It’s fair season! Somehow I completely missed the Upper State South Carolina Fair, but that’s probably OK. For years, though, I’ve wanted to visit the North Carolina Mountain State Fair in Asheville, but I’ve always missed it. I almost missed it this year, but I spotted that this past Sunday was the last day. Laura had work to do on Sunday, so I decided that this was the year that I’d make that trek. Continue reading “North Carolina Mountain State Fair”
Keith had the day off, and wanted to visit the Cataloochee Valley in North Carolina. The weather looked like it was going to be spectacular, so Wednesday we collected Ken from Clemson and set off toward the Great Smokey Mountains.
Cataloochee Valley is a remote settlement on the eastern side of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Originally a Cherokee hunting area, the valley was settled by the Colwell (later Caldwell) and Palmer families in the early 1800s. Livestock roamed the valleys, and hunting brought in more commerce. By the early 1900s nearly 800 people lived in the valley. Tourism increased in the valley for hunting, fishing, and the spectacular scenery. In 1922 the Great Smokey Mountains National Park was established, which included the Cataloochee Valley. Residents were granted lifetime leases on their properties, but many decided to leave.
Today, Cataloochee is almost as remote as when the park was established. The only way into the valley is over one of two twisting dirt roads. In the 1970s there was a plan to pave a way in, but by the 1980s that was abandoned. The valley is very much like Cades Cove on the western part of the national park, but without the constant crowds. In 2005 a herd of elk were introduced to the valley, and those, along with the scenery and trout fishing serve as the main draw for tourists today. Continue reading “Day Trip to Cataloochee”
August 11, 2013
We hadn’t given the new Mini a proper shake-down road trip. When we got the Audi we took it completely across country, driving from South Carolina to somewhere north of Seattle. We didn’t have the time nor energy for such an adventure this time (Well, at least one of us didn’t :-)) so we decided on something a bit shorter.
It was time for the annual Perseid Meteor Shower. We figured the perfect way to christen the car would be to take it up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and try to find a bit of dark sky to watch for them. From there we would do some free form road tripping, hoping to wind up in Washington DC by the end of the week.
I had scouted a few potential sites on Google Earth, but there was no way to tell if there would be dark skies. So, shortly after lunch we set off, having somehow managed to pack our gear into the tiny trunk of the Mini. We wanted to make tracks, so we took the Interstate straight on up to Gastonia, then headed off toward Blowing Rock, where we hit the Parkway. We drove with the top back, enjoying the breeze.
There were quite a few clouds, but for the most part it was sunny and the day was spectacular. We pulled off at several overlooks, many of which looked like like they would work for meteor viewing. I didn’t take many photos along the way, though. Continue reading “Perseids on the Blue Ridge Parkway, with a Side Trip to Mayberry”
I wasn’t really planning to do a waterfall excursion. Truth be told, I didn’t really have anything planned. Laura was away at her sister’s, so I had Saturday available for a solo outing. My only real thoughts were to head up to Sassafras Mountain and check out the new overlook, then just see where things went from there. Turns out it was a perfect day for catching waterfalls.
I started out early, taking 276 to Highway 11, and from there over to Highway 178. There were some low clouds giving way to clear skies, with fog hanging where those clouds touched the mountains. Table Rock was shrouded, so I didn’t pause for any photos there. On Highway 178 I got to Bob’s Place, and on a whim turned down toward the Estatoe Valley, heading toward Twin Falls.
I have long dreamed of paddling Cascade Lake in North Carolina. The lake is in a beautiful setting in the mountains of North Carolina in the Dupont State Forest. Unfortunately, the only access I was aware of was the dirt road that ran along the west shore. There was no public access on that side, so it seemed that the lake was off-limits. Then my friends Lisa and Sherry posted photos that their paddling group had taken on a recent trip. They paddled from Cascade Lake Campground on the eastern shore of the lake up to Hooker Falls. I knew I had to give it a try.
For this particular trip I was joined by Brian Goess. When we started out the weather looked iffy, and at one point sporadic rain drops hit the windshield of the truck. As we drove north toward Hendersonville, though, the weather cleared, and it looked like it was going to be a spectacular day.
We found the campground with no trouble. I was pretty familiar with the area, so it was just a matter of watching for the signs. We pulled in and were directed to the camp store to purchase a day pass.
The folks running the place seemed to be very friendly. In fact, everyone we encountered was pleasant – campers and employees alike. The place was jam-packed and every camping slot filled for the holiday weekend, but we were able to get a day pass and were assigned a parking spot near the boat ramp. Continue reading “Kayaking to Hooker Falls”
Of all the ethnic holidays, I think I like Oktoberfest the best. It brings with it hints of cooler weather, fall colors, and one of my favorite cuisines – German food. However, fellow kayaker and chef Darren M. recently pointed out that authentic Oktoberfest has a very specific date range – two weeks running from late September through the first week of October. Any restaurants or festivals advertising Oktoberfest this late in the year (such as Walhalla this weekend, but I guess a fake Norse town can have a fake Bavarian celebration any time it wants) is doing so purely for advertising promotion. I guess it’s not that different from seeing Halloween ads all October, or promoting Christmas just as soon as the after school sales end. That being said, when my friend Keith Dover proposed heading up to Haus Heidelberg in Hendersonville to take advantage of their Oktoberfest specials, I jumped at the chance, cultural authenticity be damned.
I have long complained about the dearth of German restaurants in the area, especially with BMW and all the other German industry in town. But, I guess that number is increasing. Joining Haus Edelweiss and Schwaben Haus are Hans und Franz and The Bavarian Pretzel Factory. Even Strossner’s Bakery is now on the list of places offering German food. German restaurants seem to be more prevalent on up in the mountains, I guess hearkening back to the Alpine nature of Bavaria. Both The Black Forest in Ardin and Haus Heidelberg have been long-time staples of German food in our region. However, I don’t get up that way often enough to take advantage of them. This was the first time I’d been to Haus Heidelberg in ages.
The drive up early Wednesday evening was spectacular. The October sky was brilliantly lit with the setting sun, and the leaves are just shy of being at peak. Keith and I drove on up through Flat Rock, enjoying the ride. Continue reading “Oktoberfest at Haus Heidelberg”
On my recent trip to North Carolina I stopped by Smiley’s Flea Market. I had wanted to visit, but for one reason or another had never gotten here early enough, or when I wasn’t in a rush to get somewhere else. So on Saturday I added another flea market to my list.
Smiley’s actually has three locations – this one on Fletcher, one in Macon, Georgia, and one in Micanopy, Florida (where ever the heck that is.) This one seemed fairly large, but not as big as the Anderson Jockey Lot or the Pickens Flea Market. It’s about the same size at the Augusta Road market.
As mentioned in my last post, i didn’t take the big camera in. I did, however, take the LX-5 and one other tool. I had my iPhone set to take one shot every 5 seconds as I walked around with it on my belt. I would see what I would capture. Continue reading “Smiley’s Flea Market”
Laura is out of town for awhile traveling with her mother. Saturday morning I dropped her off at GSP for an early flight, then headed out to try out the new camera. My plan was to head up into the North Carolina mountains for a bit and see what I could see. I have to confess, it was quite a bit of a learning curve.
Friday night I charged up the batteries and got familiar with the menu and controls. The temptation is to start with an absolutely perfect shot – something worthy of such a fine instrument. Didn’t happen. I shot one of the cats, and shot him poorly. So much for breaking the ice.
When the time came the next morning I felt ready for a cursory outing. From the airport I drove north on Highway 14, pausing in Landrum to get some shots of the sunrise through the fog. Here’s the shot I was after…
After our trip on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad I had one last adventure I wanted to undertake. I had read about the “Road to Nowhere” which starts in Bryson City, and I wanted to find it. Turns out that it was easier to find than I thought, so we were able to explore it.
First a bit of history…
In 1943 the Tennessee Valley Authority began work on the Fontana Dam. 1,300 families were displaced by inundation of the the rising Little Tennessee River. In part to appease the displaced families, the TVA promised to build the 32 mile long North Shore Road so that the families had access to the 28 cemeteries on the north side of the lake.
By 1969 only six miles of the North Shore Road had been completed, including a bridge over Nolan Creek and a tunnel through what’s now known as Tunnel Ridge. An environmental study indicated major damage to the fragile Appalachian cove ecosystem if construction continued, so it was halted – completely. Pavement ends just on the other side of the bridge. Continue reading “The Road to Nowhere”
It had all the promise of a beautiful, cool fall weekend, and Laura and I decided to take advantage of it. Saturday afternoon we drove up to Cullowhee, North Carolina to savor a delicious victory as Furman beat Western North Carolina 47-21 in football. We stayed overnight in Bryson City, and that Sunday we were able to do something both of us had wanted to try for quite awhile – take a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.
I had booked our tickets as soon as we decided on a plan of action for the weekend. It was a good thing I did, too, as CNN featured the railroad as its #2 leaf-viewing attraction on its website. We were also just beating the peak fall foliage crowds, so there were tickets to be had. There are several travel options, ranging from first class down to mere mortal. Even though it was supposed to be chilly, we decided on the open-air car, which was described as follows on their website:
The Open Air Gondola is perfect for those photographers craving that perfect scenic shot! Plenty of space to see the great outdoors! Created from retired baggage and flatbed cars, these open cars feature long padded outward-facing seats, perfect for the panoramic views. A great car for capturing the scents and sounds of nature!
More on that choice in a bit… Continue reading “Great Smoky Mountains Railroad”