Sunday, August 27, 2017

Shenandoah National Park---Loft Mountain Campground

The travel from Mt. Rogers Grindstone Campground to Loft Mountain took much longer than we anticipated. It was also our longest travel day this trip. It seemed we would never arrive at our destination. The last 25 miles was on Skyline Drive, another curvy, narrow road with the possibility of bicycles! We got set up and wanted to sit outside, but the gnats were HORRIBLE!
The following day, we drove to Byrd Visitor Center to get information on Skyline Drive and the hikes available near our campground. While at the lodge, we did the short walk to Blackrock Overlook.
After lunch at the lodge, we drove down the mountain to Waynesboro to visit Wal-Mart and Target. We wanted to purchase a screen room so we could enjoy our campsite! We found what we wanted at Target and headed back up to Skyline Drive. Now, the box said that set up of this screen room took 60 seconds or less! Bob and I both read the directions and it took us much longer than 60 seconds! Maybe the next time it will take less.....
Every morning, this fawn and its mother could be seen eating leaves and flowers in our site! One afternoon we even saw a 10-point buck munching in the wildflowers, but we couldn't get a picture!
Our second full day in Shenandoah we hiked DOWN to Doyle's River Falls. The upper falls had a 28 foot drop.
The lower falls had a 63 foot drop. Like I said, we hiked DOWN to the falls. Our trip back to the car was all uphill!
The next day we hiked to Jone's River Run Falls. It was not as high at the lower Doyle Falls, but it was a good waterfall.
There were several levels to it and Bob and I both enjoyed walking over the rocks to get a better view.
After our down and up hike at Jone's River Run (not nearly as steep as Doyle's), we drove to the parking area for Blackrock Summit. This trail was about 1 mile and promised an excellent view and different geological formations.
The area was all that was promised in the brochure!
On Saturday, we drove to Staunton, Virginia. After a trip to the visitor's center, we took the trolley around town. We disembarked near the Farmer's Market, which was just closing. We walked across Sears Bridge to get a good view of the town.
This was the view from the hill beyond Sears Bridge.
From Sears Bridge, we walked back toward the visitor center to find a place to eat lunch. We stopped for a craft beer at Shenandoah Valley Brewery before heading to Cranberries Grocery and Eatery for lunch.  After an interesting meal, we walked to Woodrow Wilson's Presidential Library. It was much smaller than Herbert Hoover's Presidential Library in Iowa, but still interesting. This is the Pierce-Arrow that belonged to President Wilson.
From the presidential library, we took the long way back to Skyline Drive. We made a stop at Stable Craft Brewing Company. There was a wedding taking place at their outdoor venue, but Bob and I both enjoyed our beers in their taproom.
Back to Skyline Drive and our campsite! Sunday found us hiking the Appalachian Trail around the campground. The butterflies and bees were enjoying the thistles! Neither moved as we walked around the plant!
From the Appalachian Trail, we took the Frazier Discovery Trail which was a loop that would take us back to our campsite. We had several great overlooks on the trail.
The sun and shadows made it hard to get a good picture at this rock outcrop.
The concrete post is an example of the markers on the Appalachian Trail. The metal band at the top of the marker gave mileage and directions at intersections on the trail.
At one point, we came upon large boulders on the side of the trail.
Monday we returned to Byrd Visitor Center to enjoy the views from the back deck of the lodge..
We spent seven days at Loft Mountain and enjoyed our time relaxing and hiking the area.I have to say that the only hill that really gave us trouble was the one that we had to hoof up to get back to Sol! This picture was taken when we were halfway up!
Our site was excellent for solar and we were able to get over 70 television channels. The only thing we couldn't get was cell phone Internet!

The next day would be a travel day---down the mountain and back to sea level!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area, Virginia

Thistle Meadow Winery was a nice stop on our way to Mt. Rogers. While checking e-mail that morning, we found one from Grindstone Campground, our next stop. It seems their water pump for the campground was broken and they were waiting for parts. They wouldn't have water for at least a week! Well, we thought we would have water hook-ups so we didn't fill out tank when we left Lake Powhatan. We decided to keep our reservation and CONSERVE, CONSERVE, CONSERVE!

Our drive to the campground was not long, but it was along some Virginia backroads. We even traveled for a way on The Crooked Road, part of US58 through southwest Virginia. The road is aptly named and I was glad we weren't on it for more than a few miles!

Due to the water problem, our campsite was ready when we arrived at Grindstone. Many people cancelled their reservations due to the lack of water. The campground had bottled water (gallon and two gallon containers) if anyone needed drinking water.

The campsite was beautiful, nestled in the trees at the foot of the mountain. As usual, Bob checked for Internet and television. Well, when there is no cell phone signal, the Internet definitely won't work! We found that television was also a no-go in the trees at the base of Virginia's tallest mountain!

Since we arrived early in the day, we decided to drive to Damascus, Virginia, along The Crooked Road. Damascus is a small tourist town in the Virginia mountains. It offers mountain biking, zip-lining, hiking, and water sports. We didn't see anything that interested us for the afternoon so we continued on to Abingdon. After a pizza lunch, we headed back to our campsite using the interstate. We made a stop to pick up trail maps at the ranger station so we could plan our activities for the next 4 days.

Back at the campground we decided to walk the nature trail. It was supposed to be 1/2 mile, but it seemed a lot longer to both of us. We had to be careful on the bridges as they were wet and slippery.
The next day we decided to hike a portion of the Mt. Rogers Trail. It goes to the summit of Mt. Rogers and back again for a total of 14 miles--too far for us! We did walk  a little over 3 miles up and back again for a total of 6 1/2 miles.
Along the way we saw some interesting fungi. These orange mushrooms were growing on a downed tree. Notice how one is off to the right of the cluster.
Then we found a tree that looked like it had barnacles---it was just another fungus.
This tree had burls all the way up! They looked gnarly!
We stopped our hike where the trail began to get steeper. During our descent to the trailhead, we did pass two more couples hiking, but other than that, we had the trail to ourselves..
On our last day we drove to White Top Station to walk a section of the Virginia Creeper, a former railroad that was one of the first Rail to Trail conversions.
We walked from White Top Station to Green Cove Station--it was all down hill which meant......our trail back was all up hill! Next time we are in the area, we will rent mountain bikes and ride the trail from  White Top Station to Damascus.
We enjoyed our hike along the creeper trail.
After our hike we drove to Chilhowie and had lunch in the Riverfront Cafe. The food and service were good and the prices were the most reasonable we had seen in a long time.

Once back at Sol, we packed up our outdoor stuff as the next day would be another travel day---on to Shenandoah National Park!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Travel Day--Blue Ridge Parkway

Before traveling on Blue Ridge Parkway, Bob checked out reviews from other RV travelers. They all talked about the curvy, narrow roads and the low hanging branches. We decided to give it a try since the entrance was not far from our campground at Lake Powhatan. WEEELLLLL, the reviewers never mentioned the bicyclists who were also traveling the parkway! What a nightmare! We never knew when Sol took a sharp corner if there were going to be bicycles halfway through the turn. Bob and I were both white-knuckled by the end of the day and we didn't even go that far!

We did stop to enjoy the views along the way.
We stopped for lunch at a picnic area along the parkway. During that time, the foot pedal decided to fall off the toilet! We figured out how to flush without it and continued on our way.
 Our stop for the night was off the parkway near mile marker 220--Thistle Meadow Winery. The winery is located in Laurel Springs, North Carolina. The winery is a member of Harvest Hosts. This is not a vineyard, the winery purchases concentrate grape juice from all over the world and the owner, a retired pharmacists blends the wines on the premises. It was the first time I had a wine tasting where I liked all the wines!
 I purchase two bottles, one for drinking and one for cooking. I could just taste the shrimp I wanted to douse in Dracula's Demise! The other is a pinot noir.
 It was nice to be off the road and relaxing for the evening. If I had known that it would be my last Internet connection for almost two weeks, I would have tried to update the blog, but who knew!
While parked and with Internet, we found a video on how to fix the involved taking the toilet out, which we did. Unfortunately, the fix didn't work. Everytime we tested it, the foot pedal fell off after two tries. Bob reinstalled the toilet and we will manually hand flush until we get to an area with an RV parts store.

The next morning we set off for Mount Rogers National Recreation Area at the base of the tallest peak in Virginia.

Still Enjoying Asheville

 The campground at Lake Powhatan had 'Bear Alert' posters everywhere. We did not see one until Wednesday morning. The dumpster was located near our site and early that morning, I thought someone was dumping trash, but lo and behold, it was a bear trying to see what was in our grill! He knocked it off the table, looked at it trying to figure it out, and then left when I tried to get a picture through Sol's window! Other than that, we didn't see much wildlife.

Thursday Bob and I hiked a trail near the campground. The trail is multi-use and there were quite a few mountain bikers also enjoying the trail. I did spot this snail munching on a leaf as we hike through the forest.

 There were several bridges to cross the streams meandering through the forest. These were much sturdier than the ones we traversed at Twin Falls!
 Even without handrails, they weren't scary!
 After a shower and a trip to Sam's we decided to try Highlands Brewing Company. It was an interesting place and yes, we got the sign!
Friday we spent hiking another trail near our campground, this one was in the park. It was also multi-use and we had to watch for bicycles. It was an enjoyable hike, and no, we didn't take many pictures.

Saturday, it was time for more waterfalls! We drove southeast of Brevard to DuPont State Forest. There we hiked to Bridal Veil Falls and High Falls. Once again, the trails were multi-use and the bikers were out to enjoy the day, also.

The trail to Bridal Veil Falls was a gravel road for most of the way. On the way to the falls, we crossed a bridge over Lake Julia Spillway.
 From the observation deck just before the falls, you can see the falls come over a large rock and then 'slide' down a large granite rock.
Once you are on the rocks near the falls, you cannot see the water coming over the ridge, just the water on the large granite rock.

We wanted to get closer and that we did. We found a way around the falls to the left side and were able to walk to the main falls. The main falls was used in two movies---The Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans. Scenes were shot showing the back of the waterfall where people could walk under it. From our approach, there was no way to get behind the falls (and stay dry!).
We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the falls before we started our hike back to the visitor center parking area.
On our way back, we took the side trail to Lake Julia.
 Then we decided that it was a long drive to DuPont State Forest so we might as well check out High Falls. I think it was the most popular falls in the area. Those are people sliding down the rocks and enjoying the cool pools at the bottom of the falls!

 High Falls was worth the extra hike!
 After a morning of hiking, it was time for lunch and a brew. The first brewery where we stopped didn't serve food. Brevard Brewing Co. was a small brewery in downtown Brevard. They had several interesting brews, but we were hungry!
 Our next stop was off the beaten path at Oskar Blues Brewery. They also have a brewery in Colorado.
 Nothing on their menu interested us so after completing most of our shared flight (Bob nor I liked their wheat beer), we headed back to Sol to cook something on the grill.

Sunday we did more hiking from our campsite. We found the back gate to the Arboretum and the trails in the Arboretum. It was an enjoyable day of hiking and probably one of our last on this visit to Asheville due to predicted rain for Monday and Tuesday. As a treat after our hike, we had lunch at Thirsty Monk.  We made it back to Sol just before the rain started.
Since Monday was a rain day, we did that wonderful chore of laundry.

Tuesday, another rain day, we went to downtown Asheville. We enjoyed walking around the shops and I was interested in going through the pinball museum which didn't open until after noon. After looking at all the interesting shops we stopped in Lexington Avenue Brew Pub and had a soft pretzel.
Then it was time to check out the pinball museum. Unfortunately, it is closed on Tuesday, not Monday as we originally thought....oh, well, maybe next trip.
Since Asheville is 'Beer City USA' we decided to stop at two more breweries in the downtown area--Bhramari and Wicked Weed.  Bhramari was the smaller of the two and had a lot to offer. In addition to its beers, it had local grown food specialties.
Time to head back to Sol before the traffic got worse.

Wednesday was another hiking day, this time on Hard Times Trail and Owl Ridge in the Arboretum. Our time in Asheville was drawing to a close and we were headed north into Virginia.