This has been a week of beautiful views of untouched woods, waterfalls, amazing mountains, and cultivated, settled valleys. On Tuesday we drove south into the mountains surrounding us and went as far as the edge of South Carolina. The views were wonderful but with all the curves and switchbacks Scott didn’t get to enjoy them as much as I did. We went through small villages and stopped at a restaurant overlooking a dam in the Lake Toxaway area for lunch. After a short break we drove to White Water falls which is well worth the walk even down the many steps and back. Later we drove the Cullasaja Gorge where we actually drove under Bridal Veil Falls! We also stopped off at the Dry Falls that were not dry at all.
Thursday we decided to go to revisit Catalouhee Valley where we visited eight years ago. I didn’t remember the gravel road which is narrow and twisty with drop offs. This drive isn’t for those who are challenged by heights. Once we arrived we visited the historical buildings which are within easy walking distance of the road. The area boasts lots of hiking trails and, depending on the time of day, elk viewing. There are signs warning of bears but we didn’t see any. Near the entrance of the valley there’s a beautiful turnout with a picnic table where we ate lunch. It was a nice break before driving back up and over the mountain and back to our campground.
On Friday we took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN. We drove west on interstate 40 through the Pigeon River Gorge. It’s a narrow, twisting few miles of interstate with a fairly long tunnel and very nice views. In Gatlinburg we picked up a pizza and had lunch in a pretty park where we found a table near the stream. We went back into town hoping to catch the trolley but got tired of waiting and walked in a few blocks. I stopped in a few shops to look around and then window shopped our way back toward the truck. From there we took Highway 441 through the park. We stopped at several of the overlooks to enjoy the wonderful views.
Leaving the National Park we took the Blue Ridge Parkway. There were more stunning views and interesting tunnels to drive through. At one point we turned off of the parkway a little too soon and almost immediately realized our mistake. We turned around headed back to the Parkway and, to our delight, saw a male elk with a large rack right beside the road we had driven down just minutes earlier!
This is such a wonderful area and we are looking forward to future visits here.