Big Fun along the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Princes Gail and I headed out a few days ago from our home in Winston-Salem, up Hwy 421, and 80 short miles later we were on the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway, close to Boone and Blowing Rock, NC! We headed south, with an open-ended plan, intending to take a few days to travel to the south end of the Parkway at the gate of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We stopped briefly at the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, walked a short trail, saw a few birds, but didn’t linger as we had been to this beautiful place before and had so many new things to explore.

Our next stop was at the Julian Price Memorial Park. We decided to hike around Price Lake, supposedly a 2.7 mile jaunt. Well, first of all, it seemed like 4 miles. The terrain was difficult at times. And we got the wet end of the “10-20% chance of rain” when we were at the opposite end of the lake! We finished soaking wet but feeling hearty! The place is a nice stop for campers, and the lake is open to canoes and kayaks; no motor craft. Pretty.

We stopped at many of the overlooks to take in the awesome sights. At the Rough Ridge overlook, we got onto the Tanawha Trail up to the ridge itself.

It was a steep and very rough/rocky trail, but the views were worth it!

We drove over the famous Linn Cove Viaduct. We drove past Grandfather Mountain and Linville Falls because we have been to those places before. We spent the rest of the afternoon stopping at overlooks and taking in sights like this.

Our first night was at the Little Switzerland Inn, right on the Parkway itself. The main advantage was that we didn’t have to drive way down to a small town in one of the valleys to find a place to stay. There aren’t too many hotels on the Parkway, and Princess Gail and I aren’t really the camping sort. We’ve done it before and enjoyed it, but we much prefer a bed and a shower!

We were up early the following morning to catch the morning light and the first birds at the nearby Orchard at Altapass. This little video says it all:

Besides the spectacular mountain vistas, the Parkway offers many other treats for the eyes.

It is common to see wildlife and not-so-wildlife all along the Parkway.

Our next stop was a hike down to Crabtree Falls. This was a long and strenuous hike. Along the way, we helped an older lady in tennis shoes who had fallen and broken her ankle. But for us, the hike was well worth it! Again, a video:

Later, we stopped at a few more overlooks,

…and then continued on our merry way past Mount Mitchell, Asheville, and on to Mount Pisgah. We stayed at the Pisgah Inn for dinner, a beautiful evening, and our second night. What a pleasant surprise to find this view from our room:

We woke up the following morning to this glorious view!

Another video? … Okay!

Of course, we couldn’t let an early morning in the mountains go by without birding, so we took a stroll  on the grounds around the Pisgah Inn. We had a fittingly “blue” morning on the Blue Ridge: we spotted a Blue-headed Vireo, a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and a Black-throated Blue Warbler!

And then it was back on the road. We stopped at several overlooks, and then at one of our planned destinations, the Devil’s Courthouse. It is one of the higher elevations on the Blue Ridge.

We decided to hike to the summit, and… we made it!

Of course, the views were dramatic, and… another video!

And after that, as all good things must pass, we knew our beautiful trip was sadly coming to an end. In the last 30 miles, we enjoyed our final vistas, like this one:

We talked about the many wonders we had seen, which included wildflowers and butterflies,

…Wild Turkeys, bears,

…(I actually did see a bear, from the safety of our car, dart across the road right in front of me,) and of course, our many beautiful birds, including this Pine Warbler:

The road finished it’s final windings

…and we said goodbye to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Goodbye “for now,” as we are certain to be back soon! 😀

Birding at Reynolda

We had a very good day birding at the beautiful Reynolda Gardens today. It is part of the Wake Forest University grounds, all of which was donated by the JR Reynolds (tobacco) family. We saw 34 species but I only managed a few half-way decent shots.

The first one was easy, because the bird box doesn’t fly away the moment I compose the picture and try to focus.

This next one was easy, too, because the subject is so just damn photogenic! 😉

Our looks on most of the birds were brief in this dense foliage, and some of the birds were just too small and far away for good pics. But this Scarlett Tanager is okay.

This Yellow-crowned Night-Heron was the most cooperative, peacefully fishing along a little stream.

Taking pictures of good looking birds can be difficult, unless they pose nicely for me like this:

That was the bird of the day! 😀

Sunday Scenery – The Blue Ridge Parkway in Autumn

Gail’s mother and stepfather are here visiting. We took them up to see a small part of the Blue Ridge Parkway on an absolutely glorious day. I couldn’t decide on just one, so I’ll present nine Sunday Scenery images. I hope you like them!

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Pisgah View Ranch

Gail’s son Eric graduated last year, and as a graduation present she offered him a horseback riding trip. With his autism Eric doesn’t do very well interacting with people but he LOVES animals. So Gail organized a little trip to the Pisgah View Ranch, a horse ranch in Candler, NC, just west of Asheville. She picked this time of year because it is quiet on the ranch, without the agitating distractions of too many people.

The rides were fun, slow walks up the forested mountain along the various trails of this 2,500 acre ranch, which has been in the owner’s family since the 1700’s!

Gail and Eric enjoyed making friends with the horses…

…and enjoyed some quality time together.

The ranch offered a little entertainment in the evenings. One night we were treated to a really great introduction to the world of Cowboy Action Shooting! After their demonstration event, we had the opportunity to shoot handguns and rifles. Gail turned out to be a very accurate shooter, a real natural! I guess I better always behave myself! 😉

The ranch provided very tasty, hearty meals and warm hospitality. There was also plenty of time to hike and to partake of our special interest in birding. Some of the highlights included a Wood Thrush,

…an ear-full of Cedar Waxwings,

…a number of hawks, including this juvenile Red-tailed Hawk,

…numerous Eastern Wood-Pewees,

…a Belted Kingfisher (I don’t like taking pictures of birds on wires, but this is an exception,)

…and a Black-throated Green Warbler.

I don’t have a picture, but we also had the pleasure of hearing, tracking down, and spotting a Pileated Woodpecker. It is always fun to see and hear this large bird of the deep forests. And we heard an Eastern Screech-Owl right outside our cabin at 3:00 in the morning. I went outside to check but it was too dark. Next time we’ll have a flashlight!

All in all, it was a nice little trip! And I can wholeheartedly recommend the Pisgah View Ranch!