Friday, July 27, 2007

More Photos of the One & Only
John Deere Room
for Drew & Nick
Kind of hard to tell, but this is a clock.

Hope you enjoyed the tour!
Available only at the Stony Creek Motel
Maggie Valley, NC :)

The John Deere Room
at the Stony Creek Motel
This post and the next are for my niece's little boys. They are huge John Deere fans and I know they would love the room we stayed in when we visited Maggie Valley. I took photos of some of the decorations just so they can see.

For Drew & Nick!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Cherokee, NC, and Back to Maggie Valley
After our adventurous trip through the mountains, we found ourselves dumped on a road with no directions on how to get to the promised destination of Cherokee, NC. We ended up going in circles until we stopped to ask for directions. Pretty poor planning on someone's part to just end the trail without providing a way back to town. But, eventually we found our way. We finally found Mingus Mill Falls, too, but we hadn't eaten lunch, so it wasn't a good time to stop. It is nowhere near where the map shows it - we'd never have found it if we hadn't been lost! Maybe next time we visit the area we will finally get to see the falls!

Coming through Cherokee, we passed this incredible carved Indian.

We also found Roland's Diner. Looks like a place Grandpa Stephens would have loved!

On our way back to Maggie Valley, we stopped at the Mountaineer Restaurant for a very late lunch and had the place to ourselves. They were playing album cuts from the 60's and 70's on the radio. Just our kind of place!

Fantastic view from our lunch table!

This little beggar didn't eat much, but he was pretty cute! :)
After lunch, we did a little shopping in Maggie Valley, then went back to the motel - just before the rain returned!

We had a great last day. This week flew by. We have had a wonderful time. This side of the Smokies is really enjoyable - not nearly as crowded. We haven't had to wait in lines at restaurants. There's no bumper-to-bumper traffic in the mountains. It has been heavenly. This one is definitely a do-over. Someday!

Tomorrow, we head for home - via the scenic route through Gatlinburg.

More of Our Fantastic Side Trip!
As I said yesterday, rhododendrons are still in bloom in the higher mountains! Weird to see at this time of the year.
The flowers were too pretty to pass up!
More of the ever-present butterflies! They are everywhere and so beautiful!
As we got to the bottom, we caught up with the creek. The streams in the mountains are always so pretty!
Leaving the one-way road to drive a two-way road that looked as narrow and unimproved as the one-way road! On our way to Cherokee - again!

Fantastic Side Trip!
It will take a couple posts to get tell about the side trip we took. I couldn't believe Gary offered to do this, but we drove 14 miles of narrow, winding, unimproved road - as it says above - through the Smokies. It was fantastic! We saw the mountains as only the hikers see the mountains - without hiking.

The wildflowers were spectacular! Unfortunately, I'm not a very good photographer, so you will just have to take my word that they were gorgeous - and so abundant!
About 1/3 of the way, there was an overlook. Shortly after this picture, the rains came. It was only raining at the top of the mountain. As we came back down, the rains cleared off and the sun came back out!
This is the view from the overlook heading back down the road. Hard to tell from the photo, but the left side of the road literally disappears just to the left of those trees. It is quite a drop-off!

Wandering Through the Smokies We found ourselves leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway and entering the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
Goofy, huh?
We found a rustic camping area at an elevation of about 5300 feet. Right after we read the sign above, we heard a toilet flush. Gary jumped - for a brief moment, he thought it was a bear growling! Nice to know I'm not the only one who makes mistakes like that! Good for a laugh!

Yes, the Sun Does Shine! Hard to distinguish from yesterday's pictures, but believe me, the sun was shining in the mountains this morning! This is a repeat of the picture I took yesterday from the Plott Balsam lookout. Fluffy clouds and blue sky! Beautiful! A little history lesson!
We took a detour down a road we'd not yet traveled. Found the mile high overlook. Breathtaking views - although, the photo does not do it justice! Hard to believe we are 1 mile up!
The sign explaining the overlook was in for repairs! Never heard of such a thing.
I hope Gary doesn't catch an updraft standing there with his arms out! You could fly quite a distance when you start from a mile up, don't you suppose?

July 2007
Still More Vacation
Just wanted to show that, yes, the sun does shine in Maggie Valley! I was beginning to wonder! But, we woke up this morning to a brilliant, sunshiny day. So, we took advantage of the weather and walked about 1.5 miles up the road and back - stopping to do a little souvenir shopping and sightseeing.
This is another view of the creative landscaping in front of our motel - an outhouse and a still (and Gary - he is not part of the decorations!).

This is elk country. There are several different bronze elk statues along the main road. They are all anatomically correct - Gary is pointing to that fact in the upper photo! I tried to be discreet when I photographed them! Anyway, elk were released in the Cataloochee Valley in 2001 - probably about the time they were released in Eastern Kentucky. On Monday, we headed to the valley where they are living, but as the road went from marked, to unmarked, to narrow unmarked, to gravel, Gary was sure I was mistaken about the location and turned around (when we were really half way there) and headed back down the mountain. Even after I showed him the map that clearly states that the road becomes packed gravel, he refused to go back. So, I never really saw a real live elk, but I have seen plenty of statuesque elk in town!On our return from our walk . . . .

After the walk, we decided to head back out the Blue Ridge Parkway to see what some of yesterdays sights look like in the sunshine. See next post!

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

More Vacation, July 2007The photos don't show it, but the clouds are hanging so low! It is really pretty to see!
I was so impressed, I took several shots from the front of the motel.
Again. :)
Guess who? Standing in the sprinkles for a photo op!
The sky opened up on our way to Waynesville - in search of a bookstore. Unfortunately, people must not read around here - the stores have very limited book sections and bookstores seem to be nonexistent!
We shopped in the driving rain and headed back to Maggie Valley to eat sandwiches in our room - since we'd had a very filling late lunch.
The peaceful stream outside our room is no longer peaceful. It is muddy, over its banks and a little frightening - at least if you were standing too close. From the balcony, it is just fascinating to watch!
Maybe the rain will quit tomorrow. Regardless, we will find something to do on our last day!

More July 2007 Vacation We started off this morning in search of the elusive Mingus Mill waterfall. We rode to Cherokee via the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped at the Plott Balsams overlook because the clouds hanging in the mountains looked so beautiful!
Thought you'd like to know our current elevation. :)
We stopped at the Oconoluftee Visitors Center and found rhododendron still in bloom. This gives you an idea of how cool and wet it is here! Still springlike - or more fall-like, I think! We have been having trouble finding sunshine - we found some today, but the closer we got to Maggie Valley, the more threatening it got and it has done nothing but rain since we returned. Oh well. Still beautiful and peaceful!
We never did find Mingus Mill - it is on the map, but nowhere to be found. So, we took Hwy. 19 to Bryson, NC, and from there to Fontana Lake - just to look around. After that, we took 23/74 (the Smoky Mountain Expressway) to Waynesville. We actually saw the sunshine at the Balsam Visitors Center - then got back in the truck and rode into the rain.

When we got back to Maggie Valley, we stopped for a late lunch/early supper at Butts on the Creek. We ate on a screened-in porch with a view of the stream - very nice and you can't beat North Carolina barbecue. Haven't tasted that since we ate at Smithfields on our trip to Topsail two years ago. Mmmmmm!
Between rain showers, I got a picture of Gary in front of our motel. Our room is the second from the right on the top floor (the famous John Deere room). We took some time to read (or compute, in my case) before we headed out again. More later . . . .

July 2007
More Vacation

Yesterday, we took what the local tour information calls a "roundabout," which essentially is a trip that makes a big circle. Creative, huh? Well, we took a ride north on state route 209, stopping in the Rocky Bluff Recreation Area of the Pisgah National Forest for a picnic. We were also going to walk a trail, but the less adventurous half of our couple decided that since the trail was not paved or at least graveled, he didn't want to get lost. (One of us would have braved the wild unknown of a marked trail anyway, but such is life.) We rode on 209 as far as Hot Springs, an area in the 1800's that had a "reputation of debauchery, drunkenness, murder and prostitution." No evidence of that now - it appears to be a quaint camping and fishing community on the French Broad River. That's me standing on the bridge while Gary is standing in the middle of the road taking the picture. Guess he is more adventurous than I thought!

Leaving Hot Springs, we turned on to US 25/70, where we crossed under the Appalachian Trail. Pretty interesting to think that a bridge was built for the trail. Guess that saves hikers from having to cross the highway. :)
Heading back toward Ashville, we had to stop to get another picture of the mailman in front of yet another post office. Main Street of Marshall, NC is very picturesque. It looks like they are investing lots of time and money to make the community a tourist attraction. So much is still under construction, but we enjoyed the walk through town - the lone tourists on the road definitely less traveled!
Finally, one last picture in front of the Madison County Courthouse in Marshall, NC. The roundabout drops you in Ashville and leaves you to find your way back to 209, which wasn't terribly difficult, but by then somebody was getting grumpy from all the sightseeing. Oh well. It was a beautiful trip and might have been even more spectacular if the sun had been shining! But, this appears to be the vacation when the sun doesn't shine. At least it was fairly warm - notice no jacket!

We finished off our day with supper at the Maggie Valley Pizzeria - very tasty pizza - followed by a good long walk to digest the very tasty pizza. Life is good!