Under the Blue Ridge Parkway

Driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we discovered a trail during a stop at an overlook.  The trail weaved through and around giant boulders, and followed the path of the Blue Ridge Parkway, underneath the busy scenic road.

This stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway road is the Linn Cove Viaduct, which wraps around the base of grandfather mountain and was the final piece of the parkway to be completed. The viaduct structure was needed to avoid cutting into the rocky base of the mountain and disturbing the natural habit.

One of the things I love most about exploring the mountains, are the interesting places we stumble upon, like this trail we never knew existed.  I can’t wait to go back and follow the trail further.

Mountain Cows

I could hardly believe it when we reached the top of Bearwallow mountain. A herd of cows gently grazing on the mountain top meadow. I was hoping to just see one cow, as the hiking guide had mentioned, so I was overjoyed when I saw so many of them!

The cows were really friendly and we were able to walk right over too them.  They were nervous if we got too close so I wasn’t able to touch them.  But I sat on a rock in the middle of them and watched as they wandered around and ate the grass.

Bearwallow mountain was just 30 minutes outside of Asheville. I will definitely want to come back to visit the cows.

Bearwallow Mountain

Weeks ago on our short trip to Asheville I was trying to decide on a hike to go on.  My decision ended up being pretty easy when I read about one that mentioned the possibility of seeing some cows at the top of Bearwallow mountain.

We took the 30 minute drive to Bearwallow mountain from Asheville, which ended up being another fun trail at the end of a tiny gravel road. Although at first we weren’t really sure where to find the trail once we parked. We eventually climbed around this fence and found the trail a little ways behind it. Strange!

It was a lovely hike through the lush forest.  Almost entirely uphill, but it wasn’t too bad; just a little less than a mile to the top!

The view was great.  But even more great is that there wasn’t just a couple cows like I was hoping for, there was a whole herd!!

The cows were so cute and pretty friendly.  This was definitely one of the best hikes ever.

 

The Big Hike to Hawksbill Mountain

I never posted the pictures from the Big Hike last fall.

It was a one mile hike to the top of a mountain that stood tall along the Blue Ridge mountain range. Towards the end of the hike the trail was nearly straight up the side of the mountain!

The views from the top of Hawksbill Mountain were some of the best I’ve seen in the Blue Ridge. It was also exciting because we finally managed to time it right to see the perfect autumn leave colors.

It can’t really be seen in this picture, but on that rocky ledge is Wiseman’s View, which I visited years ago!  It was cool to be on the other side of it.

These mountains overlook Linville Gorge, which is a river that runs though this area deep in the valley.

We stayed on the mountain top for a while, eating the little picnic we packed and looking out at at colorful mountains.

For some reason this short weekend trip the the mountains almost  a year ago really stands out in my mind as one of my top favorite trips. The weather was perfect and everything we did was so much fun, with no stress of worries. Looking through these photos really reminded me of the time spent there and made me excited to return soon.

Falls in the Graveyard Fields

I love discovering new places on the blue ridge parkway. Some places are a long and difficult hike to get to, others are just a quick walk down some wooden stairs.
The quick walk down the wooden stairs at Graveyard Fields led to a peaceful rocky stream. I would have liked to stay here and wander around in the shallow water, but as this had been a quick little 24 hour trip to Asheville to see a concert, I hadn’t packed the right clothes for playing in a river!

 

The goal was to hike to the big upper falls of Graveyard Fields, but we got turned around and ended up back in the parking lot!

The story of that adventure is here.

Graveyard Fields

Somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a little south of Asheville, is a meadow called Graveyard Fields.
There isn’t a gravestone in sight though.
  The name came from a vast amount of trees that had been snapped in half during a violent storm and then resembled graves.
But that was many many years ago.
The trees have returned.
Much of the path though the woods is led by a winding wooden boardwalk.  Other parts are more like semi dried up mudslides that forced us to make our own little side paths to avoid getting trapped in the mud.
It was a sunny day, after rain had been falling for weeks, but dark clouds were still swirling around the skies. A reminder that the storms weren’t over yet.
We continued down the scenic trail hoping to reach the upper waterfall, but the signs were not marked well and somehow we ended up back at the parking lot without ever seeing the big waterfall.
Along the trail these little red blooms caught my eye. They had sprouted up from some lichens growing on a rock. I’ve never seen lichens bloom before so it was an exciting find!
Graveyard Fields is now at the top of my “Favorite Places on the Blue Ridge” list.

 

When the Mountains Looked Small



Flying back from Houston, the plane took a detour to go around an enormous lightning storm.

The detour meant I got to fly over the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It was my third time flying, and the first time ever seeing mountains from a plane, so with my face pressed right up against the glass I started snapping 100s of pictures like a maniac. 

The beautiful landscape distracted me from the turbulent ride as we circled the storm.









This mountain range feels enormous and never ending when you’re on the ground in the middle of them.  But from the sky, they are just some fleeting ripples in the ground.

The BIG Hike


When planning a trip to explore the mountains, I wanted to include a hike; one we hadn’t been on before. On a quick search I found a trail to the top of Hawksbill Mountain. It was labeled as moderate, 2.2 miles round trip, with 360 views of the mountain range. That was the one!

During the drive up the the mountains, I spotted the mountain peak that this trail led to.  It stood out high among the mountain range.  It was going to be a big hike!

We traveled along the curvy mountain roads and before we knew it, the pavement ended and we were left with a road of dirt, barely enough for two cars to pass.  One side was against the mountain, the other side a steep drop through the trees. This hike was already seeming to be intense, and we were still in the car. 

Were we up for it?  I hope so, because no turning back now!

Eventually we saw the small entrance to the trail and parked precariously on the edge of the dirt road. The mountain top towered above us.  

Soon we would be on top. If we could make it!


The hike started off simple enough, a narrow cleared path through the trees with a small incline. The sunlight trickled through the autumn colored trees.

 But as we ventured on, the incline became steeper and steeper.



Every so often there would be a break in the trees. A glimpse of how high we were.










The hiking guide said the trail would become steep towards the end, so every time the incline increased I thought “We must be nearly there!!”

But on we hiked. 

Until we were scaling over rocks, almost straight up!

It was supposed to  be about 1 mile to the top. But had I read that right?  I second guessed myself as we climbed the rocks, almost completely out of breath. 





But soon enough, the ground began to level out and we found ourselves at the top, overlooking the vast Blue Ridge mountain range and the valleys below. 


The big hike was a success!  We spent quite a long time at the top, taking in the views.  

The hike back down was so easy, in fact, we were so pumped from the hike up there that we ran all the way down the mountain.  It took us over an hour to get up, but less than half an hour to race back down!

Now I am looking forward to even more big hikes!

To the Mountains!


It was time again, to go explore and get lost in the mountains. We left work early on a Friday afternoon and the weekend was packed with adventures. 

Barely an hour down the interstate and the Blue Ridge mountains suddenly appear straight ahead.


I had picked out a new trail to hike this time, one that leads to the top of one of the mountain ridges. I recognize the mountain peak as we drive down the interstate. The one to the right in this picture. 

 It’s higher than I expected. 
It’s going to be a really big hike.


Highway 80 is the curviest road I’ve ever been on. It goes straight up the side of the mountain, with steep drops straight down.



It was perfect timing for the tree’s best autumn colors. We headed down the Blue Ridge Parkway to one of our favorite stops, Craggy Gardens. 



We ventured through the craggy trees to the top of the little mountain, as the sun began to go down. 

But we didn’t stay for the sunset because it became too crowded with people taking selfies.


We were tired and hungry by the time we got back to the motel, so we walked in the cold night air up the road to a little German restaurant, where  we ate a bunch of hearty junk. 

I ate spaetzle for the first time. Also some breaded warm cheese bites. Wow. 


After dinner I sat out in the cold and took pictures of the sky. 


The next morning, I drove for the first time, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. 

It was a bit fun, and a bit scary. I screamed a lot. 


I drove us past an apple orchard to the town of Little Switzerland where we explored an old bookstore.  

The next stop was the BIG HIKE.



We turned down smaller and smaller roads, until we eventually came to a narrow dirt road that led to the hiking trail. We ventured down the path, which got steeper and steeper the further we went. 

Soon we were climbing over boulders, nearly straight up. I wondered if the big hike was a bad idea.


After an hour we made it to the top. We could see for miles.

The big hike was NOT a bad idea!


After being way up in the clouds, it seemed like a good idea to go way deep underground.

 In a cave.


That night we drove along the parkway at night, stopping at overlooks to take pictures, while I freaked out at what could be lurking in the dark.


On the final morning of our mountain adventure, we watched the sunrise before traveling up the parkway to see what else we could find before returning home.


Our adventures led us to Linville falls, a place we had been to a few times already, but this time we decided to hike a different trail, one that was less busy. 


Back on the road, we ended up finding another trail that winds around under the parkway and around some huge rocks. The trail was very long but we didn’t have time to walk the entire length. It will be first on the list next time.


I started reminiscing about this trip as soon as we returned back home. The memories are so ingrained in my mind.

I don’t think it will be long before we return to explore the Blue Ridge mountains once again. 



Cemetery in a Christmas Tree Farm

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My friend has been researching her family history and visiting the graves of her ancestors. Her recent search led her to some coordinates which pointed to an old cemetery plot that was located in the mountains in the middle of what is now a Christmas tree farm. It sounded like an adventure waiting to happen, so one Sunday morning, my friend, her sister and I piled in the car, made quick stop at Trader Joe’s for some road trip snacks,  and we set off in hopes of finding this hidden cemetery.

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The coordinates took us down the interstate away from the city, and then through some twisting curvy country roads that got smaller and smaller, until we found ourselves way up in the Blue Ridge mountains. We are very much city folk so we began to freak out a bit as our travels took us more and more into the middle of nowhere; into some region of the state that none of us even knew existed.

We eventually turned down a gravel road just wide enough for one car, and followed it to the very end. According to the coordinates the cemetery was just through the woods ahead of us!  The only problem was the big fence surrounding the woods and all the no trespassing signs. There a were a few houses close by and we were concerned someone may call the cops at the sight of a strange car parked on the side of the road. After contemplating trying to find a more secretive way in, we decided just to leave a note and a flower on the windshield explaining why we were there, and then we jumped the fenced and started our trek through the woods.

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We climbed up a giant hill and then came to a barbed wire fence. Just beyond the fence we could see the Christmas Tree farm, with little trees for as far as the eye could see. There was some talk of turning back at the sight of the barbed fence, but the coordinates showed that the cemetery was very close so we crawled carefully through the barbs and continued one.

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We found ourselves on the very top of a large hill filled with little future Christmas trees and an incredible view. The country is simultaneously beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

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As we walked through the row of little trees I glanced to the side, and there I saw what appeared to be headstones! It was the little cemetery!  We could hardly believe we actually found it. And so quickly! My friends laid flowers on their distant relatives graves, and we tried to imagine what it had been like when they lived and worked on this land.

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This was such a peaceful spot.

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On our way back down to the car, we spotted these animal bones!  As we were checking them out, we saw a woman walking down the gravel road, on the phone, staring into the woods towards us!  We were afraid she was calling the police! But then she didn’t seem like she had seen us and began walking away.  We stayed hidden and waited for her to walk further back down the road before climbing over the fence. I didn’t think we would be in huge trouble, but my worst fear when I saw her was that we would have to awkwardly climb back over the fence while she angrily stared us down and I would die of awkwardness. Luckily that didn’t happen and we made it back to the car without being spotted.

Visiting this little cemetery in the Christmas tree farm was definitely quite an adventure. We were all so excited that we were able to find it, and make it in and out without any problems. We travled back down the mountain, ate some pizza at some biker stop right off the Blue Ridge Parkway and discussed the days next adventure..