Blog Entry #14 June 7, 2017: Cumberland Gap, VA – Blowing Rock, NC – Grandfather Mountain, NC

The morning of June 7th we drove through the tunnel that passes under the actual Cumberland Gap from Kentucky to Tennessee and proceeded south to Grandfather Mountain in the northwest corner of North Carolina. It is always a thrill to cross over the ridges of the Appalachian (I like to pronounce it “apple chain”) Mountains on secondary roads that are windy and undulating, often switching back on themselves to the point where you can almost see your own taillights (heard that before). We have crossed these eastern mountains in the Jeep several times at points at far north as Front Royal, VA and as far south as Little River Gorge northwest of Atlanta, GA. The balance of the drive through the rolling hills of western North Carolina was peaceful and very scenic.

Tech Stuff

In northwestern North Carolina we noticed the ammeter moving erratically between charge and discharge. We pulled into a service station parking area where I retightened the screw that is attaching the ground wire from the generator to the cover on the voltage regulator – problem solved. Will be improving that grounding situation when we get back to Cary.

We arrived at Grandfather Mountain early afternoon on June 7th, paid the admission fee and began our 2nd gear climb to our first stop, the park museum and grill. Having run out of multi-grain bread the previous day (poor us) and with only bleached white bread being available at our last fueling stop (surprise, surprise), we elected to break with our longstanding tradition picnicking and had a satisfying (albeit a bit pricey) late lunch at the park museum lunch shop. After lunch we proceeded mostly in 1st gear up the steep and heavilyswitchback populated assent to the top of Grandfather Mountain which is at an elevation of 5,945 feet above sea level (2,444 feet above our starting point at the base of the mountain).

Those of you who have followed other of our treks know that I am not particularly fond of heights, especially when on open-air man-made structures (an engineering thing). Well, stretched across a gap at the top of the mountain is the famous 288-foot long Swinging Bridge suspended on cables above the terrain below. Although the bridge itself is only 80 feet (“only”) above the chasm directly below, the fact that the bridge looks out on vistas thousands of feet below gives on pause to think “what if today is the day that the bridge decides it has enough of this suspending stuff.

Anyway, just as I had done two years before when I braved an excursion to the railing at the top of the 169-foot tall Barnegat Lighthouse on the New Jersey coast, I bravely strode across the thankfully not-so-swinging bridge and scampered up the craggy rock formations on the other side; ultimately reaching the very pinnacle of the mountain. I gingerly surveyed the 360 degree view of the valleys below; ever ready to drop to my hands and knees should the mountain decide to toss me over its side. Jean followed me across the bridge, camera in-hand ever ready to record the “tragic” event should it occur.

June 7, 2017: Grandfather Mountain, NC

After assisting with some photo shoots of folks that wished to be photographed in or with the Jeep at the edge of the parking lot (this could be the start of a new business to defray our traveling expenses), Jean and I headed back down the “perilous” road to the base of the mountain gearing down to let the Jeep’s engine assist with our well-maintained but nevertheless marginally adequate brakes. We arrived safely at the nature center sanctuary where we viewed some black bears and eagles.

To my disappointment, the river otters were reluctant to show themselves; hiding in an artificial hollowed-out log for all but the shortest of time. For those of you who know me a little well, you can understand my particular disappointment. So, when once asked what I would like to come back as if I were to be reincarnated, I thoughtfully replied, a river otter. Do you know of a creature with a happier life?? Spend most of its days slithering down slippery slopes into clear running streams, munching on an occasional fish or mollusk when the whim hits – what a life.

June 7, 2017: Dan with Photo of River Otter Poster

Anyway, after sending some minutes trying to coax the little guys out of their den, Jean and I left Grandfather Mountain an made the scenic trip up the Blue Ridge Parkway to our evenings lodgings in Blowing Rock, NC and a meal at a local Irish Pub.

Blog Entry #13 June 6, 2017: Highland, OH – Cumberland Gap, KY
Blog Entry #15 June 8-9, 2017: Blowing Rock, NC to Cary, NC; NC Transportation Museum