I hope you people read this because I'm cramming our most recent road trip stories into one blog post this time, with the exception of our visit with the cousins- which will be in a separate post! :)
At the end of May, Nick and I took another (light) road trip for our anniversary. We (meaning I- the wanderluster) decided to keep this year's celebratory trip more low-key. The past two years, we have flown out West and explored almost every part of it - Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon & Washington. After watching the newest Robert Redford flick, "A Walk in the Woods", I was greatly inspired to explore what's in our own "backyard", if you will, seeing as we live mere hours from some of the most gorgeous mountains on the East side of the country. I had a few places that I desperately wanted to explore but didn't want to rush this year's trip like the previous two, so I decided if we make it to at least one of them I will be happy. Well, we made it to both! After spending a couple of days with some of my cousins in North Carolina, we drove towards the western part of the state- our destination being Roan Mountain. As we drove deeper through the mountains, the sun was beginning to set and our phone signals became hit and miss. It's imperative to know how to read a map when GPS signal fails you. After miles of seeing no signs for upcoming towns, we finally came to the outskirts of a familiar site; Grandfather Mountain. Missing a turn, we continued driving just to see if there was anything down the road we were on. Shortly past a sign that identified the area as Linville, we came up on a stoplight at an intersection. Not much was in either direction, except for two Inns, a gas station and a restaurant, so we decided to go ahead and see about getting a room for the night. In pulling up to a place called the Pixie Inn, we got out of the car to see two men outside on a smoke break near the entrance that had a note posted to the door, "On break be back in 15 minutes". The worker put out his cigarette and stepped inside to welcome us. He said the charge would be $45 + tax for one night, cash only, and told us a little about the rooms. He told of the owner, Kay, who ran the family Inn since the '60s and how smoking is allowed in the rooms because it's just always been that way. The rooms were cozy like staying at someone's house instead of a typical hotel. The shower was a funny story- about every 90 seconds, the water would turn scalding hot for about 15 seconds and then resume to regular temperature, so you had to play a bit of "dodge ball" with it. One of my favorite parts of the Inn were the creaky screen doors that were in front of the emerald wood doors. This place definitely went down in my top 5 favorite little Inns we've stayed at! I much prefer staying at Inns versus typical commercial hotel chains because I like the feeling of being part of their history.
The next morning, Nick bought me coffee and we turned in our room key bidding farewell to a place I'm certain we will revisit. The drive to Roan Mountain was such a serene one. Our route took us through the little town of Banner Elk, which I wish to goodness we could have walked around for an entire day. It was so adorable! Reaching our destination at Carvers Gap about an hour later, we set out on the Appalachian Trail. The weather was perfect. The trail took us through a dense forest of spruce-fir trees, over grassy balds such as Jane Bald, Round Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald. The views were 360 degrees of pure beauty. Lush, green grass softly swaying in the early summer breeze, rhododendron bushes buzzing with busy bees, soon to make their big flowery debut in mid June. I'll let the photos speak for themselves for the rest of that section. After we left Roan Mountain, we made our way northeast to our next destination- Grayson Highlands in Virginia. The park is home to wild ponies that have been there for decades, if not centuries. They are friendly for the most part, just wanting to raid your backpack for food thanks to many hikers and visitors that tend to give them snacks. (Note: Please, do not feed them- they are in their natural habitat where they have managed to stay alive, feeding off the land for a very long time. Respect their space.) There was one pony, poor fella, who's mane was incredibly shaggy and blocking his vision. The old hairstylist in me wanted so bad to help him out with a bang trim! ;)
These two places were definitely unexpected gems in my eyes. I've lived on the east side of the country my whole life, so it's just in me to run the other direction when it comes to exploring. I'm thankful we got the chance to explore the beauty that's in our own neck of the woods, leaving us hungry for more of the Appalachians.
Below are photos from our trip to Roan Mountain and Grayson Highlands.