Thursday, November 3, 2016

Autumn in Western North Carolina--Gorges State Park & the Blue Ridge Parkway

Autumn in Western North Carolina--

Gorges State Park & the Blue Ridge Parkway

Saturday Oct. 29 and Sunday Oct. 30, 2016

Dana Koogler 
Mary Anne Brewer

Hiked approx. 9.5 miles total

  The hubby had a series of several Saturdays he was gonna have to work.  I made plans to get together with some of my girls to go hiking. I figured it would be a good time to see some Fall colors, finish some of my waterfall challenge , and act upon some plans made in the past.   It didn't work out for Vickie to go, but Anne and I went ahead.  She had experienced the Blue Ridge Parkway in the Asheville area, but not done any hiking in Western North Carolina.   We used some rewards points and got a free stay!  The Autumn colors in the area were lovely.    Anne met me at my house and we
went on from there.  We had no travel problems.  We decided to skip lunch and just hit the trails since we were both pretty stoked about hiking.  I had not been to Gorges State Park in fourteen years!

     We arrived at the visitor center for Gorges State Park and took a little bit to check that out.
It is really nice. Restroom facilities, picnic area, overlooks, free parking, free maps, nature exhibits, etc.  We went in and bought souvenirs in case the center was closed when we finished up later.
Glad we did.   We parked at the Grassy Ridge lot. It was busy, but we still found a parking space.
I was thrilled that it was not crazy busy.  The plan was to hike to the main attraction waterfalls adding
Stairway Falls into the mix.   I hoped that I would recall the trail system.   I was not disappointed.
Many changes have been made, but not enough to mess me up.

Rainbow Falls was the first place we stopped. It was looking good today.  Like seeing an old friend!

  The next stop for us was heading upstream to Turtleback Falls.  

Turtleback Falls is a good sliding spot during low water.  Swimming at Gorges State Park is supposed to be prohibited.   I am a law breaker apparently.  I had no idea.  

This photo is also of Turtleback Falls. It shows the short distance downstream to the brink of a 125 ft drop over Rainbow Falls.  

    We continued on to see Drift Falls which technically lies on private property.  It is easy to get a good view of it from national forest land though. It is worth a stop. Such a pretty spot and easy to reach.  Why would you leave it out?

Beautiful Drift Falls.  

     We headed back the trail along the Horsepasture River.  We would take a break and hit the last falls of the day.  My destination was to reach Stairway Falls which was one uncompleted on my CMC Waterfall Challenge up to then.  We ran into a couple while leaving Drift Falls. I asked them where they were headed next?  They indicated they were going to Stairway Falls.  I was glad and said we were too. I hoped we could just go at the same time.   After our snack and rest break we continued on.  I made a false start taking the left at the campsite.  It lead down to the river, but it only took me a few seconds to realize I had messed up.  We went back down the trail a bit further and picked up the correct unofficial path. It perfectly matched Kevin Adam's description in the guidebook.   It was a short, tough bushwhack.   It went along an embankment and got narrow and rocky.  I had my misgivings about it, but Anne was ever the trooper.  She was game so we continued.  I could see from the worst point that if we could just get past that we'd have it made.  

        A few minutes and some butt scoots later.. we stood by the falls congratulating ourselves on having made it.  I could not tell with certainty that the other couple did not get there, but the path up to then appeared totally undisturbed. No tracks of any kind.  I am guessing they changed their minds about going.   
 Golden glow of Autumn and gathering gloom along the Horsepasture River.
Stairway Falls is not as dramatic as some others along the river, but it has lots of character!  It was appealing that we were the only ones there

   We made it back up the trail such as it was.. and before we knew it we were on the real trail. We began the long trudge back to the parking area.  It was during this time our decision to skip lunch began to show ill effects.  We lacked energy from not eating enough.  I'm guessing it was 1/2 mile from the parking lot I began to have cold chills. It felt like electricity was crawling all over me. My hair stood on end in goose flesh.  Anne pretty soon got in the same shape.  We were flushed and our butts dragging.  We did make it back though and were we ever glad.  We were ready to head out.
I changed shirts, changed shoes, wiped off and put on some deodorant.  We were going to have to stop on the way back through Brevard and eat.  We both needed to refuel.  We stopped at Hawg Wild Barbecue in Brevard.  We ate delicious Carolina Style pulled pork BBQ. My all time favorite style.
Pure vinegary, smoky goodness. Only way to make it in my opinion.  Slaw and sweet tea and pork and we were feeling better about life.  It was back to the hotel to shower and sleep.

       Sunday morning we had breakfast. We stopped by Subway and took along a sandwich.
Not wanting to repeat the same mistakes as yesterday. We were in the negative on calories even after having eaten supper!  We headed up Route 276 stopping first at Looking Glass Falls which was new to Anne.  She knew of it, had seen it in photos, but had not visited until then.  

      Looking Glass Falls is a roadside attraction.  

We continued up the road a bit further to Sliding Rock which was also a new location for Anne.

Sliding Rock minus all the people!  A bit cool for sliding and swimming.

  We stopped by the Cradle of Forestry for a visit and bathroom break.  We then continued up to the Blue Ridge Parkway.    Our first stop was Looking Glass Rock Overlook where we parked to hike to Skinnydip Falls.  
 Blue Ridge Parkway colors
Looking Glass Rock in the distance from the overlook

  We hiked the 0.42 miles to Skinnydip Falls. We sat enjoying the bench at the Falls and ate lunch.
While there folks started rolling in.  By the time we were done eating lunch and ready to take photos the place was crawling with people.  I still got a few fair photos of the waterfall.

Above two shots of Skinnydip Falls.  To me the attraction at this waterfall is not the falls itself but the pool of clear, sparkling water.

    We headed back out and pushed on toward Graveyard Fields. I told Anne in advance that if we had difficulty finding parking to hike to Upper Falls I was not willing to fight the crowds. I would wait til another time to complete that hike.   Sure enough there was no parking to be had.  It was a mass of vehicles and people.   She was with me in not wanting to fight the crowd.  We went further down the parkway instead enjoying overlooks.   We planned to hit up Dill and Upper Dill falls on the drive down Hwy 215.  

 View from Fetterbush Overlook on a bluebird day.
 Graveyard Fields

Patchwork of colors in the mountains above Skinnydip Falls.

 Lastly we hiked to Dill Falls. Not much water, but still pretty.
Upper Dill Falls was a little harder to reach.  Steep downhill to get to it.  

      The leaf color was a treat for the eyes the entire drive on Rt. 215.   We had a good time.
We headed back toward Asheville and the interstate for home!  I had a very blessed weekend with my friend. I can hardly wait for the next trip! 

Below is a short video of the highlights of Saturday's adventure.  

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