Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blue Ridge Mountains

We spent a weekend in the Blue Ridge Mountains, going for hikes and enjoying the beautiful surroundings and cooler temperatures (70s!). Now I'm stunned by the 100-degree heat, having lost my heat tolerance while away. I am indulging fantasies of moving there. Here is the view from the front porch of our B&B in Valle Crucis, NC.

The first day we hiked on Grandfather Mountain, starting at Mile 302.8 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. I was enchanted with the lush forest from the start of the walk.  

Ten-to-fifteen foot high rhododendrons, in full bloom, bordered much of the path until we got to higher elevations. Unfortunately, the rhodies with their pinkish-white blooms are difficult to photograph with a point-and-shoot camera. But the effect was magical.

I later learned that the rhododendrons are Rhododendron maximum, a variety that alternates a growth year with a bloom year. I am grateful that we got to experience them in bloom - an unexpected treat.

Here is a tree with a will to live. 

The trail was narrow but well-maintained. It's part of the Tanawha Trail. The hike we did was recommended by the Appalachian Treks blog, a random Internet find with great information about (and lovely photos of) different hikes. 

We come to the first of two overlooks. Can you see why the mountains are known as the Blue Ridge? Although the view is stunning, there is nothing stark about it, as the mountains are clothed in forests. Even the high ledges, known as heath balds, are green with azaleas and blueberry bushes growing in crevices. 

The light breaking through the clouds creates lovely patchwork effects. 

A view toward the Linn Cove viaduct.

Coming down from the ridge, we soon came to the most magical meadow I have ever seen. It was an opening on a sloping mountainside filled with wild phlox, bee balm and a few yellow composites. 

Michaux's saxifrage grows in a crevice.

On our way back, clouds were blowing across the rocks high on the mountain.

A hiker sits and looks down into a valley hidden by clouds. 

Valle Crucis has a lovely community park where we walked in the evenings. It has views of mountains in every direction. Here, we look across farmland to the high hills. 

The Watauga River runs through Valle Crucis. We waded into the cool waters. The river used to be known for its pristine water. But a controversial shopping mall built at the headwaters of the river resulted in silt overflows into the river for 20 miles downstream. The water still looks clear by the standards of the rivers and creeks I frequent. 

This is the largest sycamore tree I've ever seen. 

Another view from upper Valle Crucis. 

View from the Beacon Heights overlook. We sat here for awhile to absorb it. Mountaintops make me feel small, in a good way. I get the sense of being part of something much greater. 

This is the glorious, loud, rushing falls at Crab Orchard Creek. I sat here and tried to let the sound of the water carry me away ... 

I'm already wondering when I can get back to the Blue Ridge Mountains.


FlowerLady said...

What a beautiful place to be. We were in NC 5 years ago and fell in love with the area.

Thanks for sharing your lovely hike.


Bridget said...

How beautiful. We need to visit places like this to reconnect with nature. Lovely pics.

Donna said...

What an absolutely gorgeous and spiritual that meadow and those mountains..I have friends who were venturing around the Blue Ridge this week...will have to see where they explored...

pumpkydine said...

Nice set of pics of a very beautiful area. Did you go by the Mast General Store in Valle Crucis?
I keep Boone, N.C., on my daily weather check just so I can be reminded that cooler temperatures do exist. Ha Ha!

Sheila said...

Flower Lady, it was so beautiful I felt like a little kid again. Glad you enjoyed the virtual hike!

Bridget, I recently picked up a bumper sticker that says, "Your soul needs the wild." So true. I am grateful that the U.S. government had the foresight to set aside this area for conservation, but also make it accessible for people to appreciate ...

Donna, it was a spiritual experience. I keep returning there in my mind ...

Pumpkydine, we were staying just down the road from the Mast General Store and had the intention of going in there - we drove past in many times - but somehow never did. I heard it's like a trip back in time ... Guess we'll just have to plan another visit!

Mike said...

Your photos are absolutely gorgeous! I would like to use the Hummingbird photo and/or the wildflowers photo in my slide show.
see www.EarthCitizenCenter.Org
Please email me at President@EarthCitizenCenter.Org
Thank you.