Tag Archives: Blue Ridge Parkway

On the Road Again

This will be a quick post. I can’t believe my husband managed to save some days off so we could do a little leaf-peeping this year. Our trip out West would have been well worth sacrificing the usual North Carolina Fall Color tour, but here we are, filling our hearts with even more beauty.

The View

The View


We are camping on our own little piece of land and admiring our own golden trees. Later, will will drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, our most familiar National Park. It might just be our favorite. It’s certainly the one we know best. I hope we get to know more and more National Parks in the years ahead, but I will always be grateful for this one. In Autumn, it feels like home.

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Breathing

I just returned from my trip to the mountains of Western North Carolina. We camped out on our land in our little blue teardrop trailer and we spent a lot of time with my sister and brother-in-law, who have an adorable cottage just over the ridge from our land. We could only escape from the Florida heat for about five days, but they were delightful days.

I think everyone in our party would agree that the best day was the one we spent on the Blue Ridge Parkway. My sister packed a picnic lunch in a real picnic basket. She actually made the bread for the sandwiches. There was even a checked tablecloth that used to belong to our mother. It was a perfect picnic and we went up to the Parkway to find a perfect place to enjoy it.

Our first stop was Mt. Mitchell. Mt. Mitchell is the tallest peak in the eastern United States and we never go to North Carolina without making the climb to the summit. A sign at the visitor center told us not to worry about the bugs, that they might look like ticks, but they were harmless weevils. We wondered if we would see any of these weevils, but we couldn’t miss them. The observation tower at the top of Mt. Mitchell was crawling with them. They were on the benches and on the railings and all over the signs that pointed out the various other mountains you can see from Mt. Mitchell.

Two weevils.  I don't know which is the lesser.

Two weevils. I don’t know which is the lesser.


Some days, all you can see from the top of Mt. Mitchell is fog, but this was not one of those days.
We could see forever.

We could see forever.


We spent some time admiring this view and then we went back to the Parkway and drove to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area, which was a perfectly beautiful spot for an outdoor meal. We found a table in the shade and enjoyed sandwiches, chips and fresh fruit. My sister brought hot water in a Thermos so we could have coffee and tea with our meal.
A Perfect Picnic

A Perfect Picnic


We lingered over lunch and then we put our picnic things in the car and headed for the trail to Craggy Flats. We had been to Craggy Flats before but we had always used the shorter trail from the visitor’s center. This trail was a bit more challenging, so we took our time and rested here and there along the way. The view at the top was definitely worth the hike.
Worth the Hike

Worth the Hike


We also enjoyed the long grass, the tiny wildflowers and the gnarled trees, which were so climbable even we older folks could not resist.
Tree

Tree


No, I did not do any painting while I was up there, but I sure did some wonderful breathing.

Beauty

I am on vacation and I should be able to give myself a special dispensation to skip this week’s blog post but, darn it, a commitment is a commitment. It’s Wednesday and I will post something. If anyone has been hoping I might write something short and sweet that won’t take long to read, this is your lucky week!

I brought my paints with me but I haven’t had a chance to spend time painting, which is a shame because Autumn in North Carolina is the one thing I most want to paint. I have done a couple of small drawings, just to keep my hand in. It’s amazing to me how doing even one small drawing opens up my mind and heart.

I look up from my sketchbook and everything is beautiful. Every single leaf, stone and weed makes my heart sing. Then we go out for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and see things like this:

The lower falls at Graveyard Fields

The lower falls at Graveyard Fields


Graveyard Fields

Graveyard Fields


It’s really going to be hard to return to flat Florida.

Healing Time

My husband and I had been planning for weeks to spend out fortieth wedding anniversary in North Carolina, but then he had a heart attack and we were afraid his doctor would not let him travel. We asked about it at his follow-up appointment in early June and were delighted when the doctor said it would be all right, as long as my husband was careful rebuilding his strength and didn’t try to do too much.

We had to rule out camping on our land, but we did not have to rule out North Carolina. We spent a few days, including our June fifteenth anniversary, at a hotel in Asheville. Then we spent two days at my sister’s cottage near Burnsville. Her cottage is just over the ridge from our land, so we were able to visit and check on our overgrown bench and fire pit. We also planted a new Japanese Iris, which we had bought at the tailgate market in Asheville.

The market was a feast for the eyes. I was wishing I could just set up an easel and paint for hours, right in the middle of it. There were buckets full of sunflowers.

Sunflowers

Sunflowers


There were baskets of colorful squash.
Squash

Squash


There were pies.
Pies

Pies


And there were irresistible irises.
Iris

Iris


We went straight from this market in Asheville to the smaller one in Burnsville and then we took our new iris to our land to plant it. It joined a red hot poker we planted last year and a Korean Lilac we planted a few years ago. We were pleased to see that the older plants had survived and were doing well. We spent some time relaxing on my sister’s front porch before we drove back to Asheville.
Getting Ready to Plant

Getting Ready to Plant


Relaxing With This View

Relaxing With This View


Asheville is lovely and we enjoyed our time there but we wouldn’t go all the way to North Carolina and not visit the Blue Ridge Parkway. One day, we went to Mt. Mitchell with my sister and her family. Another day, we went to Craggy Gardens. Mt. Mitchell is my husband’s favorite spot on (or near) the Parkway. Craggy Gardens is mine. On a normal trip, we would hike the trail to Craggy Pinnacle but my husband did not feel up to the climb, so we took the Craggy Flats trail instead. It’s less challenging but no less beautiful.
Craggy Flats

Craggy Flats


All of my favorite scenery is in Western North Carolina and I dream of spending long days in those mountains once I learn to paint landscapes. Those are the landscapes I most want to paint, but it’s hard to find time to paint on a six-day visit. We strolled the streets of Asheville, visiting boutiques and galleries and my husband’s favorite pub, The Thirsty Monk. We enjoyed delicious meals at restaurants like Katmandu Cafe and The Noodle Shop (helpful hint: if you go to Asheville, DO NOT waste your time eating at a chain restaurant. Choose a local restaurant. You won’t regret it). We scouted plant nurseries with my sister and played whist after dinner in her cottage.

It was a lovely, restful, healing vacation, but I was afraid I would not find time to paint at all. Then, on our last day in North Carolina, we bought an old-fashioned lilac. When we took it to our land to plant it, I took my acrylic paints. I was determined to paint something before I had to come back to Florida.

I painted our new iris.

Iris Painting

Iris Painting


I had to do it quickly – there was still supper and whist planned for the evening – so it’s a small, simple painting, but it sure made me happy to do it. I didn’t carry all my paints to North Carolina for no reason. I painted!

My Little Blue Teardrop Trailer

I’m having a busy week, but not a creative week. I’m preparing for a trip to the mountains. My husband and I own a small piece of property in North Carolina. We love our little hillside, but it has no improvements other than a driveway, so that means we’ll be camping. When this man agreed to spend a lifetime with me, I was a young woman who loved camping. I hate to be a party pooper now, but I am getting way too old to sleep on the ground. That’s why I’m delighted that my husband built a tiny teardrop trailer for us to sleep in.

We used to own a fairly large RV, but it was so big that we could hardly ever afford to take it anywhere. Even when we could afford the gas, there was no way either of us was going to drive it on those twisty mountain roads in North Carolina. Okay, there was no way I was going to drive it under any circumstances, but even my much braver husband was not going to drive it up there. We would travel light and bring a tent. I tried to be a good sport about it, but it was a lot of work and in October, it was way too cold, even on an air mattress in a down sleeping bag. I was chilled to the bone the last few times we took a tent to the Blue Ridge Parkway. When we got in the car to go sight-seeing, I would crank up the heat until my poor husband was sweating and I still did not feel warm. This led to expensive extra hotel nights. With Jacuzzis.

The teardrop was the perfect solution. We first saw them on a show called “RV Crazy” on HGTV and we immediately recognized their quirky owners as kindred spirits. My husband started lurking on a forum which provided guidance and step-by-step instructions for building a teardrop trailer. There were plans you could get for free and there was a whole community of helpful people who would answer questions. My husband bought a small metal utility trailer and got to work. He kept asking me how I wanted it to look and I kept saying the most important thing was that it had to be cute.

I think he nailed it.

Cute!

Cute!

I absolutely love this little trailer. The walls are insulated, so it’s toasty warm even when the only heat source is two human bodies in a small space. It has tiny cupboards over the bed inside for our personal things, and it has a whole galley in the back. My wonderful husband made all the shelves and drawers himself. He asked me to pick out the blue paint for the outside and then I made tie-dyed curtains to match.

Nice galley

Nice galley

We took it to the Blue Ridge Parkway before it even had all its cupboards and we just loved being up off the ground when we were camping. We started taking it to folk festivals, which was so much fun I ended up writing a yodeling song about it, and now that we have land in North Carolina, we take it there and make ourselves at home in it for a week. It has a sturdy RV battery that keeps the lights going when we’re boondocking and the galley holds all the tools we need for fixing meals and making coffee. Coffee is important. Ask anyone who’s seen me before I’ve had my first cup in the morning.

The RV was too big and the tent was too small. Our little blue teardrop trailer is just right.