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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.

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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.


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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!
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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. 

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The Forgotten Clearing

During our trip to the mountains last fall, after we checked out the waterfall, we kept walking down the trail to see where it led. Eventually we came across this intriguing path and couldn’t resist checking it out!

The path led to this picturesque clearing, nestled in the valley of the enormous blue ridge mountains.  Far away from anything else

An old forgotten barn stood towards the edge of the clearing, almost completely engulfed in thorn bushes. 

The thorns weren’t going to stop us though, we wanted to see what was inside!

We braved the thorns and made our way towards the side of the building where we saw  some boards had rotted away, making a nice little entrance.

There wasn’t a lot to see, but one side of the barn was completely gone, showing a nice view down the mountainside.
On the oppsite side of the clearing there was a lone chimney. The house it once belonged to must have burnt down.

It was very strange to imagine a house once standing here.

It sure was a pretty area, and we were glad to have stumbled upon it!

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Night on the Blue Ridge Parkway, And More Good News!

You may remember me talking about my camera being messed up. I have a Nikon D5100 and I smacked the lens on the door frame coming in the door back in march and it started giving me an “Autoexposure Error”. I couldn’t use it on any mode except manual, I couldn’t use the flash, and when taking pictures in low light (Like indoors) it would come out pretty much black. I tried googling the error and a few other people with this camera had gotten this problem too, but no one really had an answer on how to fix it except to send it into Nikon and have them look at it, which is also what my user manual said.  I was pretty bummed out and kept putting it off, making up excuses as to why I couldn’t send it off that day: “Oh I need to get a picture of those shoes I wore so I can finish my outfit post…” “Oh I need to take a portrait of my cats first..” But I knew I had to do it eventually so I told myself I would send it off the day after we got back from our weekend trip to the mountains.

I love taking pictures in low light so I was pretty annoyed I couldn’t do that anymore, but during our trip I realized I could still take long exposure night shots, because it would be dark anyway. So on our way back from Steven’s aunt’s house we stopped at our favorite place on the blue ridge parkway, Craggy Gardens and I took these three shots.

I was pretty excited how they turned out and I as I was messing with the settings to take some more I accidentely made the flash go off and blinded myself. UG. 

But wait!  The flash?!  How did that happen?!  My camera was broken!  I looked at the screen and noticed the error was GONE. I tried putting it on the other settings and taking pictures and it worked just fine!

I don’t know how or why taking a 30 second exposure fixed whatever was wrong with it, I’m just glad it’s fixed. I was so happy that I may or may not have shed a few tears…..

Anyway, here are some more night shots I took on the trip. It was DARK out there. When I put my camera on the rock ledge to take those first few pictures, I couldn’t even see it once I stood up! Having what I thought was a broken camera  I wasn’t all that concerned with it falling 4000 feet off the side of the mountain, but once it fixed itself I found myself a walmart and bought a tripod.

The blue ridge parkway is a road that runs along the super tall blue ridge mountain range and there are many areas where there is a steep drop off the side of the road with NO guardrail. At night you can’t see the edge of the road or how high up you are, so it wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Haha..

I had so much fun taking these pictures! Well until I freaked myself out thinking bears would come out and attack me. It’s interesting to see what colors the sky shows up as in these pictures. It looked completely black to us. It’s like the camera is showing us some hidden world.  I want to take so many more night shots!

We had a lot of fun on our trip and I have plenty of daytime photos to share soon!