Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for the 'Vacation' Category

5. Charlotte; 6. Chestnut Knob (South Mountains State Park)

Wednesday, September 5th, 2007

I’m still trying to wrap my head around all the things we did on our vacation, and find time to write about them. It’s just so overwhelming.

Friday evening, we arrived in Charlotte and went to dinner with my friends from college, Michael and Laurel. He is now an attorney, and she works for the Opera. We went to a Persian/Turkish restaurant and had a delicious meal. After that, we went back to Laurel’s apartment, had some drinks, and caught up on what’s been going on in each other’s lives. Sarah had never met Laurel before, and they seemed to hit it off pretty well. Among other things, we simply had to try some carbonated wine in pink cans with straws that Laurel had found somewhere. This brilliant product was apparently created by Sofia Coppola.

A toast to the manliest drink of all time.

After being up probably far too late, we went to Michael’s apartment (which is within walking distance) to crash. We got up the next day and got some breakfast. Michael took us by the house he’s having built, and it’s obviously going to be very nice. It was cool to see it as a work in progress.

After we ate some breakfast, we headed toward South Mountains State Park for a hike. Sarah and I were a little underprepared, as we were expecting to do a fairly easy hike. Instead, we ended up hiking the Chestnut Knob trail, which ended up being the second-hardest hike on our entire trip. It’s not a terribly long hike, about two miles each way, but it’s steep most of the way and goes right up the side of the mountain. It didn’t help that it was very hot, in at least the mid-90s.

Also, Michael has always been one to walk fast, and they took off at quite an impressive pace. A little too impressive, as we didn’t feel we could sustain that pace, and prefer taking our time anyway. So, we slowed down and told them they could go ahead if they wanted to. They were cool about it, though, and slowed down to stick with us.

DSC_0143  DSC_0134
Me, on the way up / The trail had a lot of wooden steps

The first overlook on the trail

We reached one overlook and were probably halfway there at this point. Sarah wasn’t sure she could make it, but some encouraging words from me seemed to help a little bit. We got to what seemed to be the end of the trail, where there was supposed to be another overlook, but there wasn’t one. However, there was a hiker icon on a sign, so I figured we ought to continue on that section of trail. It went sharply down a rocky area for a ways, but we followed it to a rocky area you could climb out on for panoramic views. It was fantastic.

south mountains panorama1
Panoramic view from the overlook (worth viewing large)

Sarah and me
Never had I felt cooler than this, standing on a high rock, looking down on some other mountain ranges

Part of the trail on the way back

It was a fantastic hike — more strenuous than we expected, and we should have brought more water and other supplies. However, it was manageable once we slowed down. I was really glad that we got to go hiking with Michael and Laurel, as it was very different from how I had interacted with them back in college. It was also a good introduction to the hiking we’d do on the rest of the trip.

4. The Blue Ridge Parkway

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

After lunch on Friday, we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Almost immediately, we saw an overlook and stopped to check it out and take some photos. We were overwhelmed with what we saw, and that was just the beginning.

Blue Ridge Overlook VII

Us, along the Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway is not an efficient way to get anywhere, with a parkway-wide speed limit of 45 mph, and many sections where it’s not safe to go that fast because it’s a winding mountain road. But our friends in Charlotte had to work that day anyway, so we figured we’d take our time getting there. The section we were on had numerous tunnels, which were pretty cool. We saw a few cyclists, and I have to admit I was tempted to get the bike off the back of the car and start riding.

It was a very hot day, but we didn’t care. I was still in awe that I was in the presence of so much beauty. Then again, that’s a feeling I get every day with Sarah. The mountains were nice, too.

The Blue Ridge Parkway has overlooks very frequently, and we had to resist the temptation to stop at each and every one. Driving on it is almost like being immersed in a gigantic slideshow, passing overlooks on both sides. Looking back at our photos, they all seem to run together now, but when you’re there, the feeling is intoxicating, and each overlook takes on its own personality.

Blue Ridge Overlook V

Sarah along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Overlook VIII

Blue Ridge Overlook II

Blue Ridge Parkway - Sarah and car

At one overlook, I stood on the roof of the car (much to Sarah’s dismay) to get a better angle. You can see a photo of me on the car on Sarah’s blog.

I experimented with some infrared photography at some of the overlooks. Here are a few examples.

Infrared Blue Ridge III

Infrared Blue Ridge

Infrared Blue Ridge II

After a while, we stopped taking photos and mostly drove through. We played some Telefon Tel Aviv in the car, which is one of our favorite groups. They also happen to make incredibly gorgeous music, which was a perfect backdrop for the scenery.

We hadn’t had enough, but we had spent so much time gaping and taking photographs that if we needed to get moving. We ended up driving about 90 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and even that drive itself takes a long time.

Blue Ridge Panorama

2. First glimpse of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park; 3. Indian Tacos

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

On Friday morning, we woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel. They had a pretty decent selection of food — we ended up making some waffles using the waffle iron and eating some biscuits and gravy, and probably something else as well. It wasn’t stunning, but it was pretty good, and it was free.

We checked out of the Days Inn and noticed that there is a mountain view in front of the building. It was a decent place to stay, at a reasonable price ($60), at a good location. We’ll probably stay there again on future trips to the Smokies.

The Days Inn’s mountain view, complete with Wendy’s and Subway signs. Still, not bad …

We weren’t terribly far from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The directions I initially got had us driving along the edge of the park instead of through it, but I thought we might like to get a glimpse of the park before continuing on to Charlotte. Plus, we wanted to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which starts (or, more accurately, ends) in Cherokee, NC. You have to go through the park to get to Cherokee, so it made sense to do it this way.

To do this, we had to drive through Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is where a lot of people like to go for their Smokies vacations. It didn’t look at all appealing to me, with endless strip malls, hotels, and a vast array of tourist attractions, most of which had nothing to do with the mountains at all. I understand that what a lot of people want isn’t the same as what we wanted (to be close to nature and away from crap like that), but it still seemed weird to me that people go so close to so much beauty and spend their time in resorts or playing miniature golf and go-carting.

We stopped at the visitor’s center, primarily because Sarah was getting a little carsick. It was getting hot, and the air conditioning in our car doesn’t work, so the heat combined with the mountain roads was making her feel a bit sick. She felt better after a few minutes, and we continued on our way. I didn’t mind picking up a few maps and pamphlets anyway.

The drive through the Park on 441 was just awesome. I was tempted to pull off at each overlook and gape at how awesome the mountains were, but I knew if we did this, we would never reach Charlotte. Besides, we’d be back later in our trip. We decided not to stop at all during this trip through the park. It was also a very fun drive, as it’s a windy mountain road. I was a little concerned about how well the car would handle it, but we had no problems.

We listened to the Woven Hand album “Mosaic” while driving through the park. I thought the mood and atmosphere of it fit the scenery perfectly.

After driving through the park, we stopped in Cherokee, NC for lunch. We ended up eating at the “Riverside Cafe II.” Sarah had the flounder basket (which was not served in a basket), and I had an Indian Taco, which was described to me as a funnel cake (not sweet though) topped with chili, lettuce, tomato, and cheese. It wasn’t bad, but I have to wonder if it was approximating a specific Cherokee dish, and if so, what that dish really would’ve tasted like, because I’m sure this wasn’t it.

DSCF2206  DSCF2207
Riverside Cafe II / Indian Tacos

We also got some coffee at a local coffee shop (my photo didn’t turn out) and headed out toward the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Ear to the Breeze is proudly powered by WordPress
Entries (RSS) and Comments (RSS).