This morning we were up by about 7:00, fixed breakfast and Nancy did the last of her packing and loaded her bike onto the rack. She was on her way about 9:30. We really appreciate Nancy encouraging us to visit Standing Indian and for being our wonderful tour guide. We will be on our own for the remainder of our stay here but she gave us multiple suggestions for additional hikes.
Today we decided to take the Long Branch Trail from the campground. It intersects the Appalachian Trail at about 2.5 miles. The rating for this hike is “More Difficult” We would agree due to the steep inclines. Once we began hiking the AT, we were primarily going across the top of the ridge and the hiking was a little easier. There was a long descent in to Rock Gap after another approximately 3 miles. We hiked to Rock Gap because that is the closest place we get a cell signal. There is just a tiny area there with 4G and 3 bars on Verizon. We needed to make multiple calls and check texts and emails. After cooling off, drinking plenty of water and making the calls we decided to hike back by road. It would have been a steep hike back up the AT and then back down Long Branch we decided we wanted to get on back to the campsite, have a late lunch and try to catch up on this blog. The hike to Rock Gap was a beautiful one through the forest. Just being in the quiet of the woods enjoying all of God’s handiwork is such a blessing. Our hike today was about 7.5 miles of pretty strenuous hiking.
Another great day in the mountains! We will be driving, instead of hiking, up to Rock Gap shortly to post the blog.
We all slept well last night with the windows open listening to the creek rush by. A little cooler this morning and suppose to be a lot cooler tomorrow – in the 50’s – after a cold front goes through today. Really great weather. There was a chance of rain today but we never saw it.
After breakfast Anne’s cousin Nancy offered to take us on a waterfall tour in the Nantahala National Forest. We always enjoy waterfalls so we were all far it. We left the campground continuing on east on 64 through Franklin.
From Franklin 64 turns into a Scenic Byway leading to Highlands. This section of 64 definitely qualifies to be labeled a scenic byway. It was an absolutely beautiful drive through the Cullasaja gorge. We had to make several stops for pictures. So very pretty. You know we love funny name places. We stopped at one water fall visible from the highway called Bust your Butt Falls. It looked like you could if you weren’t real careful. Next stop was at Dry Falls which was anything but dry. It was a short walk from the highway down some steps and a boardwalk. It’s called dry falls because you supposedly can walk behind the falls and stay dry. Not when the wind is blowing in the wrong direction. Next was Bridal Veil Falls, another falls right beside the highway but lighting was poor for pictures so we stopped back by on the way home and got some good pictures. We did a driving tour of Highlands. Really pretty little town with neat little stores and gorgeous landscaping. Glenn Falls was multi-layered and required a good deal of somewhat strenuous hiking, but worth the work.
We stopped at Whiteside Mountain and had a quick picnic lunch before starting the hike up the mountain trail. Fortunately we had Nancy for tour guide because here she told us we should take the strenuous way up, with lots of steps and roots and steep climb. The sign said to take the more gentle incline from old road bed up the mountain. Nancy definitely knew the best way because the “strenuous” route on the way down would have been really hard on the knees. It was about a four mile round trip.
We traveled on to Cashiers and took another wildly scenic, curvy road back to Highlands stopping at another waterfall or two on the way back. Driving that road also gave us a great view of Whiteside Mountain from below and made it obvious where it got it’s name. Wonderful day of waterfalls and scenic beauty. Thanks Nancy for being our tour guide.
Today we all slept in a little. The morning temperature was 54 degrees so Nancy said she wanted to just stay in her tent in her sleeping bag. We can understand because we were in the motor home with the windows open and we wanted to stay in bed too. After we had a little lazy morning we decided to do some more waterfalls close by Standing Indian. Nancy had planned to leave today so we didn’t need to make it another long day.
We left the campground going in the opposite direction on Standing Indian Campground Road following the headwaters of the Nantahala River. The road changed to dirt and gravel. Shortly we stopped at Laurel Falls. Lots of things around here are named Laurel something because of all the mountain laurel in the woods. Along with the mountain laurel there was also lots of rhododendron in the woods around Laurel Falls.
Next stop was Mooney Falls. Here there is Upper and Lower Mooney Falls. All the water falls we have seen have been really nice. Some larger than others but each very pretty in their own way. And the hikes to the falls were also a real treat. We love the mountains. There is so much rhododendron in the forest here that we are going to have to come back when it is in full bloom. We have seen some random blooms but most are long gone. We understand that June is the month to really see the forest in full bloom. Must look at next year’s calendar.
After Mooney, we drove up some steep inclines to Albert Mountain. Here we hiked about two miles up Albert Mountain to the fire tower. The last portion, the steep part, is also the Appalachian Trail. The views from top of Albert were beautiful. The sky was so blue and mostly clear, you could see a very long distance.
It was getting late and Nancy hadn’t started packing so we headed back to the campground arriving about 2:30. Nancy started packing which took longer than she had thought. Anne cooked some dinner and we tried to help Nancy get ready. The tent was wet from last weeks rains so we had to lay it out in the sun to day. Later Nancy decided to cook us another cobbler since she had the ingredients and this was her last night. Apple, pineapple, carrot cake cobbler. Didn’t know about that combination before cooking but it was very tasty.
Finally about 7:00 Nancy agreed that it was really too late for her to head for Atlanta so after getting everything packed into her Flex, she agreed to spend the night in Fred and head home in the morning. It was another really nice day, but as Nancy says, “any day in the mountains is a good day.” We AGREE!
Today began with our final breakfast and goodbyes to our wonderful friends at Hinton. Hinton was a great place to view the magnificent total solar eclipse and had we not been asked to help with hospitality there, we very well may have stayed at home or some other place outside of totality and missed this wonderful experience. We will definitely, if we are able, make an effort to view the total eclipse in 2024. After saying our goodbyes to Ken and Joyce, we drove over to Standing Indian to check the status there. We knew Standing Indian Campground was full yesterday due to the eclipse so we wanted to be sure we postponed our arrival until most of those leaving were out. The road is rather narrow and we preferred not to meet another rig our size. Everything was fine there so we returned to Hinton, packed up Fred and moved to the campground. As said previously, we will be without hookups and cell service. After getting set up it was time for a late lunch/early dinner. Nancy had the makings for shrimp and grits so together we prepared our little feast. This is actually our first day/night just enjoying ourselves with the new Fred, our first night without hookups. All our other travels have been project related.
After our nice little or not so little meal, we decided it was time for a hike. We decided since we have never stayed at Standing Indian we would start with one of the hikes with trail head in the campground. Nancy has been camping here since she was a child and she recommended the Kimsey Creek Trail. It was a very nice hike following a little creek. It connects with the Appalachian Trail but since we got a late start we hiked about 2 hours out and then turned around and returned to camp hiking between 7-8 miles. We really enjoyed the hike. We love the mountains. The trail was beside the stream a lot of the time. It had some pretty hard up hill sections that reminded us that we haven’t been hiking enough lately.
We returned to camp just before dark, had a snack, shower and went to bed, falling asleep to the sound of the creek flowing through our camp site. Nice day!