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Fontana Dam, 9/23/17

We camped at Cheoah Point CG, but don’t recommend it, because there’s no hiking from the campground. We drove Happy to hike at the gorgeous Joyce Kilmer Forest. If you just plan on doing day hikes in the area and/or on the AT, I recommend camping in the National Forest sites just outside Joyce Kilmer on the beautiful river or in the Horse Cove Campground right there too. We left JKF and stopped at lovely historic, Tapoco Lodge on the Cheoah River, which a friend had recommended was worth a visit. We did another hike on their Bear Creek Falls Loop, followed by drinks at the tavern on the river. Tapoco is a nice place to stay at the lodge or cabins, to take a hike (lots of trails and connectors to NF trails), or to just have food and drinks, after a long hike or multiple hikes, in our case. We drove Happy on the Moonshiner 28 route along the Little Tennessee River, just below the Tail of the Dragon. We passed the Cheoah Dam, which was where they filmed the scene from The Fugitive when Harrison Ford jumped off the dam. That was some jump! From there, we went to visit Fontana Dam. The AT crosses over the top of the dam, into the Great Smokey Mountain National Park on the other side. Fonatana is the largest dam East of the Rockies. It was impressive! We had already done two hikes that day, plus, dogs aren’t allowed on trails in the GSMNP, so we did not hike much, except around the dam. Great area for a weekend of hiking!

 

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Blood Mountain, 2/25/17

 

Now, about that bucket list hike on the Appalachian Trail…WOW! It was a booty kicker, but it was awesome! We hiked from our campsite at Vogel State Park, got on the AT, and took it to the summit of Blood Mountain, the highest point on the AT in GA. It was 4mi from Vogel to the top, then on the way back down, we missed a turn, and went .5mi down then back up .5mi, after realizing our mistake, for a grand total of 9mi on Saturday. It was one of our most challenging hikes to date, but oh, so worth it. We felt a great sense of accomplishment afterward. Now, we’ve got the bug and are already looking at taking Happy and hitting another AT section in the next week or two. Wiley has said, he’d like to thru-hike the AT at some point, but I’m not feeling it. Happy’s got me spoiled, thus the High Maintenance, part of my name. I’ll be content to RV and do section day hikes. Loved checking one off my Bucket List! Life is beyond amazing! Happy trails!
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Kicking off Spring Break 2018

 

Miles and I left beautiful Skidaway Island State Park, Savannah, yesterday morning in my SUV, bound for my cousin’s farm in Ocala, FL. Wiley and the puppies stayed in Happy in the campground and worked all day then came and met us at Hidden Acres Dressage, my cousin Stacy’s farm, in the evening.

Miles and I had such a fun mother/son road trip. Cherished the time with my sweet 17yr old boy. We talked about everything. Told him all kinds of stories from when I was his age, in college, and beyond. He shared what all is going on in his life, thoughts on college, and his hopes for the future. Gas-$67, Starbucks-$10, 4hrs alone in a car with your 17yo son-Priceless!

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Blanchard Springs CG, AR 10/16/17

 

Some of my earliest memories are of being with my family, camping at Blanchard Springs Recreation Area in the Ozark National Forest in Arkansas, being in the campground, playing in the crystal clear creek, skipping rocks, hiking, seeing the springs, and exploring the caverns. In my child mind, this was a magical place, full of wonders. Camping now, as an adult, it’s always there, as this mystical place by which to measure, all other campgrounds and adventures.

We were taking I-40 west on our trip to the Grand Canyon. I looked at the map in plotting our route, Blanchard Springs wasn’t anywhere near the interstate. If I was going through Arkansas, I was going to Blanchard Springs. I wanted so much to share it with Wiley. I told him it was a non-negotiable and planned the detour. As it got closer, I started to worry, what if my childhood memory was inflated and exaggerated, and this park and campground wasn’t anything special?

As soon as, we arrived in the park then made our way to the campground, fording the crystal clear creek to get there, all my worries were laid to rest and all my memories came flooding back. It was magical and we were there!

Our campsite overlooked Sylamore Creek. It was the beautiful wooded campground right on the creek, I’d remembered. We parked and immediately started hiking from the campground along the creek. The creek is so clear and beautiful, shallow enough to walk in. The puppies loved it! The beaches are made of smooth rounded rocks of white. It looks like another planet.

We hiked from the campground to the picnic area, where there was a cave, that I remembered standing in and marveling about as a child. We hiked the Sylamore trail from the picnic area, up the ridge, high above the campground and canyon below for a great view. Headed back, when the sun started going down.

We pulled out all the party leftovers, Peyton had packed for us, and had a gourmet dinner at the campsite overlooking the creek. It was perfect! Had a campfire and s’mores for desert for old times sake.

The next morning, we packed up and drove Happy to see the Blanchard Springs. We saw deer on the way. Nigel and Pippa were both in my lap looking out the window, Nigel squealing and Pippa quietly pointing, as usual. In the wild, he’d be a vegetarian.

The Springs shoot out of the side of the rock cliff, like nothing, I’ve seen anywhere else. It was beyond my expectations, and greater than my memory of it. It’s gorgeous! We left the springs and drove up to the Caverns. Sadly, they didn’t open for another hour and we were ready to hit the road. We decided, we’d be back and see them another time.

All I can say is Blanchard Springs rose to the occasion. Sharing a piece of my childhood, having it be everything and more, to experience it and discover it again with Wiley, was the reason for the detour and so worth it. It was one of those times, you want to share something with someone, but you’re worried, you’ve built it up so much, that they’ll be disappointed and just not get it, but then they love it too, thank you for sharing it, and it becomes one of their favorites. This was one of those times. Blanchard Springs, I love you! Thank you!

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Roan Mountain State Park 8/4-6/17

The first weekend in August, Happy took us to TN to Roan Mountain State Park. WOW! So glad, we finally made it to Roan. It is one of my new faves. The campground is in a lush hardwood forest with the Doe River running through it. There are numerous trails from the campground, which is always a bonus. The park had live music at the campground amphitheater, both Friday and Saturday night. Both acts were really good, particularly Saturday night’s act, Marshall Bellew, of WNCW’s Frank on Friday. He rocked!

On Saturday morning, we decided to hike to the Miller Farmstead in the park. Little did we know, the road in was straight up a mountain with no switchbacks…It was one of the toughest hikes we’ve ever done. We hiked back on the Chesnut Ridge Trail, thinking it had to be easier, but it wasn’t really. The ridge went up and down and back up several mountains…It ended up being a 12 mile butt-kicker kind of day. All that said, the trip to the Miller Farmstead was well worth it. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. The farm was settled in 1870 and the house was built around 1908. The farmhouse and outbuildings are an example of the Appalachian lifestyle of subsistence farming in secluded mountains from the early to mid-twentieth century with minimal alterations. The Millers never had a road into their property nor a motorized vehicle. The family lived there until 1962. Did I mention, we brought our lunch and picnicked, while two old bluegrass musicians played all the old timey standards?!! I want to live there!

So, you know how I said, the hike was extremely difficult? Well, think about the length of Nigel’s little legs and imagine how strenuous the hike had to be on him. Then imagine if you can, how said puppy, had the energy to bolt from the RV as soon as we got back from the hike…I started yelling to the neighbors all around us for someone to grab him, because he would go to them, but run from me. Fortunately, Nigel ran to the campsite next to us between their truck and trailer and their grandson was waiting at the other end and scooped him up. Whew! I didn’t have anything left at that point to go chase him. Thank goodness, I didn’t have to.

On Sunday, we packed up and headed to the AT at Carvers Gap on the NC/TN line. It was a short hike through a mossy, fir-filled forest to the first bald, Round Bald, and the beautiful Roan Mountain views. Truly, breathtaking panoramic views. We have now hiked on the AT in TN, GA, and NC. We are working on hiking a section of the trail in every state it passes through. After the short hike, we drove up to the famed Rhododendron Gardens, which was quite a let down. I imagine in June when the Catawba Rhododendrons are blooming, it’s nice…I guess we’re spoiled living in Sapphire, because our yard, neighborhood, and surrounding area are far more dense and plentiful than the sorry paved trail through the famous gardens.

We’ll definitely be returning to Roan Mountain. It is a gorgeous park with fabulous hiking. Want to do more of the AT there next time, but was too sore after Saturday’s 12-miler to do much Sunday. Can’t wait to go back!

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Carvers Gap, TN 8/6/17

We camped at the fabulous Roan Mtn SP for the weekend, which I highly recommend. Love it! So much great hiking from the campground, plus the AT nearby.

On Sunday, we drove happy up Roan Mtn, parked the van, and caught the AT at Carvers Gap on the NC/TN line. It was a short hike through a mossy, fir-filled forest to the first bald, Round Bald, and the beautiful Roan Mountain views. Truly, breathtaking panoramic views. Want to do more of the AT there next time, but we were too sore after Saturday’s 12-miler, to do much on Sunday. Can’t wait to go back!

We have now hiked on the AT in TN, GA, and NC. We are working on hiking a section of the trail in every state it passes through. Have a long way to go!

 

 

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Rock Gap, AT 4/10/17

We camped for the weekend at one of our faves, Standing Indian CG in Nantahala NF, near Franklin, NC. On Sunday, we packed up, but before heading home, we wanted to do a small AT hike. We couldn’t be right there and not hike on the AT. We parked Happy at the Rock Gap trailhead parking lot, just outside the campground. We jumped on the AT, southbound. After Saturday’s 10-miler, we only did a two hr hike, an hour in and an hour out. It was great being a part of the AT culture, if only for a couple of hours.

At the trailhead, we met a full-timer, 7, who “lives” on the AT. He was waiting for some thru-hikers to give them a ride to the hostel in Franklin. 7 was fascinating and full of stories. Check out his YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCwjpBT4fyuBBCznQDy_QYsw). On the trail, we passed the Rock Gap Shelter, which had lots of hikers camping there, just beginning there day. We hiked a bit then met thru-hikers from Denmark, Germany, and Washington resting at the overlook. Loved hearing their experiences from the trail and about being in this country for the first time. Fabulous views at the overlook too!

When we were coming off the trail, “Trail Angels” were there with a table set up, feeding a bunch of thru-hikers lunch. Perfect day on the AT!

 

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Chewacla State Park, AL 2/25/18

Left Rocky Bayou SP and Florida on Friday. Spent one night in Auburn, AL at Chewacla State Park, which proved to be a wonderful stop over and most pleasant surprise. Great park with more trails than any State Park, we’ve ever been. Most of them are really mountain bike trails, but they’re mixed use as well. The Auburn University Mtn Bike team practices there. The trails, jumps, and trick areas, were impressive.

Chewacla is another of the fabulous CCC era parks with historic buildings and cabins. It’s really nice and will be our new halfway stop from the Panhandle to the mountains for sure. Good campground with large wooded spots.

We hiked the Sweet Shrub Trail upon arrival. It followed along the lake, to the stream, and beaver pond. It was a nice little hike to stretch our legs after traveling. The puppies were glad to be out and to get some exercise. They’re not big fans of travel days. They’re used to their routine midday and afternoon hikes. When that’s interrupted, they pout.

We woke up Saturday morning and took at quick hike around the lake, to the Falls and river, on the Falls View Trail. We just thought the falls would be the result of the lake dam. We had no idea until we got to the dam that there were huge boulders, cascades, and a river beyond it. It was absolutely gorgeous! The spring trees, flowers, and grass, were just peeking out and made me so happy! Great hike before hitting the road to Greenville, SC to see our Bee.

We drove through Auburn University and downtown on our way out of town. Couldn’t be in Auburn and not see it, our first time there. Beautiful university and really nice town. I sent Miles a text after seeing it and said, he should consider it. He just texted back, “I’m not going to college in Alabama”. I guess that’s the end of that. 17yr olds have definite completely baseless opinions…

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Sunburst Trail, West Fork Pigeon River, Pisgah National Forest 2/23/14

February 2014, we took a day trip to Waynesville, NC, visiting for the first time. We had a bite to eat at City Bakery, walked around a bit, then went in to Mast General Store to ask for a hiking recommendation. The eager clerk, told us about a nice little hike with lots of water in the Sunburst area, which sounded like exactly, what we were looking for. The clerk gave us some loose directions. Being totally unfamiliar with the area, we hoped for the best. As instructed, we turned on the Forest Service Rd off of Hwy 215 (Lake Logan Rd), just after the Sunburst Campground. We parked in a small gravel lot right before the river crossing. The trailhead was just in front of the parking.

The trail followed the river the entire way with great scenery and a fabulous rushing water symphony. We hiked through the rhododendron forest the entire way. The trail ended at a nice little fall with lots of cascades. We probably only hiked a mile in and a mile out, but it was late afternoon and we had to head back to Greenville, so it was perfect.

Easy little hike with lots of bang for the buck. The trail is gorgeous and easy enough to do with children or inexperienced hikers.

We heard later, that we missed the Sunburst Water Fall, stone arched bridge, and swimming hole just up the road North of the Forest Service Rd on Hwy 215. Also, the Green Knob Trailhead is right there at Sunburst Falls. It is supposed to be one of the most challenging in the region. Looks like we need to go back, camp at the Sunburst Campground, and make a weekend of it. Eager to return and explore this area more.

Directions:

If coming from Waynesville North on Hwy 215 (Logan Lake Rd), Turn Right on the Forest Service Rd, just after passing the campground.

If coming from the Parkway South on Hwy 215 (Logan Lake Rd), Turn Left on the Forest Service Rd, just after crossing the bridge over the river.

Here’s the address to Sunburst Campground for Google Maps or the like: 7705 Lake Logan Rd, Canton, NC 28716

Alternate Parking:

Ford the river seen here in the last picture and park in that lot, if the small gravel one is full.

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Go West Travel Journal, Day #6, 10/17/17 AR-OK

Go West Travel Journal, Day #6, 10/17/17 AR-OK
Today was our longest travel day, thus far. We left the beauty and euphoria of Blanchard Springs and the Ozarks, headed to Wes Watkins Reservoir, a public campground in Oklahoma just off I-40.

Typically, we stay at State Park, National Forest, and National Park campgrounds. This was simply, somewhere to spend the night in OK, after an exhaustive search for more of what we’re used to, turned up nothing. Kind of a let down after where we’d come from. I’m spoiled from all the dreamy campgrounds, where we normally camp. This is where the High Maintenance comes in, sorry.

Wes Watkins Reservoir, was fine for the night, but no Blanchard Springs. When we first pulled in near dark, we saw nothing, but empty parking lot, after empty parking lot. We thought, there wasn’t an actual campground and you could just park in their parking lot. Didn’t like that idea of sitting there by ourselves all night. Felt like we’d be sitting ducks, saying come rob us. We debated, just leaving and breaking down and camping for the first time at a Walmart.

 

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