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Incredible Day for a Drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Wandering in Western NC

Farewell to Fall

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48 degrees. Glittering golden leaves. Carolina Blue sky and a mountain view that doesn’t stop. 

We took an afternoon break from packing-up to head south, and enjoyed our last hike of the season, to The Cascades. A short 30-minute walk along a well-maintained trail leads to the beautiful falls located in E.B. Jeffress Park at mile marker 272 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, near Deep Gap.  You hear the it before you see it.  Falls Creek looks deceptively serene until you reach The Cascades which are roaring down a steep rock-face stretching as far down as you can see.  Eventually the water will meet the Atlantic Ocean at Winyah Bay, SC.

Of note:  The 600 acre E.B. Jeffress Park has picnic and bathroom facilities at The Cascades parking area.  Markers with information about the trees and foliage are placed all along the trail; unfortunately about 75% of the descriptive plaques are missing.

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Hiking Along the Blue Ridge Parkway

Sims Pond.

Sims Pond.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a hikers paradise.  With more than 70 trails along the North Carolina portion of the Parkway, you can find something for every level and interest, from easy to strenuous.

Close to Blowing Rock, near Parkway Craft Center at Moses Cone Manor is the Julian Price Memorial Park featuring a beautiful lake and lovely picnic grounds. BTW, you can rent canoes and row boats by the hour at the boat ramp on Price Lake.  Just a few yards from Price Lake you will find Sims Pond (milepost 295.9) and a nice hike with a variety of scenic pleasures.

Officially the Green Knob Trail, this trek is also referred to as the Sims Pond Trail.  The well-cut, 2.4 miles loop trail takes hikers 500′ up through dense forests with ancient soaring trees, across pretty little streams, over massive logs, under the Parkway (at .06 miles), across pastures complete with perfectly proportioned apple trees and resident cows, to fields of wildflowers and butterflies.

There are a few strategically placed benches along the way to relax (or rest) and take in the sights, sells and sounds of nature at its best.  The most strenuous part is about a 20-minute section up to the pastures, where you are steadily climbing.   Generally, a moderate hike, the trip takes anywhere from 50 to 90 minutes, depending on how fast you hike and if you take a break to enjoy the experience.

Simply put, the Green Knob Trail has something for everyone.

For info on trails along the Parkway, visit:  www.blueridgeparkway.org/

 

Rubus idaeus - wild raspberries.  Can the bears be far behind?

Rubus idaeus – wild raspberries. Can the bears be far behind?

 

Whenever we emerged from the woods, beautiful Thistle were abundantly in bloom.

Whenever we emerged from the woods, beautiful Thistle were abundantly in bloom.

Canopy along the Sims Pond trail.

Canopy along the Green Knob trail.

Views from the Top of the World

Upstairs at the Cone Manor

View from upstairs at the Cone Manor.

View from upstairs at the Cone Manor.

Many visitors to the NC High Country have stopped on the Blue Ridge Parkway (milepost 294) to see the lovely Cone Manor. Left to the state by Moses Cone, the home and estate include orchards, lakes and carriage trails.

Mr. Cone was known as “The Denim King” and he and his family were generous to their neighbors and employees. Having no children, he continued his generous legacy and left the property to the state for public use upon his wife’s death.

Today, the home is one of two Parkway Craft Centers (the other is outside Asheville) and is filled with a wide variety of beautiful hand-crafted items. Weekends feature demonstrations by local artisans. The grounds offer several public trails, as well as carriage trails for horseback riding (you can see the local horse trailers along the Parkway on weekends).

But the little-known treat is the upstairs tour run by the National Park Service on weekends from June-mid-October. Park Rangers conduct the tours and explain the colorful history of Moses and Bertha Cone as well as the Cone sisters. It’s a perfect activity for any history or art buff.

Tours times are Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3 p.m. Groups are kept small and reservations are required. To reserve, call the National Park Service Information Desk at the Manor House: 828.295.3782.

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