Our Blue Ridge Adventure
We decided that we needed to take a "tune-up trip" where we did as much hiking and walking as possible. We reached this decision because we are headed back to Europe in September 2018, where we expect to be doing a serious amount of walking, hiking and climbing stairs.
Our game plan was to visit Tallulah Gorge State Park north of Atlanta, then drive on to the Asheville, NC area so we could visit the city as well as Catawba Falls. From there we would visit Big Meadows Lodge in the Shenandoah National Park, VA. Each of these parks offered interesting hiking as well as beautiful geography & vistas. Better yet was the fact that we had never been to any of these places before and that our explorations would end at Lake Anna, VA where we have a cabin.
To view the details of how we plan trips, click here.
This was our first destination on our way deeper into the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Tallulah Gorge was our next destination.
We picked Asheville, NC as our next stop because it is not only a pretty city, but it is located in a very pretty area of North Carolina. And the kicker was that neither of us had been here before! Some research of the Asheville area, showed us that we would be able to find some nice hiking here.
Our Asheville Rental
The rental we utilized in Cheshire Village, NC just north of
Asheville. The people who we rented this from, were extremely nice, and
if you are looking for a very clean & comfortable place to stay, this would be a good choice.
Click here to see this rental listing on VRBO.
Asheville Bouchon French Bistro Restaurant
After we checked in to our rental, we drove to downtown Asheville to do some exploring and have dinner. We found this French Restaurant (62 N Lexington Ave, Asheville, NC) and decided that moules et frites would be great. The food here was very good, and they have an excellent wine list - not a large restaurant so I would suggest that if you plan to visit that you make a reservation like we did.
Click here to go to their website.
Click here for their Yelp Page. You can find their menu and more images there.
Catawba Falls State Park
After our arrival in Asheville, NC, we headed out to Catawba State Park. Our initial goal was the 1.5-mile Catawba Falls hike (3 miles round-trip) which is a steady and slightly uphill walk but it is not difficult. It follows the Catawba River, with many smaller cascades along the way. It's a beautiful trail, with sounds of rushing water and short side trails to see it.
This was our next stop.
After a quick side trip to our cabin in Lake Anna, VA, we drove up to the Big Meadows area of the Shenandoah National Park.
Our cabin at Lake Anna has been the family getaway since 1995; we created the overall design, hired an architect to create the necessary blue prints, and then hired a construction firm to build it for us. This design was an interesting challenge, because we wanted the garage area to serve as a "boat storage" area as well as a garage - so the width and depth of the first floor were dictated by that goal.
Anyone reading this who has travelled this route, are aware some of it's
"good & bad" aspects, but we thought we would add a few selected comments that
perhaps might be of use to some of you.
- At 903 miles door to door, we have driven it "straight through" and we have split up the trip by staying overnight along I-95. There is no "perfect way" to drive that distance. Obviously, we would recommend that you bring a small cooler with drinks for you & your pet.
- If you are travelling with a pet (and we always bring our dog), use the Bring Fido website to locate hotels & motels that are pet friendly.
- I-95 is not as good through the South Carolina area, always two lanes and traffic tends to "clump" together making it difficult to get past. It is almost always better to time your trip to get through South Carolina at night, when the traffic is less congested. To further define "not as good", I-95 is in rough condition most of the way through the State, much more so than other States. It would also appear that tractor trailer trucks are allowed in the left lane, and this always creates a huge slow down until each truck gets back into the right lane.
- Not to pick on South Carolina, but the larger towns are mostly further apart than elsewhere, which complicates pit-stops for gasoline, coffee or snacks.
- Going through Jacksonville, FL and not being slowed by an some type of issue, is difficult at best. We generally go around Jacksonville by taking I-295 east to I-10 west and then going south on US Route 301 and eventually back onto I-75 in the Ocala area. The problem with that route is that it brings you through many small Florida towns, many of which operate "speed traps".
- If you stay on I-95 and go through Orlando on I-4, the traffic in the Orlando area can be brutal, especially during the tourist season. As Orlando has grown, traffic has continued to increase no matter the time of day, or the time of year. You are better off if you can drive through Orlando on a weekday either early or late in the day. I-4 "improvements" have been in progress now for what seems like 5+ years.
- You could try an alternate route to bypass the Orlando traffic - for example - take route 408 from I-4 west to route 429 and then go south again to I-4. Generally there is little to no traffic on 429, just depends on the time time of day.
- Our more recent route is to drive on route 301 - coming south you would exit I-95 onto route 200 and drive to Callahan where you would merge onto route 301. Drive straight south to the Ocala area and then take route 40 west to get onto I-275 south. Yes that route will bring you through the "speed trap capitals of Florida" Waldo and Starke, but if you watch the speed control signs and use the "Wayz App" you won't have any problems.
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