The Blue Ridges
Quiet. Peaceful. Haunting. Beautiful. These adjectives are an apt description of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. The beautiful blue shade one sees in the early mornings is a spectacle worth getting up early for, a result of the sun rising above the horizon and it’s rays bouncing off the clouds that have settled overnight. Hence, the name.
Quiet. An adjective that one cannot use to describe many places anymore. Except here, in the Blue Ridges. You can hear birds singing, the wind rustling the leaves of the trees, a farm dog barking way off in the distance, a cow mooing from a pasture. And you can hear nothing, absolutely nothing, in between. No cars, no phones ringing, no music blaring, no construction noises and none of those damn leaf blowers. This is what Roo and I came here for this weekend: to escape to peace and quiet in an idyllic setting.
Except for one particular sound. The bark of motorcycle exhausts. What, what? The third weekend in July is our moto club’s annual rally in Little Switzerland, North Carolina. Our wonderful mom & pop motel is the Big Lynn Lodge, and it sits right by two of the best motorcycle roads in the East: The Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), and North Carolina 226A; The Diamondback Motorcycle & Sports Car Route.
Friday: Chasing the bigger latitudes
This year we took a different approach to this rally. Roo’s back was acting up, as such she didn’t think it wise to be perched on the pillion seat of a motorcycle. So she drove her car while I straddled my NC700XD and rode to the Big Lynn Lodge. As we were heading to the Blue Ridges, there was only one road appropriate to take us to our destination: The Blue Ridge Parkway. I had a blast negotiating the curves of the BRP while setting the NC’s transmission in auto mode, Sport Level 3 (highest). A stop for lunch at Mount Mitchell State Park, home of the highest mountain peak east of the Mississippi River, then onward as we rode to bigger latitudes and cooler temps. Five hours later, we pull into the Big Lynn parking lot amid motorcycles and our people.
If I did dirt, this would be the bike I’d do it on…….
After unpacking the car and parking the NC in front of our room, we cleaned up and went out to say hello to friends we hadn’t seen since last year’s rally.
Roo (right) greeting her moto-buddy, Barbara. Barb rides a Yamaha FZ-09
Three members of our club are accomplished Blues musicians, and on the first night of the rally each year they donate their talents to entertain their fellow motorcyclists.
The Alligator Blues Band
They always put on a fantastic show playing and singing classic blues and jazz with a bit of rockabilly thrown in. Awesome!
Saturday: Peace and quiet with Ma Nature
This is the day Roo and I would really decompress. It has been an emotionally and physically fatiguing past few months. The chill out started with the ride up to Little Switzerland on the BRP yesterday. We all know the therapeutic value of riding a motorbike. Seeing old friends, catching up, and a couple of adult beverages got us in the chill groove. Today, Mother Nature would take over.
After a communal breakfast in the lodge, everyone geared up, fired up their bikes, and went out on their respective routes for the day. Except me and Roo. We hopped in Roo’s Nissan Versa and turned onto the BRP. It was 9:00 AM. A beautiful, crisp morning. We drove about ten miles, the only vehicle on the road. We pulled off to an overlook and shut the engine. We heard ………………. nothing. Nothing but the breeze rustling the leaves and birds chirping. It was heaven.
Our first stop was to Linville Falls. Beautiful and breathtaking. We would hike out to the falls overlook, then hike down into Linville Gorge.
On the way out to view the falls, we came upon this very, very old pine tree. The trunk of this pine was tremendous, as you can see below:
Roo the tree hugger
We could hear the rushing water of the falls as we got closer and closer. Just the sound of rushing water is enough to make me relax. Don’t even have to see it. We did, and it was gorgeous.
That’s a long way down into the gorge, and that’s where we’re headed next. We are a few hundred feet above the falls, and the falls drop another few hundred feet into the gorge. It’s going to be quite the hike, especially climbing back out!
Our descent started on this staircase, the only man made steps into the gorge.
It continued on rooted and rock strewn singletrack through rock tunnels like this:
Halfway down, I looked up along side the wall of the gorge and took this photo. The tree gives some perspective of the depth of this gorge, and we were only about half-way to the bottom! Looking up while going down!
Getting closer, we can now see the Linville River, below the falls. We’re almost at the bottom of the gorge!
Finally! We break through some dense foliage and climb around a couple of huge boulders, and we hit bottom! Standing on the banks of the Linville River at the bottom of the Falls.
Some folks were here already swimming in the river.
This photo of Linville Falls was taken from the banks of the Linville River at the bottom of the gorge.
We pulled up some rock and relaxed, just taking in the astounding beauty of this place. After a while, we started the climb back up. Wasn’t as bad as we thought it might be. It pays to be in good physical condition!
Back in the car and onto the Blue Ridge Parkway for our next adventure. Paddling and trail running at Ray Price Lake, right on the BRP. In a very unusual role reversal, Roo wanted to trail run, and I wanted to do the chill thing and paddle on the lake. She changed into running gear and quickly took off down the trail. I rented a canoe and serenely paddled out onto the lake.
Ray Price Lake
What a gorgeous lake. Paddling here in a canoe had me seeing flashbacks to Boy Scout camp as a kid, paddling lakes in Upstate New York.
I came across this beaver dam in a backwater section of the lake. How cool!
Photos from amidships
What a wonderfully decompressing day. Outdoors all day long, a wonderful lunch in a fantastic Italian restaurant in the town of North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, and driving the Blue Ridge Parkway for hours. The sun is setting, it’s getting darker on the Parkway, and it’s supper time for critters moving about, as we head back to our motel and our moto buddies.
Sunday: “One more cup of coffee before I go, to the heat in the valley below.” (Bob Dylan paraphrase).
Yes. Heat. Lots of it is forecast for back home in South Carolina. Triple digits worth, topping out at 101 degrees F. But right now, early morning in the Blue Ridges, it is wonderfully cool. Roo and I pack up her car, then head into the lodge for breakfast. Everyone is geared up and wanting to get on the road early. Some have hundreds of miles to travel. We, too, are anxious to get an early start., so I can minimize time spent in the heat and humidity. As soon as the NC’s headlight is tilting downslope, the temps begin their upswing.
Hugs, handshakes, goodbyes, and everyone is heading out. The sound of motorbikes is everywhere. It’s not quiet, but that therapeutic sound is a fitting end to another great rally.