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Mt. Pisgah Campground, Frying Pan Fire Tower, Graveyard Fields, BRPW 9/28-30/18

Still not ready to camp at the lower elevations due to continued warm weather in the southeast, we once again headed up to one of our go to nearby campgrounds, Mt. Pisgah Campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the weekend. I knew it was a little early for fall color, but hoped there would be some. There was hardly any. Since returning home, I have read that we our 5 days behind normal color schedule, so we were way early. The lack of color did not put much, if any of a dampener on our weekend. We had a fabulous time!

Friday, we arrived early evening. We did not like the space, #A10, we had reserved online, but thankfully, there were plenty of open sites, so we moved to #B5, which was a great spot with a very private campfire/picnic area. After getting set up, we hiked from the campground over to the Pisgah Inn. The view was enshrouded in clouds when we walked up, but broke up a little bit and gave a us a hazy peak with the sun trying to break through right above looking Glass Rock before we left. Even in the clouds and haze, the backside of the Pisgah Inn, with it’s view and setting, is one of my favorite places on earth. I could sit there in those rocking chairs and stare out at the layers and layers of mountains for hours.

Saturday, we rose early, ate breakfast, packed a lunch, and hit the trail from the campground towards the Frying Pan Fire Tower. The trail was a “moderate to strenuous” 2.1 miles up to the ridge from the campground, down to the Frying Pan parking area, then back up towards the tower. The trail between the campground and the parking area is beautiful. We did not care for the gravel forest service road 0.75mi. “trail” from the parking area up to the fire tower. We had a first, seeing a pheasant on the hike up the gravel road to the tower. The puppies lost their minds! This hike was one of those, like Mt. Pisgah, “one and done”. We don’t like the cleared, marred, and antennaed peaks of either. At least the entire hike up to Mt. Pisgah is through the gorgeous forest. Nigel was not a fan, as usual, of the tower stairs. We took turns waiting at the bottom with the puppies while the other went up to see the views. It was full sun while we were up there, so the pics didn’t come out as I would have liked, but there were incredible views of the Parkway, Mt. Pisgah, Looking Glass Rock, and Cold Mountain. We hiked back towards the campground to the ridge, where we enjoyed our picnic in the forest sitting in a fabulous tree. After our lunch, we hiked down the mountain over to the Pisgah Inn. Wiley went in the gift shop and bought us some Chapel Hill Toffee as a trail reward. Delish! We sat in the rockers behind the inn and enjoyed our treat and the perfectly clear view. Nigel wanted to play ball, because evidently, the hike was not enough exercise, LOL. We sat, soaking in the view for a long while, then hiked back to the campground. We hung out for a bit in our campsite’s wonderfully private rhododendron enclave picnic/campfire area. Nigel played more fetch. Pippa hunted for the chattering chipmunks. We hiked back over to the Pisgah Inn before dinner in search of the Thompson Creek Trail, not sure whether we were on it, but whatever trail we were on, ended up being more than we wanted to undertake at that point in the day. The trail left the inn, going down, and down, and down, which meant we had to come back up, and up, and up. We didn’t get far before we turned around, having had plenty of exercise for one day. We hiked back to the campground, where the puppies were thrilled to see a baby bunny. Made it back to Happy, just as it started raining, so we were in for the evening.

Sunday, we woke early, packed up, and headed to Graveyard Fields to beat the crowds and guarantee parking availability. It was slow moving on the Parkway due to the thick as soup fog. When we arrived at the Graveyard Fields parking area, parking was no problem, hardly anyone was there, I’m guessing due to the early hour and fog. We hiked down into the magical rhododendron faerie forest to the breathtaking Lower Falls just below the parking area, which is great for non-hikers and little ones. We had the entire Lower Falls area to ourselves, which is unheard of, being one of the Parkway’s most visited spots. It was eerily foggy, but absolutely beautiful with the clearest water over the ancient rocks, with cascades, boulders, and pools. We explored a bit at the top of the falls then hiked down to the bottom of the falls, where I videoed while Wiley and the puppies scrambled over the boulders to the base of the falls. We hiked back up to the Upper Falls trailhead, making our way on the trails through the super soggy fields, glad we wore river sandals. Arrived at the Upper Falls cascades to have it to ourselves, as well. We climbed over the boulders and across the creek, almost losing Nigel in a gully washer when he slipped off a rock. I screamed, seeing him with only his head above the rushing whitewater. Thankfully, his harness stayed on and Wiley was able to yank him up out of the water. Whew! Disaster averted. We hiked straight up the side of the mountain to reach upper Upper Falls. Some make the mistake of only viewing the cascades at the bottom, thinking that’s Upper Falls. The real falls and impressive drop are above the cascades, so be sure to keep going upward until you find the falls. We left the falls bound for the shallow area of the Yellowstone Prong River. We took the Graveyard Fields Trail to go play with the puppies and have a picnic lunch. We hiked down to a nice rocky beach on the river. Nigel swam and fetched the ball while Pippa hunted, as per their usual. We found a grassy area under a tree by the river to have our lunch. Just as we began eating, it started pouring. We packed up, threw on our ponchos, and made our way back via the Lower Falls Trail, then up to the parking lot. We towel dried all the puppies and us, took off the muddy shoes and wet ponchos, and rejoiced once in the warm, dry van. We finished our lunch then hit the road, headed for home, in the pouring rain and fog. It was slow going in the high elevation then cleared as we got down closer to Brevard on 276. Was fairly dry in Brevard and most of the way home to Sapphire. The end of another great weekend of hiking and camping in Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Forever grateful this is our backyard.

 

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