Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Summer 2017 Road Trip ~ Day 6: Blowing Rock, NC to Salem, VA (Wednesday, June 7, 2017)

The days are starting to blur, one into the other!

We had a great night last night. The beds at our hotel were super comfortable.  We really like the Holiday Inn Express hotels :)  The only thing that I dislike is that they use a Keurig in the room, and the coffee is very acidic and leaves a greasy taste in my mouth.

I stayed up late reading my library book until about 12:30 a.m. so I set my alarm to ring at 7:45 a.m. However, I woke up a little earlier than that and so did my daughter.  I've been earning my Microsoft Rewards while on the road, so I do that every morning, as well as earn a few SB.

We got dressed and went to breakfast. As usual, it was quite good and I was glad to find healthy choices for me. I got an omelet (eggs, cheese, peppers), a light yogurt, a cup of skim milk, and then also a banana, which I ate in the car.  I also had 1/2 an English muffin with a tiny bit of whipped butter, since we were going to hike before lunch. I brought the 2nd half of the muffin with me to eat as a snack later on, along with an apple.

We got on the Blue Ridge Parkway and almost right away ran into road construction delays.  We had to wait perhaps 10-15 minutes tops. Thankfully traffic was light and after that we didn't have any problems.  Our goal was to drive to Doughton Park and hike the 2-mile family friendly easy trail.

On the way, we stopped at an overlook that had a trail close by that went along the ridge of the valley, in the middle of wildflowers. It was called the Bluff Mountain Trail. We really wanted to take it but there was no information about it and we couldn't get a cell phone signal to investigate, so we decided it was more prudent not to take it and drove on. First, we stopped by the Doughton Park Welcome Center, right across the way, but it was closed so we couldn't pick up any trail maps.

Such a pretty day!  It definitely felt like we were on vacation!

We took a staircase down to that trail. It was very narrow and skirted the top of the mountain with awesome views. We'd have loved to hike it but it was supposed to be 7 miles and "arduous" and we didn't have a detailed map (I obtained the one that I posted above later on, I think).

So we decided to keep driving to find the "family friendly" trail that I had heard about. But first... stairs!
 Brinegar Cabin was supposed to be near the trail we had planned on hiking, or so I thought, and we did stop there. The cabin is only open on Thursdays-Sundays right now so we just explored the grounds and took pictures. There were many signs detailing the life of the inhabitants, etc. It was very interesting.  Sadly, despite the warnings not to deface the cabin, people had carved their names in it, as late as 2016, it's despicable. There is no respect for anything :(

There were lots of educational panels throughout the site, which I found very interesting.

The cabin itself. That crooked porch support is charming, isn't it?


Can you imagine having to bring up heavy buckets of water from the spring to the house in all kinds of weather?  I'll bet they didn't have nice steps like these either back then!

But again, the view!
Well, we never did find the trail that I wanted to take because as soon as we realized that my daughter could pull up the screenshot of the maps that I had emailed us (she could but I couldn't!), we looked it up and the trail had been located pretty much near the Welcome Center (although not indicated), which was a good 10 miles back South!  I asked my daughter if she wanted to go back and she said she wanted to hike but not go back 10 miles, so she looked ahead on the BRP map and saw that there was a place right before we were supposed to exit, called "Cumberland Knob", that offered a 20 min hike or a 2-hour hike.  We decided to do the 2-hour hike.

So we drove there and were relieved to find it!  The sign indicated that it was 2-hour (2.5 miles) so off we went.

"circular trail along Gully Creek" sounds so easy and whimsical, right?  Even if it's 2 hours. It's gonna be an easy peasy 2-hour hike among flowers and we'll get our exercise for the day and sing with the birds and squirrels like Sleeping Beauty.

Lovely pavers, let's get going!  We can do this!

Nice view, as always...
Once on the trail itself, a sign warning that it was a "strenuous" hike appeared. Oh no!  Well, we still decided to try it.

It was an excellent hike but so challenging!  Once again I had forgotten to wear my hiking boots (I was wearing my walking sneakers) but since my daughter only had sneakers, I would have worried about her anyway.

First, we hiked down a very steep mountain. It was in the woods so it was nice and cool. The temperature was in the low 60s.  Luckily, it hadn't rained there recently so the trail was dry. It would have been a nightmare if it had rained, and very slippery.  A tall female motorcyclist was hiking behind us, by herself, so I offered to let her pass because she was obviously faster than we were.  She thanked me and I heard an accent and then saw that she had German writing on her string bag so I thought of my friend Pixel :)  We ended up passing her and having her pass us a couple of times on the hike, and we even exchanged a few sentences, but never more than that. When we passed her and she didn't catch up with us for a long time, I was worried about her in the back of my mind since she was hiking alone. Had she gotten hurt, I'm not sure how long it would have been before someone found her because we didn't cross anyone else until we started hiking back up the mountain and that was a group of 3 college-age girls whom we warned about the obstacles we encountered and who agreed that they wouldn't attempt them since they weren't equipped at all.

Oh look a centipede!  Tra la la la la...

Going down...
Anyhoo, as we were hiking down, I was taking some pictures and so was the German lady, who was just ahead of us. At some point I saw her photograph something and I was wondering what she had seen. When we got to her level, she pointed out a snake that was just on the border of the narrow trail and that seemed to be eating something... I took a couple of pictures. It was eating a salamander!

The salamander had a red belly. My daughter had been wanting to see a salamander in the wild...
well, she got to!

It was a little unnerving as I hadn't thought that we might come across snakes, but I told my daughter that since the snake had a large salamander in its mouth, now was the time to walk by it before it could bite us (we didn't know if it was a venomous or non venomous snake!  But it ended up being either an eastern garter snake or a eastern ribbon snake, neither of which are venomous) so we did. We didn't see any other snakes after that!

As we neared the bottom of the gorge, we kept on zigzagging back and forth, and each time having to cross a small spring. At first we could just hop over it...

Oh, a cute waterfall!
... but soon it became full crossings where we had to wade in the water and hope we didn't slip on the rocks!  That was a little nerve-racking!  But we saw cute little waterfalls.
Another creek crossing

Aaaaaand another one

It'd be nice to have bridges over ALL the creek crossings, actually!

This doesn't look too daunting but it was a 5' tall rock that we had to climb down!  I slid on my butt. My daughter stopped once she had gotten down to take a selfie.

Yet another creek crossing.  Jumping around like a fat gazelle on an ice pond, I was very leery that something would happen to us!  Nobody knew we were down here, we had NO cell phone reception and saved for the German lady whom we hadn't seen in a while, we hadn't seen anyone else!

Another waterfall as I crossed the creek

And the rocks down to my left if I happened to slip down and fall...

The trail wasn't easy to find after those crossings, it wasn't marked at all.

Ankle deep in the water, a few times. Careful not to slip!

Yet another crossing

Yep, I'm gonna have to climb up that big rock to get back on the trail. Sure nice that one of us could
climb it somewhat easily to do some reconnaissance!

We thought that was the trail... well, we were hoping (it was)!!

Good grief, another one?!

Oh and I suppose we should worry about rotten trees falling on us too... it didn't feel so easy and bucolic, at the moment!  But we were still going down...

Don't tell me...

Yep, some more rocks to climb, Have I mentioned that I am an obese almost 50-year-old woman with bad knees?

Also there were places that were very muddy.  At some point my daughter slipped and fell, right after I had warned her that the landing area was very slippery!  She also let go of her phone in the process. Thankfully neither she nor her phone sustained any damage.  After that, I put her phone in my fanny pack.

Wait for it...

There!  Good thing she wasn't hurt! She was laughing at the time :)
We also had to climb up and down rocks!  Looking back, it wasn't too bad, but certainly more than I had bargained for, and I was worried about hurting my knee. My daughter's ankle had started hurting last night and thankfully she remembered to wear her ankle brace today, which helped a lot, especially when she twisted said ankle 3 times on the trail!

The hike back up the mountain was... tiring!  It was steep and took a whole hour to get back up.  The German lady passed us again and, as I said, I was relieved that she was OK :)

Oh that was such a steep climb back up that mountain!

I had to take several breaks...

Blueberries! At least we won't starve if we're stranded on the trail?!

Finally, a flower!

Waiting for her old mom. Where was that energy when we were biking in Chattanooga?!

After an hour or so we reached the top.  I don't think that we actually made it to "Cumberland Knob" even though we followed the trail.

Is this Cumberland Knob?  No idea...

But soon our starting point (near that  building, way in the distance) was in sight, hooray!  I dared daughter to do a cartwheel!  She thought of it but she was too tired :)
Finally, we made it back to the parking lot, hooray!  Without cell service, the RunMeter app wouldn't work so I used my phone's stopwatch function to time us.  An hour and 54 minutes?!  We beat the estimated 2 hour posted time!  We killed it!

I drove us off the Blue Ridge Parkway and then we stopped at a gas station to refuel and get our daily subs from their Subway franchise. So we had a late lunch there. I treated myself to a large Diet Coke and my daughter got some Pringles too.

Then she drove us to Salem, VA, on the interstates.   She did a great job, especially when we hit traffic delays due to road construction (again!), and we got to our hotel in Salem at about 4:30 p.m.


We drove through Galax, which is apparently where the company that publishes all "Mountain Music" is headquartered. I had hoped to be able to arrange a horse ride in Galax, but the site I had found for that wasn't working and it looked like the business... well, had gone out of business. That was the one activity my daughter had wanted to do (she used to ride) on this trip that we didn't get to do :( But honestly, my butt hurt enough from all the mountain climbing!

Back on the interstates :(

I immediately used the hair dryer to dry my wet sneakers since I had only brought those and my hiking boots. I was able to get them acceptably dry in just 10 minutes, thankfully!

We showered, I booked a hotel for tomorrow night and confirmed our itinerary with my daughter, giving her the chance to make any changes if she wanted to, and then we looked at our pictures from today.

She found us a restaurant called Shakers in Roanoke. Their menu sounds good to us so we're heading there for dinner now.

A little later... so dinner was good.  I had something called "Chesapeake Chicken" which was a grilled chicken breast with some baby shrimp, button mushrooms in a light creamy sauce, topped with crabmeat.  It was good but not as good as the chicken I had in Asheville.  I had a baked sweet potato and the vegetable medley with it.  The good news is that they weren't skimpy on the vegetables. Yay!

 When we got off the interstate to get to the restaurant, I spotted 2 groundhogs sitting on the side of the road!  They looked like stuffed animals.  Sadly, we weren't able to get a picture of them :(

The restaurant was located near a mall so then we went walking at the Mall.  I bought my daughter two T-shirts at Hot Topic and a cookie at some cookie store. I myself didn't partake as I had a larger dinner than I should have had.

I hadn't been to a Mall in years. This one was pretty large but mostly deserted at this time of night.
We walked around a bit, and then we drove back to our hotel and I called Greg and our son. Greg had texted me earlier that he's going to have to go back to Vancouver in early July, a trip that wasn't planned. Arrgh.  Also he said that it's been raining like crazy. We need the rain so I'm happy and I'm also happy that I'm missing it :)  At least my flowers won't have died while I was gone.

I miss my kitties!  My son texted me this picture of Tabby Kitten.


  1. You drove through some of my old stomping grounds. Years ago I worked for the Virginia Division of Mineral Resources doing geologic mapping around Pulaski near Roanoke. I hiked all day in areas without trails. Boy, was I in good shape then. Can't hold a candle to that now.

    1. That must have been an interesting job! How did you come about that? And how did you not get lost in the woods without trails? I suspect a compass... Greg has shown me how to use one with a map many times (we used to go orienteering once a month when our son was little) but it always confuses me.

  2. Part of the work for for my master's thesis in geology. While a compass is useful (we always had a special one to measure the angles of the rocks), the topographic map of the area was just as useful. You could look at the shape of the contours on the map and know what that would look like in real life and then compare it to what you saw around you. I would definitely be lost without a map because my natural sense of direction is not very good.

  3. My goodness, but that was some trail and hike! Well done on finishing it under 2 hours! Glad no one got hurt on all those slippery rocks! By the way, I was inspired by all your stair climbing and climbed two flights of stairs, today, instead of taking the elevator!

    1. Wow, I've inspired you?! I feel all tingly, now :) Good for you for taking the stairs, Bless. Little changes like these can make a big difference, keep it up!

  4. I am getting myself all mixed up this morning because I don't know if some of the comments I made were sent to you or lost. I guess I will have to wait and see.

    My reaction to this page was...glad you opted for the 2 hour hike rather than the 7ish hour hike. Ditto on the horse-back riding afterwards. Now if you could have taken the first tour on horse back, that would have been lovely. I have gone on those bush trails on horseback, and they are a lot of fun.

    Loved that you stopped at the Brinegar cabin. Even though it was closed, you got to see it all. Congrats on finishing the 2 hour arduous or strenuous hike to Cumberland Knob in good time. You were able to get to Salem at an early enough hour to check out a mall. I have not been inside a mall either in years. This is such a great trip with your daughter. I am thinking about how close you are.

    1. I'd rather hike than go on a horse ride anyway so I wasn't too heart-broken but I was disappointed that I couldn't surprise my daughter with the ride. She loves riding.

      That other hike was 7-mile, not 7 hour! Although, in the mountain, it might as well have been, probably. It did look like a lovely hike, at least the part we saw, as it made you walk alongside the rim of the valley, among wildflowers.

      I'm so glad we took this trip, it was lovely to spend so much time together and share memories like these, as we do when we reminisce about our trip to France. I'm going to miss her so much, even though she's only going to be 90 minutes away!

  5. We have gone to Galax! We have driven the crooked road, I have purchased fiddles for students and was supposed to do a fiddle competition in 2007 but a medical issue interrupted the plan. Love it there!

    1. Cool! I'd really like to go back and listen to Mountain music, actually. And go back to Cherokee for the Bluegrass festival, and go back to Rock City and sit on the terrace with a big mug of coffee and listen to the music festival... I didn't think music was all that important to my life anymore (I mean, not like when I was a teen), but going to those places with the goal of listening to music is really appealing to me right now!

  6. Wow, just wow, on that challenging hike. I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have done it - you are in much better shape than I am. And I definitely wouldn't have waded through water. I don't like having wet feet on a long hike.

    I always love reading about cabin life in the "good old" days - it really makes me appreciate modern conveniences. And you know that it was always the women who did the grunt work, like carrying water, etc.

    1. My ancestors were farmers and maids. I have so much respect for them because what a back breaking existence. I wonder if that's why I hate doing housework so much, it must be coded in my genes :)

      You know, I didn't realize that I was going to have to cross streams and climb boulders either, and certainly not as much as we had to! I was kind of hoping that "strenuous" in this case meant that the grade to go down and up the mountain was very steep. And it was, too, lol. I think it's going to make every Florida hike like a walk in the park, now! I can't wait to go walking again. I want the weather to be cooler. And then we can make another date, right? You come up here, we go to the German bakery and explore a local park :)

    2. My parents were farmers; I know the back breaking work!

      I was just talking to my husband about that German bakery and making another date with you - we went up to Citrus Springs to check on some lots that we own there, and went for a walk in Fort Cooper State Park. On the way there, I saw signs for Clermont and that's what triggered the conversation. Some day, it will be cooler again, right?

    3. You own property in Citrus Springs? Are you going to develop it at some point? We love Fort Cooper State Park, went there a couple of times this year. There were a lot of fires in that area back in April, were your properties OK?

      Yes we have got to hope that it'll be cooler at some point and we'll be hiking with a light jacket on... maybe!

  7. Fort Cooper State Park was great! It was the first time we had been there.

    We brought the lots a few years ago as an investment. They were bank owned and at one time had sold for a lot more money than the bank sold them to us. They haven't gotten their value back yet like we hoped (the area there hasn't recuperated from the real estate crash like other areas have), and after checking around the area, we decided to just hang on to them for a few more years. The area is definitely not for us - too far away from anything. We like Lakeland.


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