Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Road Trip Recap - Day 3 - Chimney Rock State Park

So it was between staying in Asheville, NC, or some kind of mountain adventure. We decided on a mountains! Of course! Don’t get me wrong Asheville is beautiful, but we were looking for more like a outdoorsy/nature stuff to do. The final decision was to take a short drive to Chimney Rock State Park, NC. 

                                         [Chimney Rock from the parking lot]


Just 25 miles southeast of Asheville, NC, the park is nestled in Hickory Nut Gorge. Chimney Rock is 535 million year old monolith, considered one of the most iconic sites in North Carolina, with stunning 75 mile panoramic views of Hickory Nut Gorge and Lake Lure.

                          [Lake Laure and great panorama of the mountains]

We drove up all the way to the end parking lot, and decided to hike the rock. There is an elevator that can take you up 315 feet to the Chimney, but we felt adventurous and wanted to take the gazillion of stairs to the top. Also – the elevator was undergoing improvements and was out of order… so we really didn’t have much choice.
First stop was the Chimney, 2,280 feet monolith rock with breathtaking views. 

                         [Lone pine tree on the top of the Chimney Rock Overlook]

After spending some time on the Chimney we decided to go all the way to the top – to the Exclamation Point. On the way there we checked out the Devils Head – seriously – like a head of the devil curved in rocks. Pretty cool! 

                             [And that's me - Tim took that picture :) ]

After hiking another 200 feet, we reached elevation of 2,480 feet and found ourselves on the top of the world! The Exclamation Point uncovered outstanding panoramas and really strong, cold wind! We found a quiet spot in the wooded area and snack on some trail mix while enjoying the scenery. 

                     [Map of the aerial view of the Chimney Rock and surroundings]

 Once we got down to the parking lot, we ate a quick lunch and decided to head over to the highest waterfall east of Mississippi River  – Hickory Nut Falls.  The trail was pretty easy, only ¾ of a mile long one way, and very beautiful. We walked through the forest, surrounded by a variety of trees, like oak, hickory, maple, beech, poplar and many others. The grand finale was actually little disappointing. Since it was in a fall, the waterfall was pretty dried out. There was just a little tiny stream of water, like someone stood on top with a hose… anyways… I’m pretty sure that waterfall is amazing in the spring and early summer, when it rains a lot more. The trail was very beautiful and peaceful, so it was still worth a walk. 

                                        [Hickory Nut Falls, with almost no water]

We ended out day with about a 100 mile drive to Gatlinburg, TN, where our Great Smoky Mountains adventure began. The drive was pretty long, since it’s gotten dark fast, and those mountain roads curve and twist a lot. We finally were able to unpack our stuff, since we stayed there for 4 nights, after a quick dinner we hit the pillows to rest so we could get up early in the morning and hit the Newfound Gap Road and Clingmans Dome.

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