You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘mountains’ category.
Tender to the touch, my left shin serves as a reminder of last week’s adventure My sister, her daughter, and one of my daughters took off on a girls’ trip to North Carolina, and after “doing Asheville” on Friday, we decided to make Chimney Rock State Park Saturday’s grand finale.
We cruised into town around 10 o’clock after oohing and ahing over the sights along Hwy 64. We wondered aloud how it would be to attend Bat Cave Baptist Church the next day, and that led to yet another discussion about how many different ways there are for people to live and love and play and worship. We heartily agreed that it was important, imperative in fact, to get out of Dodge once in a while to see more of the world than our own narrow corners of it.
Once in Chimney Rock, the park entrance was upon us before we had a chance to signal and turn in. No problem. We rode through town and took in the sights, and since Lake Lure was right down the road, we went there too. I wanted to have a look at the beach. There were no ocean waves or roaring surf, but there was a beach. Water too. And a lifeguard. The area was fenced in, off-limits to us, and people were lined up to plunk their money down.
We headed back to Chimney Rock, not turning again until we got to the park. I was surprised to learn the fee was only $13, and the woman selling tickets said the price had been reduced because the elevator to the top wasn’t working. No one said anything. Not a word.
“So we’ll have to walk up?“ I asked.
“Yes. Is that a problem?” she said.
The general consensus was that we had come this far and by golly, we were going to get to the chimney and touch the flagpole.
“Let’s do it, y’all,” I said.
You pays your money and you takes your chances.
Feeling overdressed and hot, we stopped at the restroom area and changed into lighter clothes and bought some water. I had learned from an earlier experience not to hike any distance on a hot day without H2O. We got back in the car and around and around the mountain we rode until we got to the parking lot.
We got out of car and looked up at the tall stone chimney. I had climbed this rock before, but it had been a beautiful fall day with brisk temperature. Now it was July. Truthfully, I think we all felt a bit of trepidation. Elizabeth had misgivings about walking in flip-flops, but since she had no extra shoes, it was wait on us at the gift shop or step forward. She started walking.The journey of 499 steps began with the first one. On we went, stopping to peer into a cave, look over the edge at the parking lot, or simply rest a minute. At one point, Elizabeth muttered to me, “This is the worst day of my life.” Lucky girl, I thought, understanding what she meant but knowing she could do it.
“You can do hard things,” I reminded her. No response. She just kept climbing in her flip-flops.
I took dozens of pictures and listened to the encouraging words of folks coming down. “It’s so worth it,” they all said. Some lied and said, “You’re almost there,” when in reality we had quite a way to go. The four of us made small talk and continued climbing—together.
At last we ascended the final twenty or so steps and walked on the rock itself. We laughed and shared “war stories” of the trek. We took selfies, and snapped photos of other people for them. There were so many people with us at the top that I had to carefully maneuver my way between them and the several big rocks. At one point, I got pushed (accidentally) and scraped my shin. Immediately, a goose egg puffed up, and a reddish purple contusion appeared. Ouch.
After relishing our accomplishment for a few minutes, we began our descent, reluctant to leave the mountain top but anxious to begin the next adventure. Going down was so much easier than going up, and we gleefully told the tired looking climbers that they had a treat in store. “Keep on climbing,” we said. “The view is so worth it.”
Today I’m aware of my tender shin and the memories it conjures up of a day four of us, united by blood and purpose, ascended Chimney Rock. We encouraged one another, swigged our water, kept putting one foot in front of the other, stopped for breathers, and reached the top—together. It’s easier that way.
On the second day of our mountain excursion, the girls and I ate a deliciously sweet and ridiculously fattening breakfast on the condo balcony. Huge muffins! Fortified with sugar and a good night’s sleep, we headed to Smoky Mountain National Park a few miles away.
Before watching an excellent educational 10-minute film, we spent some time in the gift shop and fell in love with the stuffed bears. We marveled at the variety of books, hats, shirts, magnets, and coffee mugs and somehow managed to restrain ourselves from buying a souvenir. While taking a picture of the girls posing with Smokey, I sensed that someone was watching me, and when I turned around, I saw a spry, smiling woman looking at me.
“You from around here?” she asked.
“No. South Carolina.”
“I’m from Ohio,” she said. “I’m here with my family.” And then, after appraising me and finding me a suitable recipient, she gave me an angel pin created from tiny pearls and safety pins.” I LOVED it!
“It takes me about six minutes to make one of these, and every day I find someone to give one to, someone who would understand that angels are looking over us.”
“Thank you so much. Am I pinning it on right?” I asked as I struggled with the pin.
“That looks fine,” she replied, checking out the angel now affixed to my denim shirt.
Before we went our separate ways, she told me she was 74 years old and walked five miles every day. Her generosity and spunkiness impressed me so much that I hugged her as we parted company. Ah, the kindness of strangers.
The South Carolina Foursome later motored along the 24 miles to Cades Cove. What a pleasure it was to ride down this mountainous, tree-lined road. A babbling brook was on our right for much of the journey, and we enjoyed watching the swimmers and tubers having fun. Just when we were about to get frustrated with the lloonnnggnng road, there it was: Cades Cove.To me, there’s a reverence about this quiet, restful area. I’ve only been twice, but both times, I got caught up in the beauty of the place as I pondered the lives of the people who once lived there.
On a schedule, we had time to stop at only two buildings, the John Oliver home and the Primitive Baptist Church. We wondered how John and his wife raised a family in that small but lovely log home, we who have inside plumbing, electricity, and wifi. My sister, niece, and I sang “Amazing Grace” and “Holy, Holy, Holy” in the church, and as I sat in one of the pews, I tried to imagine how it would have felt to sit there 150 years ago, surrounded by believers and neighbors. After our worship service, I took a quick walk around the cemetery out back, holy ground with lots of history.
Since our agreement was that each of the four of us got to do something special of her choosing, we decided to leave so that the others could do their thing. However, almost right away traffic came to a dead stop. We inched along going from 5 – 10 miles per hour for perhaps 40 minutes, halting completely several times. During one of those stops, I got out of the car and started walking along beside the barely moving cars. What was going on? I knew there couldn’t have been a wreck on this beautiful one-way road.
After 30—35 minutes of walking, I came across what was probably the problem: a bear sighting in the woods. Rangers, photographers, and rubberneckers were all looking towards the woods and talking animatedly about his (her?) size, location, and behavior. At that point I realized my vulnerability. If the bear saw me and if he were hungry and if I couldn’t get in anyone’s car….Fortunately, my rescue party of three arrived about that time, and I jumped back in the car with them. All was well.
We left the park for the Titanic Museum in Pigeon Forge, and although my sister and I opted for a visit to the Tanger Outlets instead, the younger set thoroughly enjoyed the museum. The exhibits were authentic and educational, and the girls spent two hours learning and exploring. Afterwards, we took advantage of a photo op outside.
Hungry as bears (couldn’t resist that), we went to Mel’s Diner for a late dinner/supper. My older daughter’s birthday was that day, and we had promised to enjoy a fun meal topped off with a decadent dessert—all in her honor. We didn’t see Flo or Alice, but we did encounter some friendly servers and a fun but loud atmosphere. The food was fine, and the banana split was marvelous. Mel even serves double layer banana splits for those with extra hardy appetites.
Back at the condo, we soon settled in for a long summer’s nap. We knew some good restorative sleep was needed for the next and last day’s activities.
There was a brown journal in the small cabin where we stayed in Bryson City, NC a couple of weeks ago that was fillled with advice, suggestions, and memories from the people who had stayed there. If we hadn’t read the journal, I doubt that we would have heard of The Road to Nowhere and the spooky tunnel at its end. Since several people wrote about it, we decided to take a look for ourselves.
Amazingly, Everett Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Bryson City, just ends a few miles outside of town. It doesn’t fork off to the left or right. No, it’s a dead-end. Once we had traveled as far as the road would take us, we parked the car, walked a few steps, and there was this amazing structure, a tunnel about 1/10 of a mile long.
Sometimes tunnels are creepy and scary, especially the underground ones. No wait. I think the underwater ones are pretty intimidating too. I recall riding in one to Fort Monroe, VA with my brother and his wife a few years ago and being so relieved when we saw that little speck of light at the end of that tunnel. The Bryson City tunnel was “average creepy.” Dark and dank with graffiti covered walls, it had an eerie ambience, and we walked briskly through it.
I’ve written about the light at the end of the tunnel concept often. Sometimes a person can be in the midst of some trial or heartache and start believing it will never end. It could be the demands of taking care of young children, the stressors of attending college while juggling home and family responsibilities, or dealing with the challenges of illness. Just like the person in the middle of a tunnel, you feel boxed in. Everything is dark, and you can see no relief in sight. And then one day, there’s a little pinpoint of light. It gets larger and larger until finally you can actually see the other side. THE LIGHT!
There’s truly light at the end of the tunnel as you realize that things are getting better. Some issues people deal with are long term. Raising children is a lifelong commitment, but there are moments even in the throes of the diaper changing days that are blissful. In college, there are moments of clarity, insight, or peace when you know you can make it. And as for the illness aspect, one day you realize that you can eat again without feeling nauseated or stand up without feeling wobbly.
A tunnel mentality can be applied to so many areas of life. Just yesterday, a friend who’s planning a trip abroad said that at one time in her life she couldn’t have afforded an overnight trip to Myrtle Beach. In her words, the family “lived lean,” and she was always stressed out about whether the bills would be paid. She doesn’t know what the future holds, but for now there’s illumination rather than darkness on her finances.
I realize that all of the above scenarios are simplistic. Perhaps you’d like to add your own experiences with light at the end of the tunnel. Please do. There’s surely someone in Blogland who can benefit from reading it/them.
Ready for more travelogue information? While this is part diary/part travel journal, I think you might find some useful tips if you’re traveling to the mountains or the sea.
Tuesday and Wednesday were shopping days in the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg areas. Just like other touristy areas, these have every type of store imaginable. You can buy hats, salt and pepper shakers, jewelry, books, pottery, and well, you get the picture. To me, the high point of Tuesdays’ expedition was eating at the Old Mill Pottery House Cafe and Grill.I liked it so much that I wrote a review of it for Trip Advisor, and if you go to the area, please check it out. Unlike the dozens of people standing outside in the sizzling sun for a seat at the restaurant across the street, Old Mill, we didn’t have to wait long at all.
Wednesday, July 4, 2012 was a hot day in Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, and Gatlinburg. I know because I had to wait, wait, wait on trolleys in all three places. Still, we wanted to experience Gatlinburg on the nation’s birthday, and so did thousands of other Americans. Although we didn’t relish the waiting, at least our time was spent in an entertaining way: people watching. I love this great country, and I enjoyed watching so many different ages, sizes, shapes, colors, and ethnicities who, like us, were in the celebratory mode. Some were even wearing red, white, and blue clothing. While everywhere we went in Gatlinburg was busy, the aquarium was an especially “happening place.” Plus, it had the biggest flag in town.
When I recall the highlights of the Fourth, the morning walk and all the flags along the parkway top the list. The evening meal is a close second. I doubt if anyone in the good old U.S. of A. had yummier burgers and hot dogs. And lest I forget, the apple crumb pie and vanilla ice cream were tasty too.
Up early on Thursday, we packed up, said our good-byes, and parted company. On the way home, I convinced my husband to stop in Hendersonville for a visit to the Mast General Store (my favorite of the Mast stores), and that three-hour interlude turned a so-so day into a memorable one. For starters, there was a sale going on, always a plus. Then Lynn and Karen, a brother and sister-in-law, also decided to take a side trip to Hendersonville. After shopping there for a while, we all found treasures and then decided to break bread together before going our separate ways.
Because of a tip from one of the Mast employees, we strolled a block or so down the street and walked into the Mountain Deli. We like the ambience and layout of the diner immediately. There were several tables at the front, and the lunch crowd seated there had a great view of downtown Hendersonville and its many artistically painted bears. We were greeted enthusiastically by a young man behind the counter and then sat in a booth to study the menu. Pleased by the variety of sandwich offerings (including breads), we all ordered something different and pronounced them delicious. This is how much I like the Mountain Deli: I bought an antique dresser box as a memento.
This is worth a separate paragraph: If you’re looking for a beautiful, friendly, clean mountain city to visit, you can’t beat Hendersonville. When my sister-in-law Lisa learned that we had visited there, she exclaimed, “I LOVE that place. In fact I could live there.” Her favorite place to shop there is the Curb Market. She also loves an apple orchard, Sky Top (I think). And then there’s the lovely and historic Carl Sandburg home in nearby Flat Rock. I think I’ve just talked myself into another trip to the area!
In the car once again, we headed to SC, stopping at home long enough to water some plants and pick up a laptop. Then we hopped back in the trusty Highlander and headed to the coast…at last. We stayed at the beach until Monday afternoon and managed to pack some cool experiences in while there. If you’re interested in some restaurant and shopping tips from a former local (now a part-time one), check this blog tomorrow for an update.
Thanks to the generosity of some of my in-laws, we were able to spend part of the holiday week in the mountains of Tennessee. We arrived in Sevierville on the Sunday prior to the Fourth, and shortly after our arrival, the womenfolk went to the local Wal-Mart for provisions. Just gotta say that I’ve been in several Wal-Marts in tourist areas, but I’ve never been in one as crowded as this one. It was “craxy,” extra crazy.
Natrually, I don’t have the time to write about everything we did and saw (and who would want to read it anyway?), but I do want to record some of our goings-on. So this post is going to be a cross between a journal and a travel diary. Maybe someone reading it will be motivated to go to the Pigeon Forge area and be better informed about what to see and what to avoid.
Before chronicling the events and area attractions, I want to put in a plug for exercise. Truly, there’s no better way go see an area than walking. Every morning we were there, I got up early and walked around Sevierville, and because of this, I saw things that no one else in our group did. I particularly enjoyed seeing the nearby Tanger Outlet come to life as the employees came in to work. I also saw pigs flying at Old McDonald’s Farm. Plus, I ate ice cream and apple pie without gaining an ounce…carrot cake too.
Every day was unique in its own way, but Monday was probably my favorite because we went to the Smokey Mountain National Park and enjoyed some of that “purple mountain majesty.” While the rest of my party enjoyed a film in the Sugarlands Welcome Center, I walked to Cataract Falls and communed with nature. It was a short walk, .4 mile each way, and relatively flat. At the falls, I met some new friends from Florida, Maya and her grandmother and aunt. I took several photos of them posing on the rocks, and Maya took a couple of me.
I rejoined the group, and we then traveled through the park until we found the perfect picnic spot. And yes, I mean PERFECT. It even had the proverbial babbling brook (or creek?), and there were picnickers all around us. Although the temperature was around 100 degrees, we were shaded by magnificent trees that cooled us off a bit. After eating the sandwiches (complete with fresh summer tomatoes) and chips, Tammy and I walked out on the rocks (love her youthful spirit!) to join the other people enjoying the cool mountain water. That’s when I noticed my Florida friends approaching. They too wanted to walk out on the rocks. Naturally, I took their picture again, and they took ours.
We packed up the remains of our lunch and headed to Cades Cove. I just have to tsay that although I LOVE the beach, this is an awesomely beautiful area. Even though I took several photographs, none do justice to the peaceful, lovely spot in the Smokies. It’s an 11-mile auto tour with several stops along the way. Time prohibited a stop at all of them, but we did visit two old churches and a gift shop disguised as a general store. At the latter location, there were (are) several other structures including an old house and barn. Just walking on the property and absorbing the positive vibes of the place is an experience I’ll always remember. I didn’t want to leave!
If you’re fortunate enough to go to Cades Cove and are wrestling with which stops to make along the way, make sure that the churches are among them. The Primitive Baptist Church has the loveliest resting place (cemetery) that I’ve ever walked through…and I’ve been in my share of cemeteries! Inside, the church was hot as all get out, and I wondered how in the world those worshipers of long ago kept that spiritual feeling going.
We also visited the Missionary Baptist Church down the road a bit. Originally part of the Primitive Church, its members spilt because of a disagreement about whether to do missionary work or not. The second church was a little larger and had wonderful lighting (from the large windows); it even had a small vestibule, and I liked thinking about those long ago people stepping through it on their way to the sanctuary. As the icing on the cake, we even got a little religion that day since Tammy read some verses from John to Karen and me. Interestingly, there were several Bibles and hymnals in each church. Nice.
Even the exodus from the park was memorable. The trees, the deer, the turkeys, and the blue haze of the mountains all around us combined to make it an unforgettable ride. Too, being surrounded by my fellow Americans on every side added something to the excursion too! We all especially loved watching the antics of the little boy sitting in the back of the convertible in front of us. Full of life and energy, he kept us entertained.
Back at the resort, the men grilled chicken on one of the community grills. After a delicious meal, we watched the Olympic trials and made plans for the next day. Stay tuned for traveler information!
About Chimney Rock, it’s an awesome place. I’ve been there several times in my life, but it wasn’t until two years ago that I actually went to the top of the rock. That day we rode the elevator, and later we walked a trail at Hickory Nut Gorge. The waterfall was beautiful, just like everything else around us.
Last week when we visited Chimney Rock again, I was determined to walk the steps to the top.
“You’re crazy,” my husband declared.
“Yes, I already know that. See you at the top,” I said. “And don’t worry. If I feel like I can’t make it, I’ll turn around and get on the elevator.” He shook his head, probably wondering at my sanity (or lack thereof) and walked away.
Folks, it was quite a workout. I could feel AND hear my heart beating. Instead of being deterred by it, I tried to think of how magnificent an organ the heart is and how fortunate I was that mine seemed to be working so well. I met several people along the way up, among them a couple of young couples that I passed (loved that!). Okay, to be honest, one of the couples stopped to take pictures of each other posing along the trail, so naturally that slowed them down. I volunteered to take a shot of them together, and they were appreciative of that. Hope they like the way the picture turned out.
Heart working overtime, I paused to take some gorgeous pictures of the trees and birds and trail itself. “A step at a time, Jayne. Just a step at a time. You can do it!” It’s amazing what proper pacing and a little positive self-talk can do. I also thought of something I learned from teaching Human Growth and Development: What most people in later adulthood say they regret are the things they did not do, not the things they did and failed at but the lost opportunities, the phone call never made, the hill never climbed, the trip never taken, the dance not danced, and the song unsung. When I’m in one of my children’s homes living out my last days (since none of them ever read my blog, it’s safe to say that), I won’t be saying, “If only….” It’ll be too late then to even get in the elevator at Chimney Rock, much less climb the stairway.
So I climbed to the top, and I was so happy to see the rest of my party and the beautiful American flag flying in the breeze. We hung around on the chimney taking pictures, relaxing, people watching, and exclaiming over the breathtaking views. Before descending the mountain, we visited the gift shop and the restroom, mainly so we could snap a couple of pictures of the murals there. Regardless of what direction we glanced, there was something majestic to see and remind us that “God’s in His heaven, all’s right with the world.”
Before we got on the elevator (I succumbed to the not so subtle pressure of my sweet husband), we walked outside once again, and an employee of the park asked us if we wanted him to take our picture.
“That’s part of my job,” he assured us.
“Taking pictures?” I asked.
“Making sure everyone has a good time,” he said.
We did. And you will too. Put Chimney Rock on your “to do” list this year. Even if you don’t make the trip to the top, the town itself is charming, especially now that the river walk has been added. And don’t even get me started aabout the quaint gift shops, restaurants, and streetscape.
It’s official. This year I’m really a hunting widow. DH frequently says, “When I retire, I’ll go anywhere you want to go because then I’ll be able to hunt during the week and have the weekend free for whatever you want to do.” Yeah right.
Never a person to sulk (at least not for long), I decided that I could either wait on him or begin going and doing NOW. Actually, I’ve always been somewhat of a solo act in some ways because I realized early in my life that I’d never get to go anywhere or see anything if I waited for someone else. Hence, yesterday my sister-in-law Lisa and I went to Hendersonville for a day of shopping, dining, and apple buying. Although the leaves were still mostly green, the weather was bone chilling (I kid you not), and it was a perfect day for mountain travel.
We left Blythewood a little after 7:00 a.m., and with no men along, we agreed that we were going to concentrate on the journey and not the destination. You ladies out there know exactly what I’m talking about, right? On the outskirts of Spartanburg, Lisa mentioned that she and my brother had memorized where all of the Starbucks locations were along the road. She said it so longingly that I knew she wanted to stop, so naturally I encouraged her to. We got to Barnes and Noble outside of Spartanburg a few minutes after it opened, and while she got her Starbucks drink, I searched for this month’s book club selection (Moloka’l by Alan Brennert) and bought a couple of gifts. Then we noticed a nearby TJ Maxx and decided to take a quick walk-through. How could we not with it being right there and all? Do I need to tell you how my husband and brother would have reacted to this side trip???
Back in the car and on the interstate, we saw the first glimpse of the mountains almost right away. It’s always a kick. It wasn’t long before we arrived in Hendersonville, and the Curb Market was our first stop. People from nearby communities bring jams, jellies, baked goods, plants, jewelry, pictures, and other merchandise to sell there, and Lisa and I bought some damson plum jam and pumpkin brownies. I also bought the beautiful wreath above. From there we visited a huge antique mall, a consignment shop called Two Chicks, and the Mast General Store. We LOVE that place, and yesterday we browsed through the crowded store sipping hot apple cider with dozens and dozens of other shoppers. After devouring burgers and chips at Mike’s on Main (lots of ambience) and a brief visit to McFarlan’s Bakery, we headed to the Sky Top Apple Orchard.
Lisa and Mike’s Camry wound its way to the top of the mountain in Zirconia where we were fortunate to find a parking place. As we walked towards the huge open-air facility, we saw a long, long line of people waiting for hot donuts. I found that somewhat amusing: the crisp healthy apples juxtaposed to the not so healthy hot donuts. We bought some Winesap, Gala, Fuji, and Cameo apples after checking the place out. There was hot caramel for apple dipping, a dozen or more varieties of apples, apple slice samples, hot cider, hundreds of jars of jams and jellies, and a variety of cake and muffin mixes.
Shivering, we finally made our purchases and headed down the mountain. Somehow we missed our exit and ended up in a little hamlet called Tuxedo. The men would have had a stroke, but we loved our little side trip around the lake. I can’t help but think of how it must feel to wake up every day with the lake on one side of your house and the mountains on the other.
We arrived at Lisa and Mike’s house at 7:35, allowing me just enough time to change and freshen up before meeting DH at the Voice Male concert. It was awesome, the perfect ending to a perfect day. I’m still awed at their talents. “The Shadow of Your Smile” was probably my favorite, but then the chipmunk thing was good too. And so was the “choreography,” if you can call it that. Amazing!
So what’s the point of the above rambling? It’s to remind you (and me too!) that the world’s a great, big beautiful place, and we can either sit around and talk about how we’re going to do this and that SOMEDAY, or we can just do it. Also, when on a trip, we need to enjoy every moment of it, even the side excursions. And finally, even when you’re really tired and just want to go home, add the icing on the cake, that last little event that tops off.