Monday, May 28, 2012

The North Carolina Arboretum

Tropical Storm Beryl didn't rain on our trip to the NC Arboretum as you can see from this photo.

We were amazed at the exhibit on Bonsai and we learned the correct pronunciation which is "bone sigh."

More photos of the arboretum

 We finished our visit to the North Carolina with a short trail hike.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Back Roads and Waterfalls

At times today our Garmin screen looked like a plate of spaghetti as the roads presented us with double and triple s-curves, switchbacks, and 300 degree turns around most of the mountain.  Keeping the driving on the interesting side was the constant need to shift between 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears.  Fortunately, we have the option to change gears with a tap of the shift lever in our Tundra truck, and the truck has a heavy-duty radiator and transmission cooler.  We did fine.
Some bicycle riders are too careless.  We all get to share the road, but on curving mountain roads it is sometimes a real crap shoot when passing a cyclist. 

We started on the Blue Ridge Parkway but after about 50 miles we changed to lesser traveled highways to find some waterfalls.  Our first stop was at Sliding Rock, a unique water feature managed by the U.S. forest Service in the Pisgah National Forest.  

Sliding Rock is 60 foot long piece of granite that is constantly bathed with about an inch of water from a mountain stream.  Waiting for all who slide down on the rock is an 8 foot deep pool of water.  Kids of all ages seemed to be enjoying themselves in spite of the chilly water Sandy and I opted not to participate. 
Our next stop was Looking Glass Falls.
That's a Golden Retriever in back of the lady wearing the green T-shirt.  He was busy fetching a ball again and again.  

After lunch we drove to Chimney Rock State Park where we treated ourselves to another trail hike, but this one was only 20 minutes one way and on the return trip we found a way to avoid climbing about 200 steps.  Whew!!  The driving in and out of this park was one hairy trip.

Hickory Nut Falls actually drop 404 feet, but to get all of it in this picture I'd have to climb a pine tree off the trail about 200 feet from the base and that was not about to happen. 
This is Chimney Rock.  We decided not to climb the 400 steps up 300 feet (the elevator was out of service).  My reasoning was that the  blue haze would have prevented me from getting any really stunning photos.  Honest.  That was my reason. 
And this is one of countless vistas in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  

Friday, May 25, 2012

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway extends 469 miles through the southern Appalachians and it is no ordinary road. No commercial vehicles are allowed and no commercial developments are along the road.  It is all nature and all beautiful.

Today we covered just over 50 miles from Asheville and back.  It was one beautiful vista or forest glen after another.  We traveled north only as far as Crabtree Falls and then back and it took us from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30.  I tell you about that 3-mile hike later in the blog. 

The speed limit on the road is 45 mph, but I think we probably averaged about 30 because we pretty much had the highway to ourselves and we were not trying to get from  point A to point B in the shortest time possible.

The road we drove is cut alongside of the mountains and in a few cases through the mountains.  Miles and miles of the highway were lined with blooming rhododendron bushes -- although  what we saw was mostly the end of the blooming cycle.  The green of the tree leaves is that lush and vibrant spring green.  The temperature dropped as low as 66 up in the mountains and the highest elevation we reached was 6684 feet. It has rained a fair amount recently so we were treated to rock wall faces glazed with run off water so the granite was a shiny black.

We hiked a short but steep trail up to the top of Mt. Mitchell.  The mountain is named after Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who determined its height in 1835, and fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls in 1857, having returned to verify his earlier measurements.  Rev. Mitchell is buried on top of the 6684 foot high mountian where we would like to belive his spirit is pleased with the view and his recognition.

This is the top of Mt. Mitchell, where the Rev. Mitchell is buried.  An ironic note to his death is that one of his students challenged Rev. Mitchell's determination of the mountain's height.  So Rev. Mitchell returned to the mountain to verify his measurement and it was on that trip that he fell to his death.

Mt. Mitchell is located in the Pisgah National Forest.  We had lunch at the restaurant near the top  of the mountain where this was the view from our table. 
A row of inviting rockers line the terrace at the restaurant.
After lunch we drove to Crabtree Falls for a moderately strenuous 3 mile round trip hike back into the mountain to see a beautiful water fall.

At least half of the hike was on a trail like this. But was worth the effort because we got to see this:

Tomorrow we will drive in the opposite direction to see what we can find.