Home Away From Home, North Carolina

Indescribable Beauty in Western North Carolina

Today was an exhilarating but exhausting day! We got on out early this morning as we had several places we wanted to go. We didn’t see everything we had planned on but we saw something we hadn’t planned on and that was the best!

IMG_1692Our first stop was Elk River Falls. Common sense would say it is in Elk Park but we had a bit of trouble finding it. The GPS said it was in Tennessee which actually isn’t far from here. The cell phones had no coverage so we couldn’t look it up that way. We finally saw a sign indicating Elk River Falls so that’s the way we went. It was a narrow two lane road that wound around and around. I probably would have given up but Jerry said the rustic sign pointed in that direction so on we would go. We were finally rewarded with a small graveled parking lot with one other car in it. After we got out we saw some steps leading to a trail through the woods so off we went.

IMG_1689The trail to the top is an easy five minute walk although there are a lot of tree roots to be aware of. Just below the falls is a small sandy area and it looked like it might be used as a sunning and swimming spot but the water was way too cold today for that! Apparently there is good fishing there as well as we saw a gentleman trying his luck.

Next we headed for Linville thinking that was where Linville Falls is. I put in Linville Falls Visitors Center in the GPS and off we went. It took us down another narrow two lane road although this one was in better condition. There was a sign saying no exit but we traipsed on. Sure enough we hit a dead end. Fortunately there was a very informative couple who gave us several suggestions on what to see. By the way, there is a road there that apparently leads to the Visitors Center (which we never went to) but the gentleman said it was closed in the 30’s. Come on GPS – time to catch up!
The couple recommended Wisemans View and told us how to get there. I am surely glad we ran into them because Wiseman View was the absolute highlight of the day.

Following their direction we followed route 221 until we got to 183 and then turned and it led us to Pisgah National Forest where Wiseman View, Linville Gorge and Linville Falls are located. When we hit the graveled road we knew we had four miles left to reach the top. We truly did not know what to expect but the bumpy, graveled road ride was worth it. We were told that the road probably would be ok as the season hadn’t started yet. Well, thank goodness for that! It indeed was a bumpy graveled road with a lot of holes. In fact I remarked to Jerry twice that we needed a jeep. He replied that a dirt bike might be a better choice. There were only two places that were really bad and at one of those the bottom of the car scraped the ground. Go Toyota Avalon! The only scary part was when we approached an ascent and couldn’t see over the top of the car. That only happened once though – well twice, once going and once returning! We stopped at an Information Center but it was locked. It did have restrooms though in a nice building but they had porta potties! Guess that’s necessary in that kind of situation.

IMG_1704We continued on up the road and soon reached the parking lot for Wiseman View. There is a relatively short path (handicap accessible) that leads to the ledges and incredible beauty. From every view there are stands of green trees and nothing else, no homes, no business, no construction – just nature at its finest. The Gorge is known as the “roughest piece of country east of the Rocky Mountains”. It is too rugged to be used for farming and most of the timber is inaccessible. During the 1920’s there was talk of turning it into a private park or using the Linville River for generating power but those ideas fell through so the Gorge remains wild and beautiful still. The Gorge is home to a variety of plants and trees. There are occasional fires there and interestingly enough there is one pine tree that needs a hot fire to open its cones. The ledges are nesting habitats for the rare peregrine falcons and Jerry actually saw one today. We walked around the top for quite some time but were very careful not to get too close to the ledge as it is very treacherous and a long way down! In fact Linville Gorge is the deepest gorge in the eastern United States.

Look at that lovely background
Look at that lovely background

We stopped at Bynum Bluff Trail on the way down and hiked it for a while. We couldn’t see any end in sight so we eventually turned around. We did see lots of pretty vegetation and lovely flowers. In fact we saw azaleas blooming in the wild and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Imagine that they can grow in the wild and I can’t grow them in my yard! We returned to the car intending to get our lunch and find a nice rock to sit on and picnic. Since we were unable to find a good spot we drove on back to the Information Center and just ate in the car.

Our next stop was Linville Falls. Once there we had a nice hike to the lower falls. It is amazing to realize the power that the falls produce. There are several trails there but by this time we were hot, sweaty and hiked out so we headed back to the campground via the grocery store.

Jerry baked some sausage balls this afternoon and after putting laundry on I took a brief nap – don’t think I would have made it I hadn’t!

Tomorrow we head to Trails End Campground in Waynesville for some more exciting days. I have surely enjoyed our time here and would love to return. In fact I told Jerry I had never wanted a house in the mountains but I’m about to change my mind about that not that it will happen but it might be nice. We have only tapped the very cream of a beautiful part of North Carolina – there is so much more up here to see. We are very blessed to live in a state that has such beauty from one end to the other!

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Home Away From Home, North Carolina

Grandfather Mountain

Today was such a fun day. To start off it was an absolutely beautiful sun shiny day so that always makes for a nice day. After a pretty delayed start we finally headed out for Grandfather Mountain in Linville, NC. We went several months ago with Jane, David and the kids but the top of the mountain was closed due to high winds but we did get to see the Split Rock and the Sphinx Rock plus of course they let us go as far as the gift shop! Also I had been years ago. In fact when I went they had the original swinging bridge – wow!

Today we got to go all the way to the top. We stopped along the way at one of the overlooks and then stopped at the woodworker’s shop and picnic area. We looked around a bit but decided to go up. We passed Split Rock and Sphinx Rock and climbed the steep incline toward the top. Hair pin curves made the drive even more interesting.

The  top of the mountain
The top of the mountain
When we got to the top we paused a moment just to look out over the beautiful vista – oh, how God has made this earth so pretty for us to enjoy. As Jerry said later if this world is this pretty can you imagine what heaven must be like. We then started the climb toward the bridge and to the very top. There is an elevator that one can ride to the top but we elected to walk. After a series of steps we reached the bridge. This bridge is new having replaced the old bridge in 1999. This is certainly more stable and not nearly as swingy. The maximum number of people allowed on the bridge at one time is 40 but there was nowhere near that this afternoon. In the middle of the bridge you are exactly one mile above sea level and about 80 feet above the ground.

We scrambled around on the rocks making our way to the top. I realized this morning that seven years ago we were standing on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon scrambling all around up there. I surely do hope that in seven more years we’ll be scrambling around some rocks somewhere!

The view just goes on forever. Fortunately it was a clear day so we could see a long way. In fact on some days you can see Charlotte which is 80 miles away. Interestingly enough things are not as green here as they are back home and not as green at Grandfather Mountain as they are at The Little Campground. Of course The Little Campground is in a valley so that would account for some of the difference as the temperature is warmer there.

I looked around and realized that Jerry was making his way back down to the bottom of the stairs and I knew he was going to try to get a picture of me at the top. Climbing down without his help was a bit more challenging but I made it.

We then went in the Gift Shop and looked around. I bought a magnet and then we headed back to the woodworker’s shop and the picnic area. We had a lovely picnic and then went for a nice walk around the area, about a half mile. IMG_3935There were signs along the way pointing out the various trees. One fact that I found very interesting was concerning the lichen on one of the rocks. Half of the rock was covered with lichen and then part of it wasn’t. The part covered with lichen was where no one had touched it. You could clearly see that the other part of the rock was where people had sat and no lichen had grown there.

Tom Wolf's studio
Tom Wolf’s studio
We headed back into the woodworkers shop where renown wood carver Tom Wolf was working. Jerry bought one of his walking sticks and Mr. Wolf carved Jerry’s name in it.

We left there and went back to the Sphinx Rock and the Split Rock. We climbed on the Sphinx Rock a bit but decided it was a bit risky and not worth the consequences should one of us fall.

IMG_1676We wandered on down Grandfather Mountain then and headed for Moses H Cone Memorial Park. It was a little further than I though and the GPS had a little trouble but we finally found it. The manor itself is beautiful and the view from the front porch is spectacular. I could just imagine sitting there in a rocking chair and gazing out over the mountains.

We didn’t stay long as it was getting late so we headed on back to the campground. A couple of stops later, one at a gas station and one at the local Lowes and we were “home”. We both sat outside and read for a while and then prepared dinner. Jerry had bought some green beans Saturday and I was eager to try out our new steamer using what I had “learned” at the FMCA rally. Let’s just say that I should have listened a bit better. I steamed them 6 minutes and then 6-7 more and they still were not done. Maybe tomorrow night!