Grandfather Mountain it was a very short drive back to the Blue Ridge Parkway.
We still had half the day left for exploring, but wanted to make sure we were
registered for a campground after the close call the previous evening. We
shouldn’t have worried as the Julian Price campground at milepost 297 has close
to 200 spots for RVs and tents, and we had our choice of campsites that early
in the afternoon. The Julian Price Memorial Park, formerly an insurance
executive’s retreat, is a 4,200 acre area on the Blue Ridge Parkway containing
the campground, Price Lake and several trails. Boat rentals are available,
fishing is allowed and there are several pull-offs that look perfect for a
picnic. After checking out our options we chose to set up our tent in the loop
closest to Price Lake, taking some additional time to organize everything for
the evening as it looked like we were in for more rain. And sure enough, we had
barely gotten to our next stop before the rain came.
Price Lake at dawn
pulled into the Parkway Craft Center parking lot at milepost 294 in Moses H.
Cone Memorial Park just as the deluge hit. Tossing on raingear we ran for Flat
Top Manor, whose roof was just visible from the parking lot, hoping for some
shelter until the worst of the rain passed. As we approached the mansion it
became clear that we weren’t the only ones with thoughts to wait out the rain
as the mansion’s veranda was full of people- and every last one of them was staring at the scene spread out before
situated overlooking the valley below, the covered porch was a great place to watch
the storm putting on a beautiful show of lightning, fog and rain. The Victorian
Neo-Colonial home was built by Moses H. Cone and his wife Bertha at the turn of
the twentieth century and emulates Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate in nearby
Asheville. While the first floor houses the Craft Center and a National Park
visitors center and gift shop, the second floor can be seen during the Park
Service tours. We glanced at the crafts for sale but made no purchases, stamped
our National Park passports, watched the rain from the veranda just a little
longer and then went to splash in the puddles. A short walk around revealed
several choices of trails (which we would have considered if the lightning hadn’t
been so very active) and more scenic views of the valley.
Flat Top Manor, named after Flat Top mountain nearby
rain had paused we headed to Blowing Rock, the tourist town that now provides a
great jumping-off point to tour the Blue Ridge Parkway. Our destination wasn’t
the crowded sidewalks of civilization, instead it was the actual Blowing Rock.
Legend has it that a long time ago, when the windy cliffs of the area were home
to the Cherokee and the Catawba Indian tribes (which were hostile to each other),
there lived two star-crossed lovers. One day when walking near the famous
Blowing Rock the reddening sky signaled to the brave that he must return to his
tribal duty. The maiden urged him to stay with her, and the brave was torn
between love and duty; in desperation he hurled himself off the top of the
gorge. The horrified maiden beseeched the Great Spirit to bring him back to her,
and the famous winds of the John’s River Gorge blew her lover back into her
arms. It is said that Blowing Rock is the only place in the world where it
to some other destinations in the area (like Grandfather Mountain), entry was
not expensive: adults $6, children 4-11 $1. Our timing was perfect as they had
just reopened after lightning and thunder in the area, and we made our way out to
the most fantastic views of the trip. The fog rolling up the valley after the
storm made for an extraordinary scene, and each lookout brought renewed wonder at
the show nature was putting on for us. The setup is nice, with a garden and
pond, several short trails and an observation tower, but if you’re there, you’re
there for the view.
short while later we opted not to enter the traffic jam that was Blowing Rock
(the town), but instead drive towards the Parkway. We saw this Mexican restaurant and made possibly the best decision of our trip – not to eat ramen
for dinner, cooked huddled somewhere out of the rain, but instead take a
<short> break from the camping and eat a big dinner. With full stomachs
we could concentrate on the evening task at hand: building a campfire with wet
firewood. And because this girl scout had her husband with, we succeeded.