Ah yes, autumn in the mountains, or as it is referred to here, “Leaf Season.” While the tourist season begins to wrap up in Michigan with the long, golden days of summer diminishing, it’s just getting started down here in the Smokies. The leaves are changing, but it is a slower process here than in the Midwest. And the colors are pretty, but not quite as spectacular, in my opinion, as Michigan’s. But the setting sure is outstanding! One old-timer claimed the colors are much brighter here normally, but due to excessive amounts of rain this year, they have been somewhat dimmed. None the less I have found a few pockets of good color. And a few more dandy hikes, and a bit of German Oktoberfest fun as well.
Shauna decided to use one of her vacation days for a well-deserved day off spent with the parents adventuring. Once again the weather was a bit overcast in Franklin, and when we ventured out, the high for the day was expected to be in the low sixties. Now, this is not my first rodeo on this mountain hiking stuff and normally it is about 10 degrees cooler up at the higher elevations, so we threw in a couple extra layers to keep warm. Our plan this particular day was to drive up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and take in the scenery, and enjoy a few good trails.
Our first stop was Water Rock Knob. As we climbed higher in elevation, the temp dropped lower and lower. I think it bottomed out at about 40 degrees. Brrr. But being a Michigan girl, as well as a former Girl Scout (be prepared!) a had a couple of extra pairs of gloves in the truck. Some of Shauna’s coworkers had told her of the beautiful views at the top. So up we go….It was not too far time wise, but a very steep up starting with some rustic steps, then rocks. Bruce claims we hiked to Heaven that day, Shauna and I giggled a lot at the views (non-existent.) The staff at the visitor center said they had no views for a week and did not expect sun for several more days. Even though we did not SEE much, it was still a great hike, and warmed us up a bit.
Not to be deterred, we traveled on. As we rounded the mountain, we found the sun, and a rainbow to
boot! Temps got a bit warmer as we traveled on the Parkway. I spotted a sign pointing the way to another trail system. Hoping for a bit longer hike at this point, we looked over our options. One said difficult, one said easiest. Most of the people hiking at this location were the hard-core backpacking types, with loaded packs ready to roll for a night or two in the wilderness. We opted for easiest. And soon found out why it was not rated “easy.” The terrain was very rocky and appeared to be a mountain stream bed with a bit of water to transverse. With our eyes cast to the ground we stepped gingerly from rock to rock trying to
keep our sneakers dry. I, of course, with my short legs, was the first to get wet, then Shauna, and Bruce nearly made it dry-footed ,but just near the end slipped and got his feet wet too. Ah, the perils of adventure! Otherwise it was a fairly easy hike, and I, for one, am glad we did not opt for the difficult trail. By this time the day was waning, so we headed off the Parkway, and down to the little town of Sylva and O’Malley’s Pub for 50 cent wings and a couple pints of St. Therese beer. It was a really fun day, not quite what we expected, but hey, that is what adventure is all about.
Seeking another sort of fun, and hoping to soak up a bit of local color, Shauna, Josh, and Brent, offered to take us a bit farther south to Helen, Georgia, situated on the banks of the Chattahoochee River. It is a quaint village, formerly a declining logging town, refashioned into a replica of a Bavarian alpine town which hosts an Oktoberfest running from September through November. We began our day with a short hike to a nearby waterfall, in hopes of burning up a few calories, before we feasted upon German beer and food. The day weather wise was absolutely perfect on this particular Saturday, and as we parked in Helen, cars and people were flowing in from all directions to partake of the festivities. We walked the town a bit, and headed to the beer hall. It was really cool to celebrate my German heritage, and just enjoy the fun. If you are near Helen in your travels, Oktoberfest or not, I urge you to stop in.
Afterwards we headed back to The Pines, our current RV home, and made a campfire. The kids stayed the night. Hamburgers, hot dogs, and s’mores ensued. The next morning Brent challenged us on some two on two basketball. I am telling you, if you want a good cardio workout, play some BB. One game wore this grandma out (girls against guys, we lost) so we played a round of pig, and then Brent and I enjoyed a nice bike ride around the campground. Good times!
Monday Bruce and I found ourselves back at the Nantahala Nat’l. Forest for yet another hike on Winding Stair Gap. Wednesday was predicted to be another chilly day, so instead of hiking in the mountains, we opted to hike the Little Tennessee River Greenway urban trail in Franklin. Pretty much flat, so we hiked the whole darn thing that day, with a couple of side trails, amounting to around 9 miles and logging about 3 hours. (our record hike to date was in Isle Royale, MI; 13 miles of hilly, rocky terrain/8 hours) We rewarded ourselves with a pitcher of yummy 420 beer at Mulligan’s Bar and Grill.
Last night the good folks at the American Legion Post here in Franklin invited us to join them for a rousing night of bar bingo. So we did. We did not win a game, but did win a free drink! The people at both the VFW (of which we are members) and the Am Legion have been very kind and gracious (would you expect anything else in the south?) welcoming us to their posts. Both are wonderful places to meet and talk to local folks. They call us the Michigan people.