Although I had checked the weather reports frequently and looked at the weekly reports at North Carolina Tourism, I was correct on choosing the right day to avoid the rain. But I was a week late in choosing the right day to see the peak foliage, at least at the areas we toured in October on the Blue Ridge Parkway. A storm the week before had brought wind and rain that defoliated most of the trees around Grandfather Mountain. We saw more color as we drove down the parkway on October 17th to Mt. Mitchell, but we didn’t go far enough west to Cashiers to see the peak color that day. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the time on this overnight trip to add that many miles on our motor tour.
Friends who lived in Boston for many years tell me that trying to pick the peak period to see the New England foliage in peak color is equally difficult because conditions vary from year to year and from week to week in specific locations. It’s a gamble even with the best information currently available.
So, was it worth the effort? Yes, I had never seen either of the peaks. Mt. Mitchell offers the best view and has a much better road. The narrow switchbacks with no guardrails Grandfather Mountain are literally cliffhangers, and if you make a mistake you could plunge hundreds of feet down the mountain. If you want a thrill, then I guess it’s for you, but it was the worst road I’ve ever been on. Plus it was extremely windy at the observation deck, which we were told was only a moderate and clear day.
On the other hand, our stay at the Little Switzerland Inn was delightful. The lodge has been modernized recently, and a first class facility even though the rates are moderate. It is right on the parkway and has a great view as well as an excellent restaurant. They were getting ready to close in a few weeks for the winter. The only other inn directly on the parkway is the Mt. Pisgah Inn south of Asheville, where we stayed five years ago on a trip to the Brevard Music Festival.
The Triangle is situated where you can make weekend trips to the mountains or the beaches. Ralph Grizzle’s 2002 book Day Trips from Raleigh-Durham by The Globe Pequot Press offers several sample trips, and Don Vandeventer’s 1995 book North Carolina Getaways: A Guide to Bed & Breakfasts and Country Inns from Down Home Press is still available from Amazon. You also can search a half dozen local web sites as well as the massive site of the National Park Service that includes the parkway.
If you like the old-fashioned country cafes, then try the Blue Mist Café on US 64 between Asheboro and Ramseur where you can find a complete lunch and tea for only $7. It has been there a long time as was noted by a plaque for a waitress who retired after 33 years!
Well, we just got back from Washington, DC for Thanksgiving, and I will report on that trip next month. It will be impossible to give even a sliver of the many attractions there, but I will report on some of our museum tours.