Okay… back to our spring road trip. Hubby and I enjoyed South Carolina. Charleston was lovely: beautiful historic homes, great beaches, fabulous restaurants. But along with the warm sunshine, there were lots of people, and traffic. After four days we were ready for something less busy, and more empty. And rugged. With more open space and many fewer people. So we headed for the hills, so to speak.
As I mentioned in my last post, we had booked a cabin in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina for a few nights. And we were looking forward to cooking for ourselves, and doing some hiking in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. And hopefully getting a look at the Appalachian Trail of which we’d read so much.
We love staying in cabins and cottages. And happy to have finally arrived and loving the rustic grounds of this place, we unloaded the car, and piled our bags and cooler onto the porch. A bit precipitously as it happened. We couldn’t get into our cabin. Despite following the e-mailed instructions we’d received from the owner, the “lock box” wouldn’t work, and since there was no one on site, and my cell phone had no signal (only Verizon customers get coverage apparently), we had to pack everything back into the car and drive to a small store nearby to beg the use of a phone. Apparently the owner of the cabins lives somewhere “far away,” according to the store owner. Even the local “staff member” whom we contacted lives twenty minutes away; but he explained over the phone the “trick” to opening the lock box was “to press on the grey part while trying to flick the switch.” Happily that worked. We were in and we unloaded the car for the second time that day.
But the cabin was freezing. The wall thermostat did not appear to do anything. The gas fireplace looked dodgy, and with complicated instructions and no way of knowing if the gas was even turned on, no cell phone coverage in case of emergency, we steered well clear of that potential disaster. We managed to get heat by turning on the old baseboard heaters in each room. We pulled on our ski underwear that we’d packed for hiking, and laughed, “At least we aren’t in a tent, eh?” And later we were happy we’d brought the electric heating pad for my back, since the single quilt on the bed just didn’t cut it for warmth. Really? A cabin in the mountains in April… you’d think they’d have a duvet or at least an extra blanket.
Anyhoo, the next morning when all the electrical outlets in the kitchen failed, and we had to move the coffee maker and the toaster to the bedroom, and the microwave to an outlet by the back door, I finally e-mailed the owner for assistance. Thank goodness for WiFi. A return message later that day said the the “trick” for resetting the kitchen outlets was “to press a reset button on the shaving outlet in the bathroom.” Of course. Now why didn’t we think of that? You see, folks, the “trick” to enjoying travel is to be flexible and to have a good sense of humour. And to look at all glitches as fodder for blog post stories.
No more glitches that day, though. We drove into Great Smoky National Park to visit Clingman’s Dome, at 6643 ft, the highest point in the park. The sign at the park entrance said the Clingman’s Dome road was closed, probably due to the dump of snow they’d had overnight. But we took a chance and carried on. And by the time we turned off the main road and began the ascent, it was open.
The temperature (and the wind) was brisk when we arrived at the parking lot to start the short, but steep, walk up to the viewing tower. Lucky for us we had packed our toques and gloves, and were wearing our ski underwear. Some people were not so fortunate, and one lady was attempting the walk swathed in what appeared to be a heavy blanket. That must have been awkward. We saw hikers heading down this section of the Appalachian Trail, but we didn’t join them.
We carried on up to the viewing tower on Clingman’s Dome. Stunning view isn’t it? Row upon row of exquisitely smoky mountains. And thus the glitches came to an end, and we began three days of sunshine, bluer than blue skies, and gorgeous scenery.
The snow made it all the more lovely. I felt like bursting into song or quoting a Robert Frost poem, but I restrained myself. I’d been warned after an embarrassing Macbeth quoting incident at Dunnottar Castle in Scotland. Poor Hubby, the perils of travelling with an English teacher.
On day two we stopped at the tourist office in the lovely little town of Bryson City. This graceful old building is the Swain County Museum and tourist information centre. The helpful lady at the desk gave us trail maps and pointed us in the right direction for our hike to Indian Creek Falls that day.
We had the trail to ourselves for a long while on this sunny Sunday morning. Well, except for a smiling priest, whom we met early on, striding down the path, cassock billowing around his legs, clutching his rosary.
|Lone walker at the beginning of the trail.
That was surreal. Perhaps he’d come to this quiet bench for a bit of Sunday morning meditation.
We pressed on enjoying the exercise, and the views.
When we crossed the wooden bridge over this fast flowing creek, we couldn’t resist tossing sticks into the current, then running to the downstream side to see whose “boat” was winning. I don’t like to brag… but, well… you can guess where this is going. Spring makes you feel like a kid again, doesn’t it?
Back at our cabin after our walk, the hot tub (which by the way worked perfectly) felt verrry good… but did nothing for my serious case of post-hike hat head.
On our last day in North Carolina we drove part of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We’d thought about doing this on our “get-away day,” as Hubby calls it, but an ominous weather forecast helped us to change our minds. We’ve driven some beautiful, twisting, mountain roads in our travels over the years, and this one did not disappoint.
Thank you Mr. Weatherman. If we hadn’t paid attention to the forecast, the view below is all we’d have seen. Actually it’s all we did see, for a while anyway, on our “get-away day” as we headed north. Rain. And low clouds.
And mountains hidden by more clouds. Kind of magnificent in its own way, though.
We had one more stop before we headed home. We planned to find a hotel near Roanoke, Virginia and hike in to McAfee’s Knob, one of the most famous overlooks on the Appalachian Trail. After reading Bill Bryson’s book on the trail, and then watching the Robert Redford film based on Bryson’s book… we couldn’t get the idea of McAfee’s Knob out of our heads. And Hubby had done some research, and read that it was a thirty-five minute hike one way. Ha. A veritable doddle. Cue the ominous music here.
We checked into a hotel in Salem, near the head of the trail to McAfee’s Knob, and as it was only three-thirty in the afternoon, and the weather had turned out to be beautiful, we decided to do the walk right then instead of the next morning. The sign board in the parking lot said the hike was 3.9 miles. One way. So definitely not thirty-five minutes.
Ah well. We needed some exercise. We’d been in the car for the best part of two days. Nothing ventured and all that. We set off. And walked. And walked. And walked. Up hill mostly. Almost entirely, in fact. After an hour or so, we spied what turned out to be an old fire road that ran alongside the trail, and we slithered down a side-hill to walk it. Easier on the feet than the rocky trail. At one point, we met an elderly man who was sitting on the bank beside the old road, digging wild garlic. Sounds like the beginning of a fairy tale, doesn’t it? But we weren’t two children lost in the woods and he wasn’t a troll or a leprechaun. Hubby had a conversation with him about the merits of wild garlic soup, he explained how much farther to the top, and we went on our way.
At one point, we turned off the fire road and back onto the trail. Soon, we clambered up steps as the trail headed directly for a cliff edge. “That must be it up ahead, ” Hubby exclaimed. This was the selfie I took when we discovered that the trail turned and ran along the spine of the ridge we were on. And carried on upward. Okay, I wasn’t really that upset. Just making a dramatic face for the camera. But where the heck was the damn knob?
|What-da-ya mean we’re not at the top?
Ah yes. Another mile or so later. There it was. Definitely worth the exertion. And the sweat. And the swearing. 1,100 ft of ascent over the almost four mile climb. And the views were impressive.
|The view from McAfee’s Knob
And we were all smiles again.
Too bad that Hubby’s camera was on the wrong setting when he took the shot below. The picture was terribly bleached out and I had to doctor it to be able to see anything. But as you can tell…. we made it! And the way back was all down hill. Well, mostly. Phew.
|Great glee on McAfee’s Knob
It must have been after eight o’clock by the time we picked up take-out pizza and made it back to our hotel room. Where upon we had hot showers, turned on the “what is Trump up to today” show on CNN, and lolled on the beds, gulping down pizza, sipping wine, and feeling quite pleased with ourselves. I was fast asleep by nine-thirty.
The next day we really did head for home. Our “mountain time” had been time well spent. And we were hoping that spring would be fully sprung by the time we reached Ottawa.
So what have I learned on this trip? Well, you never know where you’re going to meet a priest or a helpful old man. Always travel with gloves and ski underwear… actually I already knew that one. Always, always wear hiking boots when we walk, even if I’m told that it’s only a short hike. Rocky trails are not kind to sneaker-ed feet.
And I’ve decided that one should always calculate the length of a hike in miles before you start… pffft it’s only 3.9 miles one way. And in kilometres when you’re finished… wow, 12.6 kilometres in total, much of it climbing. I am impressive. See? Miles for motivation, kilometres for patting oneself on the back. Works for me.
Now I really must wrap up this marathon post. Hubby has just brought my bike back from its spring tune-up and we are off for the first ride of the year. Spring… so glad it’s finally here.
Now, what spring-y things have you been up to?