Picture
Schoolhouse Falls in Panthertown Valley.
We decide to get an early start today to avoid the possible thunderstorms and also to beat the holiday crowds.  We figured Panthertown Valley would be a good hike - lots of waterfalls, beautiful forest, and not a lot of people. Panthertown Valley is one of the most unique places in North Carolina.  It consists of over 10,000 acres in the Nantahala National Forest and is comprised of a network of official trails, old logging roads and many unofficial trails.  Even the "official" trails can be hard to follow - at this time none of the trails have a blaze and there are multiple shortcuts that can lead one astray.  Always have a good map and a compass when attempting any hikes in this area.  We got to the East Entrance (Cold Mountain Entrance) at 8:30 and there were only a handful of cars at the trailhead.  Rich knows the trails in this area and has an original map showing some of the unmarked and unofficial trails so he led the way.  And good thing he did - I would NEVER have found my way out.  It wasn't a difficult hike at all - but at times the trail was merely a small path and sometimes led to a dead end, causing us to backtrack and take another path.  But it was a great adventure (as usual!).  We took the trail to Schoolhouse Falls and from there, took a path on the other side of the falls and followed the creek upstream.  Once we left Schoolhouse Falls we didn't see another person the entire time - we had the other falls all to ourselves!  Remarkable for a holiday weekend.  We were going to make it a longer loop, but unfortunately, the thunder started, so we took a shortcut back to the road and to our car and back home.  Can't wait for tomorrow's adventure - Twin Falls in the Pisgah! 

 
 
Picture
View near Locust Knob
I decided to take off today to get a great start to the Labor Day weekend (and it's dear hubby's birthday weekend so I had to start the celebration a little early).  Once Rich got off work (well - one of us had to start the celebration early - unfortunately it wasn't birthday guy!!) we headed up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to check out the section that they just reopened from road repairs and to do part of the Mountain to Sea Trail.  We started from the Graybeard Overlook and headed Northeast towards Glassmine Falls.  The trail had tons of blueberries and blackberries so we picked our way towards Locust Knob, sampling the berries along the way.  The hike was fairly easy, but overgrown in certain parts with some stinging nettle.  We past a few very nice potential campsites along the way, and finally came to a great view across the blueberry bushes.  By this time it was close to 6:00 and we had dinner waiting on us back at the house, so we went back the same route to the overlook and headed for home.  A great start to the weekend!

 
 
Picture
Falls on Road Prong
So this weekend I decided that I wasn't going to decide anything.  That's right - I'm protesting decision making.  So, I made my husband choose the hikes and he did good!  On Saturday, we got a late start (unfortunately I had a meeting that ran late - which is the main reason I'm protesting decision making - work will do that!) but he pointed the car towards Clingmans Dome and away we went.  Just hitting the forest made the stress of the last two weeks melt away.  Then when we got to Road Prong trailhead, all was right with the world.  I love this hike in mid to late Summer - the flowers are spectacular and you get a waterfall at the end to top it all off.  It's quite a hike back up the mountain, but very well worth it.  This hike is also one steeped in history, like a lot of other hikes throughout the Smokies.  The trail was an old road used by settlers, Indians, soldiers, and everyone else in the area as the major route between the north and south ends of the Smoky Mountains.  At one point, it was even an old toll road; the charges were based on the type of traffic - pedestrian, cattle and livestock, even vehicles.  Since we got a late start, we decided to only hike as far as the first falls, but the trail continues on to Chimney Tops.  After a great hike, we headed over to Cowee Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway to try for a sunset, but it just wasn't happening there.  We packed it up and headed home, but once we got to Graveyard Fields, the sky decided to glow and provide a beautiful ending to the day after all - so glad I decided to protest decision making.  I'll have to do that more often.