Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Homeward bound

Having driven 575+ miles in the Blue Ridge, we were now almost at the entrance to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This park is well worth an extensive visit, but we decided it was time to head for home.

After the peace and beauty of the Parkway, we certainly didn't want to throw ourselves on the tender mercies of an interstate. We also wanted to go back and visit a couple of places we had bypassed in order to meet our friends in Swannanoa. So after a fast-food lunch we managed to find our way out of Cherokee and onto a two-lane country road.

There we promptly ended up in a traffic jam caused by a capsized dump truck. We were in no rush, so we just played it cool and eventually got past the disaster. We got as far as West Asheville, where we checked into another KOA, this one less crowded. Got a good rainstorm that night.

After buying some groceries the next day, we got back on the Parkway --- this time heading north. Ate lunch on a Parkway overlook, then pressed on to Craggy Gardens, where we hoped to see a lot more flowers. Unfortunately, there were no flowers at that time, darn.

So we pressed on to Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. It is a few miles off the Parkway in Mt. Mitchell State Park. You can park near the summit and hike a short, paved trail to the top. It was cloudy, including a cloud covering the summit, but we wanted to hike up there just to do it, even if there wouldn't be any view.

The path is fairly steep, and Jean's hip was bothering her, so we came back down and she opted to ride up in a park service jeep provided for that purpose. But then it started thundering. We waited to see if the storm would pass, but when it continued to rain we decided to find a campground for the night. The ranger said that such storms were often followed by a bright, sunshiny day so we headed up 40 miles to the Linville Falls campground.

The next day was not sunny, but we headed back anyway. Along the way we had to stop for turkey traffic.

The top of Mt. Mitchell was still cloudy, but we pressed on. In fact, we ran through a rain shower on the way up. However, it was not raining at the top, though it was not clear either.

Nothing daunted, Gene huffed and puffed his way to the top (about 10 minutes with one stop) and Jean came up in the jeep a few minutes later.

There wasn't much of a view, but it wasn't raining and we had made it to the highest point in the East. Back at the parking area, we bought a couple of Cokes to celebrate (no rum, though).

Now we were homeward bound for sure. We got to Wilkesboro and after several "recalculating"'s found the Walmart only to learn there was no overnight parking. So we pressed on to Boone, where we found a Cracker Barrel. After a short walk, we had supper in the rig, but went inside for a decadent dessert.

After breakfast at Cracker Barrel, we decided to head downtown for some shopping. After we found ourselves out in the woods, we decided that the woman at the Visitor Center had given us a wrong turn. By the time we got back to Boone, it was raining heavily so we gave up on that idea and headed to Galax.

Spend some time in downtown Galax and had lunch. Then on to Hillsville to see an interesting old shoe store. Just went in to look, but Gene bought some suspenders.

A few miles up the road we arrived at Jean's cousin B.P.'s. We were able to park on level ground next to the house and plug in. Stayed up 'til late eating, drinking, and visiting. A great way to wrap up a great trip. From there it was a short drive up the Parkway back to the farm and home.

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