Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Blue Ridge Road Trip (Pt. 1)

The third weekend in July is always family reunion time on my mom's side of the family. Every third Sunday in July, the Patteson Clan gather for fun, food, and reminiscing at Glenwood Park in Princeton, WV. Seeing how Dinah was new to the family, and all my aunts absolutely love to see her we decided we would go to the reunion this year. As an added bonus, I thought it would be fun if on the way back home we spent a couple days driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The four of us (Tim, Robin, Ashby, and Dinah) as a family doing a mini version of the vacations Robin took as a kid with her family.

Once the reunion was over, or rather close to the time people were starting to leave, we loaded back up into our SUV and we were Blue Ridge bound. We had made arrangements to stay over night at the Allegheny Inn in Sparta, NC shortly after making it to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We got all checked in and hung out for a little bit before going out in search of food. The Allegheny Inn was a wonderful motel, located in the heart of the quaint downtown of Sparta, North Carolina and only 15 minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway, where we would begin our adventure on the next day. Unfortunately, our adventure wouldn't begin without some sort of hiccup.

Upon setting out to find something to eat for supper, none of us had any hankerings for anything really. We ended up going for Mexican at a local Mexican restaurant a few minutes up the road from the motel. The food was decent or at least we thought at the time we were eating it. Apparently over the course of the night, each one of us had some major issues with our bellies, ceptin' Dinah. Let's just say breakfast was a far off thought in our minds and the only thing we could possibly think about consuming was some coffee, which we procured from a local coffee shop on the main drag (Backwoods Bean Coffee Shop). We all had white chocolate mochas which put Starbucks to shame by the way. There's just something about independent coffee shop coffee as compared to giant fast food type coffee shop chains.

Upon getting our coffees we made our way back to the Blue Ridge Parkway slowly working our way to our next overnight destination at the Hidden Valley Motel in Boone, NC. We stopped at Cumberland Knob and drove around the picnic area. We eventually got out and walked about for a few minutes checking the place out. Robin had found a gorgeous view behind the comfort station that we all had to check out. There is a nice nature trail around this area. Considering Dinah was asleep in the car and we were on a relatively loose time line we decided to mozie our way on down the parkway some more.

We made a few stops at different overlooks taking in the beautiful scenery. We eventually arrived at the Brinegar Cabin and Doughton Park. We spent a good bit of time at both the cabin and the park learning about spinning at the cabin, checking out and deciding that Doughton Park would be a great place to revisit and camp. We also decided this would be a great place to come and do some major hiking as there are plenty hiking trails in the area including sections of the Mountain-To-Sea Trail (which I've decided to add the Blue Ridge section to my long hiking trail bucket list, I might possibly add the whole thing if they ever get it completed. :P).

Once we were done in the Doughton Park area, we decided that if we were going to make it to Boone and have enough time to visit The Blowing Rock, we'd better get a move on. So once out of the Doughton Park area, we cruised our way at 45mph down the Blue Ridge making our way to Boone but not before making another tourist stop at the NorthWest Trading Post where we bought more souvenirs. We got to Boone, NC and were checked in to our wonderful lodgings (The Hidden Valley Motel) with plenty of time to spare. Once the SUV was unpacked we loaded ourselves back into the vehicle and set our sails for Blowing Rock to do some sight seeing. The last time we had made it to The Blowing Rock (I suppose Kiddo was maybe 7 or 8) we were too late to actually see it but spent a little time in the town of Blowing Rock walking around and wondering how anyone could afford to live there?

This time we had plenty of time to enjoy the attraction itself, a huge rock cliff at 4,000ft where the rock walls form a flume for the northwest winds to shoot up the mountain side. The legend of The Blowing Rock is that and Indian Prince from one tribe had fell in love with an Indian Princess from another tribe. At one point the prince was wrought with the decision of leaving his love to go help his troubled tribe or to stay with his love. Being so torn between the two, he flung himself off the rock in the presence of his love. After days of praying, the indian princess was once again in the presence of her love as The Great Spirit returned her lover to her arms with a great gust of wind . Needless to say, they lived happily ever after.

While none of us tried to prove this as a possibility, we did climb the rock and get our hair tossed about by the wind. We also took our time exploring the rest of the attraction, except for the nature trail, which really isn't all that long, but considering there were stairs and we had Dinah in her stroller for most of the time there, we decided not to walk it. Instead we took a little time admiring the gardens and buying souvenirs in the gift shop.

After this we went out searching for supper for what seemed like forever, trying to decide on a place that wasn't overly expensive, wasn't jam packed crowded, and would be well suited to our bellies liking. We finally decided on a nice dinner at Applebees followed by dessert at The Marble Slab. It was a great ending to a great first day on the Parkway. We headed back to our room and started to settle in for the night, but only after Robin got some dusk time shots of the gardens at the motel. They are indeed beautiful.

Stay tuned for Day 2 where we head to Grandfather Mountain and have lunch at the Mt. Mitchell State Park Restaurant before heading home.

Happy Trails,
Tim and Robin

Here are couple more pics from Day 1.