Woke up to rain - and we had planned on a long day driving to to Blowing Rock and then driving back down south along the Parkway. The forecast said that it should brighten up so we mustered up some enthusiasm and drove up to Blowing Rock. There is a town of Blowing Rock but it is so called as legend has it that an Indian chief hid his daughter up on the rock as she was so beautiful. Somehow (!) a brave from a rival tribe found the daughter and they fell in love. He then had to decide whether to stay with her or go back to his people - he couldn't so jumped off the rock. The daughter prayed that he would not die and lo and behold the winds blew him back up to her - aaah! We went to the very spot!
We had a quick drive round the very pretty town and then set off to the Parkway. First stop was somewhere to have our picnic and we chose a nice spot by a stream.
From there we went to Linville Falls where we had a 3/4 mile walk across pretty rough terrain to find the falls. They were really lovely but not very spectacular. By this stage the sun had come out and it was hard work walking the rough ground in the heat.
Next it was Mount Mitchell State Park where we were at the highest point east of the Mississippi River. However it was so high we were in the clouds!
We stopped at one of the lookout points and came across a groundhog - I think he was quite old and blind as one eye was very misty and he didn't run away from us. Of course the camera was in the car.
We briefly stopped at Craggy Gardens hoping to see the rhododendrons but they aren't out yet up there. They seem to be out lower down and we have two on our drive.
Next stop was home (no supermarket today!) and a quick dip in the hot tub before dinner.
We drove up to Chimney Rock where there is an elevator which takes you up through the mountain to the viewing platform - guess what? The elevator wasn't working! So should we go somewhere else of climb the steps - mad fools that we are we opted to climb the steps. I lost count at 300!! It was knackering and people coming down were very encouraging telling us that we hadn't got far to go and that we COULD do it! The top was finally reached but we chose to go to the deli and get some lunch before seeing the view. I have to say that it was worth the wait and the view was wonderful. We were at 2280 feet and looking over Lake Lure. I am suffering from an Achilles problem so coming down was quite painful but easier than going up. We had thought we would do the 1.5 mile walk to the water fall but I really didn't think my foot would stand up to it.
We took the scenic way back and stopped at Looking Glass Falls in the Mount Pisgah National Park. The fall itself was more stunning than yesterday but the rock formation at Linville was better.
We stopped one last time at the Supermarket - I have to say that we have found Ingles to be very good.
Back at home I did the washing and packing as we are off back to Raleigh tomorrow. I had hoped to have a soak in the hot tub but down came the rain and we had quite a thunderstorm.
We have a friend in the garden called Charlie Chipmunk - this photo isn't very good as I took it out of the bathroom window.
Sadly it was time to leave the Smokies. We packed up, checked round the house and drove away - rather sad really. We have had a great time and have been able to really relax after a roller coaster couple of months.
We had a very good journey back down to Raleigh - it took us about five hours but we stopped at a rest area for a picnic lunch. Unlike motorways in the UK here you leave the road to get petrol or food but if you are lucky you might find a rest area. We passed four on our 283 mile journey!
We found our hotel and checked in. It seems nice enough - just a typical hotel room!
Just after 5pm we set off to go and see my friend Kathryn. I have known her for about 15 or 16 years when we both worked for IBM. Her manager was coming to the UK to host an event which I was organising so we had a lot of contact. On my first trip to Raleigh in 2000 Kathryn met me at the airport and we have been friends ever since though I stopped coming to Raleigh with IBM in 2005 so we haven't seen each other for 10 years. It was great to see her again and she had invited a few of her friends over for a very informal evening - it was a lovely evening and lovely to see an old friend and to meet new people.
Here are a few photos of our mountain hideaway - Swiss Cottage.