Three National Parks, One Great Road Trip, Celebrating America’s Best Idea: Part 4

national

1916 – 2016

It’s Tuesday around noon, and I’ve put a mere 100 or so miles on the odo, the shortest day on the bike thus far. I roll into the parking lot of my nights lodging and shut the ST down for the day. Hiking is on the agenda for this afternoon, after a welcome lunch in the lodge. Roo and I stayed here ten years ago, and loved it. To make it even more special, we had an exhilarating wildlife encounter right here on the grounds, but more on that later.

Remember this photo from an earlier post? Note the sticker………..

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This is the inspiration………

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 The Peaks of Otter (POO) Lodge sits right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and is one of only two Parkway Lodges that are overseen by the National Park Service.

The Lodge

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Inside the lodge, I immediately went to the gift shop and plunked two POO stickers on the counter. I said to the little old lady working the register, “I just couldn’t resist.” She said with a sigh, “nobody can.” So, if you are traveling on the BRP in Virginia, stop at the POO and git yer sticker!

The Peaks of Otter are three mountain peaks in the Blue Ridge Mountains that surround Abbott Lake and The Peaks of Otter Lodge:  Sharp Top, Flat Top, and Harkening Hill. The name, Otter, supposedly came from a early Scottish settler and family whose last name, Ewing, was pronounced like Otter, when spoken in Gaelic, or their clan name. The origin is unclear.

Sharp Top Mountain

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The POO property is beautiful, with man-made Abbott Lake being the centerpiece. Trails go around the lake, as well as up all three mountain peaks, Sharp Top being the most difficult. Adirondack chairs grace the lawn inviting you to sit a while and take in the natural beauty, which I did.

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The rooms here at POO are very comfortable, but definitely not high end. My room was on ground level, all have patios or balconies facing Abbott Lake. At first glance, maybe even second and third, it looks like you are walking down a prison cell block:

POO Prison?

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I was in cell 200

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The rooms are excellent, and the view out back of Abbott Lake and the three Peaks of Otter is gorgeous.

After a scrumptious lunch in the lodge restaurant, it was time for a serious hike and work up a bit of a sweat. I chose to climb Harkening Hill, one of the three Peaks of Otter, which has a trail leading up to Johnson’s Farm, a homestead from the 1800’s. About a quarter of the way up the trail, I came to a clearing, and saw this looking at me:

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I stopped, and started to raise my camera, when more eyes wanted to check me out:

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 Not satisfied, they wanted a closer look. So, closer they came…….

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and closer still ………

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At about twelve feet away, they realized there was no food to be had from me, so over to the bushes they went:

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Four beautiful does, maybe fawns, they looked pretty young. But never once did they display any fear of me. Another enchanting experience.

Back in 2006, when Roo & I were here at this same clearing, a female black bear and her two cubs caught us by surprise as they emerged from another trail not twelve feet from us. We stopped, standing perfectly still, barely breathing, as they came into the clearing. Momma bear hadn’t seen us or caught our scent yet, as her two cubs pranced into the clearing. Suddenly, she whipped her huge head around as she caught our scent, and stared at us. Roo started snapping photos. Funny thing was, the look on the bear’s face showed no fear, anger, or aggression. It was, quite frankly, calm, peaceful and inquisitive. Roo got the photo. Immediately, she turned her head, nosed her cubs into the clearing, and trotted off. I can’t describe the feelings we felt then, and still do whenever we think about that surreal moment. The photo hangs in our living room to this day.

Across the clearing the trail continues and takes a sharp upward slant, beginning the climb up Harkening Hill to Johnson’s Farm.

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Johnson’s Farm

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Scenes from Johnson’s Farm

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 Dusk was setting in, so it was time to head back down Harkening Hill, hill being a misnomer, as this is definitely a mountain, albeit, a small one. Back at the lodge, I got cleaned up and headed for the restaurant for a delicious meal. To my surprise, there was a team of two musicians playing Appalachian mountain music during dinner. The mood was perfect: mountain music, a rustic atmosphere, great food, and a Scottish Ale. A perfect day. To put one more exclamation point on the day, I ventured outside to the lake and encountered this beautiful scene:

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Tomorrow I continue my journey on the Blue Ridge Parkway as I enter North Carolina.

Next Post: Goodbye Virginia; The mountains are calling.

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