found that the

Metropolis, IL (3) Metropolis was much less metropolitan and much more Smallville. A Superman statute standing at the center of town would not be hard to find from the interstate. Heading into Metropolis there were signs to the “Giant Superman Statute” every 25 feet.

As I approached downtown Metropolis, if it could really be called “downtown,” I saw the large Superman appropriately standing just in front of the town’s old courthouse. Having our first roadside attraction be the very figure that represents Truth, Justice, and the American Way only bolstered our pioneeering spirit of American exploration.  This small town, however, went all out for their hometown superhero. In addition to the Giant Statue, the town had a Superman Museum, souvenir shop, a Metro Chamber of Commerce complete with the “S” and even named their local newspaper The Daily Planet.

Metropolis, IL (13) Metropolis, IL (21)

Metropolis, IL (16)

As I wandered around downtown at 7:00 in the morning, I began snapping various pictures of the Superman statute, with my wife and I doing the obligatory superman hero pose underneath him. We also found wooden cutouts of various supermen/superwomen in comic book history.The cutouts allowed us to put our heads on them becoming real American heroes in just the snap of a photo. Thanks to this roadside attraction we were now superheroes pumped for the adventures America would throw at us over the next two weeks. Sadly, we had to leave Metropolis while everything was still closed, we didn’t expect that a three hour wait for opening times would be justified, and so we continued towards St. Louis.

Metropolis, IL (10)

I Put Ketchup on My Ketchup.

Largest Bottle of Ketchup

The next roadside attraction I found between Metropolis and St. Louis was one of those unique opportunities to see one of the “world’s largest” fill in the blank oddities. The world’s largest catsup bottle resides in the small town of Collinsville, IL. Collinsville used to be the headquarters of.Brooks Catsup. The Catsup (ketchup) company modeled the water tower it relied upon after the catsup bottle it filled. While, Brooks Catsup Company no longer remains in Collinsville, the tower remains standing, albeit somewhat rusty, as a ridiculous roadside oddity . The 70 ft. bottle, sits atop large metal legs, and is situated just a few miles off the interstate heading into St. Louis.

After spending a couple of minutes laughing at our roadside attraction, we hopped back in the car, left Illinois and headed the last thirty minutes or so into Missouri.

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Bear Hair Gap Trail, Hiking in Vogel State Park

by JP on Oct.09, 2009, under Georgia Hiking Trails, Hiking Trails

Distance: 4.1 Mile Loop

Difficulty: Strenuous

Blaze: Orange

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Bear Hair Gap Trail is a partial loop trail located in North Georgia’s Vogel State State Park. The trail carries hikers through the Blood Mountain Wilderness at times paralleling two creeks that feed the lake below. At the top of the trail, hikes are rewarded with a view high over Vogel State Park and Lake Trahlyta. The views from the top, however, are likely to be much better during winter months when the dense forestry doesn’t block the vista. Be aware that Bear Hair Gap Trail brings hikers outside of the boundaries of Vogel State Park and into some areas that are occasionally opened for hunting. If hiking during hunting season, make sure to know if the area has been opened to hunting, and take all safety precautions. For some tips on hiking around hunters, make sure to read “Hiking During Hunting Season.

Trailhead

Upon arrival at Vogel State Park, one can stop by the visitors center to get a map of the hiking trails. Stay parked at the visitor’s center as it is the nearest parking area to the trailhead.

The trailhead can be somewhat difficult to find, as the trail does not really begin until one has walked a few tenths of a mile into the woods. Walk past the visitor’s center (away from the Lake), and follow the road until a there is a stone staircase on the right and a sign indicating the Byron Herbert Reece Nature Trail. Follow the staircase up, and turn left, following the signs towards the Bear Hair Gap Trail.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

After walking just behind the Vogel State Park camping area, one comes to an intersection just below the true trailhead. A sign straight ahead indicates the direction of Blood Mountain. This is where the trail will come back out at the end, and as such, can be the beginning of the trail. Heading straight will result in hiking the trail clockwise, which will result in a steeper ascent along the trail. Instead, we opted for hiking the trail counterclockwise for a longer, but less steep climb. To do so, turn right at the Blood Mountain sign following the Bear Hair Gap Trail signs up and around this initial ridge. The true trailhead is found at the first separation of Bear Hair Gap with the Coosa Backcountry Trail.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

The Ascent

From here, the trail continues uphill, very slowly for approximately 2.0 miles. Along the ascent, hikers will cross one of two creeks on the trail numerous times. During the summer months, the crossings were not more than an inch or two deep on the trail, and provided plenty of rocks to keep the feet dry.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

After a few of these creek crossings, the trail connects with, what appears to be, an old forest service road. The service road is very broad, and follows several switchbacks further up the side of the mountain. At one point, hikers will see several posts mounted on the trail designed to block vehicles from attempting access up the trail.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Vogel Overlook

Finally, at the top of the ridge, hikers will be given an option of continuing along the trail, or following a sign to “Vogel Overlook.” The sign doesn’t tell hikers anything regarding distance. DO NOT skip this turn off. The Vogel Overlook, is the only really good vista on the hike. The turnoff is a very short, less than 0.2 mile lollipop loop back to the trail, but at the top of the loop, hikers will be rewarded with views across the Blue Ridge mountains with Vogel State Park below.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

The Return

After taking time to enjoy the view, return back to the trail to begin a slow descent back to the state park.

After returning to the trail, hikers will, initially, be taken back along the wide service road with occasional obscured views over the state park.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

The trail will soon turn off of the service road and begin a steeper descent back to the park. During this descent, hikers will cross and hike along the second creek on the trail. This creek has much more water than the first, but allows dry crossings when the trail intersects it. This part of the trail feels much more like a backcountry trail. The forest becomes thicker and greener, and the trail begins to narrow to a single pathway.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Base of the Trail

As hikers reach the base of the trail, the descent initially gets steeper with erosion barriers, and then flattens out into a pine forest. I saw several deer off in the distance on this part of the trail. Hikers should recognize when they have reached the end of the loop when they arrive back at the initial intersection of Bear Hair Gap and Blood Mountain. This time hikers will be coming from the “Blood Mountain” sign at the intersection. Go straight to get back to the park.

Bear Hair Gap Trail, Vogel State Park

Nearby Trails:

Coosa Backcountry Trail- 12.9 mile loop

Byron Herbert Reece Nature Trail – 0.8 miles loop

Trahlyta Lake Trail – 1.0 mile loop.

Brasstown Bald – 0.6 miles

DeSoto Falls - 0.75 miles to Upper Falls, 0.25 miles to Lower Falls.

Helton Creek Falls – 0.1 mile

Directions:

From Blairsville:

1. Take US 19/129 South for 11 miles. Turn right into Vogel State Park.

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