Nov 3, 2008
|The highest point east of the Mississippi - Monday, November 3
We are sad to see the campgrounds closing today, but we know we’ll be back again in the spring. This campground is on a lake so we decided to take a walk around it before leaving. Of all the things we do when we travel, these walks are often the most memorable events of the trip.
The loop was a hike of 2.3 miles and there was a nice trail that followed the shore. At the upper end of the lake beavers have dammed the inlet, creating a swamp that extends far up the ravine. Getting across it was tricky but we made it. I’d give anything to actually see a beaver in the wild, but all we ever see is the evidence of their nightly raids on the forest.
We left the campground and headed south, stopping at several overlooks and finally getting a good look at the mountain peak they call The Grandfather. The sides of this one are very steep, and the state has built a remarkable viaduct around it’s face. A few miles past it there is a place where you can park and hike up to a flat rock formation and see it from the backside. It’s an interesting sight and another nice hike.
Our next stop was at Linville Falls, an accessible waterfall on the Linville River. You park at a Visitor Center and then it’s a hike of either a mile, a mile and a half or a mile and three quarters, depending on how far you want to go to see a moderately interesting piece of white water. We were tired from the hikes yesterday and earlier today, so we opted for the mile version.
Today is the day they close all the campgrounds and Visitor Centers, and like the others the Linville Falls Visitor Center was closed too. The problem is they also close the restrooms, and if you’re not going to close the whole place including the falls, it is a really bad idea to close the restrooms when you still have a lot of people coming to see the falls! There were people of all ages heading for the bushes, and that was really more interesting than the falls which are low and slow this time of year.
Our next destination on the Parkway was Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. Mount Mitchell has a state park of it’s own and it is not actually on the parkway, but you get to it from the parkway and then it is another five miles from the turnoff to the summit. We really wanted to go there but there’s a problem here too - the parkway is closed just beyond the turnoff, and the detour around the closed part is 25 miles back down the road.
We decided an extra fifty miles out of our way was a cheap price to pay for seeing the highest peak east of the Mississippi, so off we went. We drove to the end of the Parkway and turned off on the State Park Road. The drive was not bad, steep in some places and winding in others, but seldom steep and winding in the same place. We were seeing snow on the side of the road, and when the road got wet you had to hope it was water on the pavement and not ice.
We made it OK and we took some pictures and looked at the signs before getting back in the RV and heading down again. With the wind chill somewhere around zero, and with 60 miles to go to the campground and only an hour and a half left before dark, it was time to get off the mountain! There was a shortcut to the detour on Highway 80, but the many signs kept insisting that Highway 80 is 'Not Recommended for RV’s!'
If a road is really dangerous they will usually prohibit you from going there, and the ‘Not Recommended’ usually applies more to big rigs and people not used to mountain driving. We probably could have made it OK, but for once we decided to be sensible and not tempt fate. When we saw the steepness of the road they did recommend we were very glad we didn’t try the other one. It had a runaway truck ramp and the signs kept warning that the road gets worse below the truck ramp. It didn’t really, but it was bad enough that we were glad when we got to the bottom.
We found a nice KOA campground in Asheville and we booked a two night stay so we could get caught up on this journal and have CATV to watch the election coverage. We are on a river, the temperature is not supposed to get down to freezing for a few nights, Obama is ahead in the polls and life is good.