Wednesday, July 16, 2008

North Carolina

Bent Creek River Park

The Blue Ridge Mountains

Tuesday, July 8th:

We first stopped at Morganton Point, a Forest Service campground on Lake Blue Ridge near Morganton, GA. It was a very peculiar registration arrangement. All of the sites that would have been good with us were by reservation only. If you didn’t have a reservation, even if the site was not occupied, you simply couldn’t use that site. The other sites were either very narrow or so steep as to make then unusable for us. Took Gopher for a swim in the lake then headed on. Our first stop in North Carolina was at another Forest Service campground; Hanging Dog near Murphy. A nice campground on Hiwassee Lake but very few of the campsites actually had any water view. The place was almost empty. Out of the 67 sites, probably only four or five were being used. Since we could have our choice of sites, we picked one with a limited water view. The weather was still hot. Had two big thunder storms; one in the afternoon, another late at night.


Still looking for cool weather so we decided to head north to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park near Cherokee, NC. The drive there was beautiful. Twisty mountain roads following the path of the Nantahala River. This time of the year, the river was full of rafters & kayakers. The entry to the Park is at Cherokee. We had been to Cherokee years ago with the kids. Don’t recall just when but Alex was in a stroller. Cherokee is as tacky now as it was then. The Indian is still there posing for pictures with the tourists. We stayed at the Smokemont Campground in the Park. A very nice campground. Nice large sites with privacy between you and your neighbor. A stream ran through the campground. The children were having fun playing with their rafts. The campground wasn’t even a third full. Unusual I thought for a July. It rained on & off all day, but the weather was finally cool. High about mid-70’s. Dropped into the mid-60’s at night.


We got onto the Blue Ridge Parkway at Cherokee and headed north towards Ashville. Stopped at most of the overlooks. It was foggy so the view wasn’t as nice as we had hoped for. We stayed at the Balsam Mountain Campground. OK but nothing special. It rained almost all day. We read and played Mexican Train. Cool weather. It’s 7:30 pm now and it’s 63* outside. It’s raining, but at least it’s cool. The weather forecast for tomorrow is better. Less rain. I was talking to the Campground Host. Mentioned the vacancies at the campgrounds. He said the overall Park visitation was down about 25%. It’s the $4 gas.


We drove to Ashville and the Lake Powahatan Recreation Area Campground run by the Forest Service. A very nice campground. Our site even has water and a sewer connection; more than we had expected. The lake is small and not visible from the campground. There is a stream by the spillway. Gopher & I went walking; she went swimming. We went in town to the Western NC Farmers Market. Bought tomatoes and a great cantaloupe. We had lunch at the restaurant attached to the Market. Very good. Huge servings of very traditional Southern cooking. After lunch we went back to the campground. Played Mexican Train & read our books. So far, I’m ahead by 4 points.


Our plan was to go to this huge Flea Market not far from here. On the way there, we passed this beautiful park on the bank of a river. We drove to the Flea Market. What a dump. We turned around, did some grocery shopping then went back to the park we saw. Found a nice level spot under some trees and stayed for the rest of the day. The park, Bent Creek River & Picnic Area, is a put-in place for local rafting companies. It was fun just spending the day reading and people watching. Gopher enjoyed swimming in a creek leading into the river. Came back to our campground about 4:00. Later in the day, a campground host came through telling people a large bear was seen in the campground. The berries are beginning to ripen and the bears are eating the berries. Played more Mexican Train. Carol’s not doing well. I’m ahead by about 10 points. The game is mostly luck. So far I’ve just been luckier.


In the morning we went back to the Bent Creek River Park. Spent the day reading, walking around and talking. Later on we went to Lake Powhatan. Picked enough black berries to make pancakes in the morning; left the rest for the bears.


Got back on the Blue Ridge. Headed north. We stopped at the Folk Arts Center and the Museum of North Carolina Minerals. Carol bought a pair of angel earrings. Spent the night at the Linville Falls Campground. Like the other campgrounds we’ve stayed at, the place was less than half full. The weather was just perfect. Sunny & cool.


Back on the Blue Ridge heading north. There was a detour on the northbound side. We exited at Boone, NC on Hwy 221. Stopped in Boone for groceries & found a Panera Bread. The area was so pretty we decided we had been enough of the Blue Ridge so continued to Virginia via 221. A very pretty drive through mostly rolling hills, small towns and farms. Christmas tree farms were everywhere. What little flat land we saw was planted in corn. We stopped at the New River State Park but were disappointed with the campground. No trees anywhere. Decided to continue north to Virginia on NC 113.