Monday, June 19, 2017

Summer 2017 Road Trip ~ Day 5: Asheville, NC to Blowing Rock, NC (Tuesday, June 6, 2017)

This morning I woke up early again (6:45 a.m.), brewed coffee while my daughter slept, and caught up on news, emails, blogs.  She also woke up a little earlier than usual so we got dressed, packed up, and went to have breakfast.

Asheville is a town very popular with retirees so I wasn't surprised that we seemed to be the youngest guests in the breakfast room for most of the time we were there.  The breakfast buffet was fine. I had my scrambled eggs, a bowl of cut up melon squares, a light yogurt and a cup of skim milk. I also had 1/2 a bagel.  I kept the other half for a snack later on and also grabbed an orange from the fruit bowl for later on.  Then we checked out.

It was cloudy when we left but soon enough it became sunny. Hooray!  We first drove to the Folk Art Center, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, just outside Asheville, and spent about an hour visiting there.  Sadly, they don't allow photographs, which made me sad because there were so many beautiful things that I would have wanted to photograph so I would remember one day to come back and buy them :)  Alas, most everything I wanted was very expensive. I want to support good artists but right now my house isn't conducive to displaying expensive pieces of folk art.  We enjoyed our visit, though.  The downstairs is the store where you can purchase items from local folk artists, and the upstairs is a gallery where senior projects from students who attended the local folk art college and who graduated this year.  Amazing works of art, really.

It was so frustrating not being able to take any photos once inside!
After our visit, we got back on the Blue Ridge Parkway and drove about 40 minutes to Mount Mitchell State Park. But on the way there, it suddenly got very foggy again, but much worse than yesterday AND today there were a lot of bike riders on the parkway too. I could barely see 10 feet ahead of me so that was very scary and I was really happy that I didn't have to get stuck behind a bike in that fog.  Soon the fog cleared and we were able to enjoy sunny views of the mountains and valleys below. My daughter only took pictures with her phone up to Mount Mitchell and I didn't get any of them.

Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the Eastern United States at 6,266 ft.  Yep, the road to get up there was very steep, I had to use the 3rd gear and I still felt that if I took my foot off the gas pedal just a little bit, we would roll down the mountain backward! It was a little unnerving and yes, there were people biking to the top. Nutcases! They don't charge admission to the state park, probably because NC has state income tax.

We first stopped at the Welcome Center and got a map of the trails.  It was cold there and we put on our jackets.  Then we drove on another couple of miles up to the top and hiked the Balsam Trail, which was designated as an "easy" trail that was only 0.7 miles long.  Uh, easy it was NOT.  It was all uphill and there were many steps that were made with natural shaped stones that were a little hard to maneuver if you weren't a mountain goat.  It was cold but it didn't rain and after just a short while, I got too hot for my jacket with all the exertion so I mostly walked in my short sleeves and it felt very nice.  We didn't see much wildlife as far as flowers and fauna. Everything was very green though, and it was a very pretty trail. We passed a few groups of people who were hiking the opposite direction from us but it wasn't crowded.

Still foggy down there, so we couldn't see much.

But my daughter insisted there were lakes in the distance so I zoomed in. She was right! Ah, to have excellent vision again!

As it was a nature trail, there were several helpful stations set up that talked about the flora and fauna
that can be found here at Mount Mitchell and also in the area.

We were so high up that the vegetation was much different from the other trails we had visited
so far. A lot of the trees didn't have many leaves, which was natural seeing the amount of wind
and precipitation this altitude receives.

We saw very few flowers and no wildlife up there. But there was moss a plenty!

Going down...

Climbing back up!  You definitely have to be in good shape to maneuver those trails.
Another reason for me to lose weight, get healthier and baby my knees and feet!

I loved the little pompoms of new growth!

She was turning around to ask me if I was alright and cautioned me to be careful on the rocks:)

There were lots of rocks and it didn't seem to bother the trees that grew just on top of them!

I kind of wondered whether the rock fell before the trail was built or if it just narrowly missed it!

Good grief, we're still going up!

When we were done with the hike, we visited a small museum that talked about the history of Mount Mitchell, its geology, flora and fauna.

We did see one of those but I was unable to take a picture of it.
 After we hiked, we drove down 1.5 mile to the state park's restaurant and had lunch there. There isn't a menu posted on the website so we didn't know what to expect, but it was standard fare of sandwiches, soups, salads & burgers for the most part, along with some entrees. My daughter and I each picked the grilled chicken breast and I decided to get sweet potato fries with mine and a bowl of vegetarian chili since I could pick 2 sides.  The views were very pretty, we were lucky to be able to pick the last table that was located right by the big bay windows overlooking the valley below.  After our meal, I let myself be bad (again?) and had a piece of lemon blueberry mascarpone cake, which was expensive at $7 a piece (I didn't realize it was going to be that much!) and was just OK. My daughter had some bites of it and liked it.

The pretty view from our table.

A little closer...
From there, we drove back on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Linville Falls, about an hour and 15 minutes away.  The weather held up, it was gorgeous, and we spotted 5 wild turkeys at various places just off the road, and another chipmunk which my daughter all failed to photograph :(

So pretty!  I enhanced the photo a bit to show the variety of the blues and greens in the picture.  We loved the big clouds!
Just like yesterday, the mountain laurels and rhododendrons were flowering everywhere and were gorgeous.

At about halfway to Linville Falls, my daughter really had to pee but the thing is that very few of the overlooks have bathrooms. I had her check our guide and it just so happen that when she said "there should be a town called Little Switzerland coming up soon, we were just at the Little Switzerland exit so I took it and we found a small cafe/bakery place where she could use the bathroom and I bought a pastry to make up for the use of the bathroom. I chose a berry tart.  I had half of it in the car because... well, I wanted to.  I haven't been eating my exercise points (well, until yesterday!) and darn it, we're celebrating her graduation(s)!  It was delicious. She didn't want any so I kept the other half for later on.  I wish we had taken more time to visit Little Switzerland and take pictures, it looked very cute.

Used bookstore one one side...

Pastries and coffee on the other. Wouldn't you just love having such a small business among the mountains?!  I would. Well OK, maybe just read books, drink coffee and eat pastries!

At Linville Falls, we decided to take the "moderate" hike to Erwins View, which was a 1.7 mile round trip hike.  It was much busier there with many families and couples visiting, a lot of them with their dogs.  But the trail was very wide and, even though it did have its challenges past the first half, it was a much easier trail than the "easy" trail we had taken earlier!

This was almost like a walk in the park! It got a tiny bit more challenging later on, but it wasn't as bad as the other trails we had visited so far!

White mountain laurels

We had to walk under that tree. OK. I hope those roots hold up!

This was starting to get a little more challenging but nothing we couldn't handle! It was
nice to be able to walk side by side for once, though.

A hawk, I believe.

The view from Erwins View was beautiful so it was worth it and we got some exercise to work off the cake and tart :)

Ha, darn it, more stairs!

My daughter was excited to be able to take a picture of s snail... because we'd been so frustrated, missing out on pictures of chipmunks, turkeys, butterflies and birds!

Those little red berries grew on that ground cover plant that bordered the trail.

This isn't lint!  This is a tiny, fuzzy moth or wasp of some kind!

Ah, the bathrooms and the parking lot are in view again!

Beautiful bright pink mountain laurels!
From Linville Falls, it was about 40 minutes to Blowing Rock, NC where we are staying tonight.

As we drove into town, we saw the sign directing us to Blowing Rock so we decided to go visit it right away so we wouldn't have to do that tomorrow.  It's a paying "attraction", and at $7 a person, not worth the money if you've just seen the views from the Blue Ridge Parkway for free, if you want my opinion. But we did see a cat that we tried to befriend, as we're missing our kitties, so that made it worth it as it was the first cat we've seen since we left home. But that cat didn't want anything to do with us :(

A sign warned that you climbed the Blowing Rock at your own risk. I did see a middle aged woman, plumped than me, almost right at the edge to take a picture of the valley.  Another nutcase! I'm quite sure the breeze would NOT have flown her back to the rock if she had slipped and fallen!

We did think that the people who live here are very lucky, as are those in that house way up there...

because this is their view from their front door!

Pretty flowers
After our short visit there, we stopped by the local Subway and got our dinner and then went to the hotel, the Holiday Inn Express of Blowing Rock.  The front desk attendant was super nice and the room is smaller than at other hotels where we've stayed but large enough and comfortable. I like that we have 2 queen beds, as we each prefer sleeping alone. Even with a King size bed, we can feel each other tossing and turning, etc. So this is perfect.  We had dinner in our room.  I really wanted a Diet Coke and it so happened that the vending machine is directly across from our room so I spent $1 for a Diet Coke and $1.75 for a bag of almonds for my daughter. I had texted Greg when we got here at about 5:30 p.m. so he called me on his way back from work and we chatted about our day.

My daughter started doing some work related to the "Preview" session that she is attending at UF later on this month, and I took a long time to plan tomorrow's trip.  We're have a longer trip than today ahead of us but after checking a lot of sources and trying our various things that didn't work, I ended up scheduling only one stop on our trip, where we'll hike for a couple of miles.  We'll only be on the Blue Ridge Parkway for about half the trip, and then we'll get off.  We're driving to Salem, VA tomorrow, just outside of Roanoke.

After I planned the trip, I checked the news (terrorist attack averted in front of Notre Dame in Paris, so glad we ended up NOT going to France this summer), took a shower and then finally started reading my "Golden Prey" library book by John Sandford.  I'm going to have to pay a fine when I return it and I hope that I'll be able to finish it by then. I haven't had time to read at all since I've been spending time every night planning the details of the trip for the next day.

Well, now I'm going back to reading for a bit. We both agreed that we had another good day today!


  1. I think those little red berries are tea berries. Remember tea berry gum? I used to like to find these when I was hiking and chew on the leaves. It was almost, well, sort of, like having a piece of tea berry gum.

    1. Oh yeah? I didn't grow up in the USA so I don't know tea berry gum... interesting that chewing on the leaves gave you the same feeling, though! I'd be afraid to start chewing on poison ivy or something like that!

  2. Such beautiful scenery! I went back and looked at the pictures a second time and now I feel I've been on the trail, twice! Those fruit tarts look delicious!

    1. If only one could get healthier by just looking at pictures, right? The fruit tart was indeed delicious. Everything in that case looked so good, it was hard to walk away without buying anything so I didn't even try!

  3. You are getting quite good at picture-taking! The vibrancy of all of the!

    1. Don't let this fool you, I use the automatic settings on my camera and when the pictures are a little drab, I increase the saturation a little with a free program called "PhotoScape". I really need Middle Son to teach me how to properly use the manual settings but I'm so forgetful and impatient, a combination that doesn't bode well when having to have patience and recall all the little details of the manual settings and how they work. Ugh :)

  4. Looks like a nice trip! My son went to UVa so we drove the parkway through Charlottesville- I think! I need to so some sleuthing.

    1. I saw the signs for UVa on the road. I'm selfishly very happy that my daughter decided to remain in-state for college :)

  5. The Balsam Nature trail reminds me so much of the area around here. I love hiking on those kinds of trails, but you have to keep your eyes down so you can see where you are going. You probably missed seeing some wildlife just for that reason.

    What gorgeous views on your way to Linville Falls and then on to Blowing Rock. I'm so glad the early morning fog was gone so you could enjoy the drive. There was a lot of hiking today. Love those Mountain Laurels. I've never seen them before.

    1. Ohh, you must live in a beautiful area, then! Yes, the problem is having to look down on the ground at all times and then you miss out on a lot of things, unless you take breaks once in a while. It was a full day, wasn't it?!

  6. Oh my, now I want to go visit mountains. Any mountains!

    "Little Switzerland" sounds like a wonderful name for a town. And that coffee shop/used book store? What a wonderful combination! I really could spend some time there.

    1. You and me both, I'm really missing the Blue Ridge, I was just telling Greg about it this morning. And I wish I had taken more pictures of the tiny little bit of Little Switzerland that we saw and seen more of it too. Isn't that business just the best business ever? I'd want to live there and eat all the pastries, drink all the coffee, and look at/read all the books!


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