May 3, 2009

Blue Ridge Memories, Part 2

I’ve never been one of those people who had to retire near the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, I love an ocean beach as much as anyone, primarily when it’s early in the morning, the sun just coming up and the sand littered with shells that washed in with the tide. My second most favorite time on the beach is at sunset, watching the day slide away beneath the water in the same way that I snuggle into the covers at night.

My Sweet Baboo feels the same as I do about that. Can’t decide if our similar thinking is simply good fortune, or by design, but if we were going to retire somewhere other than here in the Valley, it would more likely be near some mountains not a beach. And the Blue Ridge Mountains are simply breathtaking.

We spent a little time wandering around the mountains one day, including a stop to Chimney Rock Park (CRP), above Lake Lure. People have been able to get to the top of Chimney Rock since 1885, although things are much more modern now than they were then. For starters, there’s a 30-second elevator ride that takes you 28 stories up so you can get to the actual Chimney Rock, or you can hike and climb stairs to get there. There’s also a beautiful trail that leads to the 400+ foot Hickory Nut Falls. Interestingly, part of The Last of the Mohicans was filmed here, even though the action actually took place in New York. For some reason the movie folks thought the Blue Ridge Mountains most closely resembled the Adirondacks. Hmm…

After spending quite a bit of time at CRP, we headed north and ended up on Route 80. Let me tell you, when I said that I thought Alternate Route 74 into Lake Lure was like our Thirteen Curves on steroids, I hadn’t yet seen Route 80. To continue with the steroid analogy, think the difference between A-Rod (Alt 74) and Barry Bonds or Mark McGuire (Rte 80). My vertigo was working in overdrive on this trip. The photo at the beginning of this post shows just one of the switchbacks (look for the road signs on the left and right about a third of the way from the top of the picture) and it seemed like we were on over 100 of these things during the day, between Route 80 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

So where did we end up on this day? Well, we drove just about to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the tallest mountain in NC and the highest peak in eastern North America, other than some islands. At 6643 feet it’s taller by quite a bit than NY’s Mt Marcy (5343 feet) but getting to the top is an easy drive. We would have gone all the way up, if we had wanted to, but I found a bathroom before we got to the summit. Besides, the clouds were so thick at the top that we could barely see more than a couple feet in front of us. Maybe next time we’ll get to the new observation deck.

Here are some shots from the mountains. Enjoy!