2015 Trip Six, The Great Smoky Mountains, Oct. 24

Hayesville, NC Oct. 24

Driving through North Carolina on a stretch on easy driving.

Driving through North Carolina on a stretch on easy driving.

Today, we lost the blue skies but gained a gourmet meal in a gas station. That was a fair trade-off.

The day started with a second effort to find the Tryon International Equestrian Center. Thursday’s post mentioned we tried to find it on our way up from Spartanburg, but got lost. Well it turns out our Evergreen hosts in Flat Rock went there Friday and gave us new directions and new enthusiasm to look again. The effort was worth it.

Tryon Equestrian Center

Tryon Equestrian Center

Tryon is a huge, new equestrian center. Tonight (Saturday) they are hosting a Grand Prix event for jumpers. They will have 800 horses in their stables this weekend. We did not count but Tryon must have a dozen rings for practice and for competition. The main ring has permanent seating with a jumbo screen similar to what you see at baseball and football stadiums. Vendors are housed in new wood cabin type shelters.

Tryon Equestrian Center

Tryon Equestrian Center

This morning we were able to observe some practice rounds and competitive events for amateurs. I never did ask if that meant amateur horses or amateur riders. In any event, it was enjoyable and impressive. We were able to walk around for free as long as we stayed out of the stables-which we did avoid. If we were not traveling, we would have stayed longer.

Whitewater Falls North Carolina

Whitewater Falls

The two hours it took to reach Tryon and to walk around it put a dent in our planned waterfall visits. Our road journey would be on our usual curvy, hilly, two lane roads so we prioritized. Whitewater Falls in the Natanhala Forest is supposedly one of the tallest falls in the East. Well, we have read similar claims before this but Whitewater was a gem. A tall falls gushes over the rocks down into the gorge below with forested woods all around. The fall colors were out in great force. A shining sun with blue skies might have made for slightly improved photos but we were impressed. The other people visiting the falls were equally positive. Everyone was in a friendly mood with temperatures in the high 50s and gorgeous fall colors. We conversed with numerous people, including a man raised in Breckinridge MN.

Along the drive in North Carolina

Along the drive in North Carolina

Today was probably the single day with the greatest concentration of fall colors. The reds were particularly numerous and vibrant. There are enough fir trees to provide green backdrop to the yellow, orange and red leaves. Everybody has their own opinion but most seemed to think that this fall the colors were later than usual and more vibrant than usual.

Along todays drive in North Carolina

Along todays drive in North Carolina

The drive through this western part of North Carolina has been simply gorgeous. This area, along with the other mountainous parts of North Carolina, have become the site of second homes and retirement locations. Some are quite expensive. We drove through Highlands, Cashiers, and Sapphire Springs where it seemed you just did not fit in if you were not driving a BMW or Mercedes. Okay, a slight exaggeration but certainly the greatest concentration we have seen. Highlands struck us a succesful small town tourist destination.

Cafe Rel in Franklin NC

Cafe Rel in Franklin NC

Lunch was in Franklin. Now, we had spent the night here a week ago. That day we ate by our hotel. Today we had our main mid-day meal at Cafe Rel, the meal mentioned in our opening paragraph. The cafe is in a local gas station. (Long time readers may remember Whoa Nellie, the cafe at the end of Yosemite’s Tioga Pass in Lee Vining CA similarly located in a gas station.)

There was a wait for a table at 3 in the afternoon but it was worth it. I had salmon and Chris had an English pot roast. Both were excellent. Even the prices were reasonable. How lucky could we get?

Back on the road, we reached our Evergreen hosts in the little town of Hayesville. Our hosts have roots in St. Paul and Hudson WI so we had many shared memories and connections. The Tennessee Valley Authority constructed a dam in Hayesville in 1942 for flood control, power generation, and navigational control of water depth on the Tennessee River. Their home overlooks the lake formed by the dam. Did you know the Tennessee River contributes as much volume to the Ohio River as the Missouri does to the Mississippi? True fact.

North Carolina mountains

North Carolina mountains

Tomorrow will be a day of mountain and forest driving ending up in north Georgia. It should not involve as many driving hours though. The trip is almost over. Tuesday night late we should be back in Saint Paul with this road trip behind us with many travel memories to cherish in future days.

Ed and Chris Oct. 24 10:45 PM

Categories: road trip, travel | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “2015 Trip Six, The Great Smoky Mountains, Oct. 24

  1. Mary Stusek

    You two could make a trip to Amery exciting and interesting. I love these entries. Thank you. I hope you publish them all some day.

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