Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Glen Burney Falls, Blowing Rock

One day last week a friend and I took a cool hike on the Glen Burney Trail just off Main Street in Blowing Rock. There is a parking area at the trail head on Laurel Street.

The trail starts out fairly level, but the last third of it you're definitely hiking straight down towards the falls. The trail is 1.2 miles down to the Glen Burney Falls and then another .4 miles to the Glen Marie Falls. You end up descending about 800 feet below the town of Blowing Rock. There are several great places to have a picnic lunch and sit for a while to break up the trip.

It was a cool cloudy day and the hike down was very easy. We stopped for photos along the way. We made it down to the first falls but after looking back up to where we came from opted out of the second falls. That one from photos I have seen looks to be the more impressive. Oh well - some other time!

There's a lot of history in this ancient trail that was used by the Indians as a hunting trail and then later for turn of the century loggers. The town of Blowing Rock restored the trail in 1989 making it the only remaining portion preserved in usable condition. The hike takes around 2 hours round trip and is definitely a worthwhile visit. It is moderate to strenuous due to the steepness of the trail.

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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway meanders for 469 miles - from the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina. For 252 miles it follows the ridge lines of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. Since the speed limit runs about 45 MPH, this is a road that you open the windows and forget about getting anywhere in a hurry.

Hiking trials abound along with lakes, ponds, waterfalls, picnic areas, campgrounds and scenic overlooks. We took the "Parkway" as we like to call it, from Asheville south to Bryson City. At this point the Parkway runs along the highest ridges from 4000 feet to 5000 in elevation, reaching 6047 feet above sea level at Richland Balsam Mountain Overlook (Milepost 431) The view was breathtaking and the sky a clear blue.

I was not able to take good photos of the tunnels that run through the mountains on the Parkway. All but one tunnel is located in the NC stretch of Parkway. We went through about six or seven enroute to Bryson City. Pine Mountain Tunnel measuring 1,434 feet long, is the longest on the Parkway.

Ferrin Knob Tunnel #1 is the first and longest of the triplet tunnels, named because of the profusion of ferns (once referred to locally as ferrins) growing on their backs. Tunnels #2 and #3 are located at mileposts 401.3 and 401.5.

Hominy Valley was named for southern breakfast fare -a small grain ground from a variety of corn. Pioneers soaked kernels in weak wood lye until the hulls floated to the top to make hominy.

Devil's Courthouse Trail (0.4 mile, strenuous) climbs through a spruce-fir forest to the 5,462-foot summit of Devil's Courthouse. The 360-degree view encompasses three states: South Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee. A metal, compass like plaque pinpoints mountains on the horizon. This area has rare plants and is easily damaged. This is the southernmost spot on the Parkway to watch the annual hawk migration.

Richland Balsam Overlook is the highest point on the Parkway. The overlook elevation is 6,047 feet. If you look across the motor road you view Richland Balsam Mountain, elevation 6,410 feet.

Hope you enjoyed the tour! For more Scenic Sunday click on this photo -
Scenic Sunday

Monday, July 20, 2009

Linville Gorge from Wisemen's View

Touted as the Grand Canyon of the East Coast the Linville Gorge can be viewed from a point called Wisemen's View - from the town of Linville Falls, take HWY 183 towards Jonas Ridge and turn right off on the dirt road leading to parking for Linville Falls, Drive past the parking area and continue for about four miles on very rough rocky dirt road. We did this with a rental car - it can be brutal on your car and slow going but well worth it. I do not advise using a two-wheel drive car on this road! At the end is a rock wall and viewing station for the gorge looking towards Jonas Ridge and down the gorge. Here's a bit of information about the area and the Gorge.

The Linville River with its source high on Grandfather Mountain has, by its tremendous scouring action, formed one of Eastern America's most scenic and rugged gorges. The steep walls of the Gorge enclose the Linville River for 12 miles. The river's swift waters descend over 2,000 feet before breaking into the open levels of the Catawba Valley,

Elevation averages 3,400 feet along the rim of the Gorge and 2,000 feet on Linville River.The Linville Gorge Wilderness , in the western North Carolina Mountains, is part of the Pisgah National Forest. The gorge is formed by Jonas Ridge on the east, and Linville Mountain on the west and is bisected by the Linville River, which drops into the valleys below. The odd assortment of rock formations located on Jonas Ridge include Sitting Bear, Hawksbill, Table Rock, and the Chimneys. Elevations range from 1,300 feet on the Linville River to 4,120 feet on Gingercake Mountain. The terrain is extremely steep and rugged with numerous rock formations. It is covered by a dense hardwood/pine forest and a wide variety of smaller trees and other plants. Recreation opportunities include hiking,backpacking, rock climbing, fishing, and hunting.

Linville Gorge was first designated a wild area in 1951 by the Chief of the Forest Service. With the signing of the Wilderness Act of 1964, the area became one of the original components of the National Wilderness System. The original 7,575 acres was increased to the present 12,002 acres by the 1984 North Carolina Wilderness Act.

The wilderness of the Linville Gorge is rich in both plant and animal life. There are five species of rare plants, several varieties of rhododendron, and virgin forests in the deep coves. The rugged terrain has always made development difficult, and the wilderness designation now prevents development in the gorge. Sand mrtyle, red chokeberry, azalea, turkey beard, bristly locust, yellow root, silverbell, orchids, ninebark, and wild indigo are among the many plant species. Animal species include deer, bear, squirrel, raccoon, grouse, turkey, vultures, owls, hawks, as well as brown and rainbow trout. Hikers should also be wary of copperheads and timber rattlers. Hunting and fishing are allowed but permits are required. Camping is permitted in the gorge but permits are required from May 1 through October 31. It is always a good idea to check in with the rangers and let them know you are going into the gorge. The gorge is a rugged and wild place and visitors should treat the wilderness with respect.

I highly recommend a stop at the Linville Falls Visitor Center, located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, open April 15 - November 1 9AM-5PM. The center is well stocked with maps, and the rangers are a great source of "inside" information about the gorge.

(Info from the Forest Service)

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Fontana Lake

A few weeks back my husband and I drove down to Bryson City in Swain County NC to ride the Great Smokey Mountains Railroad (another post another time). The train goes into the National Forest along Lake Fontana, over a 75 foot trestle and into Nantahala Gorge. It was a gorgeous summer day with views forever. One interesting thing was the many houseboats floating on the lake - you can rent them for $100 a night. That would be cool to stay on one of these - another trip for us maybe?

The 29-mile long, 11,700-acre Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) lake has more than 240miles of shoreline. It was created when they built the Fontana Dam to provide electrical power for the area. The lake sits in both the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smokey Mountains. And its deep, cold waters provide the ideal habitat for a variety of fish. In fact, record size muskie and walleye have been pulled from its depths. And many believe it’s one of the best smallmouth bass fishing lakes in the country, including the Fisherman’s Bass Tournament Circuit, which held its annual Hall of Fame Classic at Fontana in Fall 2001.

Fontana Lake is unique in many ways. Unlike most lakes in the area, shoreline development has been kept to a minimum. More than 90 percent of the land around the Lake is owned by either the National Park Service or the US Forest Service. Maps of the Lake are available at local fishing stores.

Fontana Lake provides a number of recreational diversions including fishing, boating and water skiing. And the scenery from the lake is unmatched. Those fortunate enough to go boating on Fontana Lake have a unique perspective of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At places the view is unobstructed from the lake level to the top of towering Clingmans Dome, the Park's highest peak.

(Info from the Bryson City Chamber of Commerce)

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Elk River Falls, Elk Park

This waterfall is one of the most popular in the High Country. Expect to see a lot of folks there enjoying the pool on good weather days.

It is definitely worth the crowd to be able to view this impressive 60-foot waterfall. The falls are a quarter of a mile walk from the parking lot. Picnic tables are available for day outings. This was my Mom's favorite place to go for picnics. Above the falls the river meanders past the tables and you can hear the roar of the falls below. A beautiful setting for any kind of outing.

Directions - take 184 from Banner Elk and at the intersection of 19E run right. At 1.3 miles make a sharp right onto SR 1303 and follow signs leading to the falls, making a left onto Elk River Road.

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