Up High Again
This past weekend we packed our bags and headed up to Blowing Rock in the beautiful Blue Ridge mountains for an overnight trip. Normally being a day trip, it amazes me the intense coordination and planning it takes for us to ‘get away’ for just one night. The house sitter for our baby boy Mojo, food and drink shopping for said house sitter, coordinating the alarm system, etc. Of course, it does help knowing the house sitter is non other than my baby girl and her robust boyfriend. So at least there’s no huge guesswork on food choices there.
We stayed in this same place March of last year, a week after Keith proposed – so this return trip was very special to us. Originally built in 1874, the adorable hotel is called The Hemlock Inn. Today, the original inn has been completely refurbished with additional rooms having been added. Each of the beautifully decorated historic rooms offer individual rustic mountain settings complete with hardwood floors and antique decor. Each room having it’s own unique decor, we opt to stay in a different room each time. This was our room last weekend:
Here’s a couple shots from their website showing what’s in store once our beautiful warm summer weather decides to arrive (and stay).
Knowing the shops on Main Street so well, I was surprised we’d never been in the Six Pence Pub. Then I remembered neither of us are bar people, never have been! But since this place came highly recommended, we decided to pop in after we were checked and settled in our room. It did not disappoint. Though I didn’t get them in the picture, I’ll have to admit the fried pickles here are probably the best I’ve ever had.
Of course the trip would not have been complete without a leisurely drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway before we left on Sunday. It’s my dream to someday drive the entire Parkway from start to finish. We always gravitate to ‘our’ overlook… Big Bear overlook. This overlook has 360º scenic views and is very near Price Lake. It was disappointing to see that someone had stolen the rustic sign that’s resided there since we started coming – I guess this tells me it’s not just ‘our’ favorite overlook.
Here’s another panoram of the luxurious mountain laurel.
As usual, I found a t-shirt in a local store that I just couldn’t leave without. This shirt might as well have come preprinted with my name on it…
So I guess I’ll save my story of walking around naked in the dark with a gun for another time.
A View from Mount Mitchell
Those who know me are well aware of my continuing quest to kick acrophobia out the window once and for all. Thought I’d share a few pictures of our road-trip yesterday up to Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest point in the eastern United States. This is the highest up I’ve ever been. For those of you who’ve been much higher and think this is a simply a walk in the park – humor me. I’m terrified this high up (mainly during the drive up and down), but for some reason the mountains keep calling me back. It’s so beautiful and peaceful here, even if it does scare me to death.
My Cure for Acrophobia… NOT
As much as I’ve been up and around the area, I’ve never been to the very top of Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. Positioned 5,946 feet up in the clouds, it’s height is impressive even when compared to that of Mt. Mitchell which stands at 6,684 feet – the highest peak in the eastern United States. Grandfather Mountain is definitely the highest point I’ve ever been in my life, and likely ever will be again. It’s surely high enough for me.
As we drove on past our favorite little town of Blowing Rock, NC we decided to visit the top of this infamous mountain. I learned a good bit about it, including the fact that Grandfather has more plant diversity contained in it’s area than in all of Europe. It’s landscaping and inhabitants are largely protected, which is always great to see. The admission fee included entrance to everything except the highland games. Nature museum, gift shop and restaurant, animal habitats, many impressive cliff points, walking trails, and never to be last – the mile-high swinging bridge.
I’ve worked feverishly for years to try and rid myself of this dreaded fear of heights, also known as Acrophobia. Countless trips to mountains, numerous rides on the Intimidator coaster (tallest and fastest in the Southeast), a couple of paragliding adventures over the Atlantic… but nothing could have prepared me for the entirely
helpless panicked feeling of being out on that bridge.
I wanted to be able to snap a pic or two out on there, but I had to keep
walking moving. My legs felt like jelly, I was shaking uncontrollably, and my chest felt as though I had entered into cardiac arrest. I couldn’t disappoint Keith, I knew how badly he wanted to walk it – but I simply cannot explain how terrified I was.
To say the drive up to the highest point/swinging bridge was treacherous was an understatement. Several complete u-turn points paved the way up the last several hundred feet, with nothing but sheer drop-off below. Each car literally had to stop and think first about what they were doing. Except for the pavement quality, it seriously reminded me of that tv show ‘Most Dangerous Roads’ usually found in third-world countries. And I thought the trip up was bad until I realized we had to come back down.
Another tidbit of info I learned: Remember when Forrest Gump ran across America? A portion of his trek was filmed while running up Grandfather Mountain (a curve now appropriately named “Forrest Gump Curve”. Ironically, I came home and the movie was on tv last night… one of these snapshots is of Forrest running around that particular curve on my tv. 🙂
I guess the height thing is one phobia I’m just going to have to live with. As far as ever conquering it, I can’t say I haven’t tried!
Today has all the makings of a Monday. What better day to start a new month? Alarm clock sounds at 5 am. My bleary-eyed kitty hops on the sink for a drink before I have the chance to gargle and brush. A lonely drive in to work in the overwhelming darkness (go away, daylight savings time). The familiarity of pulling into my comfortable little parking space at work. Deeeep breath.
It was such a wonderful weekend. We drove up to the mountains, in a different area than we normally visit. Near Brevard, NC there’s a town called Linville Falls. With not enough time left in the day to make the trails to the Falls, K suggested the Linville Caverns. I had never been in the Caverns before, it was pretty neat. Of course, we had to hit Woodlands BBQ before we headed home. 🙂
U.S. National Whitewater Center is actually an olympic training facility in Charlotte, NC that I’d never been to in all the years it’s been there. The cool thing about it is there’s a flat fee of five bucks to park – then there’s acres and acres of trails to your liking. We opted for the easy mile track around the ‘river’. Got three miles in, not too shabby! There’s lots of interesting scenery to be had here, unlike my monotonous (yawn) treadmill.
I’d been itching to see Shawshank Redemption again (awesome movie). Although I know many parts of it by heart, I never tire of seeing this flick. Keith built a fire beforehand, I had a nice glass of wine and Camille took her place in front of it.
Yesterday we washed the cars and put a nice winter coat of wax on mine. As I came down the steps this morning, even in the dark ole’ Betsy gleamed to perfection…
I never want the weekends to end, but life must continue on. All packed up and back to reality. Blessings to all for a great week!
Everyone probably knows by now about my acrophobia (fear of heights) as well as my contradictory fascination with extreme-height architectural feats. I’ve written of the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the Alpspix and the Burj Dubai. I’ve heard of viaducts in my life, but I wasn’t aware that’s what the one along the Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain was called. Appropriately named, I think. So what’s a viaduct? Here’s the official info from the visitor’s center:
“A viaduct is a long bridge with a series of spans supported on piers. The Linn Cove Viaduct is 1243 feet long and 35 feet wide. The “S” curve roadbed rests upon seven vertical piers that are spaced about 180 feet apart. The roadbed is made up of 153 precast concrete sections held in place with wire cables and epoxy glue. No two sections are exactly the same and only one section (#93) is straight and square. Each section weighs nearly 100,000 pounds. Linn Cove Viaduct is the first in this country to incorporate progressive placement of sections. What this means is that the bridge is built upon itself. Workmen, materials and machines move back and forth on the completed bridge to place each successive section. Little or no damage is caused to the landscape over which the viaduct is being constructed.”
Ground was broken on the Blue Ridge Parkway on September 11, 1935, and all but 7.5 miles of it’s 469 were constructed by 1967. The parkway was completed in September of 1987. This final section below, around a rugged and rocky perimeter side of Grandfather Mountain, accounted for the twenty-year gap.
There was much controversy and debate over this ‘missing link’ as state and private officials argued over the environmental impact. How would they build a road at an elevation of 4,100 feet without damaging one of the world’s oldest mountains? Finally, NPS landscape architects and FHA engineers agreed the road should be elevated and/or bridged to eliminate the need for massive excavation. The result? The most complicated concrete bridge ever built – the Linn Cove Viaduct. The only trees that were even cut for the construction of this section were those directly beneath the roadway.
The Linn Cove Viaduct Visitor Centre is located at Milepost 304.4, right after you cross the viaduct itself. You really have to look for it because it’s not clearly marked.The area has restrooms and a trail to Linn Cove Viaduct, of which we partook. The trail is less than a mile round trip and is moderate, starting out as an accessible paved trail at the visitor center and leading to a beautiful view of the viaduct from underneath – then finally giving hikers access to the Tanawha Trail. You can continue up the remaining dirt trail and climb by huge boulders for another 1/3 mile to get some views of the surrounding areas – but this personally scares the heck out of me and you won’t catch me doing it. As I watched Keith climb onto a huge boulder, I admit I had to turn my head and got more than a bit upset. The dropoffs are straight down and at that height, well – I shudder to think of the accidents that may have occurred there by persons striving to get a ‘better view’.
I have to say though, the views from this viaduct are the best I’ve ever seen from any of the North Carolina mountains.
Sun day Fun day
Been a beautiful weekend so far. My brother was in town, so yesterday we went over to my Dad’s house to see him. Dad threw some steaks on the grill and we had an awesome dinner… I’d forgotten how good charcoal makes a steak taste. Huge difference.
Along the lines of food, we’re currently driving 100 miles for a BBQ dinner. Not just any BBQ dinner though, this is the place I was talking about the other day (Woodlands) that absolutely rocks. My antibiotic finally kicked in on the offending tooth, and for the first time in over a week, I’m not in any pain.
I have a great deal to be thankful for. Heck just to have the freedom, ability and resources to jump in the car and go somewhere when you want to, well that’s a huge blessing.
Brand spankin’ new week
Goodbye to the three-day weekend – but oh, how I enjoyed it’s stay! It brought much cooler temps and beautiful skies – a chance to rest as well as the opportunity to get some things done.
A day-trip to the mountains was just what the doctor ordered. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and the crowds were even manageable. After miles of hiking on some not-so-desirable terrain, we could both probably use the care of a doctor. The statement “we’re sore” doesn’t quite describe the magnitude of the pain. Until today, I’ve never had trouble at all getting down my stairs. I had to laugh at myself this morning and hope no one was looking as I stepped sideways down the steps in an attempt to minimize the strain.
What amazed me about Sunday was the visibility factor. One worker pointed out two mountains in the distance that are ‘local’ to us – Kings Mountain and Crowders Mountain. Those mountains were now approximately 75 miles away, and we could still make out their silhouettes perfectly. Amazing!
Now if you’ll excuse me… I’m off to see how long I’m able to break the rules by donning my white threads after Labor Day.