With the children back at school, it’s open travel season. Whoo-hoo!!! We hit the road to explore farther than we had ever been on the Parkway in NC. We have camped at Peaks of Otter and Meadows of Dan on the Parkway in Virginia, but took other routes to get there. As we entered the Doughton Park Recreation Area, we loved the split rail fencing and ridge top meadows on either side of the Parkway. Just before the campground, captivated, we had to stop at the Alligator Back Overlook to view the spectacular pre-sunset sky, lit up with gorgeous light on the clouds and an amazing view. It was quite a welcome and a good indicator of what was to come that weekend.
We drove into the small RV section of the Doughton Campground, MP 239 to our assigned campsite #A14, but decided it was the least desirable on the loop, not wooded and on top of the neighbors. We spoke with the ranger then chose a better wooded, more private spot #A4, just thrilled that Labor Day weekend there were any available. We have found much success getting non-reservable available campsites at the Parkway campgrounds, which is great. Sadly, the entire campground was made to suffer one travel trailer running their generator all hours permitted…We had gotten there at dark, so decided to stay the night then evaluate our other options in the morning. After our morning hike the following day, the generator was at full tilt, disturbing the peace and serenity, we had gone there to enjoy. We hiked over to the Doughton Van/Tent Campground across the Parkway. Thankfully, we were able to get a perfect wooded site that Happy just barely fit in. Site #B20 had an amazing dropped campfire/picnic area on a creek below the parking pad. It was just what we were looking for. Great move to the quiet tent area.
Our hike that second day was so diverse and beautiful. We hiked on the Bluff Mtn Trail from the campground to Brinegar Cabin MP 238. The easy 1.5 mi trail first went through a gorgeous dense forest with morning dew lit by streams of sunlight breaking through the trees, then into a beautiful thistle, wildflower, butterfly filled meadow, back into the forest, then out at the homestead. The setting and farm were just dreamy. I was ready to move in at first sight. There was a crooked old cabin, vegetable/sunflower garden, pantry, and springhouse. The Brinegar family had created such a wonderful place on the ridge where they lived from 1889-1935. We had a nice picnic and played with the puppies at the Brinegar Picnic Area. As we were leaving to hike back to the campground, a staff writer/photographer from the Alleghany County, NC newspaper, stopped us on the trail to ask if she could photograph us and the puppies hiking on the trail for next summer’s outdoors guide. We were happy to oblige. We’ll have to keep an eye out for our newspaper debut! After our photoshoot, we hiked back to the campground, over to the Van/Tent Campground, then back to pack up and move to escape the noise pollution of the generator in the RV campground. We spent a lovely evening by our campfire in our new peaceful campsite.
On Sunday, we had a morning campfire, taking it slowly, just soaking up the cool morning and great campsite. After our leisurely morning, we hiked on the moderate 1.5mi Bluff Trail/Mountains to Sea Trail toward the Doughton Park Visitors Center and Park Store. We hiked through the forest, wildflower meadow, cow pasture, and more meadow until arriving at the Visitors Center. It was opened a year ago on the site of the former Doughton Coffee Shop, which had been shut down along with the Bluffs Lodge back in 2010. We hiked from there up to the Bluff Lodge and Picnic Area to have lunch. Upon arriving at the eerily vacant lodge, the skies opened up and began dumping rain. We sat on a bench on the porch of the lodge and enjoyed our picnic to the sounds of pouring rain and thunder, which did not please the puppies. We were lucky, as we could see hikers on the bluffs caught in the storm running for the tree for cover. After a while, with no end in sight, we flagged down a ride, hoping to get all the way back to the campground. It was guy a bit older than us and his elderly mother in the four door truck that picked us up. He was cool giving us a lift, but it was obvious she was not. She told us not to let the dogs scratch the seats and just kept asking where we were going and how far was it again. When we got from the Bluffs area back down to the Parkway, she basically said, we won’t take you the 1.5 miles to the campground, so we asked just to be dropped across the road at the Visitors Ctr. There were lots of folks, who had been on motorcycles or hiking that were stranded there. We bought ponchos and started the hike back in the rain. Not long after hitting the trail, the rain fizzled out. The sun started streaming through the soaked forest, making it a beautiful hike back. That grandma had actually done us a favor. When we came across the cows in the pasture, I took Pippa right up to the cows, but she would not even make eye contact. She was so freaked out and intimidated, she wanted no part of those cows. Once, back at the campsite, we were in for the rest of the evening due to rain. The puppies were stressed by the thunder and lighting. They hunkered down next to us on the bed and cuddled the rest of the night.
We woke to a beautiful morning on Labor Day. We packed up and headed on over to the Bluffs Picnic Area to continue the portion of our hike that got rained out the day before. We hiked 0.5mi. to the Bluffs shelter, where another couple was nice enough to take a rare photo of the two of us. We ate our picnic at the shelter then hiked over to the Bluffs Overlook, which had fabulous views. The meadows with their goldenrod, thistle, and butterflies were breathtaking. Glad we had stayed in Doughton long enough to get this hike in. It was icing on a wonderful weekend.