We had a week off in early summer and we didn’t want to risk going to the beach this year. So… we decided to do a grand tour of the central Appalachians from the Smokies to the Blue Ridge Mountains. We started in Chattanooga.
Ruby Falls(commercial cave tours sure are cheesy)
Panera in downtown Chatt looks like it might as well be in Boulder Colorado. There were plenty of gore-tex clad yuppies with laptops, $1000 strollers, and $2000 bicycles.
Next, we went way north to Damascus, Virginia to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail. This is really fun. It’s 30 miles of downhill at a 5 degree grade; it’s not super fast – just enjoyable because you don’t have to really pedal. The VA Creeper Trail is a “rails to trails” project(kinda like the Tammany Trace) where they took an old railway and converted it into a bike trail. It’s covered with waterfalls, little trestles over creeks, and pretty farmland.
That’s why they call it the Smokies, muthafucka!
What next? Then we headed down almost the whole Blue Ridge Parkway(which is beautiful for hours). On the way down, we stopped at Grandfather Mountain and Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.
We also saw a baby deer on Grandfather Mountain. His momma had swollen teats so it must have been a recent birth.
Then we stayed at Lakeview at Fontana. It’s a “rustic chic” spa/yoga/mountain resort. It was a really shitty 1950s motel that has been converted into a modern beautiful little getaway. There is tons of whitewater rafting within 10 minutes; the town of Bryson City is 5 minutes away. I highly recommend cooking in your room and getting a hot stone massage.
After 2 days at Fontana Lake, we took it slow going back to New Orleans and stopped at Alabama’s Horse Pens 40 – the bouldering mecca of the South.
Don’t forget Noccalula Falls, just north of Birmingham. It’s right off of I-59.
Birmingham really impressed me as a city of charm and class in an otherwise unclassy state(don’t get offended Alabamans, I’m from Louisiana AKA #50 on the class list). The truth is Alabama’s kinda got everything: beaches, waterfalls, climbing, and a surprisingly awesome little rocky city in Birmingham.
Back to Mississippi. Dunn’s Falls anyone? Also right off of I-59. I want the gold.
Just a couple hours from New Orleans. What trip to the Appalachians would be complete without some of that old time lonesome mountain music? Ernie Redbottom?