Saturday, October 1, 2011

Solo Roadtrip Searching For Fall

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

I left home bright and early Monday morning, August 29, 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, all the children are back in school and we are left with peace, solitude and hidden treasures 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 catch up on some of the blogs I enjoy reading, 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? 

Thanks for coming along on my roadtrip!

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