Saturday, July 17, 2010

Brevard, Blue Ridge Parkway, Pearson's Falls

I recently took my VFR on a 12-hour, 350-mile journey up through Brevard, NC to the Blue Ridge Parkway, taking it eastward past Asheville, down US74A to Bat Cave, west on US64 to Hendersonville, and down US176 through Tryon, NC before heading home. I left around 8:30 and made it to Brevard around 11:30, just in time for lunch at a favorite restaurant of mine, Quotations Cafe. That was, in fact, the genesis of this ride, as I suddenly had a hankering to go eat there. I usually eat their excellent vegetable quiche, salad, and coffee, but this time I had an equally excellent chicken salad sandwich, salad, and coffee. With a good meal in my belly I was set for some fun twisty roads, and this sign indicates that I was in for a treat. :-)

Looking Glass Falls is a very impressive waterfall right on the side of the road on US276 a bit north of Brevard; it's always a nice one to stop at.

I LOVE riding on the Blue Ridge Parkway; I once rode its 470-miles entirety over a 2-day span and would love to do so again. It's a very flowing, undulating strip of pavement with beautiful vistas along the entire stretch.

A bit east of Asheville I got on US74A south and rode it down to Bat Cave; 74 is another great twisty road, and I had a blast working my way down it. In Bat Cave I got on US64 west toward Hendersonville; 64 is another barrel of curvy fun but in a different way - its curves are of a larger radius with higher speeds, so they flow nicely and are a bit more relaxing to ride, but still plenty of fun.

In Hendersonville I got on US176 and took it southward to Tryon in search of a waterfall I had not previously visited, Pearson's Falls. It's one of the very few that I've visited that you have to pay to see, but it was well worth the $5 fee, and it goes to the Tryon Garden Club, which does a fine job of maintaining the grounds. I had a pleasant chat with the 2 Garden Club representatives manning the gate, and another pleasant chat along the trail with a couple who turned out to be from Columbia - small world we live in. :-)

Picturesque shot along the trail; the photo doesn't do justice to the beautiful lighting that I saw.

Do you see what I see in the following photo? I'll tell you at the end of the post what that is.

Pearson's Falls, the 52nd waterfall that I have visited.

Payne Street in Tryon.

I continued down US176 to Landrum, SC, where I had dinner at the Hare and Hound Pub. There was some good-looking pub fare on the menu, like fish and chips and shepherd's pie, but I was in the mood for a good, simple hamburger, so that's what I had, and I was not disappointed; it was big, juicy, and tasty, with some excellent fries on the side. I was tempted by some really good beers on tap, but being on my bike I had to decline; I was pretty parched anyway, and downed 3 or 4 glasses of water instead.

I pulled over and snapped one final photo on my way home.

The photo above that I stated I see something in it - it's a wolf's head; do you see it? Here it is again:

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Crowders Mountain State Park and DCI FirstBeat

On a recent Sunday I drove to the Charlotte, NC area to attend a drum corps event at Ft. Mill (SC) High School. Since it started at 7:00, and I didn't have other plans for my afternoon, I hit the road after church and spent the afternoon at Crowders Mountain State Park. I got there around 2:30 and first hiked the Backside Trail that leads to the top of Crowders Mountain. It is around 3/4 mile in length and pretty steep, so it is quite a good workout; the park map describes it as "strenuous," and I concur with that description.

Looking up at what I was about to ascend

I was wearing my Camelbak and drank quite a bit from it (every time I use it, I'm reminded that it was a very well-spent $25.) The view from the top was spectacular! I spent about 20 minutes up there just relishing the view and the quiet.

After getting back down I still around an hour before I needed to get moving toward Ft. Mill, so I hiked the Fern Trail, a gentle mile-long trail through the woods, and then the Lake Trail, a gentle mile-long trail around a lake (imagine that!) Both were nice and relaxing.

I then hit the road and headed to Ft. Mill, stopping for a bite to eat at a Subway just down the road from the stadium. By the time I got parked, walked to the stadium, got my ticket from will-call, and got seated, it was about 5 minutes until showtime ... perfect timing!

The show, as Drum Corps International shows almost always are, was a blast. From a prime seat near the 50-yard-line about 20 rows up I got to see 4 top corps (Cadets, Cavaliers, Carolina Crown, and Spirit), a smaller corp (Teal Sound), and two all-age corps (CorpVets and Alliance.) There is a cutoff age of 22 for the primary class, but there are around a dozen all-age corps that compete in their own class. They all put on entertaining and well-executed shows, and this was one of the very first events of the season, so they'll only get better from here!

Carolina Crown performing an encore after all the performances and score announcements. Corps traditionally use silver instruments, but Crown is using lacquered brass this year - looks sharp!

During the intermission I went down and browsed the merchandise booths for all of the corps and purchased a "last year's model" Cadets t-shirt in the bargain bin for $5.  After the scores were announced and Crown performed a sideline encore, it was around 11:00 by the time I got on the road and around 12:30 when I got home. The next day at work was a little rough, but absolutely worth it. :-)

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Chimney Rock

Donna and I recently visited Chimney Rock Park near Asheville, NC; it is named for a 315-foot-tall granite structure that resembles a chimney. It's been on my list of places to visit for some time, and it recently came up in conversation at work, so I decided now was the time to go!

The first thing we did when we got to the park (after using the rest room :-) ) was hike a 3/4 mile trail to the base of Hickory Nut Falls, a 404-foot high waterfall. If you've seen the movie The Last of the Mohicans, the dramatic waterfall scene at the end of the movie was filmed there.

Some shots from along the trail leading to the waterfall:

I always really enjoy the moment when, during a hike out to a waterfall, I hear the first sounds of it and know I'm getting close.

A fellow visitor kindly offered to take our photo.

I decided to go in for a closer look; the cool spray felt really good on the hot day!

Once back from the waterfall we ascended Chimney Rock. There's actually an elevator that will take you to the top, but at the time we were there, it was stuck with people trapped inside it! So, we hiked the strenuous trail to the top; the extra effort made the view from the top all the better. Fortunately the folks got out, but at the top, so they had to hike down. Going down is certainly easier than going up, but it's still no picnic, and some folks weren't wearing the proper footwear for that type of terrain, but I think everyone made it down without incident ... all but one woman, who was shaken up pretty badly; I guess she had a panic attack; paramedics were brought in to assist her, and since the elevator wasn't operational, they had to ascend the mountain via the trail carrying all their gear. It was tough enough hiking up with no gear! The elevator was not going down anytime soon, so they had a specialized gurney with a huge pneumatic wheel that they were going to use to try to get her down.  The park stopped allowing people to hike up, so the paramedics would have an unobstructed path for their descent. So, our timing was good in two ways: we didn't get stuck on the elevator, and we were able to hike to the top before it was closed. Crazy day at the park!

Some views from along the trail and from atop the chimney. This formation is pretty cool; it resembles a face, sort of like the old man of the mountain in NH.

Couple of lizards we encountered along the way:

After leaving the park we explored a few shops in the city of Chimney Rock. We bought some fudge, Donna bought a set of nesting dolls for a friend's birthday, and I bought a giant Asian fan to hang on the wall in my bedroom.

The river that feeds Lake Lure runs along Highway 64 through town, so we went down to it and wandered along it for a bit.

Hickory Nut Falls as seen from Highway 64.

And, what would a road trip be without eating at Cracker Barrel? So we ate at the one in Carl Sandburg's hometown of Flat Rock before heading home. It was a very good trip, and I would love to go back sometime. There were a couple of trails that were closed for maintenance, including one that ascends to the top of the waterfall, so I'll have to go again sometime and check those out.