Mother’s Day Hiking

Looks like all that physical therapy paid off, as I was able to get out and hike with my daughter today, along with many other moms.  We had a fun filled weekend, starting with her coming up Friday afternoon, taking a road trip to visit friends on Saturday, and exploring a new trail today.

After spending the night in Fredericksburg, we headed out early onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Stopping at a couple of overlooks.

Our hike of choice today was Crabtree Falls.  It is billed as the highest set of waterfalls east of the Mississippi.  We started at the bottom and followed the falls through many stairs and switchbacks.

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We could hear the rushing water throughout the hike, and there were many lookout spots to enjoy, and take selfies.

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It’s only 1.7 miles to the top, but there is a 1500 ft. elevation gain, so it is steep and challenging.  Not having hiked in 3 weeks, I huffed and puffed before we made it to the top.  Once there, we found a place in the shade and enjoyed a snack.  We waited patiently as a family were taking over the best viewing area.  Being Mother’s Day, there were quite a few hikers out (glad we got an early start), but these folks seemed oblivious to all the people waiting to take photos, like Lori and me.

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I finally just went down there and started taking some pictures.

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The view is of the Tye River Valley.

They finally left and we were able to grab a quick selfie before giving it over to the many others who had also been waiting.

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Rather than going straight down, we were encouraged to take the trail another mile to see a crab tree orchard.  Thinking this would be the namesake of the falls, we decided to go.  What we found was another parking lot/entrance, a road that went to the Appalachian Trail, and nothing else of interest.  So we added 2 miles, which was fine.

It felt so good to be out on the trail again after a 3 week sit out.  It ended up being a 6 mile trip, every thing in my body aches right now, but I don’t care.  It was the best Mother’s Day present ever!

Thanks Lori!

 

One hike, two days

It’s kind of routine now, I have the great idea for a hike.  I talk JG into said hike.  I’m excited, he tolerates.  Once we are in the woods, he comes alive and is happy that we are there.  Towards the end of the hike, he has to give me encouragement to get to the finish.  Somewhere along the way, I get tired and my legs start to feel like lead.  This was a weekend of hiking fun!

Rock Castle Gorge, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, has been on my list of must do hikes for some time.  Knowing that it is a 10.8 mile loop and hearing that it is strenuous, only made it more appealing to me.  I think this would be a great loop to do from May to September.  However, given that it is frosty in the morning and the daylight ends quite early, I thought perhaps we should take two cars in case it proved to be too much for one November day.

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Genius, that’s what that decision was.  All miles not being equal, it took us 3 hours to climb (and we literally climbed) the first 2.5 miles of the loop.  From the lower parking lot, you have a 2500 ft. elevation gain.  The biggest problem was the leaves. At times we were knee deep in them, and they hide things like rocks, tree roots and other obstacles.

Because of the leaves, and the narrowness of the trail, we found ourselves hugging the mountain as we tried to keep our balance.

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So we were grateful to have that second car handy, because after 5 miles of steep and rocky terrain, we realized it was better to do this in two trips.

Even though you can drive to overlooks, the view always seems sweeter when you earn it.

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So this is how we spent our Thanksgiving day, it was perfect hiking weather.  We later went to visit some friends who fed us turkey leftovers from their big family gathering. (Thanks, Cherie).

When the leaves are covering the path and it is slippery, it seems that it is easier to go uphill rather than risk sliding down.  So we went back to the parking area at the foot of the mountain – which by the way was empty on Thursday but not so on Saturday – to finish the loop by hiking upward again.

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Obviously we were not the only ones with the idea for this Saturday hike.

This part of the trail follows the creek and was very scenic.

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The first part starts out fairly flat for the first couple of miles, and then you begin the ascent.  You come to a section where you have to climb over some boulders – yes, it’s part of the trail!

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Many creek crossings, a little steep at times, but definitely easier than the first half.

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I’m sure if we had tried this in warmer weather with longer daylight hours, it would have been fine, but if you do this after the leaves have fallen, watch your step.

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Enjoying the view from Rocky Knob.

We did complete the loop and I can now cross this one off my to do list.

Thanks for visiting.

 

 

Western North Carolina – WNC

Just back from a short visit to Western North Carolina where you can find the highest mountains in the Eastern United States.  I know that Virginia is a wonderful place to live and we have great hiking and beautiful mountains, but the area near Asheville really captured my heart on this visit.

We stayed near Black Mountain – a cute resort town with specialty shops and a variety of restaurants that are sure to fill everyone’s palate.  025

A local shop owner suggested we hike around Montreat College, just a couple of miles from Black Mountain.  Greeted by this entrance

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we stopped for a trail map and suggestions for a short hike (4 miles ish).  The young man at the shop guided us to a trail, and as we were walking up what was listed as “moderate” we quickly realized he thought we meant 4 miles one way.  This was NOT our intent as we had planned an afternoon in Asheville.  Also, I’m not sure how they rate their trails, but this was a little more than moderate,

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with 3 creek crossings like this one.

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We decided not to go to the top since we did not bring supplies for a longer hike.  But we veered off to have a look at the waterfall.

I don’t want to sound like a waterfall snob, but this one had me laughing.  I think I’ve seen more  action from my faucet.

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Still, it was a lovely day to be in the woods and we were doing what we enjoy.  We ended up hiking around 4 1/2 miles which was our original intent.

We did make it to Asheville later that day and were drawn to this old Woolworth’s building that has been converted to an art gallery, but kept it’s lunch counter.

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Asheville is a very fun artsy town which also yields some interesting restaurants, mostly emphasizing locally grown foods and local beers.

The next morning we headed out to the Blue Ridge Parkway and took a short 2 1/2 mile hike to see this view.

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Most views on the Parkway have easy access from the road.  But there is a Mountains to Sea trail that runs parallel to the BRP so if you are adventurous, you can hike or bike from one end of the state to the other.

It’s hard to capture the beauty of these mountains as amateur photographers, but we couldn’t resist trying.

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Growing up in the flat country of the Midwest, I’m still in awe of these majestic summits. I don’t think I will ever get tired of the incredible vistas provided by the Appalachian Mountains.

 

 

A Strenuous Hike

Last night I had this brilliant idea that JG and I should get up early (4 ish) and go for an early morning hike – maybe even catch the sunrise.  He reluctantly agreed.  I woke up at 3:50 a.m. and decided to lay there just a little longer – which turned out to be 4:45. Okay, we might not see the sunrise on top of a mountain, but it’s still early enough to beat the crowds.

We decided on Peaks of OtterSharp Top.  This is a hike I had not tried, however, I have hiked it’s twin – Flat Top twice.  As we headed down the Interstate, we saw the fog interfere with the sunrise.

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We arrived as the first wave of early morning hikers were about to leave the parking lot.  I had not attempted this hike before because even though it is only 3 miles round trip, it is very steep, rocky, and every book has it listed as “strenuous.”  But today I was feeling frisky and while it was a major “huff and puff” going up, we made it.

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It was quite humid, so we are pretty much soaked by the time we reach the top. Even though it was a bit hazy, it was a very rewarding vista.

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It was a wonderful way to celebrate our nation’s birth.  I haven’t been such a proud American lately, at least not politically.  But the mountains remind me that there is so much more to this great country of ours than a few bad seeds in Washington.

Now I am completely exhausted and achy, so I plan to spend the rest of the day with my feet propped up.  Hope you all are having a good day!

Strong Winds, Stronger Women

After the warm, sunny day I had for hiking earlier in the week, it was quite a shock to wake up Saturday morning and find the temperatures had dropped, it had rained all night, and it looked like the winds were going to be steady at 20 mph all day.  I had a weekend hike planned for my working friends, otherwise I would have just gone back to bed and slept all day.  I checked the hourly forecast for our mountain and saw that there was no rain in sight, possible sun and a high of 53 degrees.

Knowing that one friend had ditched a conference to be able to join us, and knowing that it was the only weekend another friend could make it – I texted out the GO signal and was pleasantly surprised to see that everyone showed up at the designated meeting place.

Off we went to the Peaks of Otter!  Our destination was to hike Flat Top Mountain -it’s actually the less popular, so not as much traffic.  It really doesn’t look that impressive from down below.

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But it offers incredible views from the top.

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Pictures courtesy of fellow hiker and fellow blogger Laurie (LifeontheBike)

 

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And Tiina

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When you have two experienced photographers along, there is absolutely NO reason to pull out the cell phone.

 

Did I mention what a blustery day it was?  As we were walking up the trail, we heard a crack!  All of a sudden (as I watched parts of trees falling just beyond where we walked) it occurred to me we should be wearing hard hats.  Adding to the excitement, the trail is covered in leaves which, while very pretty, makes it a little treacherous as you cannot see the hidden rocks and acorns and honestly I don’t know what I would do without my hiking stick to help me keep my balance.

The sign at the trail head says 2.6 miles to the summit.

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That was the longest 2 miles I’ve ever hiked.  As we were trekking upward, a cute young couple was going down and the girl smiled at us and said “You can make it!”  Excuse me?? Of course we can make it, we are women! What the heck?  But the next (and last) part of the trail proved to be quite challenging, climbing rocks, making steep turns and wondering where that damn summit could be.

We did indeed make it to the top where we enjoyed our views, our lunch, good conversation and friendship.  These women continue to inspire me!

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Oh, by the way, when we got back to the Visitor’s Center we read that it was actually 4.4 miles to the summit – my knees will testify that that sign was more accurate.

 

Exploring the BRP (Blue Ridge Parkway)

This has been the summer of cabin rentals.  We just returned from our 3rd cabin trip – this time to Boone, NC.  Found a charming little cabin just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, that offered easy access to town, but was just remote enough to provide a peaceful setting.

Before we went, I got on-line to find good hiking in the area.  I found 3 promising trails.  Unfortunately, laziness stepped in and I did not go beyond a name and location.  So the first day we came up short in the “view” department.  We were on a mixed use trail – mountain bikes and hikers.  The trail was very rocky and steep in spots.  We went up, and up, and up. And just when we thought we were at the top and were positioning ourselves for a great view – the trail started back down.  What the wha??  That’s right – 3 hours and over 8 miles with NO VIEW!!

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Okay, it was great exercise and the woods were beautifully lush.  At this point, you have to really like hiking to be happy about a hike like that.

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So the next day, we did a little more reading (thanks to our host and her many brochures).

We hopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway and just stopped at several places that had short hikes to some great views.

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First up (no hike) Moses H. Cone Memorial Park

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with this view.

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A challenging, but short hike at Rough Ridge – provided this view of the Linn Cove Viaduct

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Here’s a shot of the viaduct, taken from my cell phone as we were driving on it.

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Next we stopped at Flat Rock – less than a mile hike, but nice view of the backside of Grandfather Mountain.

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Our last stop was Linville Falls – what we thought was going to be an easy hike – was really further than anticipated and rather steep in places.  But worth the view and just as we got back to the car the rain came.

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If you have never been to the Blue Ridge Parkway, you should really put it on your bucket list. It is beautiful whether you drive it, bike it, hike it – as long as you experience it!   You’ve got 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina – so what are you waiting for??