Friday, October 25, 2013

Almost Home

So there we were, sipping on a apr├Ęs bike ride hot chocolate –- Yes, it was cold out there!  -- when the news started hinting at an end to the “Shutstorm”.  We slipped out for a Pizza. Then about ten, when our elected children had voted and the President had spoken, Patty sprung into action.  Al was sent into the dark to work the  pre-departure checklist…inside, stuff was stowed and tidied, cabinets locked, floor swept.

Next morning at 8AM, we were rolling toward Davidson River National Forest Campground and Patty was ringing every number in her files.  By 10AM  She caught the staff just opening the office.  A couple more hours and we were setting up in Laurel Loop IN AN ELECTRICAL SITE!   AHH. Electric blanket time!

IMG_0891And so it was that we spent five glorious Fall days at Davidson River with time for fishing and long walks and visiting with new friends and old.  We took in the Friday Night Lake Toxaway Jam  enjoying more mountain music from the locals and even watched a couple Saturday football games (just because we could).

The nights were in the forties, but much was being made of the Polar Air dipping South in the future. 

On October 23 we hitched up and approached another Road where Airstreams Fear to Tread made notorious by the Someday ‘59 crew. Hereabouts the drop from the top of the Blue Ridge Escarpment to the Piedmont along the Cherokee Foothills is 2000 feet in two miles; we did that a couple of times.  It WAS, as we were warned, the most twisty,narrow, up and down road we have traveled all year, but the morning was sunny and the navigator reports that the colors and occasional glimpses of horizon were glorious; the driver was otherwise occupied.

On the Cherokee Foothills Parkway we stopped briefly at the Keowee-Toxaway State Park and got a strong recommendation from Ralph, who has visited from Louisiana for decades.  Next time. 

Full of driving confidence, we braved the Atlanta Traffic.  Why??  I don’t know.  Short Memory, I guess. 

We checked on the availability of a fourth Trailer tire to fill out our set, but delivery was expected tomorrow.  We would have to spend our
 SIX HUNDREDTH AIRSTREAM NIGHT in yet another brilliantly designed COE campsite on beautiful West Point Lake on the Georgia/Alabama border. SOMEBODY has to fill these spaces and watch these sunsets and count these geese and visit  the grandparents already gathering to celebrate a Halloween weekend. 

IMG_0897 IMG_0898

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Down the Mountain

The morning at Grayson Highlands was sunny, but it was time to move. In our hearts we wanted to be closer to the Smokies when the government FINALLY  reopens.  The Jeb Stuart Highway (58) is gorgeous, especially in Fall colors. We coasted down at 35 MPH with no traffic. 

In Damascus, Virginia (America’s Trail Town) we sighted an open space at Creek Side RV park, six spaces right in the center of town.  We loaded on some gas, some much needed groceries and returned to set up in space #3.  We hurried so we could catch the 2 o’clock shuttle to the top of the Virginia Creeper Trail (18 miles of downhill through the Mount Rodgers Recreation Area, over dozens of wooden trestles spanning a blue ribbon trout stream.)

Yes, we are wearing most of our layers; it’s cool up here on Whitetop and it’s getting cooler.


Soon Patty is stuffing maps into her jersey just as old time Tour d’ France riders once did as they began a downhill.  (This will also reassure our daughter that Patty is not wasting away…)

It wasn’t much longer that the Gore-Tex came out and we were comfortable for the rest of the ride.  Where are those leg warmers anyway…?



Monday, October 14, 2013

We Found the Fall Colors!

Here at the very top of Virginia --Grayson Highlands and Mt Rodgers -- the fall colors are splendid. We are a little short of sunlight, but where the sun shines, the colors just glow.

loose stack rock wall


Big views and loose laid stone walls define Grayson Highland State Park. Wide parkways after the tortuous 15MPH approach on Highway 58.

After settling into a nearly empty State Park, we hiked the short Twin Pinnacles trail to the highest points in the park.  The Sun just peeked out as we watched the Wild Ponies graze far out on the mountainside and the soaring birds whisked so close we could see eyes.  Other hikers pointed out hikes they had enjoyed and gave us tips and stories about the area.
Next morning it was misting, but we tackled the Wilson Creek trail.  Roots and Rocks  covered with bright yellow leaves made the descent to the creek treacherous –- we had to stop still in order to safely look about. The yellows gave way to dark green rhododendron thickets along the creek and trail wound up and down along nearly constant waterfalls. 


IMG_0773Weather is chancy at this altitude, so Eagle Scouts have provided “Storm Shelters.” 
Some are triangular so you don’t get too comfortable.

IMG_0776  We climbed back out to the comfort of the Airstream and had a nice warm lunch.

Next, we search for Ponies….
The Highlands were once densely covered with Red Spruce.  After the deforestation came the fires which burned to bedrock, a familiar story. Grazing was established in the places which supported grass.  When the park removed the cattle, wild ponies were introduced to keep parts of the area open while allowing the natural plant succession to reestablish the forest.  On our hike to Twin Pinnacles, the progress is apparent, but slow moving.  On the slopes of Wilbur Ridge where we hiked this afternoon, temporary fencing guides the ponies away from the newly developing forest.



Sunday, October 13, 2013

Gracious Galax Virginia

We’ve always liked Galax; we’ve returned often to ride the New River Bike Trail.  This time we were once again impressed with the friendliness of the town.  When our chosen campground was filled, the owner recommended another where the owner gave us an “Airstream Discount” and recommended Scoots, IMG_0665the restaurant where the desserts are home baked by local ladies they mention by name on the menu. Those wonderful deserts are $2.50! and “coffee is free with dessert”. 



We watched the world traveling Whitetop Mountain Band play the old Rex theater for $5.00, enjoying the company of new friends who recommended more delights. The local theater group offered “Nunsense II” for $8 the next night and the ticket taker sent us back to Scoots to try the Italian Wedding Cake.


It was great to get back on the bikes…the trail was smooth and occasionally leaf covered.  “Watch Out! Walnuts!!  Chestnut Creek was flowing well. We wove through runners completing a 50K and, maybe for that reason and perhaps from pure exuberance, we tried to ride too far. Our planned ride was too far and even shortening it left Patty with a sore shoulder that “really takes the fun out of biking.”

We REALLY have to go find some fall color….

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Stone Mountain North Carolina

The Fall colors are still on furlough.

We drove by Roan Mountain and then down Hwy 19E toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.  All the park facilities were shuttered, but at least the road was open.  A little private campground at Linville Falls provided clean, hot showers but little else to recommend it.  We wanted to unhook and get to a high open place to watch the meteor shower, but we stayed in our dark little hollow in a major funk.  This happens to us every once in a while on a trip.  We’ve learned that it will pass…

Next morning, on a high overlook in bright sun, we made our plans.  The white face of North Carolina’s Stone Mountain shown in the distance, a 600 foot granite dome similar to Georgia’s Stone Mountain (without the artwork and laser show.)  Here there be WATERFALLS (big Ones) and the promise of Trout.


The State Park campground was modern and well engineered.  They promised us Thursday and Friday but the big stocking of trout for the start of Delayed Harvest was delayed because… well, you know.

We spent the evening trying fruitlessly to explain
American politics to some very charming New Zealanders and decided not to be lured into that discussion again. One of the great gifts of traveling in National Parks are the friendships with folks from all over the world; these brief encounters shouldn’t be squandered on talk of politics.

In the morning we fished, pleasantly, on streams carved from solid rock.  There was little cover and less aquatic life excepting a huge population of pesky little minnows.  In a few days the huge stocking of trout would put these guys on the run.

In the late afternoon, we had time to bag a few waterfalls starting with the 200 foot Stone Mountain Falls. We had scoffed at the size of this tiny stream as we scouted a fishing spot.  We didn’t know that the water had cascaded down the sheer face of the mountain …  

 Where did it go?

Well, it went down these steps!


But first, a few words of caution….


There were 500+ steps and strapping young boys were supine in the grass gasping and issuing dire warnings, but Patty soldiered on, already planning the email to her cardiologist.

Seriously folks, we took it easy and saw the main falls and middle falls, but didn’t want to swim to see the lower falls.  We started hiking in layers that befit our advanced age, but as we ended we were down to the shorts and tights we wore back when we WERE hikers.

This was a pretty good test for Patty’s heart;  she passed without a hiccup and she was the hottest chick on the trail with Nitroglycerin in her pocket!


Monday, October 7, 2013

Government Shuttered… Seniors Inconvenienced… Real People Suffering…Fall Colors on Furlough

Our annual visit to the International Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough Tennessee was, as we have come to expect, delightful.  The weather was perfect, the tellers, new and old, were first rate and the food (thank you for asking) was varied and plentiful. 

For More about Jonesborough Storytelling, check back to October 2012 and 2011.  It’s in that  Archive
thingy on the right…

As we pondered our next move in light of the our beloved government’s sequestration/shutdown/impending economic apocalypse, we were surrounded in the campground by Canadians.  

Did they come just to Mock our government processes??  

No, they didn’t; they were kind as expected and perhaps even more baffled than we were. Even with our usual haunts in the National Parks and Forests closed,  we tried to be hospitable and helpful.  They were from Alberta by way of the Maritimes,  so proffering the shuttered Great Smokies National Park for scenery met lukewarm response.  Fishing in a tailwater for stocked trout paled by comparison to their backcountry cutthroat trips at  home, but they WERE interested in Dollywood and seeing an SEC football game.  OK, they WERE here to mock us…but politely. 

We oldsters were inconvenienced by the closure of our national playgrounds, but real hard working people were devastated by the shutdown.  Our campground at Jonesborough shares “facilities” with the city HEADSTART program.  We watched as parents picked up their kids and heard that they would have no safe, enriching place to go tomorrow and mom or dad would likely lose a shift or maybe a much needed job.

Stricken is the best word to describe their reactions as yet another needless hurdle was placed in their path. On the second and third days, we overheard anxious discussions as parents, grandparents and teachers sought a way to reopen with a crazy quilt of donations, and partial payments to the teachers…  (At Press Time word came that a CITIZEN – A REAL ONE – has pledged millions to keep the Headstart programs open while our politicians dither…)

Each year we enter the guessing game around the Fall Colors.  Early or Late? Bright or Drab? Too dry or too wet?  When, Where and How can it compare to…?

This year’s colors are most definitely LATE, like the budget. Everyone is bewildered by the delay but not yet despondent.  They could turn out fine, and probably will. Some people, somewhere, will be happy (for reasons of their own), some leaf rakers will be grumpy and we will just wait a while and go through all this again…

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Family Thing -- Again

We are heading again for the International Storytelling Festival at Jonesborough Tennessee. AND, due to her new found freedom as an editor for hire, Sister Beth is able to join us again for what we call the “Drivin’ Miss Daisy Tour.” (The ladies giggle in the backseat and give directions; Al just tips his cap and says “Yes’em.”)


This year’s tour started unceremoniously with two nights in the Camper World parking lot for fridge repair, but was followed by  a few days of waterfall chasing, hiking in Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway, a horseback ride for the cowgirls, a Bluegrass evening and a surprising amount of computer work by our editor.


Looking Glass Falls  Pisgah National Forest


Sliding Rock.       “Too cold, even with the senior discount .”


Living Waters  Balsam Grove, NC






The Agonizing approach


Hero Shot


Talking baby talk to the horsey…


“ Ah shucks, you’re just sayin that…”


Clogging lessons from Miss Betty (87) at Cathy’s Creek Community Center Saturday Night


Joe Byers, bluegrass Master, and his groupies.



Even though the fall colors have been tardy in arriving, we did find some high up on Iron Mountain at a place leaf Peepers and AT hikers have always “The Beauty Spot”.