Thank you to all our readers and followers. We are trying our best to get back out there and explore after the recent events. We hope everyone is staying safe and doing well. We know it has been frustrating for most of us that enjoying traveling. We will be making some updates to our website in the coming weeks and getting out to the Florida State parks to hike and bike. We will be keeping up social distancing practices while trying to explore nature and sharing it with you. If we see any good camping opportunities, we will be sure to pass that along. Anyone else out there venturing out safely, please feel free to share what you find fun to explore. Be safe while continuing to find adventure. Keep your eyes peeled for exciting things to come.
During this trying time for everyone, come along with us on a short little day trip. We are traveling less these days, and our plans have changed. The AT hike is on hold, and our weekend trips to parks have been shut down. To all who are full-timers, we sincerely hope that you are lucky like us and have some friends who will let you stay in their yard.
Diesel is cheap at the moment, so we just decided to take a Sunday drive to see the historic downtown St. Augustine in all its historic beauty with no crowds or cars. While driving around, we noticed that the gates to the mission were open. We had wanted to walk around this historic place anyway, so we jumped at the chance to do it with very few people.
The Nombre de Dios Mission, also known locally as Our Lady of La Leche, is the oldest mission here. If you’ve ever been to St. Augustine, or driven over the bridge from Vilano, you’ve seen a giant cross looming at the horizon. This marks the spot (general) claimed by Pedro Menendez for Spain and the church in 1565. The main building (the new mission) was closed and so was the gift shop, but the grounds were what we came to explore anyway.
There are several statues erected to Spanish/Catholic Saints, including Francisco Lopez, (whose monument is registered under historic places), and Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). We’d like to encourage you to click on the pictures individually so you can read the rich history of this place.
Throughout the grounds, there are large monuments dedicated to different people and there are tombstones dating back through the 1800’s, including Union soldiers from the Civil War. There are also some sisters of the original mission buried on the premises.
For those who are not familiar with the Spanish Catholics, they give special devotion to the Mother Mary. There is a beautiful Shrine to her in the middle of the property. It’s the 4th one erected. The first 3 were destroyed by war, fire, or hurricanes. The “newest” was built in 1918. It is open when the gates are, and anyone can go in a sit down or kneel at the front altar. There are also candles that can be lit by appointment. There is also a couple of very pretty fountains throughout.
Whether you’re Catholic, Protestant, Agnostic, or anything in between, this is a nice place to just sit at one of the many benches and reflect on blessings or happy thoughts. It’s right next to the bay (Matanzas), as seen the the above pictures, making it a perfect setting for peaceful tranquility. It was a nice thing to experience during this tough time that we are all having.
If you’d like to visit, they are closed to the public right now, but they have an online store for tokens and rosaries; or you can buy a candle for them to light with a request for prayer. They will also be holing Easter Mass online. Of you’re not interested in the gift shop or sanctuary, go on by and just walk the grounds. We enjoy looking at the ancient tombstones and sitting by the bay.
We hope you and yours will have a Happy Easter and a great spring. We’ll all get back out there soon and begin exploring again. Thank you to all our readers for sticking with us.
As “locals”, we get the luxury of using the Local Flavor app for deals on tickets to get into different places. Most of the time, it’s 2 for 1 deals. This was the case for the pirate museum. We enjoy a lot of things pirate, hence our travel trailer. We named it the “Satisfaction” after a ship that belonged to Captain Morgan. We are contemplating naming our next travel trailer (hopefully one that we will have for many years to come) “Davy Jones’ Locker”. The museum is loaded with factual and fictional pirates, a lot of which have a significant tie to St. Augustine.
As you enter the museum, you will see examples of navigation tools used by the pirate (and others’) ships in the 1500’s and 1600’s. You’ll learn about cartographers, who were very talented individuals who made maps of the land and waterways. You’ll see examples of pirate weapons and surgical tools like those used to cauterize wounds.
Rogue’s Tavern, a popular pirate hangout, made some interesting mixed drinks, like Blackbeard’s favorite, the “Kill Devil”, consisting of rum and gunpowder. Sir Francis Drake and Robert Searles never met in real life, but they both did horrible raiding to St. Augustine that left marks on its history. Drake burned everything to the ground in St. Augustine in 1586. He was sanctioned by Queen Elizabeth to raid Spanish ships. Drake was known as “El Draque”, or, “The Dragon”, one of St. Augustine’s most hated pirates.
Robert Searles is the reason the fort Castillo San Marco is built out of coquina after his 1668 raid, where he kidnapped and killed every St. Augustinian that wasn’t “pure blood”.
Andrew Ranson made a unique name for himself after he survived the garrote rope broke at his execution. He was protected the rest of his days by friars who said the rope breaking was an “act of God”. He ended up helping Castillo defeat the English.
Thomas Bell died before they could hang him at the gallows at Castillo, where he would’ve been put on display. They would hang pirates and put them on display outside the fort for other ships to see they did not take kindly to acts of piracy.
Henry Jennings captured a St. Augustine fort and took the largest Spanish treasure, making him the richest pirate in history.
Nicholas De Grammont may be the reason the Castillo was finished in 1690 without interruption, but his fate was doomed after he raided the city when his ships got caught in a hurricane.
Louis Aury captures Amelia Island and made himself governor.
Each captain had a set of rules known as the “Articles of Piracy”. If the contract was broken, it usually meant death. There are examples of different sailor knots and a replica of a cannon that you can test fire. There is also an example of how pirates told time, the hourglass. There are examples of several pirate flags, but there only 2 still in existence. The most popular is the Jolly Roger. In French, it was “Jolie Rouge”, which means “Pretty Red”, which is the color the flag used to be. Now, it’s black with the skull and crossbones, likely from what gravestones had on them.
There is a replica of a chest belonging to Captain William Kidd. You can see an example of the classic book “Bucaniers of America” by Alexander Esquemelin, read by Blackbeard himself. There are replicas of different types of gallows that the pirates would be “hanged by the neck until dead, dead, dead”
Democracy was a big part of the life on a pirate ship. They voted on the captain. Treasure was divided up equally among the crew except the Quarter Master and the Captain’s shares that were higher. They took up donations and gave money to crew members and their families who were disabled.
The oldest wanted poster dates back to 1696, and you can see it framed in the museum. Henry Every is another pirate that is historically represented. Charles Gibbs came up with the famous phrase, “Dead mean tell no tales”.
Most people have heard of Calico Jack, since his flag in particular is the one most widely recognized. When we fly ours, we are reminded of his 2 shipmates, the pirate women that were saved by proclaiming their bellies so they wouldn’t go to the gallows. These 2 women are Mary Read and Anne Bonny. They held their own out on the high seas as pirates. Anne Bonnie was Calico Jack’s girlfriend, but she was not pleased with him getting caught. Her last words to him were, “Had you fought like a man, you need not be hanged like a dog”.
Other pirates and/or flags represented are John Dalton, Edward Low, Black Bart, and Samuel Tully. There are examples and historic research listed about different forms of torture and punishment from the pirate era. There are skull and crossbones stickers on drawers that you can pull out and mark what’s in them on a treasure map. When you have filled it out, give it to the personnel at the end of your tour for your very own piece of pirate treasure.
Take 5 minutes to sit in a room to listen to an interactive ship ride with some famous pirates close to Port Royal, Jamaica. Touch a 400 year old chest. Read about Henry Morgan and Blackbeard as you look at many types of pirate treasure. See for yourself, the only remaining real pirate treasure chest that belonged to Thomas Tew.
After strolling through history, check out the displays of movie and TV pirates. They have memorabilia from Peter Blood, Long John Silver, Morgan the Pirate, and the Goonies. They have Captain Hook’s hook on display. (You can see the alligator Tik-Tok that swallowed Captain Hook’s hand on display at the Alligator Farm). Take a gander at Captain Jack Sparrow’s sword and Captain Balbosa’s guns from Pirates of the Caribbean.
This little gem of a museum is the perfect way to spend a couple hours of your trip in downtown St. Augustine. It’s in the perfect location, directly across from the Castillo San Marcos fort, the city gates, and the Colonial Quarter (the latter of which we still have to visit). If you’re interested in history or pirates, or even St. Augustine, this is worth a look-see while you’re here.
Forgive us for not blogging in a little while. We have been traveling and working on our YouTube channel. Feel free to go check it out and subscribe. We wanted to do something fun for Christmas eve, so we got tickets for general admission to Marineland Dolphin Adventure. At $22 a ticket, some might think it’s a little steep for what all it there. We got to watch people swim with the dolphins (a very short one line swim). If you want to experience that, it’s an extra $100. I don’t think we’ll be doing it, but it was fun to watch.
We got to experience a little extra delight since it was Christmas. They were having a contest for the best Christmas tree. The ornaments were made from recycled things like water bottles and other handmade items to bring awareness to certain things.
Among the things to see, for sure, are the dolphins. The staff is very knowledgeable and entertaining. For more on that, you can check out our YouTube video. The dolphins play, swim, and jump, but if you’re not being real attentive, you may miss their jumps. We got lucky and have photos.
They also have sharks in dark water, so you have to look closely to be sure you don’t miss them. There also sea turtles and a very nice overlook. We happened to go during a Nor’Eastern, so it was very windy. We had our tickets, so we weren’t letting that hold us back. Thankfully, it was just rough winds, but no rain. That had finally stopped just before our trip.
There are lots of signs with a plethora of information. If you have the money to spend, a dolphin encounter might be up your alley. You can even get a couple of them to paint for you. This might be something we would enjoy someday too. We recommend Marineland if you enjoy sea life, especially dolphins. Please enjoy all the photos we took. We hope they will made you feel like you were there with us. Thank you for taking a stroll through the Holiday trees and signage with us, and catching a glimpse of a double dolphin jump.
Be sure to click on the pictures individually so you can read all the information if you wish to learn all the stuff we discovered on our trip. Thank you so much for reading our blog and keeping up with us. See you on our next adventure very soon.
We celebrate the holidays a little different in Florida. No snow, no freezing cold weather, just lots of fun in the sun and in the moon light too, as you will see here. It was the perfect night for a boat tour. The weather was nice, but for those who are still a tad bit cold natured, they offer free hot chocolate on the trip as well as blankets to wrap up in. If you want something a little stronger, for $5 you can get a shot of Irish Cream in your cocoa. There’s also beer/wine for sale. We went on the 7:45 pm tour, which is mainly for adults. It was a wonderful ride and our tour guide, Kevin was super nice and entertaining. The captain, Mike, did a wonderful job and was a good side kick to Kevin. Our “bartender” Riley was very friendly. The entire crew was a joy to ride with. You get your pick of 3D glasses to look through the lights at to see different shapes. I chose candy canes, and as a experiment, I tried taking a picture through the glasses. You can see the candy canes in one of the pictures.
We recommend Florida Water Tour to anyone who wants to have a nice, entertaining, and informative tour. They offer more tours than the Nights of Lights, but we wanted to see the lights of St. Augustine from the water. This tour is well worth it. Please enjoy our pictures as well as our YouTube video of the entire ride. Kudos to the crew and Florida Water Tours. It was great. We even saved 15% on our check at KingFish Grill by letting them know we took the tour. You can’t miss this restaurant, it’s right next to dock A19, where you get on the boat. Come along and enjoy the ride with us, and go for your own tour, whether in the winter with the lights, or in the summer with the dolphins.
There are so many fun things to see and do in Chattanooga, and even though we were there for 2 days, we didn’t get to do them all. We opted out of seeing Rock City and Ruby Falls, only because we’ve been there before. We recommend if you are in the area, you should certainly go see them, along with the Tennessee Aquarium.
Our “home” for those two nights was a State Park just outside of Chattanooga – Harrison Bay. It was absolutely beautiful, and at $22 a night, not a bad deal for a state park. There are water and electric hook ups, but not sewer, as with most state parks. There is a dump station on the way out. We wish we had time to explore the park more, but we were pressed for time. It’s on our list to go back to for sure. They have a small bird habitat with 3 disabled birds. It is a very nice park with lots of paths to walk on too.
Our first trip was to the Tennessee Valley Railroad and Museum. The museum was very interesting. There were several locomotives, box cars, and cabooses for people to walk in. Each one has their own signage. One in particular can even be rented out for birthday parties. The train ride is fun but short. It’s an antique steam engine originating from Alaska. The trip takes you 15 minutes to the depot where you get out and watch the turn table demonstration (where they turn the train engine around). Then, you tour the workshop where they repair the cars and engines. On your way back to get on the return trip, you can stop in and get a cookie or an ice cream flavor make specifically for the train station (small cup for a large price). All in all, it is worth the tour at the TVRR. Click below to see a short video of the turntable demonstration.
Our next adventure started on the Incline Railway. It’s over a hundred years old. It takes you from Elmo Street, at over a 72 percent grade straight up to Lookout Mountain. It’s powered by pulleys, so as one is going up, the other trolley must be coming down as a counter balance. It’s very steep, so you will want to hold on to your seat and check out the views as you climb up.
At the top of the mountain (Lookout Mountain), we went to the Civil War Museum and watched a 30 minute presentation of the Battles of Chattanooga: the Battle Above the Clouds, Moccasin Bend, Tennessee River, and Missionary Ridge. We videoed the entire presentation. You can watch it here. We apologize for the darkness of the video (the quality), but the room where they play it is dark. If you are a history buff, maybe you will enjoy it.
After the museum, our main reason for going up was to see P oint Park. This is part of the National Park Service and you can get your America the Beautiful pass here if you want. It’s $8 to enter the park, and there is either a person there to help you with that or a kiosk that takes debit cards. The entire walk around the park has jaw dropping views. We tried to picture how it was back in the 1800’s before all the development in the valley below. It’s so hard to picture nothing but mountains and trees beneath because of the modern roads and buildings. There is a large war monument for all veterans here and several cannons. There is a museum here with lots of things to read that are full of information about Tennessee and the Battles of Chattanooga. Tennessee was a border state, not supporting the North or the South, but there were sympathizers for both sides in the state. Ultimately, the state was won for the Union. We can’t imagine how these battles were fought so high up, utterly above the clouds. Whether history interests you or not, this park is worth a visit just to see the awesome views.
There are so many thing in and around Chattanooga, and it’s all family friendly fun. Ruby Falls has a parking area for RVs, so you may want to get there early if you need to park your “home” there. We wanted to go several other places, so we really are glad we chose to stay at Harrison Bay State Park and drive to all the places in our truck. We thank you all for subscribing to our YouTube channel. We have several new videos coming. Thank you for you liking and following our blog, and our Facebook and Instagram pages. We really appreciate all your support. We hope you enjoyed coming along on our Chattanooga journey and are looking forward to the next adventure. Thank you for joining us.
This past weekend we joined the masses at the famous Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN. A word to the wise, if you can avoid going on a weekend, please do so. It was packed! We were there mainly for the luminights. They were very pretty, but there was so many people, it was hard to try to maneuver around to see them all. And the rides? Looooong lines, some waiting over an hour. We rode the coal fired train that goes around the park, the merry go round, the water log ride, 1 roller coaster and saw a magic show. That took all day! Then the lights began at 7pm and the park closed at 9. Going on the weekend just didn’t seem worth the money. We were lucky because we got 2 free tickets thanks to being associated with Southern Highlands attractions via the NOC. But for a regular family (4 adults and 1 child) it’ll run you nearly $400 to get in! The children’s ticket price ends at age 10, so above that is the $74 adult price. Be prepared to spend more when you get inside the park. You can buy a souvenir cup for $14, then refill it the rest of the day for 99 cents each time. Yikes. And if you bring in a last year’s cup, it $4 a refill. We opted for free ice water. At least that’s an option. You’re allowed to bring in 1 drink as well. So, if you bring in a water bottle, look for the water fountains to refill it. And parking? What a nightmare. Its $15 to park in the lower areas and catch the trolley up. We opted to pay a little extra and reserve a preferred parking spot for $24. It’s a lot closer and short walk to get in. They also have valet parking for $34, but we weren’t that sophisticated. Waiting to get out into the street is worse than trying to leave a packed out concert.
Aside from the crowds and breaking the bank, it is a nice place if you like big roller coasters. If you go though, we recommend during the week. Some of the rides, including the train, still run at night, so that a unique experience. Taking our time to explore all the lights would’ve been better too. They have the pumpkin luminights until Nov. 2, then they have the Christmas ones. I can’t really say one way or the other if I would recommend Dollywood. It’s hard to judge by others’ individual tastes. We probably won’t go back, especially since our time with Southern Highlands has ended. But if you’ve got time to kill and money to burn, it might be a fun time for you. We hope you enjoy the pictures we took and a short video of the magic show (below) and soon we will post a video of the lights on our YouTube channel. We’re on the road now, so give us a couple of weeks to get the video up. Thank you for your support and for following along on our travel adventures.
We’ve spent another great summer in western North Carolina. We saw waterfalls, went on some good hikes, saw several fun amusements and camped at some beautiful places. We’ve been coming here to this area of NC for the last 3 years, and sadly, we still have not seen it all. There is so much to see. It’s known as the land of the waterfalls and we’ve seen maybe one third of them. But when working seasonally, that’s what happens. We are lucky to be able to live this wonderful lifestyle and to be able to go exploring on our days off.
We’ve had ups and downs this season. We lost our beloved Samantha, our 15 year old camp kitty who took to our new lifestyle and seemed to enjoy it just like us. We later got a 4 month old kitten, we lovingly call Angel. She has taken to the RV lifestyle wonderfully. She has learned to walk with harness and leash and is so well behaved on road trips We discovered a lot of new activities thanks to Southern Highlands Attractions, a perk from working at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. We hope that our next seasonal adventure will have something similar.
We have made some wonderful lifetime friends. We are lucky that most of them travel and we will be sure our paths will cross again along our journeys. They helped us transition into this lifestyle and calmed some of my fears I have about people. Living with PTSD is a struggle but thanks to people who understand that, I don’t have to be afraid of everyone. This RV life has helped me cope with it better than I could have just sitting in a house and not going anywhere. We certainly made the right decision to travel.
We will come back to WNC someday, but for now, it’s time to try something new. We will be in our favorite winter spot in FL again this winter, but 2020 will bring some changes. While I will remain in FL and be the editor for our YouTube channel, hubs will be hiking the entire Appalachian Trail. He will be videoing his journey as I help bring it to you all. Once he is off the AT in the fall of 2020, our journey will begin again in the RV. We have to do some research to figure out exactly where we will land and what sort of seasonal work we will do, but rest assured, it will be fun and full of adventure.
Thank you so much to all our friends here in WNC, we will miss you but we will make plans to see you again along this epic RV adventure. We will always keep in touch and you can always see on our blog and YouTube channel exactly what we’re up to. We are truly grateful to you for being our friends. Thank you to all our loyal readers as well for following along with us on our journey and we will continue to bring you along on our adventures everywhere we go.
As you all have read before, we always go through our camper and figure out what we no longer need to carry around. This year has been particularly hard to decide on a few things. Our truck is filled to its gills with things. The camper is easier to go through because I’m in it everyday. We know we have to have the tools for all sorts of things, but there are other items that we just kind of scratch our heads about. What all do you take with you everywhere you go and what do you think you can live without? Drop us a comment and let us know. Maybe it will help us move along in the truck purging process.
We will continue to post more of our WNC adventures coming up soon. And we will keep you all posted on our travels south for the winter. Thank you for the memories, the fun and lifelong friendships WNC. Onward we go, traveling and discovering more of what nature has in store.
This year’s birthday trip was a hot one. The first day wasn’t so bad because all the waterfalls we saw were roadside or just a short walk. The first one we came to was on private property in Rosman, NC. They graciously let people park behind their house in a designated area and walk to the falls. You can see the falls from the parking area, so it’s not a long walk. There are rumors afloat that they are thinking of closing it off to the public now. After visiting, we could see why. There were people in their swimwear, hanging out and digging around with plastic shovels in the falls. This is disrespectful to the land owners and the critters that make the waterfall their home. A short walk, some pictures, and a walk back to leave is what they accommodate, not swimming (and being parked in their backyard) for hours and disturbing the salamanders (some are endangered in the area, called hellbenders), and the other small water critters. We recommend this falls for sure, but please be respectful of the landowners and their generosity. Maybe they won’t close it to the public before others get to enjoy it. You will travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway some of the time, so be sure to take time and enjoy the overlooks. The GPS got us there just fine, but some people may not know which side road to take. It’s called Mountain Meadow. Follow the signs to the parking area and walk the short distance to the falls. From there we went to Brevard, our destination for the next couple of days. We stopped at Looking Glass Falls first. It was giving that name because of the way it looks in winter when it freezes. It’s pretty in the summer too. There’s a small area for parallel parking. There is a picnic table and viewing platform. The way down to get a close up view of the falls is made of several steps, but they are not steep. It was rather warm that day and there were several people wading around in the little “pool” beneath the falls. This waterfall is one of the prettiest on our list. From Looking Glass Falls, we followed the signs to Sliding Rock. It was the day after Labor Day, so it was good and bad. The good was the fee period for this park was over, but the bad was the concession stand/information booth was closed for the season. There were several people here, all lined up to slide down this rock. It’s a great looking natural water slide, and on a 90 degree day, the 55 degree water would be refreshing. I’m not sure when the lines are no longer forming, but that day was not one of them. We didn’t wait our turn in line because we had other places to go and camp to check in to. I sure would like to go back a “go for it” though. From Sliding Rock we went on to Slick Rock Falls. (All of these waterfalls are in the same general area, and we found out later, there was a couple that we missed). Slick Rock is up from Looking Glass Falls on a Forest Service Road. It is easy to see from the road, but there’s just a couple of large rocks to climb over to reach the bottom of the falls. If you want to hike, there is a short trail that goes around the large rocks. There is also another waterfall on this road, about a quarter mile away called Jackson Falls. It has several other names, but that’s the most common. You can see it from the road through foliage, but there is a trail that leads to it. We didn’t learn of the trail until we had left to go to camp, so we only had pictures through the trees. There are designated camping areas along this road, but we are not sure for how much longer due to people leaving trash in the area. Everyone, please remember to pack in and pack out. On our way to camp we stopped in at the Pisgah Ranger Station/Visitor Center. They have a lot of good information about all the waterfalls and hiking trails in the area. Brevard is known as The Land of the Waterfalls, and we can see why that’s true. There are several we have seen and blogged about over the last couple of years (like Whitewater Falls and Courthouse, etc.), but there are many we have yet to see. There is also a nice little gift shop here with many books, maps, stickers, t-shirts, and more. We did not have time to visit the Cradle of Forestry here, but we will go back to see it. It’s a $6 fee to get in, but there are a lot of interesting things to see.
Our campground for the night was called Ash Grove Mountain Cabins and Camping. It was a very nice, quiet place. Our quarters were called the Elf Shelf. It’s basically a 3 sided shelter like you might see on the AT. There is a platform that you can lower down from the rear wall that gives you a raised area to sleep. You will probable want to bring an air mattress unless you have a good sleep pad because the surface is just plywood. There is a privacy curtain, but it won’t keep out the critters of the night, so if you have food, leave it in your car or have a bear canister. They do not have a bear issue here, but they do have raccoons. We didn’t see any because we have a bear canister for our food, but we did hear some owls “fussing” at each other. It was a neat experience, as I have never heard owls “argue” before. It was quite humorous. After that, there was only a lone “hoot” every now and then. But we love those woodland sounds. The bath house here is very clean and had a really large shower area. The owners of the campground are very friendly and we liked it so much we will go back. We may stay in one of their cabins the next time, or the little hut known as the “Gnome Home”. They have a laundry area, a place to wash your dishes and some hiking trails that are like strolls through the woods, nothing strenuous. If you like quite little campgrounds, we certainly recommend this place. They also have places for RV hook-ups. There is no cell service, but the office has a courtesy phone and wifi. Check them out at the link below (you may need to copy and paste it):
After a decent night’s sleep, we checked out and started out for our main event. We drove to the High Falls Visitor Center to hike to Bridal Veil Falls. You may recognize that name from the Highlands waterfalls, but this one is in the Dupont Forest. There is another place to hike to it at the Fawn Lake Access area, but the High Falls trail is all flat. The down side is there is zero shade on this trail because it’s a gravel road all the way. It was way too hot to go on this hike, but we sweated through it. It’s 2.2 miles one way, so 4.4 miles round trip. It would have been much better if we had went in the fall. It was a 90 degree day. Whew! There are other waterfalls here such as High Falls, Triple Falls, and Hooker Falls a little further out. You can walk 7 miles round trip if you want to hit High Falls and Triple Falls if you were up for the challenge. Hooker Falls is another trail altogether. There is also an old Airstrip you can take a trail to and a barn trail. The barn is on the Bridal Veil Falls road as you get closer to the falls where you can refill your water bottles. There is also a 3 Lakes Trail that takes you to 3 hidden lakes. I guess they call them hidden because they are in the middle of the forest. We had planned on taking this trail but thanks to the supreme heat, we only saw the biggest of the 3, Lake Julia. It would have been wonderful if we could have went for a dip, but we were on a bit of a time schedule. I would recommend taking some swim clothes to take time to cool off here if you do go when it’s hot weather. The sun beaming down just wears you out faster and it’s good to relax.
You may remember these falls from the movie The Last of the Mohicans and also from the Hunger Games. Both were filmed here. The movie showed a wall of water, so it may have been filmed from the upper section. The bottom section of the falls is made up of several “trickles” over the rock. After a good rain storm, the entire rock might become a larger falls, but it would take a big storm for sure. It was an interesting experience, and the hike is not strenuous, but just watch out for the heat. It was a struggle for me to finish, but I made it. Hubs didn’t have any trouble, but he works in the heat. We are planning on going back to hike to the other falls, but in cooler weather. It was an interesting but hot birthday trip, but we had fun and we hope you had fun reading about it. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel. There will be more videos coming soon.
Our first stop for the day was supposed to be Linville Falls, but rain and lots of fog deterred our hike. We will have to save that one for another day. We continued on our journey to Grandfather Mountain. We had made these plans ahead around work schedules, so we had to do what we could. It was quite foggy at Grandfather, but at least it wasn’t crowded.
Grandfather Mountain is the highest peak in the Blue Ridge mountains at 5945 ft. It was too foggy to take most of the hikes, but they are listed a strenuous, so I’m not sure how many of them we would have done anyway. There is one inside the park called the Woods Walk that is listed as easy, but we didn’t take it because it was so foggy.
On the way in, they give you a CD to listen to, sort of like a guided tour, but we don’t have a CD player in our truck. Our first stop was a place called the Split Rock. It’s close to their fudge shop (which we didn’t go into). There is a parking area there for you to walk the Woods Walk and check out the Split Rock. The fog didn’t prohibit us from driving to the summit, and along the way, we saw the famous “Forest Gump” curve, where Tom Hanks ran in the movie for a whole 30 second clip.
The next stop before the top is the Wildlife Encounter Area. You will see signs here with times for the next encounters, but they only happen on weekends. During the week, you just spot the animals on your own. Here, I would like to point out that there are signs clearly posted that the Eagles are very timid around people and to please keep quiet. In other words, please tell your children not be loud and scare the animals so others can enjoy the park. It’s understandable if they are excited, but sometimes you have to account for all the others around you who would like to enjoy seeing the animals without them hiding from the sudden noise. Thank you for being courteous to the people around you.
We saw the Elk through the fog and the bears. The otters were not out and about, and the cougars may have been hiding. We did see very informative signs about all of the animals. The bears are special to the park, since they’ve had them since the park opened. The wildlife part is named after the first one, and you can see her name everywhere, “Mildred”. Please be sure to click on the pictures individually so you can read the signs and see everything informative and the animals closer.
Next to the animal habitat is a museum and snack shop. There are a lot of displays about local area birds and crystals that are mined. The timeline on the tree truck was quite interesting. Don’t forget to click on the pictures to see them better so you can experience them with us.
At the Summit (driving to it), there is a shop and the famous Mile High Bridge. You can walk out to the bridge from stairs or take an elevator out to it. We chose to take the elevator. It was still foggy, but we were able to take a couple of photos from the “top of the world”.
We hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway but not too far, only 11 miles away, to Julian Price National Park. There was a slight chance it might rain, so we put the tent up instead of hammocks. We got a great spot by the lake, but the fog was very thick. This was a wonderful place to camp, but it’s not one of the parks that gives you anything off for having the America the Beautiful Pass. It also says online that it’s a Good Sam park, but it’s not. But for $20 for the night, it’s still not a bad deal. They have “real” restrooms, but no showers. They have handicap spots with raised fire pits and raised grills. We saw some travel trailers there, but there’s no electricity, so it’s boondocking at its finest. They do have generator hours posted. We got lucky to not have any rain that night, and when we got up the next morning, the fog had lifted and we got to see Lake Price in all it’s beauty.
Thank goodness the fog lifted. Day 2, “Peak” 2, we went the The Blowing Rock. It is only 8 miles away from the campground. The little town of Blowing Rock is quite nice. It’s very historic and full of little shops showcasing this little town. The Blowing Rock has a legend that says a Chickasaw maiden and a Cherokee brave fell in love. He learned of his people being in distress and wanted to return to be with them. The maiden didn’t want him to go. He was so upset at not knowing what to do, he jumped off the cliff. The wind was so strong it blew him back up into her arms. This story is more than like European. They tended to make up stories to romanticize the Indians. The Indians had stories to explain things that happened in nature; things they had no “normal” explanations for. The real “story” of the Blowing Rock is its shape. It juts out with an angle causing the wind to sort of “whirl” underneath it, blowing things “up” like snowflakes, etc.
When you see the brochures or look it up on the internet, you’re expecting this large towering mountain. It’s not that far to climb it from the “back” side. If you were to fall off the cliff side, it would probably break some bones, and depending on the way you land, maybe worse. The point being, don’t be afraid to climb it. Just don’t get too close to the edge if the wind is blowing badly. There’s a nice overlook tower past the little snack shack/shop. There’s a small nature trail here and a little museum and a small turtle pond. The entire experience takes about 35 minutes or so, but it’s a great little stop.
Our next adventure is a couple of hours away. We had planned on checking out the Tweetsie Railroad, next to Blowing Rock, but they had changed their hours back to weekends only, we assumed since school was back in session. But, since we were out and about already and the elevator was working again, we chose to go on ahead to Chimney Rock,
If you’ve got some time and you’re a brave soul, you can take the Outcroppings trail all the way to the top, climbing 500 steps. Or, if you don’t have a lot of time, take the elevator. It’s a 198 ft tunnel into the rock with only 40+ steps to the top of the Rock. At the top of the elevator, there is a nice little snack bar and “trinket” shop. If you want to go to the top of the waterfall from here, it’s about an hour walk. We opted to go to the bottom of the falls via the Hickory Nut Falls trail. There used to be a trail around the Chimney Rock that was the one in the movie from The Last of the Mohicans. Due to an accident (someone being irresponsible), they had to close the original trail and put up different rails. They are working on a new trail to go all the way around, but it may take a couple of years to finish.
The Hickory Nut Falls trail is a moderate trail (steep in some areas, not so bad in others). It takes about an hour for most people to go up and come back down, but for those of us who take our time to enjoy the scenery and took about an hour and 15 minutes. We got out 4 minutes before the park closed. At the top of the trail, there are a few stairs to the bottom of the falls, but not that many. There’s a nice picnic area there too. There’s another picnic area on the trail not far from the start. If it’s a hot day, you might want to be sure to take your time here and have plenty of water. It was in the 70s the day we went, so it wasn’t a bad walk. There’s a small cave they call the Genesis Cave. It was formed by rocks cracking and falling. It’s a rather neat little area.
If you’re a Penny Passport collector or just “smash” pennies every so often, there are machines for these collectible pennies at all 3 of these locations that we went to. We will certainly return when we have more time. We hope you enjoy our blog and our pictures. Feel free to comment and like. Thank you all for your support.
Bonus photos: Even the restrooms here are interesting, sporting murals inside and out.
The wildlife here is also wonderful. I was sang to by this great cardinal. He got really close to me too.
We certainly recommend it here. Just be sure you have an entire day to enjoy it all. We recommend all three of these “peaks” and the Julian Price campground. We hope you will enjoy your trip to these landmarks of WNC.