Friday, April 30, 2021

Blue Ridge Parkway Days Three and Four

 Wow, did the weather improve. Bright sunshine and warmer temperatures moved in to make our trip delightful With a little research we found a series of 4 Harvest Host places for the rest of our week; two wineries, one brewery, and a distillery - lots of booze! There is a lot of wilderness in this section of the Parkway and we saw a number of deer, mostly off the road, but we had two close encounters that gave us a scare. The first time I barely was able to put on the brake, but luckily that we just enough to miss the bounding deer across our path by inches - lots of adrenaline followed. The second time the young deer was just stopped in the middle of the road as we rounded a curve with probably Mom on the side of the road. I braked and the deer ran, so all was well. Luckily we kept well under the 45 miles an hour speed limit to enjoy the scenery. 

You can what lovely weather we now had! Every few miles there is an overlook and the road is often on a ridge so there are views in both directions.

We did a lot of hiking this day. Our first stop was Linville Falls, the spectacular 3 tiered waterfall. We hiked up to the Chimney Overlook and then to another spot at the top of the highest fall. About 2 miles overall, the trail was steep in places but well designed with rock stairs and at times, railings. Our second hike started out with a small waterfall near the road at Grandfather Mountain and then climbed steeply up to a rocky overlook with wooden stairs and decks. Here we could view parts of the Linn Cove Viaduct, the last section of the Parkway, which opened in 1987. This engineering and construction feat was built from the top down to protect the fragile environment

Linville Falls from the Chimney Outlook. It is so hard to get an idea of the size here. There are people on the rock above the falls but they are just specks. 
The view from our second hike. You can see the Parkway in the distance. 

We always found a beautiful empty overlook to park right on the edge of the lot, where we set up our chairs and ate our lunch in the sun enjoying the view. Before we climbed up on the Parkway I stocked up the frig with lots of yummy salad ingredients and some great bread - easy lovely lunches. That evening we spent at the Thistle Meadow Winery, another spectacular spot. We enjoyed the wine tasting very much and chose a great white wine to go with our dinner. I made a chicken curry with coconut peanut sauce and rice. We were able to sit outside and enjoy it and the quiet pretty farm. 

Here's our campsite at Thistle Meadow Winery. Our hosts kindly let us plug into the light pole next to our trailer free. Scott had to borrow their ladder as the socket was high up on the pole. It's nice to be able to use our toaster and microwave although we have found ways to manage without electricity, basically using the oven. 

The next morning was beautiful again - what a treat. Our big stop this day was the famous Maybry Mill which had walking trails around the property connecting many historical exhibits about life in rural Virginia. The mill itself was built in 1903 and had separate flumes to catch the runoff from two local streams. These wooden flumes make quite a jigsaw puzzle above the mill. Normally there is a Visitor Center, gift shop, and restaurant here, but again, everything was closed. 

A view of the Maybry Mill. Those yellow flowers blanket the meadows everywhere and the photos don't do them justice! 

That evening we stayed at Franklin County Distillery along with 3 other RVs. It was quite a contrast to our winery stays as we were right on the highway and had train tracks behind us with an occasional noisy train. Luckily I love train sounds and it didn't happen in the middle of the night and highway noises just form a white noise background for me (Scott doesn't hear a thing once he takes out his hearing aids!). But we really enjoyed the liquor tasting, or rather Scott did. He tried 5 flavors of moonshine - a specialty here and I enjoyed a couple of margaritas - plus a pretty good dinner. That's a nice change for the cook.

Looking down from Chimney Outlook

And that's Scott perched on the edge of the "chimney".
Even though we had bright sunshine, it was early and 
still fairly cold as you see from his outfit.

A steep section of the trail with
welcome railings.

A narrow section of the falls between two cascades.

The visibility was excellent this day.

The engineering of the Parkway is amazing. This
one section is the most expensive road ever built.
It's a section of the Linn Cove Viaduct.

Like the viaduct, the trail had wooden stairs and 
bridges to protect the vegetation. Like the top 
of Mt. Washington, it faces high winds and hard
winter weather.

We passed a number of lakes along the Parkway
and saw fisherfolk with fly rods both there and in
the streams.

The distant views are lovely but we enjoyed the meadows and farmland along the Parkway equally. Fences demonstrating all the types used by rural folk in the past are used today to line the road.

Scott enjoying the wine tasting at
the Thistle Meadow Winery.

The view the next morning from our RV!!!

Trees right near the Parkway were often still in 
winter mode but further down the hills were 

For practical reasons land along the parkway remained farm land and we saw lots of cows. Many roads cross or branch off, most small. Larger ones and highways are bridged with access ramps. There is no commercial traffic allowed. 

Sometimes lovely stone walls line the road, 
especially with steep dropoffs.

Early violets were a real treat.

Another beautiful lake reflecting the blue sky.

When we dropped down into lower
altitudes, spring appeared.

As you can see here too.

And occasionally we enjoyed a fruit tree, here
with a stone overpass.

Our walking path at Maybry Mills

With old cabins moved there to demonstrate the
life of early settlers in the area.

I loved this family enjoying an old-fashioned picnic on the grass. 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Blue Ridge Parkway Days One and Two

After our morning in Chatanooga, we drove to our next Harvest Host location, Walnut Hollow Ranch, and the most beautiful campsite yet (there are many contenders). We were out in a pasture above the farm buildings next to a lot of curious cows and it was a beautiful day. We bought a lovely steak, some of their bacon and fresh eggs. It was a peaceful night with an almost full moon. The next day we were off to start our journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway

As you can see it was a beautiful campsite and day at Walnut Hollow Ranch - windy and cold though. We managed to sit out with our drinks in the sun, but bundled up. 

Our next two days on the Blue Ridge Parkway were a study in contrast. Day One was partly cloudy with long-distance views. Day two was pouring rain and fog so thick we could barely see the road at times. Thank goodness for the double yellow line on the road! We probably should have skipped that day but we wanted to drive the whole length (469 miles), come hell or lots of water. In fact, the very first section of the parkway was closed for ice: we entered at milepost 455 so we missed the first 14 miles. We were very lucky to stop at the Visitor's Center in Bryson City and meet an experienced Blue Ridge Parkway traveler who was volunteering there. She looked up closures on the Parkway and sent us on the right route.

On our route from Chatanooga to Walnut Hollow Ranch we passed huge numbers of rafting companies. This is a big area for rafting and other boating/fishing pastimes. This is the dam at Ocee which does controlled releases for the companies.

We had really tried to understand the Parkway route from the internet but it isn't shown on Google Maps and trying to put the Parkway on the Google map, when all we had was a route shown it by itself, was impossible. The paper strip map we got in Bryson City was a godsend. Traveling it at this time of year has the positive element of little traffic. The overlooks were mostly empty and easy for us to pull right in with the trailer. During busy times, it would be impossible for us to do this, except for really large parking areas, which were few. But almost all of the Visitor Centers, Campgrounds, and Museums were closed until early May. It was a challenge finding RV campsites near the Parkway.

A view showing the road off in the distance and as you can see, mostly cloudy

As we climbed up to the start on Route 19 the clouds grew denser. As you can see from the photos it was mostly cloudy and cold (we saw 37 degrees at one point). This section is the most remote and up the highest (6053 feet). The visibility was excellent.. The Visitor's Center at Waterrock Knob was open and we were able to get coffee at the restaurant on Mt. Pisgah, which is a full-service Hotel. 

We sat out on these chairs having our coffee in front of the Mt. Pisgah Hotel. 

Before we got up on the Parkway, we found a KOA campground in Asheville for that night. In the past, we've always made reservations in advance but we simply didn't understand what was involved in this endeavor so waited. This was the closest place we could find, others, more attractive, were full. The next morning after making a reservation for that night at the Linville Falls RV Park, we were back on the Parkway and the rain started. And the clouds rolled in. And the fog descended. I averaged 25 miles an hour for too many hours. But there was one bright spot in our day - the Folk Art Center. It was open and we enjoyed hours there viewing their permanent collection and the amazing array of art and crafts at the Southern Highland Craft Guild Shop, chartered in 1930. Allandstand Cottage, an earlier organization was established in 1897 by Frances Goodrich, to encourage and assist local craftspersons in the area.  

A look at one section of the Guild's gallery and shop.

It was only a short but narrow road down off the Parkway to the Linville Falls RV Park - nestled in the woods and would be rather charming in other than pouring rain. The sites were small and it took us a while to back into our spot but finally, we hooked up to the electricity and settled in for the windy rainy night in our cozy Baby. The next morning the rain stopped and we headed back up on the Parkway - more in my next post.

The cows at Walnut Hollow really found us rather
fascinating - lots of calves.

We hiked into a viewpoint to these falls. There are
hiking trails everywhere and they are well marked.

I'm wearing a turtleneck, vest and 
rain jacket. We started out in 
December with hats and gloves but
now can't find them.

We hiked up to Waterrock Knob
viewpoint and on the way passed
the Mountains to Sea Trail (1175
miles from the Smoky Mts to
the Outer Banks

Scott did a number of these Panorama shots

As you can see it was cloudy but good visability

There were a lot of tunnels. Luckily the lowest
height one was in the section we missed - it would
have meant staying to the middle of the tunnel.

Raku Artist Lylnn N. Jenkins was giving
demonstrations at the Folk Art Cener

This is the only photo I was able to take outdoors
on our second day on the Parkway. After this the
rain was so hard and the fog too deep.

Our campsite at Linville Falls RV center the next
morning when the rain stopped. YEH~

Sunday, April 25, 2021

A Peace Corps Reunion

On our way from Jesse Owens Museum to Chatanooga, we stopped at the beautiful Lake Nickajack overview at the Jasper Rest Area. The dogwoods are in bloom all over and they are a delight.
 It's actually our third Peace Corps reunion. We saw Bob DeFeyter in Arizona (Liberia 66 - 68) and Sandra Francour in Chula Vista (Philippines 65- 67). Juanita and I were in the same training group for the Philippines at St. John's College in Annapolis, MD, and then served from 1966-68. I was in northern Luzon at Tarlac, Tarlac, and Juanita at Taal in southern Luzon. We saw each other frequently during our two years and crossed paths several times during our trip home through Asia. I visited her down in Louisville during my time working on Peace Corps Staff and she moved up to Boston when I did. We were roommates for several years. 

Ted served in the Peace Corps as well (Nepal 67 - 69) and on his way home visited us in Boston. The rest is history as they married and after serving again in the Peace Corps in Afganistan and Nepal, they eventually settled on Signal Mountain, Tenn. Juanita is an artist, and Ted a retired history teacher. Juanita has been through a difficult year of serious health problems but has recovered amazingly. It was such a lovely time being with them. They had us for a walk and dinner at their beautiful home on our first night and joined us at our campsite at Raccoon Mountain the next evening for dinner. We had just enough sun and barely passable temperature to sit outside around an altogether slightly too smokey fire pit and laugh away. Dinner was inside, a little crowded but comfy in our dinette. Raccoon Mountain Caverns and RV Resort is a very large and attractive campground. We skipped the popular cavern tour as Heather is slightly claustrophobic and tight squeezing through areas were mentioned in the brochure. In fact, on our one full day there we managed to complete a big list of to-do's that we had acquired. 

Juanita and Ted snuggle up in our dinette at Raccoon Mountain, Chatanooga

The next morning, after talking to a helpful person in the Tourist Bureau in Chatanooga, we parked in the very large parking lot on the river and walked along the beautifully landscaped shore past the architecturally fascinating enormous Aquarium, up to the Hunter Museum of Art. The collection there is amazing as are the 3 very different time period buildings that form the Museum. That was a lovely morning. Next, we headed east again to begin a journey up the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. And it will be covered in my next post!

The landscaping and architecture along the river in Chatanooga is really outstanding. Here's the "ramp" up from the river to the Hudson Art Museum.

Looking at the back of Juanita and Ted's home on Signal Mountain. We sat out on the deck there
for drinks.

A stream runs through their backyard and wild
flowers grow along it, plus of course spring

Their road runs along the bluff of Signal 
Mountain looking down at Chatanooga and 
across to Lookout Mountain.

It's just one lovely view after another!

It was also a perfect day.

I really would have liked to include more photos - they all were so lovely.

Some of the azaleas were still in bloom! 

The view along the river with socially distanced

The Hunter Museum of Art is fantastic. That is
Scott and I in a video painting which records your
presence if you stay still for a few minutes.

The modern art collection was beautiful as is the
building itself

A "lounge" area overlooking the river.

I love Janet Fish!

Heather, Juanita and Ted on our walk near their home.