Don’t get me wrong, I love my current home of Northeast Florida. But the further north I go in the US, the more I consider a change in scenery might happen in my future. I wouldn’t mind living near Linville Falls. Called the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians,” there are several beautiful trails to […]
Don’t get me wrong, I love my current home of Northeast Florida. But the further north I go in the US, the more I consider a change in scenery might happen in my future.
I wouldn’t mind living near Linville Falls. Called the “Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians,” there are several beautiful trails to explore in the area. My only question is why does everything have to be the Grand Canyon of this or that? At this point, I’ve been to multiple natural sites that claim they’re the Grand Canyon of “insert-geographic-region-here.” Find a new marketing shtick people.
Anyway, back to Linville. We made it to the park late on Monday following our stop at Chimney Rock State Park.
At the Gorge View Overlook…it really is beautiful.
From Erwins View Overlook, you can get a wonderful view of the gorge and a view of the upper and lower falls. And the tree canopy is on point.
After exploring the large Linville Falls, we stopped by the smaller (more intimate?) Duggars Creek Falls. The water was icy and clear. Taco had mixed reactions to the water, to us in the water, and to the crawdads and bugs along the way.
Courage had one reaction…and it was hesitancy as always.
She’s not a fan of water.
That night we camped at Linville Falls Campground. It’s an adorable, privately owned campground with sites for tents and RVs. There are also cabins scattered throughout. The site was clean, the facilities were awesome. I would have loved to stay longer.
However, Tuesday was spent on a long drive to Virginia. We had the benefit of staying in condo just outside of Shenandoah National Park. The change in accommodations was a welcome relief to my youngest sister. She’s not a fan of camping. At all. Literally the only reason she puts up with it is to be with her older sisters. Initiate guilt trip.
Wednesday was spent in the Shenandoah. And it was eventful to say the least.
We set off on the Rose River Loop. It’s a beautiful trail with access to waterfalls and amazing tree canopies.
Wildlife was abundant. Note below the first of many dear we stumbled across.
We’re not the type to stick to one trail though. At our first waterfall, we began an ascent along the slippery sides on the Dark Hollow Falls Trail. This detour took us up along many tiers of the fall, eventually dropping us at the the trailhead and parking lot.
And here is where I have a story but no photographs. Following our exit from the Dark Hollow Falls Trail, my sisters and I took the Story of the Forest Nature Trail to the Byrd Visitor’s Center. After stopping for snacks and a quick look over of the gift shop, we set off for our car. Instead of walking along the main Skyline road, we headed down a horse trail that would deliver us just near Fishers Gap Overlook.
I’m pretty sure we where three-quarters of the way when Taco got loose and took off down the trail like a bat out of hell. At first, I assumed it was in pursuit of a deer. He’d done it before. But when my eyes followed him up the trail, I saw instead a small black bear cub.
It all happened really fast. As I screamed his name, the cub took off into the woods, Taco in hot pursuit. From the left, previously out of sight, emerged the mother black bear. And she was on a tear after Taco.
All three disappeared into the forest.
Needless to say, we were terrified that we had just witnessed the end of Taco. Unable to follow, we three retraced our steps (very quickly) back up the horse trail. Every few seconds, we would stop, check behind us, and yell Taco’s name.
It was probably only a couple minutes, but it felt like an eternity, when Taco appeared out of the bushes. I’ve never seen that dog move so fast. I actually didn’t know it was possible for him to run like he did.
Long story short, Taco is alive. And side note, I’ve never been so glad to have left Courage behind. She had been stressed at all the travel and I opted to let her sleep in the condo while we hiked. Thank the lord. I’m sure a larger dog would have changed the outcome to a less favorable one.
The whole group made it to the Byrd Visitor’s Center unscathed…and unwilling to walk back to our car. Enter the wonderful rangers of the National Park Service. We received a ride back to our vehicle courtesy an amazing ranger. So thank you NPS. We owe you one.
Later that evening at the condo, I had a second (and uneventful) run-in with another black bear. I had walked out of the condo to my car and made note of what I thought was a gawdy black bear statue in front of the condos to my right.
It was another half second before I remembered that earlier in the day, there had been no strange yard ornament in the spot. I whipped around and found myself staring eye-to-eye with a black bear on all fours. He was twenty or thirty feet away.
I guess I was a boring site because the bear turned around and headed down the hill into the darkness and out of sight.
So…bears. They’re a thing.
The next day, we continued deeper into Virginia to Kilmarnock and another condo available for our use. At this point, it became more of a standard vacation with Chinese take-out and poolside hangouts. And there ends Sister Trip 2016. I’m not sure yet what our 2017 trip will entail…but I’ll probably record it here…after procrastinating yet again.
This post is long overdue. Our trip took place towards the end of July, but my procrastination knows no bounds. So, I present you a synopsis of this year’s Sister Trip. Apparently, the great Sister Trip of 2015 initiated a tradition among my siblings and I. It would seem for the foreseeable future, we will […]
This post is long overdue. Our trip took place towards the end of July, but my procrastination knows no bounds. So, I present you a synopsis of this year’s Sister Trip.
Apparently, the great Sister Trip of 2015 initiated a tradition among my siblings and I. It would seem for the foreseeable future, we will be venturing out on an annual travel celebration of all things sisterly. This year found us once again piled into my CRV, three women and two dogs. With a only a week to kill, we opted for a northward trajectory.
We three left Atlanta in the early afternoon on a hot Saturday in July, our first stop Asheville, North Carolina. Michelle had found a nice dog-friendly campsite at Asheville KOA West where we spent the first two nights of our trip.
Our dogs were true to form in how they adapted to the adventure. Taco reverted to his “mountain man” persona and Courage…lets just say she was less apt to explore her new surroundings. She is a huge fan of all things ‘tent.’
The following day, we explored around the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our primary stop was Graveyard Fields, a flat mountain valley in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a busy destination, crowded with tourists and hikers alike.
The majority of the crowds stuck close to the river and waterfall, leaving us plenty of empty trail to wander.
The day was cut short though, as a large afternoon storm rolled through the valley.
As we headed back to our campsite, we passed many unofficial stops providing access to rivers in the Pisgah National Forest. We did take advantage of on such stop. The river was beautiful and clear, but the water was ice cold.
Monday found us continuing north in search of Linville Falls. Along the way, we passed through the beautiful town of Chimney Rock, home to Chimney Rock State Park. It’s the site of many natural geological formations, the most famous being…well…Chimney Rock. This granite monolith affords stellar views of the surrounding mountains to anyone willing to face a strenuous hike. Yes, there are stairs. That doesn’t make it easier.
Like for real. Stairs on stairs on stairs.
The good news is that there is a gift shop at the very top. Inside you’ll find a small ice cream shop. It’s not anything world changing but it makes for the perfect refueling stop following all those staircases.
And then we had to head down the mountain. At first, our descent seemed easy. A break for the calf muscles right? Sure, but now pressure falls on your shins. Needless to say, when we finally made it back to the car, my legs were shaking.
This is one of those quick posts where I set the stage and the photographs will lead you home. So here I was, not more than an hour and half south of Jacksonville and into central Florida. There were no layovers, no changes in language, no standard benchmark of travel…simply fewer buildings and larger stretches […]
This is one of those quick posts where I set the stage and the photographs will lead you home. So here I was, not more than an hour and half south of Jacksonville and into central Florida. There were no layovers, no changes in language, no standard benchmark of travel…simply fewer buildings and larger stretches of land but it feels like a different world. There were hand-crafted signs for blueberry festivals and disheveled motels hinting at abandonment. The humidity was heavier and the ocean breezes were absent.
It doesn’t get more “Florida” than this.
Nestled in the small town of San Mateo sits the citrus farm of Cecil and Stella Nelson. They began this venture in 1986 with a bunch of young citrus trees. Today he grows everything from red grapefruits to blood oranges, kumquats, ponderosa lemons, and more across 10 acres in the main grove and another couple of acres adjacent to their home. Beyond the varied forays intro citrus, he also has peach trees, pomegranates, and a variety of other fruit trees thought out the property including pineapples.
But aside from the beauty of the property and the life nestled in every corner, the Nelsons are just lovely people…they’re old school southern. My group had arrived to review and vet the farm as part of their participation in the Beaches Green Market. (We work to do this with all the vendors.) But before any tour began, we sat in their living room and talked for a good long while and Stella served us homemade iced tea from kumquats. Delicious and refreshing…the tea and the conversation.
Long story short…there is something beautiful about farming. It’s rough work, not for the faint of heart…but the fruits (literal and figurative) are beautiful and humbling. Please don’t forget that your food has an origin story. Choose the better story.