When we left Virginia on October 15th, we didn’t really have a solid plan in place. We still don’t have a solid plan and that’s the point. We packed our car with essentials – food, camping gear, clothing, etc. and hit the road knowing we’d end up in Florida where we’d begin our quest towards achieving maximum relaxation; the kind of relaxation one can achieve as a kid on summer vacation, a well-prepared retiree, or an intentionally unemployed millennial with few responsibilities and a little bit of savings. We fall into the last category.
On our trip South, we stopped at a few new sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina. Here are a couple highlights:
Julian Price Memorial Park
We lucked out with a campsite with views of Price Lake for $20 a night. We did a walk around the Price Lake loop while we visited and stopped in Blowing Rock, NC for beers at the Blowing Rock Brewing Company.
Linn Cove Viaduct
We nerded out at the visitor center learning about the construction of the Linn Cove Viaduct which was the first structure in the U.S. to be built using the pre-cast progressive placement method. This method of construction limits impacts to the surrounding environment, allows more consistency in quality of concrete, and enables work to progress even during cold winter months. Using this method of construction, sections of the bridge were manufactured (cast) off-site nearby and then brought to the southern end of the soon-to-be floating structure. Using a crane situated on land first and eventually the floating viaduct itself, pre-cast sections were hoisted into place and connected one piece after the other (hence progressive placement). By building the structure upon itself and using the completed sections of viaduct as the primary haul road, impacts to the environment and existing mountain were limited.
Driving on the “S” shaped viaduct, the road seemingly disappears momentarily and it feels like your floating along the mountain side.
We hiked the short but rewarding Beacon Heights trail to gorgeous views of the foliage.
We hiked the Erwin’s View Trail to overlook points with views of Linville Falls and the entire Linville Gorge. If we ever go again, I think I’d pick a hike that takes us to the falls at ground level. The elevation at the overlooks on the Erwin’s View Trail made the waterfalls appear less grand in my opinion. Or maybe I’m a waterfall snob? Perhaps I was hangry? Dan thought it was beautiful though!
The 360 degree views from the observation tower at Mt. Mitchell are breathtaking. Or perhaps it was the chilling winds that took the breath out of us. Either way, it was worth the stop.
For years it was debated which peak is the highest East of the Mississippi; current day Mt. Mitchell right off the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina or Clingman’s Dome on the North Carolina/Tennessee border in the Great Smoky Mountains? Professor Elisha Mitchell, measured the peak formally known as “Black Dome” (now named Mt. Mitchell) and made the claim it was the highest in the East. However, a former student of his, Thomas Clingman claimed that another peak was the highest (the peak now called Clingman’s Dome). In 1857, Dr. Mitchell set out on an expedition to re-measure Black Dome to finally put the debate to rest. He fell to his death in the attempt. His grave lies at approximately 6,684 feet above sea-level, at Mt. Mitchell – the confirmed highest peak east of the Mississippi.
After Mt. Mitchell, we stopped in Asheville, NC for a few days to visit some of the breweries in town before heading to our home away from home in Sarasota, Florida.