Thursday, September 1, 2011

In Search of Fall

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Cherokee, NC
August 29, 2011

I left home bright and early Monday morning for a two-day solo roadtrip in search of cooler temperatures and any hope I might find that autumn is on its way to East Tennessee.  Can't say I found much hope in that, but what I did find was the peace and solitude I was seeking.  I also found an uncharacteristically clear day in the mountains.  My beloved Smoky Mountains don't bear that name randomly and at this point of the year following a summer of high heat and humidity in the valley, the name is totally appropriate.  But on this day, I was given a gift.  

We "natives" want you to love our mountains as much as we do and visit them often, but we also cherish the days when you go back home, take your children with you and leave the peace, solitude and hidden treasures for us to enjoy.   I drove quickly through the horrors known as Gatlinburg and Pigeon  Forge entering the long, green tunnel across Newfound Gap into North Carolina  and down to the entrance of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

My plan was to drive the approximately 80 mile segment from its beginning near Cherokee, NC to Asheville, NC.  There were a couple of short hikes along the way that I planned to do and hoped I'd see at least a hint of color in the trees when I neared the high point of the entire 469 mile parkway at milepost 434.

This was the view from the very steep trail to Waterrock Knob, my first stop.

And proof of my most excellent use of the timer feature on my camera at the Parkway High Point where I most certainly did NOT find any hint of fall.  

An hour or so later, I made it to the Mt. Pisgah Inn, one of only four lodging facilities located directly on the BRP.   I had this in mind for my lunch spot..............................

................and as you can see, it did NOT disappoint! 

By then, I knew I hadn't found autumn and I was headed into lower elevations where it was going to be warmer.  I was looking forward to my lodging for the evening, so I exited the parkway less than two miles from the Bent Creek Lodge just south of Asheville.

Feeling certain that once I arrived at this oasis, I wouldn't want to leave, I made one last stop at a nearby Chik-Fil-A for their yummy Grilled Chicken Salad.  After checking into the Wildflower Room which I'd managed to grab at a pre-Labor Day special rate of 25% off, I found my spot for dinner.

In the mountains, it gets dark early and this girl was happily settled into her luxurious queen-sized bed with windows wide open by 9:45.  I had a terrific WiFi connection and tried my best to read some of today's BlogLand wisdom, but unfortunately, the inside of my eyelids were more demanding.

Tuesday morning, I woke up early as usual and was able to watch the sun creep up over the mountains while drinking a steaming cup of coffee. 

Following breakfast and delightful conversation with the innkeepers who I learned were Inn Sitting for the owners who are away on vacation.  This couple has made a second career out of Inn Sitting and have "subbed" at more than 60 Bed and Breakfast Inns across the southeast.  I could've listened to their stories for hours.

But I had places to go and things to see.  My first stop was at the candy store a.k.a the Asheville Farmer's Market.
This place is HUGE and is a fully thriving seven day a week operation.  It is among my favorite stops in western North Carolina.   I came away with giant red peppers that are incredibly sweet, okra, sunburst tomatoes and the thing for which I was searching!   APPLES!!   FRESHLY PICKED APPLES!  Western North Carolina is known as an area that is conducive to apple growing and I knew that I might not find red or gold leaves on this trip, but if I could find apples, autumn CAN'T be far behind.  I found a grower with 12 different kinds who was selling them so that I could pick and choose among all 12 varieties for a single per pound price.  They won't always let you do that, so I was thrilled.  I eat an apple every day 365 days a year, so when I can start finding apples that haven't been in cold storage or shipped halfway around the world, I become a happy, happy girl indeed!

Heading back towards home contentedly chomping on a apple led me here..............
Depending on your source, the Foothills Parkway is considered a jewel of the mountains or a complete waste of millions of dollars.  Follow the link if you are interested in that story.  As for me, I'll enjoy it while I have it because both sections have incredible viewpoints off the ridge in all directions.  It was along the Foothills Parkway at this point..........................

............that I enjoyed my second lunch I had brought from home.  I will have to confess that I also enjoyed a second apple. From here, it was only about a 40-minute drive back to my home. 

It was a perfect roadtrip in every way and although I only drove 288.2 miles total, I felt as if I'd been in another world.  Not five minutes after I arrived home, I heard horns blowing and sirens screaming on the highway.   A far cry from the total silence I'd heard the prior night as I watched darkness arrive and stars jump out.  Why must we always stay so busy creating "noise" that we fail to search for and appreciate the joy and contentment a few minutes of silence would bring?  Could it be that we are afraid of what our minds might have to say if we stopped long enough to listen?  Maybe it's change we don't want to make.  Maybe it's a toxic relationship we don't want to sever.  Maybe it's a career decision to which we are unwilling to commit. 

I do know this about myself.  At no point in time yesterday or the day before, was food or my relationship to it EVER in the forefront of my mind.  While sitting in the rocking chair at Pisgah Inn, I could've been eating crickets and dirt for all I cared.  I was mesmerized by what was in front of me.  Only after I was undressed and in bed did I remember the melt-in-your-mouth type cookies I had seen on the kitchen counter.  They never entered my mind as I quietly rocked on that porch watching the stars come out and say hello even though they were less than 25 feet away.

If only my attention could be captivated in this way all the time.  That is my goal!   Thanks for coming along on my roadtrip!

When was the last time you experienced TOTAL silence and what did you do with it? 


  1. BEAUTIFUL! Made me think of why I won't go on such a trip, alone...hmmm, I'm missing out! Thanks for sharing.
    Oh and lots of crickets to eat here! ;)
    And APPLES!! I'm sooooo excited about them too - DD17 works at an apple farm and it's so nice that she can buy apples for me (at a discount too!).

  2. Sharon - you need to be writing for a travel magazine. I was totally with you on your journey!!

    I love apples too. Our apple farms will be open in a couple of weeks. We will be going to Hood River this year - never been there before....It so close to home! Can't wait to try their apples!!

    My hubby and I live kind of live in the country and we love to sit on our porch swing. Usually the nights are filled with the sounds of crickets and dogs barking, but every once in a while, it's quite. Hubby and I just listen, watch the stars and moon....and swing very quietly!! Thank goodness I'm thinner now....When I was heavy that old swing made so much noise when I got on it...

    Keep focused!

  3. Your trip sounds lovely! I'm so glad you enjoyed yourself!

    The last time I experienced true silence was when I went out west a few years ago and stood at the Continental Divide one morning. Absolutely perfect!

  4. What a wonderful trip! Only us true introverts can really appreciate it.

    I try every day to experience silence, or at least not adding noise. It is hard in the city to have complete quiet. I enjoy the peacefulness.

  5. Sounds fabulous!!! I wanted to be there. And have those apples. I love silence. I don't listen to the radio in the car even, except on road trips. But I don't think I've even had the same silence I imagine comes with vistas and locations like that.

  6. Thanks for sharing this wonderful trip. I especially related to the apple find, because I have been daydreaming about really good apples too.

    I have to say that there is very little that distracts my mind from thinking about food, sorry to say. I might be enjoying that view, but I think I might also be thinking about those cookies on the counter.

    Love silent times.

  7. Really sounds like a great, solo trip Sharon. beautiful pictures. Love them all.Many years ago I was at a conference in DC and hubby and I drive down to the Blue Ridge HWY. I don't think we hiked, but we did think they were beautiful mountains.

    Last time of complete silence was in our canoe on our small lake. Just sat there smiling. Love quiet. Peace and quiet. Two of my favorites.

  8. Hi Sharon! Your pictures are beautiful! I can't wait for the Wisconsin apples!

    :-) Marion

  9. I loved reading about your road trip. Congratulations on finding such beauty and silence and on knowing how to enjoy it. I liked the farmer's market expedition, too.

  10. I'm envious that you can take off by yourself and have a little adventure. I used to love to travel alone, but now my husband worries too much. Your trip sounded so peaceful.

    Despite living way too close to the intersection of two major roads, I get total peace and quiet whenever I want. I bought the best industrial ear protectors I could find and wear them often at home -- I don't even hear muffled noises. This year our highway department is rebuilding both of those roads behind our house, and I would go crazy without my "muffs." But, they are no substitue for just enjoying the solitude of nature as you did. And I wish I could have heard those inn-sitters's stories -- you made them sound so interesting.

  11. Sharon, as I read your last post and then this one I wondered if I'd be able to put a comment together that conveyed the awe I feel about your ability to do this kind of thing.
    First, I envisioned that it was I making this trip and what it would entail: making my own decisions and going where I wanted for as long as I wanted. I have never, ever done that in my life. I would love nothing more than to discuss this part of your life with you someday. I think I need someone like you to help introduce me to the vagabond that must be inside me somewhere.
    - and another thing: I cannot believe I've been to the Smoky Mountains 4 times in the past 6 years, never knowing that you were a stone's throw away. So lucky to have that knowledge now :)

  12. How lovely! I hear you on the tourists leaving town. We get a lot of tourists here in the summer and it is funny how our area is so beautiful in winter, too - but only locals take part.

  13. I loved reading this post. Though I haven't gone on any adventures alone recently, I have gone on a few trips by myself... and enjoyed all of it.

    Speaking of nature, the silence is healing for me. For some people, silence is intolerable because it leaves them alone with their thoughts. But for me, the more time I'm too busy to be alone with my thoughts, the worse off I am. Sometimes, emotions and stresses are so big that the only thing that can counteract them adequately is nature.

    That area is so beautiful. I toured the Biltmore a few years ago. The view from its veranda is amazing!

  14. Love your pictures. I've been to Asheville twice and I think I am long overdue for another trip. So wanted to be sitting on the porch of the Mt. Pisgah Inn!