Saturday, September 24, 2022

Local Towns and Trails

July 31-August 5, 2022                                                     Most Recent Posts:
Bear Den Family Campground               Bear Den on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Spruce Pine, North Carolina                               Wrapping Up at Riverbend




Here I am in my site at Bear Den at least partially set up with my awning out, my mat down and my antigravity chair.  Today is Sunday and by the time everyone left I had the place to myself.  VERY NICE.  But that will only be the case  until Thursday or Friday.  You can barely see that my bedroom slide is in and the awning ripped.  It tore when leaving Riverbend and I am trying to find a mobile technician to fix it.  I was hesitant to put the slide out because toppers are there to protect the slide roof from sun, water (rain, dew) and to keep water from coming into an RV which, if it happens,  is nearly a death knell.


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Foggy mornings here on the mountain top in this virtual rainforest that is the North Carolina Mountains.  But inside the woods was fine so I hiked my second campground trail which I enjoyed and later hiked several times while here.  Best of the bunch in my opinion.  The campground must feel that way too since they have named it the Bear Paw Trail which was why I was surprised to find a lovelier waterfall near its end.  Maybe there was info that told me this and I didn’t see/read it but it was a wonderful surprise and I’m glad I didn’t know.


Sadly, I’m too late here for the rhododendron flowers.


I’ll bet it was beautiful going through these tunnels when they were in bloom.


Oh dear, no bridge?


That was before I saw the trail curved around beside the creek to a spot where you could cross over.


There were mushrooms galore on this trail but most are ones I’ve shown in other posts this summer.  Still I couldn’t resist this little grove of orange buttons.  What are they if you know?



Interesting trail marker to spray paint the tree trunk and roots red.


The sound of the falls has gotten louder and louder so I know I’m nearby.  I wasn’t expecting such nice steps after a relative rough trail.




Here’s a close up of the cascades at the bottom of the steps.


Here’s a short video for waterfall lovers of these lower falls.


But the trail ends at the waterfall which doesn’t appear to have a name unless it is Bear Den waterfall.


It really is a very lovely falls and was a wonderful tranquil spot to return to which I did several times over my month long stay here.

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And of course a video of the main falls.  Click here to see it.


20220801_135427On Monday I headed back down the mountain to Marion which I had driven through on my straight up trip to Bear Den.  I had taken Route 122 and driven along the Parkway 5 miles to arrive.  Route 126 is closer but steeper and curvier.  A motorcyclist’s dream based on all the ones on the road.  Thank goodness I researched and did not bring Winnona this way. 

I was in need of groceries and since I was hungry by the time I got there, I went to Bruce’s Fabulous Food which got the best reviews for non chain local  restaurants in Marion.    Bruce is right on Main Street and clearly there are no parking problems. 


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It’s clearly a local favorite.  I got there at 12:30 for lunch and by the time I left there was a line.  Not sure if it was that I didn’t know what to order – I had a quesadilla, 3 bean salad and a slice of their “famous” cheese cake for dessert.  I thought it was OK but wouldn’t go back without a recommendation for what to order.


Mrs. Bruce waits tables

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Mr Bruce in the orange does the open kitchen which was just beside my table.

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The cheese cakes are apparently a serious favorite and are made by a local woman.  Boy she must work hard doing all these every day.   Banana was the special today and was thus less expensive.  They were out of Cherry already which is partially crossed out so I had chunky turtle just to see what it was.  Sadly I have no notes on that and my memory isn’t that specific.

After lunch I walked around town to see what was there and didn’t find much. 





My research told me there was a spot called Mount Ida Wilderness Park on the edge of town so I went to hike the Overlook Trail.  It was of course straight UP.



Here’s the overlook.  Wonder why they don’t call it Powerline overlook.

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I also drove over to the Catawba River Greenway which is a paved path along the river and very nice for bikes or hiking it appears.  No time to hike today but I might return if time permits or I run out of hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Next day it’s another trail.  One very nice thing about this campground is the number of trails to hike right here on the 400 acre property.  On Wednesday I hiked the Black Foot Trail where I actually had a real view.




There were several of these lovely flowers on the trail side.  I’m guessing it’s a yellow fringed orchid but I’m not sure.  Let me know in the comments what you think.


Looks like I’m hiking right into a tube doesn’t it?  Felt that way too.


The trail is out and back.  3.6 miles up.  Again, lots of mushrooms of which I have many pictures but these two were particularly interesting.


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This would have been so fine if the rhododendron and Mountain Laurel had been in bloom and I had been walking through their tunnels.

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Tunnel right up to the view.

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My first look at Table Rock Mountain.  I’m sure you know which one it is.  Later in the week I stopped by its overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway.


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A view worthy of the climb.  This video shows the entire panorama from my view point.  A better look at Table Mountain Rock.


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On the way back I watch this fritillary flutter from flower to flower.  So beautiful.  Wish I knew more about butterflies to know exactly which fritillary it was.


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I’ll have been here a week on Friday and have really been taking it easy doing a lot of reading as well as writing and posting blogs.  I’ve done 3 of the 4 hikes in the campground and have tried very hard to get an RV Tech to tell me when he can come and fix my slide and water pressure gauge.  No luck with that.

I’ve been doing some planning for what to do outside the campground as well.  But I find myself fixated on my next stop.  After what were for me stressful drives to both Riverbend and here, given that I’ve never driven the rig in the mountains, I want to make sure I don’t have any more steep narrow roads on my trip to SW Virginia.


So on Friday I drive down the mountain on the other side to Spruce Pine which is the town I’ll be going through on my way when I leave.   Going anywhere from Bear Den means driving the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This time, I stop at a couple of overlooks on my way to Spruce Pine.




These mountains must also be part of “the great smokies” from their look today.

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I drive 10 miles down the mountain.  There is a shorter route but not one Winnona could take and I’m checking out a route for Winnona.  There are two possible routes I want to look at.  The direct one I find is narrow, no shoulder, winding and UP.   In order to avoid that  I’m going to have to go pretty far out of my way turning a 125 mile trip into a 189 mile trip.  But I don’t care.  What I’ve come up with is nearly all 4 lane highway or interstates all of which have a gradual climb up the mountains.  I feel much better.


IMG_2844After driving around checking all this out since I don’t trust google’s drill down feature to tell me the real steepness of the route, I head back to Spruce Pine for lunch at what looks like an interesting place.  Unfortunately by this time it has started to rain.  There is a cute train station which doesn’t appear sadly to be in use any more.


I donned my raincoat and walked around Spruce Pine which is smaller than Marion. It has an interesting commercial area with an upper and a lower Main Street.   The street below is one of the ones that goes between them.  Some of the larger businesses share back walls.  There are a number of restaurants so it must be more alive at other times than on this Friday mid afternoon  in early August.


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Unfortunately pretty much immediately before I got to Tropical Grille, their grille went out and I was told it would be tomorrow before they would be able to serve anyone else.  The last two lucky people were eating outside as I left. 


Seems a strange theme and d├ęcor for a restaurant in a town in the mountains of North Carolina.  Wish I could have tasted the food.






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Back at Bear Den, the week-enders had moved in.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

Bear Den on the Blue Ridge Parkway

July 28- July 31 2022                                                          Most Recent Posts:
Bear Den Campground                                               Wrapping Up Riverbend
BRP near Spruce Pine, NC                         Chinquapin Mountain & Highlands



On Friday July 28, I moved from Riverbend to Bear Den.  It was only a 111 mile drive but the narrow roads, curves and mountains were worse coming from one end of the North Carolina Mountains to the other than they were getting to Riverbend initially.  Driving 11 miles on the Blue Ridge Parkway was the nicest part.  I guess I’m too nervous for mountain driving.  I’m having such a wonderful time in the North Carolina Mountains but I’m not sure I have the fortitude to return again.


The campground at Bear Den is off the Blue Ridge Parkway UP a long narrow gravel road.  The road has driveways to houses along it and dead ends into the campground.   The campground is very large as you can see from the map.  It has both campsites and cabins though the cabins that I saw in the campground have no amenities.  The campground roads themselves go further up the side of the mountain and I was all the way at the top.  Section D.  Low gear just to get there.


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The campground’s information says some cabins have Jacuzzi spa tubs, provide a completely equipped kitchen and fully-furnished living area with gas log fireplace, porch and private deck.  But the only ones I saw within the campground were simple one room.   I didn’t look into where the others might be on the 400 acre property.



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My site was a pull through which was nice initially but it was very odd in that the two sites “above” me drove right by my patio on the “drive way” every time they went in and out.  There were several other sites I would have liked much better for a month long stay.  Unlike Riverbend where most people were long term – month or seasonal, the sites above me switched out every week-end and later in the month were empty all week long which was very nice though there was still an amazing amount of traffic on the loop that surrounded me.


This picture shows Winnona from the front.  The 3 sites on my “driveway” were in the middle of the road that circled to the top and back which everyone who rented a golf cart, so they didn’t have to walk the steep hills, had to drive up and down.  There was no privacy and often no silence.

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The campground had a very small lake separated into a swimming section with a small beach and a fishing section with a dock.

There was more fishing than swimming while I was there but it was seldom too hot here right off of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Notice the mid dock that sticks out into the lake on the swimming side.

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Here it is from the top of the dock.  You can see the swimming rope and the fishing dock on the far left.

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From the other side of the lake the artificial waterfall is visible.


I guess this makes 3 waterfalls on the property technically.

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Bear Den is known as a family campground and in addition to the swimming and fishing lake has a basketball hoop and a popular recreation room.


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The campground also has a series of trails on its 400 acres.  And two of them have waterfalls.  The campground areas are in yellow toward the bottom of the map.  I was in area D.



IMG_2573The first hike I did from Bear Den was on the property, the Cascade Trail which I understood had a waterfall on it.  At that point, I thought the property only had one waterfall and I wanted to see it.

The trail began uphill from my site and continued uphill to the falls.  It was steep and long, a single track, rooty and slick in spots.  It was approximately 3 miles round trip but it felt like a lot more.

I found numerous mushrooms but few flowers.  I took pictures of tons of mushrooms.  These are the most interesting ones.


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I really wasn’t expecting to see a tiger lily at the base of this large oak.

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An example of the rooty trail with fungi I don’t think I’ve seen before.  Look closely for orange “stalks”.


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No idea what they are or if they are edible.  Do you know?

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Lots of rhododendron and huge rocks as I approached the cascade.

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Lovely as it is, it doesn’t seem like a cascade to me.  I called it Dripping Springs.

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This video of “dripping springs is a bit jerky in parts.  The rocks were slick and I was trying to show the area and trail in.  But the sound is magical as always and the negative ions were wonderful. Negative ions are believed to produce biochemical reactions that increase levels of the mood chemical serotonin, helping to alleviate depression, relieve stress, and boost our daytime energy.  I know for sure that I feel better after spending time in them.  And after another harrowing drive,  I was only to happy to spend time here.

I was very glad to arrive and get parked at Bear Den.  This hike not easy, but a nice start to my month long stay here.