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.
We are having a contest to see what our readers and YouTube viewers enjoy most on Labor Day weekend. The winner will receive our new gray Tshirt. The runner up will get one of our white T’s. To enter, leave us a comment with a picture or a gif that best describes what you like doing the most on the holiday weekend (especially if it involves camping). The winner will be chosen Monday evening. If you are picked as a winner, we will notify you and need your mailing address to send your prize to. You can email it to us or send it via Facebook messenger. Good luck to everyone. Thank you for your support and your participation. Happy Labor Day from Southeastern RV Living.
Last year, we visited the Salt Rock Gap side of Panthertown to see Wilderness Falls, This year, we visited the “Yosemite of the East” again, but on the Cold Mountain Gap side. We wanted to hike to Schoolhouse Falls and then put our hammocks up for the night. (Last year we had the van that we stayed in). We ended up not staying overnight, but we’ll get to that.
We created a video of our hike to Schoolhouse Falls and one for our next day adventure to High Falls, both of which you can see on our YouTube channel (Southeastern RV Living). I will put a link to the videos here at the bottom of this blog. The hike in to Schoolhouse Falls was not too bad. Always be sure that you follow the designated trails when you are going to Panthertown. There are a lot of side trails that are either water run offs, animals trails, or side trails that the forest service has created to get other places in the valley. The actual trails are marked with brown stakes and they are numbered and have colored blazes. Be sure to check out the map at the beginning of the trailhead before you get started so you can plan your best route for all you want to see.
We started out on trail 474 (red blazes) and turned onto 485 (green blazes) to get to Schoolhouse Falls. Along the way, we saw several campsites that looked like a great places to spend the night. Some were at the trailhead, and some were right next to the waterfall. It’s roughly about 1.25 miles to the waterfall, so if you wanted to hike your overnight stuff in, just remember the hike back out is the same amount of miles, only it’s going uphill. It was in the 90s the day we went and even though we dangled our feet in the cool (great temp, not too cold) water at the falls, it was extremely hot and humid hiking back out. We elected not to spend the night after hiking out because we became sticky and we had seen signs of bear activity. We also saw “stupid” people activity. What I mean by that is it there are signs posted and all over the internet when you research it, that says do not feed the bears, and keep your food in your vehicle or in a bear proof container. First, we saw where a bear had torn into someone’s food bag that had not been properly stored and second, we saw where someone had thrown out watermelon rinds. Due to these signs, one being close to where we had wanted to camp, we decided it was probably a good idea to skip on it. It turned out to be a good idea anyway, because it rained heavily that night.
Schoolhouse Falls is a wide, shallow falls that you can walk behind as long as it hasn’t been raining to make to rocks too slick. It has several flat rocks for sitting on and having a snack or just enjoying the water. There were people local to the area who were swimming there that day as well. We would certainly go back and camp there later on when the weather is cooler and less people are about. We recommend Panthertown highly for anyone who likes hikes in nature, seeing waterfalls and granite cliffs, valley and mountain views, as well as backcountry camping. You can stay at the trailhead parking areas if you are not brave enough to venture too far into the woods to sleep. Best of all, the only money you need is for the gas to get there. Another good thing about not spending the night, was we discovered a hidden gem of nature on our way back to camp. I was feeling down about asking to go back to the camper within the first few minutes of us leaving, but then we stopped at a public lake access area, and everything changed.
The access area has something that Panthertown doesn’t have, vault toilets. On the sign here we saw that it was 1 of 4 “hidden gems” they called these lakes formed from the damming up of the Tuckaseegee River. We noticed the dam was directly across from the lake access. The water just seemed to disappear at a drop off, and we thought, hmmm, we wonder if there’s a waterfall there. Hubs really wanted to find out. The very next little pull off area had a couple of cars there, so we figured there must be a trail to somewhere. There are no signs, no names of the trail or waterfall, only a small white sign on the tree saying, “danger, do not climb the falls, people have died here”, you know, the basic sign for every waterfall. While I sat in the truck and recouped from the heat, hubby went exploring.
When he returned, photos on phone in hand, he was beaming. He said it was the coolest waterfall he had ever seen. After seeing his pictures, I would have to agree. He had to repel down steep embankments to get there, then use ropes to climb his way back out. So, even though this is a gorgeous waterfall, unless you are fit and sure footed, we would not recommend you try the hike. Plus, the forest service highly recommends that you don’t go as well. Obviously, people still do, even to go swimming, but they are either brave souls or have a death wish. Since there are no markers here, (maybe that’s a sign within itself), he was not sure what he was getting into, but once he got started, he saw evidence that others were there and decided it was worth checking out. You can see from the photos (hopefully) that the climbing was hinky, at best. But, it was a once in a lifetime thing to see, and we would have missed it if we had elected to stay overnight. In the trail photos, notice the creek crossing and the rope to assist in climbing back out.
After this wonderful gift of nature, with its’ colors, and facets, we had a renewed outlook on why we do what we do. To experience things in nature like this truly is a once in a lifetime thing. The public access was Wolf Creek, so we figured that must be the name of the falls, which it is known as to some, but after research, we discovered its’ more common name, and it sure fits it well, “Paradise Falls”.
After left this enchanting place, we saw this monument on the side of the road, just around a curve. What a sweet way for him to thank the aunt that raised him, and for them to place a plaque to the dr. later. Yet another thing we would have missed had our plans not changed. Shortly after this, as they say of a rain storm in the country, “the bottom fell out” (of the sky).
The following day, we continued with our plans, as the lake was the same distance from our campground as it would have been from Panthertown. We went to the highest elevated lake this side (east) of the Mississippi. At 3,494 feet, this lake was nice and warm for another hot day. Across the parking area from here (the Pines Recreation Area), there is a trail going to High Falls. The information online about it is a little jumbled, but it’s about 2 miles in to see the entire falls area. There is actually 2 falls here, High Falls (or Cullowee Falls) falling 150 feet, and Thurston Hatcher Falls, falling 30 feet. High Falls flows with the sheerest amount of volume of any falls in the area when they release the dam for kayaking. They had released it the Saturday before we arrived on Wednesday, so maybe it was flowing a little better than the “trickle” they say usually has. Or, it possibly could have been flowing better due to the torrential downpour from the night before. There is a video on our channel for seeing both these falls, and I will include the link at the end along with the one for Schoolhouse Falls. This trail is rather steep, so bring your good hiking shoes and trekking poles. There are several steps made from logs and stones going down to High Falls, so be sure to watch where you step. If you are not used to “climbing” trails, you may not want to attempt this one. But, please go see the lake (Lake Glenville). There is a nice sandy beach area and picnic tables. There are 3 waterfalls you can only see from on the lake if you rent a (or bring your own) boat. We may have to check those out later ourselves. The water felt great and we had a nice picnic dinner to round out our day.
Here is the link to our video on Schoolhouse Falls:
And here is the link for our video on High Falls:
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If you’re looking for something not too out of the way to do other than shopping in Asheville, NC, there are a couple of places that sound interesting. The botanical gardens is free and doesn’t close until 8:30pm. The Arbortorium is similar, but it costs $14 to get into. This may be a great place and we may go back and check it out one day, but on this trip, we were interested in seeing some animals. The Nature Center (zoo) is $10.95 to get into. At the front entrance, they give you a map. It is best to follow this, even though the entire path is mostly boardwalk. Following the map will prevent you from missing something or circling back too soon.
Be sure to click on the individual pictures so you can view them full screen and read the signage. And, of course, click on the Otters video clip. We are sure you will love it.
When you first walk in, you go through the “farm” area. For most country folk, you may be thinking you could see these animals at home, but be patient, it gets better. In the farm area, there are a few breeds of chickens, but they were hard to photograph due to the red heat lamp in the cage. There are stalls where they put the sheep, goats, and donkeys to feed them and to pin them up at the end of the day. During the day, they are out and about in their own little area of the zoo.
The deer and bear are close together (separated by a fence, of course). The deer were rather elusive and we didn’t see them at all. THe bears (2 of them) were out and about, pacing back and forth in the heat.
Next up is the birds of prey section. It was very hard to take pictures of these birds because of them being inside cages number one, and number two they were mostly trying to either hide or get out of the heat inside their wooden boxes (oar maybe they were sleeping). I managed to get a couple of pictires of the hawks, and maybe you’ll be able to tell there’s a barn owl in it’s box somewhere.
After a short little stroll through some foliage (there are little plaques telling you the types of trees in a couple of spots), we arrived at the bobcat and cougar area. The bobcat was just as shy as the deer We couldn’t spot it anywhere. The cougar, however, walked around proudly for us to see it.
Along the way, there are benches to stop and rest and drink and snack machines periodically. The whole trail is about 1.5 miles, so on a hot day, if you didn’t bring your own water, these machines are handy.
Up next is the red wolf and gray wolf. The red wolf was so far into its’ little shed that taking its’ picture was virtually impossible, but we did take a photo, even though it’s probably blurry.. We did see the gray wolf hanging out in its little hut closer to the fence, so his picture is a little more clear.
After the wolves, there is a playground with netting to climb and a few other small things for children to swing from or climb and slide. After this is a nature trail. We didn’t go down it because it was getting late in the day and we still had more animals to see. If you’re there all day, or get there early enough, it might be worth the short little woodsy walk. There is also (up a little further on the boardwalk close to the snack machines) a simulator to show you what it feels like to experience 78 mph mountain top winds. This machine costs a dollar for a minute or two. We passed on it because we’ve experienced severe mountain wind already.
After this, it curves back around to the wolves on the opposite side. Here, you will be able to crank out a howl on a machine for the coyote. We only saw one. He was out an active for picture taking opportunities.
Then, you come across something called a Red Panda, or Bristol Panda. It looks nothing like a Panda Bear, but more like an overgrown raccoon with reddish fur. Yet again, we couldn’t get any good photos of it because it was hiding away from the heat far back on its little shelf. There were a lot of signs about this little guy though, so enjoy learning about what it is
Next are the foxes and the raccoon. We saw the raccoon being playful, swinging around on a tree, but he was moving so fast, the picture came out too blurry to post. We did not get pictures of the gray foxes, the were lying down behind trees and it would’ve just looked a like a lump of fur or maybe like the tree had a growth. We were able to get one picture of the red fox. You can see him in the left corner of the pipe.
The next sections were the songbirds and the turtle pond and amphitheater. Directly after this is a building called Appalachian Station, but it was closed up. There was picture of a snake here on the map, so maybe the have reptile exhibits here or will have in the future. They are planning expansion in 2020. We could hear several birds singing and caught a glimpse of a small one on a limb. If there were more than one turtle in the pond, they must have been underwater. We saw one big fellow sunning on a log. We say he was big because as far as sliders go, he was rather large.
Up next is our personal favorite, Otter Falls. It is named after a young man who used to come enjoy the otters regularly until he passed away with lymphoma. We took several shots of these fun little critters and a short video. There is a small waterfall right before you get to their swimming area and a slide to go down if you’d prefer that way verses the steps. There is also a ramp for the handicap to go down if that is better than the other two methods. The entire walkway is wheelchair friendly with the exception of the nature trail.
After the otters, we’re almost back around to the entrance and the gift shop. There is a log cabin with one of those cardboard cut outs where you can put your face in the hole next to a bobcat and have someone take your picture. There is also a water fountain here if you are thirsty. This cabin is for reserved parties, weddings, or meetings. Just before the cabin, you will see a bunch of metal barrels used for collecting rain water.
We hope you enjoyed this stroll through the zoo with us. If you’re in Asheville, NC and like to see rescued animals, we suggest this little spot. Hopefully when they are done with the expansion, there will be a lot more things going on in 2020. If any of you have pictures of the zoo here, please share them with us via a comment or an email. We’d love to see them. Don’t forget to check out our YouTube channel and like us on Facebook and Instagram. If any of you are wanting shirts, click on our post about them and follow the instructions through the PayPal button at the bottom. Don’t forget to list your current mailing address so you will get your stuff safe and sound. We appreciate you all and look forward to bringing you along for our next adventure.