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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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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.

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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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The Castle Beneath the Dunes

Somewhere, hidden under the vast sand dunes at the Outer Banks, lies a giant sand castle. How much of the castle is visible depends on the ever changing dunes. Sometimes just the tips of the turrets are visible, sometimes the castle stands ten feet tall over the sandy hills, sometimes the castle disappears without a trace and doesn’t resurface again for many years.. It’s like a mysterious mirage, and makes you wonder what else may have been engulfed by the dunes.

I remember the first time I saw the giant sand castle. It was during a beach trip when I was eight years old. As we drove past the sand dunes, I spotted these small peaks poking up in the sand and wondered what they were. We kept driving past, day after day, and I kept wondering what was up there. 

Finally on one of the last days of the trip. My dad parked the car and we raced across the street to trek up the sandy hill and see what it was. At the time only the very tip of the castle was visible. We weren’t sure exactly what it was for, or how big it actually was, but I was fascinated. I couldn’t stop thinking about the mysterious hidden sand castle. There is already so much history and folklore at the Outer Banks, and this was just another feature that added to that feeling.

The next year when we returned to the beach, so much more was uncovered!!  That was when we read somewhere that it had belonged to a miniature golf course. Shortly after that it spent many years completely buried. I couldn’t see it on our subsequent visits, and many people thought it had been buried for good.

But when we visited not long ago, the sand castle had once again made an appearance! This time with the addition of some grasses.

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The giant sand castle is part of a miniature golf course that was built in the 70s near an enormous living sand dune called Jockeys Ridge. It wasn’t long before the dunes began to migrate towards the golf course and eventually consumed it. The strong winds at the beach mean the sand dune is constantly changing, and because the winds blow more from the Northeast direction, it tends to move a few feet to the southwest each year, which is why the miniature golf course became buried and has stayed buried ever since. 

The sand castle is the only evidence that remains of the old golf course. I always wonder about the other things buried under there, and if maybe, one day, a wild storm will pass by that uncovers them. Even just a little bit.

And just for fun, here are some pictures of me the second time I visited the sand castle!  I think this was in 2000.  The pointy turrets have since disappeared.