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!|
|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!|
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...|
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...|
|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!|
|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.|
|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 :)|
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 :)|
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.
|Back on the interstates :(|
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!
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.|
I miss my kitties! My son texted me this picture of Tabby Kitten.