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So, any votes on whether or not I’ll actually finish posting about this vacation???  Someday!

Tuesday dawned bright and clear, and we got an early start (sadly foregoing breakfast by Joe…  while delicious, it wasn’t the fastest breakfast choice).  While we had originally talked about only driving part way across North Carolina, we concluded that we’d rather do the whole drive at once, and camp in the Croatan National Forest near the coast.

First off, though, we went back to Crabtree Falls.  It was just so beautiful that we really didn’t think Timmy and Erin should miss out on it entirely.  While it wasn’t as mysterious as it had been in the rainy fog, it still held up quite well in the sunshine.

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One advantage to traveling with other people is that Tom and I actually got to have pictures taken together – when we were in Colorado last year, we got one picture of both of us (except for a few terrible selfies lol) because not only were we not traveling with anyone we knew, most of the time there weren’t even other people in sight!

Anyway, after a quick breakfast stop in Spruce Pine, we headed down out of the mountains and east towards the coast.

So “Piedmont” is  a new word for me, but apparently it is the official term for that boring area between the mountains and the ocean.  We concluded that we did not want to live in the Piedmont, as its easy accessibility to both mountains and ocean seem to be the only thing to recommend it.  Still, the drive was easy enough.  We swapped around driving and pushed through, with only minor disasters, like the worst service I think we’ve ever had at a fast-food restaurant (ole Bojangles).  But when you’re on vacation, even troubles turn into entertaining adventures and much laughter.

We camped that night at a small campground in Croatan National Forest.  While the camp host seemed to be suspicious of people under the age of 67, we kept things quiet.  It was good to just unpack, unload, and stretch our legs.  We’d stopped at a random Food Lion and picked up hot dogs and fixins for supper, and enjoyed our fire, including gigantic marshmallows.

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Isn’t our little campsite so cozy??  I actually really enjoy car camping.

While Croatan isn’t on the ocean, it is along a very wide river mouth.  After setting up camp, we had some couples-time taking walks and enjoying the lovely evening.

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As we settled into our tents that night, completely happy, listening to the distant roll of thunder that never seemed to get closer, I couldn’t help but be excited – we were only 20 miles from the ocean!!!

The next morning, we woke up to see that our view was not nearly as spectacular as the day before!

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Along with the rain, the fog had rolled in.  It was a lot chillier, too.  However, we had planned a day of indoor activities to avoid the weather (after eating our spectacular breakfast cooked to order by Joe!).

First stop, the Linville Caverns.  While not huge, the Caverns are a fun stop, especially on a day where the outdoor weather isn’t so great.  There’s a nifty gift shop that we puttered about in for a while, and then took the tour.  I’m not a huge cave person, so I’m not going to rave about the caverns themselves, but our tour guide for that trip was absolutely hilarious.  She was honestly one of the best tour guides I’ve ever had for any tour ever (and I *love* tours, so this is saying something).  I got the impression that she actually knew a lot more about caves/geology than is normal for the job, and now she’s trapped telling amateurs about stupid shapes in the rock that kind of look like pickles or bats.  She was the perfect level of sarcasm, and she had the four of us laughing out loud on multiple occasions.

The caverns themselves were interesting but not amazing.  They are limestone caves, and very watery – before floors were added to make walkways, they were really just underground streams.  We had a good time at the Caverns, but the pictures didn’t really come out well, so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

We were still pretty stuffed from our huge breakfast (Joe seriously knows how to cook), so we decided to check out the little town of Spruce Pine.  We’d already seen their WalMart, but we were pretty sure that the town had to have more to offer.  We visited a sketchy thrift shop (every single thrift store we visited/passed in North Carolina was linked to women’s shelters; it was weird), and meandered around before finally finding the actual downtown.  Tragically, it was a Monday, so most of the stores were closed.  But we poked around a bit before deciding we were hungry.  Pizza Hut for a late lunch, and then back to the hotel.  Timmy and Erin decided to rest for a bit, but Tom and I were feeling the need to be outside, despite the continuing drizzle and fog.  So we headed back south on the Parkway a bit, destination Crabtree Falls.

The fog actually gave the drive (and hike) a lot of ambiance.  The tunnels were especially fun.

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We chose the Crabtree Falls hike because it was not only close, but it didn’t have the word “vista” in the trail description.  Obviously, the weather didn’t lend itself to vistas, but a hike down into a valley to see a waterfall sounded perfect.

Hiking through the misty rhododendrons down the rocky trail was actually delightful – mysterious, quiet, otherworldly.

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We could hear the falls long before we could see them.  When we finally found them, we were delighted to see a picture-perfect waterfall.

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It was a great hike, about 3 miles all around.  The climb back up was steep, but the falls were so beautiful and the weather so fun that it was well worth it.

The evening was spent watching a movie and shooting some pool.  Because of the weather, the expected other guests hadn’t shown up (Joe told us), so we had the place to ourselves for a second night.  Good times indeed.  :-D

Sarah E. McCafferty

July 2021
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it’s in the past