Blue Ridge Parkway, Creek Side Camping and Barbeque in North Carolina

After two days of elk watching in Cataloochee Valley we packed a lunch and set out from our campground in Waynesville for a 40 mile drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway in search of fall colors.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a 469 mile scenic parkway through the southern Appalachian Mountains in Virginia and North Carolina. The northernmost point of the parkway is Mile 0 in Rockfish Gap near Waynesboro, Virginia. The southernmost point is Mile 469 near Cherokee, North Carolina. There are scenic overlooks, picnic areas, hiking trails, and campgrounds all along the way.

Although we have traversed several sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the past we had never been on the area in North Carolina north of the Highest Point at Mile 431. On our journey this time we traveled south from  Mile 408 at Mount Pisgah to Maggie Valley at about Mile 455.

The first order of business was a picnic at the Mount Pisgah picnic area at the top of a short paved trail. After lunch under the trees we started our journey south, stopping at several of the scenic overlooks. It was too early in the year for the peak autumn colors but a few of the leaves were beginning to change.

Fall Colors on Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Fall Colors on Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

Looking Glass Rock got it’s name because sunlight will reflect off the granite when there is water collected on it.

Looking Glass Rock Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Looking Glass Rock Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

There was beautiful scenery every where we looked.

Beautiful day for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Beautiful day for a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

We found a few more fall colors.

A few fall colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
A few fall colors on the Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

There are many folktales surrounding the Devil’s Courthouse. It was getting late and we decided to skip the trail to the top.

Devil's Courthouse Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Devil’s Courthouse Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

The picture on the left was taken 8 years ago when we first stopped at the Highest Point of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile 431. The one on the right from this visit.

The photo below is the view from the Highest Point.

Highest Point Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Highest Point Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

A few clouds rolled in as we continued south,

Blue Ridge Parkway in NC
Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

Our home base for exploring Cataloochee Valley and the Blue Ridge Parkway was Creekwood RV Park a few miles north of Waynesville and Maggie Valley. Our site backed up to a beautiful creek. It was a perfect place to relax after a day of wandering.

Of course we had to try some North Carolina barbeque while were were there. The Heywood Smokehouse in Waynesville was recommended and the spareribs, chicken, and brisket were done to perfection. And it turns out the owners are originally from Georgia!

Heywood Smokehouse in Waynesville, NC
Heywood Smokehouse in Waynesville, NC

Beautiful fall weather, bugling elk, scenic drives, camping beside a creek, and delicious barbeque. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Wandering around Ridgeway, South Carolina

We’ve had a wonderful summer at home in Georgia but the fifth wheel hasn’t moved in four months. It’s time to hit the road and do a little wandering in the RV.

We are heading to Virginia to spend a few days visiting our daughter’s family. We’ve made this trip several times before and although we could make it in one day we like to stop somewhere in North or South Carolina to break up the trip.

We enjoyed taking a walk around the pond in the campground
We enjoyed taking a walk around the pond in the campground

I love staying in new places so after I read a good review of the Little Cedar Creek Campground I decided we would check it out. The campground  is clean and well maintained with friendly and helpful camp hosts.  The sites are wooded, spacious and quiet. There are trails through the woods and at the bottom of a hill is a little pond and a creek. We decided to stay two nights so we could explore the nearby town of Ridgeway.

A Moose in the South Carolina Woods
A Moose in the South Carolina Woods
Dawg vs Gator
Dawg vs Gator

 

Downtown Ridgeway has some interesting old buildings, shops and a wonderful restaurant in the old town hall. We strolled around downtown and enjoyed a delicious lunch at the Old Town Hall Restaurant.

Next stop, Virginia!

Into the Texas Plains

The landscape changed from vibrant green rolling hills and roads lined with bluebonnets to flat, brown plains as we drove north to the small town of Buffalo Gap where we camped at Abilene State Park. Huge buffalo herds once traveled through the area where the town is today. Many of the cattle drives also came through the area.

Visiting with my friend Tim was the highlight of the day!
Visiting with my friend Tim was the highlight of the day!

We had a great visit with my high school friend Tim, a 7th generation Texan who has lived in Arlington most of his life. He picked a beautiful, sunny day to drive over to Buffalo Gap to see us.

We drove to nearby Abilene to see the western heritage exhibits at the Frontier Texas museum in Abilene. We learned a lot about the history of the area from the prehistoric days to the wild west. Everything was very well done through exhibits and two excellent films.

From Buffalo Gap we continued through the Texas panhandle driving through miles and miles of plains to Lubbock. Around Sweetwater we saw huge wind farms on top of the buttes and lots of oil pumps across the plains. As we approached Lubbock there were huge cotton fields on either side of the road.

The highlight of our trip to Lubbock was a visit to the Buddy Holly Center. Buddy Holly was born and raised in Lubbock and began his music career there. Two of his biggest hits with Buddy Holly and the Crickets were “That’ll be the Day” and “Oh Boy”.

Buddy’s music was a big inspiration to many of the British bands who became superstars later. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elton John all credit Buddy Holly as a big influence in their music. The Rolling Stones first hit, “Not Fade Away”, was a Buddy Holly song.

Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and J. P. Richardson (“The Big Bopper”) died tragically in a plane crash on February 2, 1959 while touring across the Midwest. One of the members of Buddy’s touring band for the tour was Waylon Jennings. Waylon was supposed to be on the plane but gave up his seat to J.P. Richardson who had the flu.

To visit Abilene we stayed at Abilene State Park in Buffalo Gap. Our site was a large back in surrounded by woods with water and electric hookups, a picnic table and fire pit. Go here to read my review of this park.

To visit Lubbock we stayed at the Mesa Verde RV Park in Wolfforth. Our site was a large pull through with full hookups. The park has a swimming pool (not open when we were there), two laundries, free WiFi, two enclosed dog walks, and very nice, helpful owners. Go here to read my review of this park.

Hiking Enchanted Rock and the Llano Fiddle Fest

We weren’t ready to leave the Texas Hill country just yet. With Inks Lake full for Easter weekend we had to vacate our lake front campsite and find another place to stay. We really liked the town of Llano and found a private RV park beside the Llano river that had a site for the three nights.

Enchanted Rock State Park is short drive south of Llano so on Saturday we set out early in the morning  in hopes of beating the Easter weekend crowds. We arrived at the park entrance before 9:30 only to find a line of cars waiting to get in. It only took a few minutes to get our parking permit, park and head for the summit trail. Many families were out enjoying the climb to the top.

The  highest point of Enchanted Rock 1,825 is feet above sea level. Climbing the Rock is like climbing the stairs of a 30- or 40-story building. My fitbit said I climbed 56 floors that day!

We had a great time at the Llano Fiddle Fest. After a picnic lunch at the bottom of Enchanted Rock we returned to Llano to go the LanTex Theater to hear some of the fiddlers in the 38th  Llano Open Fiddle Contest.  I don’t know anything about Texas Fiddling but I know I enjoyed all of the contestants we heard.

On Sunday morning we drove to the Llano Museum to hear some more fiddling and eat a Cowboy Breakfast put on by the Llano Historical Society. We got there as the ladies were starting to put everything away but they told us to come on into the kitchen for some biscuits and sausage gravy. The volunteers were so friendly and nice. I love small towns!

Spencer and Rains were playing old time fiddle tunes in one of the rooms in the museum. Tricia Spencer grew up in Kansas and learned to play from her grandparents. Howard Rains is a native Texas artist. We enjoyed listening to their music and bought one of their CD’s.

Saturday afternoon after climbing Enchanted Rock and listening to fiddling we returned to Cooper’s BBQ to get some take out for our Easter dinner on Sunday. The line was wrapped around the building but after a short wait we arrived at the pits to choose our meat right off the grill. We chose a chicken half, brisket and pork tenderloin.  We got some beans, sauce, and jalepenos to go with it and were back at the campground to rest after our busy day.

Llano River
Llano River

Riverway RV Park was our home while in Llano. This private park takes Passport America and Good Sam. All the sites are large pull through sites with full hookups, WiFi, and cable. There is a large clubhouse with kitchen, meeting room and a very nice laundry. The RV park is located on the Llano River only about a mile from downtown Llano. There is a short trail to the Llano River. Wildflowers were blooming beside the trail when we were there. Go here for my review of this park.

Good Eats, Hot Sauce, and rain in Cajun Country

After a rough ride traveling west in Louisiana on the worst section of I-10 in the United States we arrived at Poche’s Fish N Camp in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana for a couple of days. The campsites are arranged around a large fishing pond lined with Cypres trees. Most of the sites have a paved pad, full hookups, and WiFi. There are several ponds for fishing, a clubhouse, swimming pool, and laundry. The staff was great. Many thanks to them for recommending Fun in the Sun RV Repair to repair our heater and many thanks to the repairman who came out in the rain the same day we called him and got it fixed.

It rained off and on the whole time we were there so we couldn’t do too much exploring in the area. I had to do my bird watching at the campground. A Snowy Egret walked along the pond right behind our campsite in the afternoons and Cormorants and ducks were in the water every day. A Great Blue Heron even made an appearance.

The rain couldn’t stop us from enjoying some amazing Cajun feasts! Crawfish etoufee, rice dressing (dirty rice), slaw, fried catfish, fried shrimp, chicken and sausage gumbo, Boudin, Andouille sausage and more! We ate several delicious meals at Poche’s Market and Restaurant. Their market has a large selection of sausages, meats and seasonings so I filled the freezer with Andouille sausage and Boudin to take with us and now my pantry has some of their seasoning mix and File powder.

A visit to the Tabasco Factory on Avery Island was a must see on this trip. Henry is a hot sauce aficionado and Tabasco is a staple on our table along with the salt and pepper. We visited the factory 30 years ago when our kids were young and we both have memories of walking into the aging room with the aroma of the sauce so strong that most of the other people in the tour got out of there as fast as they could. Not Henry! He loved it! Unfortunately, they no longer take the tours through that room.

The sauce is aged in barrels that were first used to age Jack Daniels Whiskey. We watched a short video and then watched original Tabasco sauce being bottled and labeled before browsing in the museum. We had our first taste of Boudin sausage (yummy and spicy) from a food truck and spent a few dollars in the gift shop before heading back to Breaux Bridge. A stop at Walmart for some necessities and we were back at camp in time to watch the rain come down the rest of the day.