Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Road Trip Recap - Day 2 - Blue Ridge Parkway

Day 1 was just a 12 hour drive from Chicago to Johnson City, TN. We stopped a lot, on all the rest stops, so I could get a map of the state we were driving through. With today’s technology the actual paper maps are kind of forgotten, but it happened that we were in the no reception/no satellite signal area and that’s when the paper map comes handy. 

                [Blue Ridge Parkway, between mile post 300 and 300, by Linn Cove Viaduct]

Day 2 of our road trip. Where do I begin? Ok, let’s start from the beginning, we left the hotel, it was a chilly, crisp October morning. Made a stop at what looked like an abandoned gas station to fill up the tank again. I walked around the gas station searching for anything interesting to photograph. And there it was – few months old kitten came out of nowhere. It was scared of me, and kept running away from the camera. I got few shots of him, and it was time to get in the car and head to our destinations. We drove down US XXX through curvy one line roads, between the colorful hills covered with red, yellow and brown trees. After about 2 hours  we got to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) in North Carolina.
                       [Blue Ridge Parkway, Price Lake, between mile post 295 and 298]

The plan for the day was to visit the Price Lake and the famous Grandfather Mountain (GM). As we drove north on BRP, the line to get into the Grandfather Mountain Park was huge. Traffic was stopped about 2 miles from the park entrance. So we decided to pass it now, and go to the Price Lake first. Grandfather will be on the way back. I figured, I will have a better light on the top of the mountain in the afternoon, anyways. As we started to drive higher and higher we all noticed that the trees no longer have leaves on them. The lady at the Linville Falls Visitor Center told us that at this elevation we already missed the color change. It was pretty disappointing, but what can you do? I expected to catch some great photos of the Linn Cove Viaduct and the Price Lake. I have seen amazing images from this time of year online, and I was hoping to be able to get fall colors, also. Oh, well! It didn’t quite work out, but who cares, we’re on vacation, driving down Blue Ridge with amazing mountain panoramas stretching everywhere we look.

                                      [Price Lake, from the boat rental parking]

We arrive to our destination: pretty lake surrounded by bare trees! LOL! It wasn’t that bad. I mean at first it kind of bothered me that there was no leaves, but again, what can I do. We made the best out of it anyways. We had lunch (leftover veggie sandwiches from the road trip, chips and bananas) and then rented a row boat, that fit all 4 of us and took a “cruise” on the lake. It was so beautiful, so peaceful and quiet. Relaxing. All we could hear is the water splashing against the rowing of paddles.
We found one tree with bright red leaves on the shore of the Price Lake and we took some photographs, the day was cold, but sunny and pleasant.

                                        [Grandfather Mountain - Wonders Never Cease]

Around 3 pm we left the Lake to head over to our next destination – the Grandfather Mountain. There was no line to get in to the park and we drove right up, going really slow, watching for oncoming traffic. There is an option to hike to the top of GM, but due to a lack of time we opted for driving all the way up. There are several overlooks, and 1 or 2 car picnic areas along the drive, with spectacular views of Blue Ridge Mountains.

                 [Mile High Swinging Bridge at the Grandfather Mountain, elev. 5,946 feet]

Have you heard about the Mile High Swinging Bridge? Yup, the bridge is one mile high above the sea level!!! But only about 80 feet high above the ground, but still a swinging bridge? With bunch of people on it? Thanks a lot, but I wasn’t diggin’ it! At all! The bridge connects two peaks of the mountain. And I did make it through, it was little shaky at first and I couldn’t look down, but I made it to the other side. I have to admit, since the last time I was hiking, back in Poland, some 13 years ago, I didn’t realize I had a slight fear of heights. Every day I did better, as I was getting used to being higher, so by the end of the trip I was just fine.

                 [Me sitting on the top of the Grandfather Mtn, checking out spectacular views]

Anyways, let’s go back to the Grandfather Mountain. Amazing, spectacular views in each direction! I wish we would have stayed longer to catch the sunset. Looked like the sky would have been perfect for that. Afternoon clouds started forming its shapes and the lazy sun was getting lower by the minute. It must have been the fresh mountain air, because all of the sudden we realized how hungry we were. And it’s not like there was a coffee shop on the corner to get a sandwich… rice crackers, sun chips and apples saved us, before we were able to get to our next destination and get dinner. We drove about 80 miles to Asheville, NC  where we stayed overnight at Fairfield Inn and Suites.

                                [Ania and Marcin - Granfather Mountaian]

    [Afternoon sun and Tim at the very top, one of my favorites photos from The Grandfather]
            [I believe this is the north view from the Grandfather Mountain]

           [Blue Ridge Parkway, Linn Cove Viaduct, skirts the side of the Grandfather Mountain]

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