A journey of a lifetime starts with a single step

All great quests start when a group of characters come together to answer the call to adventure. The lord of the rings had Frodo, Gandalf and Bilbo Baggins The Characters in our great quest included myself, a wonderful longtime friend and adventuresome hiker Emily And Savannah or van for short a fierce Protector, amazing navigator and over all one of the best hiking dogs I have ever met.

And of course the leader of the pack SOX!

Ours started with a simple text from Emily suggesting we camp next weekend somewhere there is fall color after maybe somewhere near Grandfather mountain I little research and we came up with.

The Tanawha Trail

The Tanawha Trail, stretching 13.5 miles (21.7 km) from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway on Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina, in the United States. Tanawha, the Cherokee word for fabulous hawk or eagle is an appropriate name for this trail that offers hikers views of distant mountains. Completed in 1993, the Tanawha Trail, like the final section of the Parkway it mirrors, is unique in construction. The trail traverses a fragile and ancient ecosystem and leads hikers through a surprising range of biological and geological terrains. Some sections tunnel through thickets of laurel and rhododendron. Others dip down into remote hardwood coves and then ascend into evergreen glens. Boulder fields and cascading streams punctuate the landscape

So it begins

Emily had an prior commitment that would not allow us to leave till 4:00pm Saturday afternoon. That would barely allow us time to get started before dark. But we did not factor in how bad the traffic jam would be around Linville viaduct . Or the fact that we did not have the greatest understanding of where the trailhead was, the map showed it in the Price lake campground. After circling the campground a few times looking for a trail head or a campground host. We spotted a park ranger, I blew my horn to get his attention. He ended up being a super helpful. He had us follow him to a place we could park, gave us directions, even pointed out water sources. We had to start our hike on the Boone fork trail so it was way past dark when we arrived at the Tanawha trail.

Night hiking

And in the beginning

I have always found night hikes to be special but it rare for me to find someone to willing to venture into the darkness. Even I am afraid when alone but with Emily, Van, Sox and myself as a team we were emboldened. We were able to truly enjoy the night and the mysteries of the dark. As we walked through the forest we could see the vague the silhouette of the trees that surrounded us dancing in the breeze around us. It was a pleasant walk thru the woods.

Heaven on earth

Till we came to a road crossing. On the other side was a cattle gate, that led us to amazing pastures. Over one hill and down another almost two miles of rolling pastures overhead on a moonless, new moon night. The milky way extended from one horizon to the next. On top of one of the hills we took off our packs of and reclined in the grass enjoying the heavens. Mars shining brightly along with Jupiter and his constant companion Saturn. We lay there in awe as shooting stars whizzed by, we wondered where all the people in the planes were headed and just how big this vastness was? Part of us wished we could stay there all night but we had a few more miles planned so we reluctantly carried on.

Some of the amazing night hike

At one point Emily pointed out that animal eyes were watching us, sure enough the reflection of two sets of eyes about fifty foot away from us were silently watching us. We could not see what it was but as we walked on we came to a edge of another pasture so we think it was deer

The terrain got much rougher after this, we were headed up the mountain now. We made a little over three miles, we were getting tired, it was getting steeper, rockier, it was getting late. We began to look for camp sites

Still a ways to go

This when we noticed that there were no campsites. We kept hiking, we went another mile and no sign of a campsite. Fatigue was setting in, we were exhausted. We started looking for any level place that even remotely looked like it would accommodate our tent. We even considered putting the tent on trail, after all we had not seen anyone else on the trail. We pressed on, we finally found a dry stream bed that was level and we could move a few rocks for a smooth spot. and no rain was in the forecast. It ended up being a perfect spot Emily made supper while I set the tent up and we made camp . I was very thankful for a three inch thick air mattress even if it was added weight. My knee kept we awake for a bit but overall a very restful night.

A warm light illuminated the tent and we witnessed a birth of a new day


It was quite chilly but to our pleasant surprise it had not gotten has cold as expected. We bundled up in our sleeping bags with a cup of hot chocolate outside to continue watching the rest of the morning miracle. As the universe but on a light show beyond compare, the reds, mauves and purples danced and swirled, the life giving ball broke the horizon and a new day was born.

Breakfast is served

On most backpacking trips my breakfast consists of oatmeal or a freeze dried meal. But I have fall bucket list that include bacon on a fire amongst the pine trees. So no skimping this morning! We had fresh eggs and bacon for break fast! Oh wow! It will be hard to go back to oatmeal. The eggs over easy came out spot on, just the smell of the bacon aroused any living thing for miles.

Breakfast is almost done!

I wish I had gotten a better photo of our campsite as it was not to bad. (While writing this article I discovered we were not really supposed to be camping on this trail) This was why we had such a hard time finding a suitable spot. As we were packing up another backpacker came by, His name was Matt he was from Arden and had Hiked the AT three times the PCT once and several more trails and he told us several interesting story’s. The only other people we met that were backpacking were an older couple that was section hiking the mountain to sea trail (Most of this trail was also the mountains to sea trail) The rest were day hikers.

Time to go

The knees were fresh and the hiking was extraordinary! We went through various woodland forests. Seen many beautiful waterfalls and creeks, crossed several bridges. Emily has a remarkable background in horticulture so we able to discuss and share all about the different flora and fauna in the area. The amount of knowledge she has about plants never ceases to amaze me!

The trail up to Rough Ridge Board walk was a different world. All of the sudden they were hundreds of tourist’s going up and down the mountain passing each other in a hurried frenzy. We found a side trail, lightly hid our packs and went down away from the crowd for a bit. We found a massive rock with the perfect view. Took a long break here so we would not have to stay long with the crowd at the top

Back on the trail. Yes, the top was as hectic and nerve-racking as we thought but it was beautiful! As we tried passing one large group on some treacherous terrain Emily ended up falling, not enough to be badly hurt but enough to where were ready to get away from all these people. We did eventually get away from the crowds and found a perfect rock, for the prefect picnic, on a perfect day. Fresh mozzarella, humus, avocado, radish’s pita bread. Did I say how perfect this was!!!!

After lunch we had some more great hiking and seen unworldly rock formations that we wondered if the native Americans before us considered to be spiritually significant? I know we did! Even though we were running out of time, for we had to meet our ride back to the car. we took one more good break on this magnificent rock just to give it the resect it deserved

All good things must come to a end and this one was bittersweet I would have loved to continue to experience more of this beautiful place and continued on to Beacon heights but my body was screaming NO! My knee did not love me, my back hurt, my shoulders hurt, I hurt Our ride Richard, had hiked in a little bit and met us . I had along sore ride home in front of me but I had to make one more stop.

I do not think you could squeeze any more epicness into a overnight adventure. But just as lord of the rings left openings for a sequel this adventure maybe ending but as this sun sets the seeds for more more experience’s have been planted.

Blueridge parkway

They were calling for a rainy weekend and monday also. I took monday of just so I could enjoy a rainy day on the parkway. I was not disappointed the colors were at their peak and were fully saturated in the overcast sky. The fog was there at times but for the most part perfect conditions. The Blueridge parkway in North Carolina is one of the most beautiful places to take a fall drive!

Linnville gorge fall trip

I had plans to go to Black Balsam. It was so packed they were parking on the parkway and walking up. So my great idea was to drive 100 miles north on the parkway and go to Linville gorge. Turned out to be a wonderful idea. It was beautiful up there! Crank the music up, open the sunroof, and become one with the road. Certain areas were definitely beginning to show color, unfortunately, some of the best colors were in the watershed area and you are not allowed to stop. The sun bleached out a lot of the color but every now and then a cloud would pass and all of the leaves would release all of the energy from the sun and just glow! When I got off the parkway, instead of waiting for camp food I stopped by mountain crossing for a burger, They also had a small bar where I could grab a beer while I waited for my burger after being on the road all day that beer hit the spot. Nice little setup they had there with very friendly people! Got to Linville there was one parking space left for me. I had thought about camping in the car so so no need to set up camp I headed up the mountain to take photos of the sunset. I walked past some amazing campsites it did not seem to be crowded up here at all. The cars must have been day hikers. So I changed my mind turned around went back to the car got a backpack and went back up. I started to set the tent up. where the heck is my tent poles? CRAP, CRAP, CRAP No tent camping. I carried the pack back down to the car and went on for the sunset. The sheer beauty of the place quickly took my mind off tent poles. Besides my car would prove to be a very warm, comfortable night’s sleep. The next day I took off on an epic hike along the Carolina wall. It has been quite a few years the last time I went on this particular trail, it involved a lot of bushwacking. The trail was hidden but when found, it seemed like it had used it recently. Turned out to be one of the best hikes I have had in quite a while. I almost took the interstate back but the allure of the parkway and the resplendent views won me over. So almost 100 miles back..

Dive bars

Let me rephrase my thoughts on this bar. Sort of tucked in on the long-forgotten side of town where industry once ruled. From the unpretentious exterior to when you open the door and cross the threshold it is like stepping back in time. Raw wood walls with a patina from a multitude of celebrations adorned with various framed newspaper clipping and plaques of little league sports teams that were sponsored in the ’70s and ’80s. Old fashioned pool hall lights dimly light the place. A smell lingers in the air that you can only describe as an old bar smell, beer, burgers, and sweat. I pull up to an old cracked vinyl bar stool the bartender calls out “what are yea drinking?” my reply “whatever IPA you have on tap” was met with a quick “what regular beer in a can?” “Yuengling please” he smiles “That I can do” I was sitting right in front of the grill where I saw some of the biggest burgers I have ever witnessed being made. I saw one double cheeseburger with bacon that would feed a family of four for a week. Wiping my drool off the bar I ordered a Redneck Ruben made with turkey instead. Oh my, it was delicious!! A barmaid would pick up my beer ever two minutes. It never had a chance to sit empty. The guy next to me struck up a conversation we talked about his time the in Iraq with the military and how as bad as the war was how it turned his life around, carp fishing and the North Carolina mountains I nibbled on homemade chips and drunk cold beer as I listened to his story’s I sort of hated to leave but I must be getting home. Cute barmaid’s, amazing food, cold beer, and good people. Some may call it a dive bar but sure feels like home sometimes.

Haunted corn maze

Wow! We had so much fun! We scared each other but we promised Sherri that none of the actor’s came inside of the maze. Apparently we lied.We were attacked by angry chainsaw wielding, wrong turn children of the corn! We were so lost in the corn maze we ran out of time. We did not get the haunted hay ride. Next year maybe.

Mike, Sherri, Jerry, Ali
Such cobbs
At Bearwater brewing before to haunted maze

Dinner on top of the world

 I had packed a picnic to go up on the parkway. With plenty of time, I decided to go on a hike first. After driving past mount Pisgah I ended up going up to the frying pan fire tower A short 1.5-mile round trip hike.   The United States Forest Service built the 70-ft. tall tower in 1941 as a lookout for fires. It is the tallest USFS lookout tower in Western North Carolina, and it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. As I got near the peak I could hear voices from the top of the platform. But this could not be, as every time I have come up here you could climb the five flights of steps to the bottom of the platform and get an amazing view but the door to the top of the platform has been locked shut.  Today was different, for the first time in my life the door to the top was open. And I pushed the door open with a loud clanging of metal and made my way onto the platform for the first time in my life. It was just as Moses had proclaimed on top of Pisgah behold the land of milk and honey.  360 degrees of milk and honey!  The wind rushed through my hair bird were flying below me I was above the birds! I knew this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity but I had to have my picnic inside his room on top of the platform it was 4 walls of multi-pane windows about 10 by 10 It was a pretty steep climb back off that mountain but I hiked back down got my picnic supply and went back up. On the inside of the fire tower, I spread out a picnic blanket, Got Sox sat up.  Sox is my traveling monkey companion. Made me a gin and tonic relaxed and read a chapter in my book as the sun dropped lower and lower. 

Time to eat

Till around 6 pm when I got out my backpacking stove and heated up southern style corn, then toasted a bun before frying up some of the best crab cakes I have ever had the opportunity to enjoy.

I watched as the western sky seemed to catch fire and soon the room glowed with the golden light of an of a thousand Spanish mysteries.

People had shown up for the sunset but they all stayed out on the deck some brave souls even ventured up on the roof.

They were in a different time dimension than me however, my time was frozen. Yet they were still moving?

It ended up being one of the most extraordinary moments ever.  Even the walk off the mountain under a moonless night with the billions of stars from the milky-way creating there own surreal glow and with a soundtrack provided by the late summer katydids Another evening I wish to remember forever