My amateur weather forecasting skills predicted a beautiful day in the mountains — a bit of pure luck that’ll soon be rewarded with a lightning strike when cosmic balance is restored. Timing felt right for an Epic Road Trip (why waste all this scenery trudging through a a tree tunnel?), so we packed a picnic lunch and headed for the hills.
The going was easy: we took Exit 55 from I-40 and headed south on the Blue Ridge Parkway on the northeast edge of Asheville. Because the Parkway passes through terrain with annoying habits such as dropping 50 tons of rock on on the road, sections of it are often closed for repairs. We hit one such section just south of Asheville — a detour dragging on for miles and miles through towns and pastures offering none of the hundred-mile vistas we drove a hundred miles to see.
Of course, karma always wins in the end and my grumbling was justly repaid with a turn on U.S. Highway 276, which passes within spitting distance of the gorgeous Looking Glass Falls.
Never would’ve seen this if not for the detour. That’ll teach me to complain (actually, it teaches me whining improves my chance of witnessing cool things, which is what I’ve always suspected.)
Once we were back on the Parkway, it was a lot of this:
The idea was to take the parkway to its southern terminus at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park, then perhaps drive around in the park awhile and do a bit of exploring. What happened was we kept getting sidetracked on little trails from the turnouts along the parkway. One really fine one was at a place called Graveyard Fields. A short (though quite steep) trail goes down to this excellent waterfall:
In case you’re wondering, the rhododendron bloom is just beginning. I saw a lot o buds like this one:
The hills should be crazy with these things in a couple weeks.
At another stop, Melissa insisted I take some wildflower pictures.
More blooms at the Waterrock Knob visitors center. There’s a short, steep climb to a very nice overlook. More trails beyond if you’re feeling frisky.
We ended up having so much fun on the drive down that we had to make the GSMNP visit a quickie: we headed up to Newfound Gap, soaked up the scenery and headed back.
Another for my growing collection of Appalachian Trail signs (mildly amusing: I just typed in “Appalachian Grail,” which seems more appropriate) .
The Gap gets pretty crowded on weekends. Probably be a mob scene next weekend.
Speaking of the Gap: The nearby road to Klingman’s Dome should open in the middle of June. It’s closed for renovations; didn’t see anything saying you couldn’t just walk up there on the AT — though it’d be at least a 14-mile out-and-back.
Sorry for such a quick-and-dirty report this week; got to get on about doing my real job before people get suspicious. I’ll be back to regular hiking next week.
Here’s the Everytrail Track, if you’re curious. Mind you it’s crazy inaccurate in a few places because those mischievous mountains kept blocking my GPS signal.