Day 74 – North Carolina’s Outer Banks Part 2

I survived staying at a complete stranger’s house.  I stayed in Ted’s driveway a couple of nights, but this was the first time for me to borrow the extra bedroom.  I figured with my dogs, bear mace, and a 38 special I could handle a man shot in the hip by an M16 from three feet away.  Seriously, we talked about Frank’s army days, grown kids, and ex-wife enough for me to feel comfortable.  And he even showed me his driver’s license so I could text a friend my would be killer if my friend didn’t hear from me the next day!  Also, for my daily reader’s, I ended up googling about the climber last night, and he survived too.  I see one of my reader’s also googled.  Here’s the news link:

Before heading south for the day, I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and cereal with whole milk.  I want to know how many of my adult readers still drink whole milk on a daily basis.  Most people I know get whole milk for their kids and a lighter option for themselves.  I generally drink soy milk, but Frank’s daughter and son-in-law both drink whole milk, thus the choice in the refrigerator.  I’m not complaining; I was just surprised.

Our first stop this morning was at Jockey’s Ridge State Park to see the East Coast’s largest sand dune – 80 to 100 feet above sea level.  The dogs and I walked to its peak to get a view of both the bay and the ocean while other spectators waited for the hang gliders to take flight.  Looking west without peripheral vision, only sand and sky could be seen.  I felt like I was crossing the Sahara Desert except for the fact it was cold.  For a quick sand shot in a movie, this area would be the perfect setting.

We continued south to see the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  Standing at 208 feet high, the lighthouse is the tallest in the United States and the tallest brick light house in the world.  The lighthouse, made of 1.25 million bricks and weighing over 6,000 tons, had to be moved as the shore continues to recede due to the Atlantic’s strong winds and powerful surf.  During summer months, visitors may climb the 268 steps to the top; however, the spiral stairwell was closed for the season, as was a movie theater I passed by.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie theater close for the season.  That was a first.

Just across the way, lies the Buxton Woods, the largest forest on the Outer Banks.  The dogs and I took the ¾ mile interpretive, loop trail.  I got a kick out of walking more than half of it to come to an interpretive sign showing a picture of poison ivy…REALLY…that should be the first sign posted!  The trail wound past some fresh water marshes that were quite pretty, but I left my camera in VANilla, so the only photo documenting the woods is a boring one of trees.

I didn’t think it would be right to leave the Outer Banks without walking on the beach, so we made a short stop on the Hatteras National Seashore.  Fishing seemed to be the popular activity.  Fishermen were lined up on the beach with their lines cast into the water.  Many local trucks included front mounts that held eight upright rods in a straight line across the hood.

I retraced my steps to Nags Head to exit the islands and head south.  As I passed by miniature golf, go cart tracks, restaurants, and clapboard houses, I thought the Outer Banks feels like a cross between the looks of Cape Cod and the commercialism of South Padre Island. The dogs and I stopped at one rest stop on the way to Wilmington, NC to lay over for the night before going to Charleston, SC and later Bluffton, SC (not on my scenic drives, but on the way to Savannah, my next destination). ETB


Day 73 – North Carolina’s Outer Banks

Today was full of travel.  I left Walter’s house around 9am and drove over 360miles to the Outer Banks. For most of the drive, the day was damp and misty. It was a good day to hang out in VANilla.  Of course I needed gas and the dogs needed a break every once in a while, so we stopped twice before reaching our destination, and one stop was a pleasant surprise.

We originally tried going to a park a few miles off the highway that was a point of interest on my GPS.  As I drove through the neighborhood, I just kept going and weaved my way along a few side streets right back to the highway.  I don’t know if the neighborhood was safe, but it was a little too run down for me to try it out.  Not much further down Highway 64, we found a rest area.  I took the dogs to the grassy area behind the parking lot to find an interpretive boardwalk built around the bog land in the Scuppernong River.  It turns out the rest area shared space with Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge.  I didn’t even have my camera with me, as I was really planning just a short stretch for the dogs as I wanted to at least complete one tourist stop on the Outer Banks before night fall. We basically raced around the nature walk, partly due to Scout’s uncontained energy, and altogether skipped a boardwalk stroll to Columbia’s downtown, as we still had some distance to cover to start our scenic drive.  But in reality, we enjoyed a much better setting than the parking lot I anticipated.

I arrived at Kill Devil Hills just in time to visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial.  The memorial is erected where the brothers experimented with gliders and eventually succeeded with the first power driven flight in December of 1903.  Before the memorial was constructed and placed atop the sand dune, the dune required stabilization as the constant winds have shifted the hill over time.  Army engineers used grass and a wood mold to keep the dune from moving.  The memorial is carved out of granite and is meant to inspire those who believe and accomplish the impossible.  In addition to the memorial, the park includes markers that show the distances each flight traveled as well as replicas of the aircraft.  Also, a 3D scene depicts their feats.

While the sky was overcast, the Outer Banks was relatively warm…in the 50s which seemed balmy compared to Charlotte and most of the country.  I was curious to know what the night had in store for me.  I opted for an early dinner at Black Pelican Ocean Front Restaurant.  I’m glad I arrived at 6.  The hostess estimated a 25 minute wait for a table.  Being a single diner, I found a seat at the first come, first served bar.  Even better, I sat next to a local for lack of a better description.  Frank previously owned a summer home nearby.  He was in town looking at some of his commercial property and was staying at his daughter and son-in-law’s home while they were at the Virginia Tech game.  He provided a few tips for sightseeing tomorrow and by the time the evening ended, I had a place to stay for the night!  I don’t think the cats appreciated his invitation, but I did…bed, shower, and coffee…can’t beat that!

On a different note, I forgot to mention on Wednesday, as I was leaving the Blue Ridge Mountains, I passed by an “eyewitness news truck”.  I wondered what could be so important to lure a news crew to the area, and it so happens the news station I tuned into Wednesday reported a climber had been stranded in the mountains for a second day and attempts to make contact with him had failed.  I never heard the final outcome, but it didn’t sound like the incident was going to end with good news.  I hope I’m wrong. ETB

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

No Thougts, No Songs, and No Daily Post.  I’m taking the day off and enjoying the holiday.  Hope everyone has a great day!

Day 72 – Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina Part 2)

I awoke to a HAZY morning.  I was a bit disappointed as Reader’s Digest describes Linville Falls as one of the most popular stops on the parkway and if travelers could pick one stop along the route, Linville Falls would be the most likely choice.  I hoped that the fog only hung over Asheville, and headed to the mountains to see what the day had in store for me.  Lucky for me, my hope turned out to be reality.  The mountain tops, in crystal clear skies, towered above valleys blanketed in clouds.  Looking out above the clouds gave me a feeling like I was in the Himalayas – obviously far from it – but the panorama looked magnificent.  I stopped at countless overlooks to admire the views.

It took a few hours to make it to Linville Falls, but we enjoyed a lovely mile hike along broad trails to three different overlooks.  Several visitors were out enjoying the fantastic day as well, thus the mutts made lots of new friends!  The wide trails were a nice change.  Most have been extremely narrow making it difficult to pass with two dogs.  The trails were also relatively smooth and flat…another nice change.  Of late, I’ve had to release the dogs from the leashes in a number of spots just to clamber over the rocks safely.

We made one more, short stop at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, but I knew we had a 2 hour drive in front of us to get to Charlotte for the evening, so we didn’t go for a walk.  With a house waiting for us, I was anxious to settle in for the holiday.  We got to the house around three to find a loaf of pumpkin bread and coffee ready to brew at 6am in the morning – so great!  Walter and Cindy hooked me up again.  Walter even sent me an email with the local Thanksgiving events and corresponding internet links – the Turkey Trot and downtown parade.  Right now, I’m just  enjoying resting on the couch! ETB

Day 71 – Blue Ridge Parkway (North Carolina)

After driving around Waynesville and the vicinity for half an hour stopping at a few places on both my GPS and “Around Me” app to find them closed or virtually vacant, I finally happened upon O’Malley’s for a beer and Monday Night Football.  The game was horrendous, but the fried portabella mushrooms were fantastic.  For you Dallasites, they could compete with Snuffer’s.  I was planning on getting a chicken sandwich, but they had turned off the grill and only kept the friers hot.  As I was nursing my draught beer, Mark took a seat beside me.  He was ex-navy, ex-volunteer firefighter, ex-electrician, and current courier.  While he was fighting a fire in New Smyrna Beach, Florida where he was originally from, the roof collapsed and essentially crushed his knees.  It took him four years to walk without a limp!

It was a cloudy morning at Walmart, yet not a bad view.  I got an early start for a day on the Southern part of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The parkway was fog covered, misty, and windy which made for a somewhat eerie visit.  I felt like I was the only one around…no cars on the road and none at our first stop, Waterrock Knob.  Waterrock Knob was an important location to the pioneers due to its mountainside spring.  With the area blanketed in fog, I didn’t see the spring.  The view of clouds remained the same upon arriving at the summit after scrambling a half mile up a slick, rocky trail.  I did, however, find a cache…not easily I might add.  I lost reception on my phone near the summit, so without directions to the exact coordinates, I just began looking under rocks as I walked.  Shockingly, I first found a “letter box” hidden by “”.  I had to look up the organization online to determine the purpose of the letter box.  Apparently, the association teams up with states to encourage longer hikes by offering incentive tags based on points accumulated.  A handful of rocks later, I found the hidden ammo can.

I supposed I wasn’t the only one on the Parkway.  I spotted this beautiful hawk of sorts.  I need Bart, the birder, to identify it.  Its face and breast were very light relative to any of the other hawks and vultures I’ve seen soaring overhead.  I had a perfect photo opportunity of it perched on a high, tree limb as I passed by in VANilla.  By the time I reversed, parked on the grass aside the road, retrieved my camera, and rolled down the window, it decided to fly off and, of course point, its back to me.

The dogs and I continued on to the highest point of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Richland Balsam.  The area is covered in a spruce and fraser fir forest, though many of the fraser firs have been killed by an insect called the balsam woolly adelgid which was accidentally imported to the United States from Europe in the early 1900s.

We took our next walk to the top of Devils Courthouse, a rocky summit that both Cherokees and early settlers thought was haunted by demons.  The rocks conceal a cave where the devil was believed to hold court.  The summit provides a splendid mountainous view.  On a clear day, visitors can see South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.

On our way to Mount Pisgah, we stopped at Looking Glass Rock Overlook.  The rock is a pluton, a mass of molten rock formed underground that becomes exposed through centuries of erosion. When water or ice rests on the face of Looking Glass Rock, the surface reflects rays of sunlight like a mirror.  Clearly, I wasn’t a witness to a sunlight reflection today.

Our final stop before resting in Asheville was supposed to be Mount Pisgah, an area where the chance of a bear sighting is more likely than other areas on the parkway.  Unfortunately, the campground area was closed.  Since I have one decent picture of a bear and the weather was fairly gloomy, we arrived in Asheville early enough to watch an afternoon matinee – Unstoppable.  The movie was great and the popcorn hit the spot! ETB

Day 70 – North Carolina Countryside Part 2

This morning I left Murphy and headed toward Franklin, an area known for its precious stones.  I pulled off near a park area to look at the map and to walk the dogs along an asphalt path by the river.  Lucky for me a small cache was planted nearby, so I logged it and continued on.

With Flash

After the walk, I visited Franklin’s small downtown area including a free gem museum that was in the back of a jewelry store.  The museum had quite a display – all sorts of stones, crystals, gems, moon

Without Flash

rocks, petrified wood, dinosaur teeth, arrowheads, and more.  One display case even contained a black light that when turned on, showed the fluorescence in minerals.  I took one picture with a flash and one without.  I really enjoyed the exhibits.

By the time I finished browsing the museum and store, it was nearly noon.  I went for lunch at the only restaurant on the square.  The variety of choices was immense, which sometimes makes me nervous – fish, sandwiches, pasta, salad, appetizers.  I opted for baked brie with raspberry, brown sugar, and almonds…not bad.  It certainly wasn’t the best I have ever had, but then again, it is hard to mess up brie!

After my morning in town (needed a change in the routine for a little bit), I headed to waterfall country as some like to call it.  My first stop was at Dry Falls, so named because visitors may walk behind the falls and remain dry.  As such, I had to be rather patient in order to get a picture of the natural beauty without a random person behind the cascading water.  After about 18 shots, I believe I was finally successful.

Upon returning to VANilla, Scout reminded me that it was about time for another hike…I think they were feeling a bit slighted from my morning activities that excluded them.  We drove to just east of the Highlands where a two-mile loop trail took us to the top of Whiteside Mountain, a sheer 2000-foot wall of white granite.  Reader’s Digest advises that the mountain contains graffiti written in old Spanish thought to be cut in the 1540s when DeSoto clambered through the area.  I had hoped to see the graffiti, but maybe it was on the vertical, granite face for the climbers to see.  Whiteside Mountain is considered by many climbers to be the biggest, baddest cliff on the East Coast.  It appears the weather, windy and misty, was not inviting enough for any climbers today.

We left Whiteside and continued on 64, a road so curvy in spots that Gina (my GPS) would announce for me to turn left or right while remaining on the same path.  The mountainous highway offered spectaculars views.  Occasionally I snuck a peak, and at one point I finally pulled onto the shoulder of the road as I thought the vista was simply breathtaking.  Shortly thereafter, I arrived at Whitewater Falls, southeast of Cashiers.

Whitewater Falls is part of the Nantahala National Forest and is one of the highest waterfalls on the East Coast at 411 feet.  The half mile walk from the parking lot to the falls still provided picturesque scenes of fall color.  The viewing platform for the falls was quite a distance from the falls, but frankly, I wouldn’t have been able to fit the entire waterfall in the photo if I were any closer.

Upon reaching Brevard, home of the Brevard Music Center, I turned north onto Forest Heritage Scenic Byway to embrace my last waterfall landscape of the day…Looking Glass Falls in Pisgah National Forest.  The falls was named for nearby Looking Glass Rock that shines like a mirror when the sun reflects off its damp face.  Today was mostly overcast, so I didn’t experience any gleaming!

As night falls, I hope to find a sports bar in Waynesville for a beer and Monday Night Football.  Perhaps I’ll make an effort to meet someone too.  Beyond a handful of hello’s a day, I have been somewhat remiss in making acquaintance with anyone new. ETB

Day 69 – North Carolina Countryside

Yesterday’s post…still a day behind.

I started the morning with another home cooked meal…quiche, pound cake and berries!  It’s getting harder to leave company and houses, but my journey continues.  Today, the dogs and I began a two day loop through North Carolina’s countryside, beginning and ending near Asheville.  Just outside of Asheville we stopped at a sports complex just to get a short walk in for the dogs as it looked like they might have to wait until the afternoon for a good one.  There was a cache nearby, but also people, so no luck for picking up a North Carolina cache yet.

Our next stop was at a Cherokee Indian Trading Post right off the highway.  I meant to take a picture and forgot…oops!  I browsed through the store and found a few trinkets for two of my nieces and one of my nephews.  I hope to come home with one trip treat each for the little ones to find under the Christmas tree.  The older ones, I’m certain, would rather have iTunes!  We’ll see if I’m successful.

After my short shopping spree, the dogs and I hiked part of the Appalachian Trail across from Nantahala Outdoor Center, where kayaking and rafting appear to be the activity of choice.  As the kayakers honed their skills on the river’s rocky course, ducks bathed on the river’s edge.  I must admit, the ducks may have been more entertaining.  They reminded me of a dog…dunking under the water, scratching their head with their webbed feet, and then flappong their wings and shaking their tail feathers to dry off.  They were an active bunch.

We moved on to the Hiwassee Dam.  The mutts and I were trying to find a decent place to hike as the hike up the Appalachian Trail was steep so we only walked a short distance.  We found a beautiful lake with picnicking spots and learned the history of the Tennessee Valley Authority that controls the area, but we weren’t successful in finding any trails.

The headwaters of the Tennessee River are located in the mountains of Tennessee, Georgia, Virginia, and North Carolina.  The 41,000 acre area receives 52 inches of rain a year.  The Tennessee Valley Authority, by damming the river in several locations, is able to control floods, improve navigation, and generate electric power.  In fact, through nine main dams and associated locks, the TVA has created a navigable channel of 650 miles from Knoxville to the Ohio River which serves as an important arm of the Nation’s inland waterway system connecting 20 states.

Overall, I think today was a bit of a bust.  The area is geared more to summer-time water enthusiasts, thus Scout, Petey, and I spent most our time driving or making the most of small park areas.  Even my attempt to find a local place for dinner and Sunday night football in Murphy failed.  Tomorrow is another day!