Todd, NC – Elk Knob State Park

For my couple of other posts of this park, search by “ranger annette elk knob state park”.

We went to Elk Knob today hoping that the azaleas at the summit would be at peak. Was also hoping that we would run across the rare gray’s lily as we were nearing the summit. Was a little disappointed. Azaleas were past peak, but still pretty nice. The gray’s lily was shriveled up.

As for the park, we took Summit Trail today as we normally do. It’s 3.8 miles round trip. The park website calls it a strenuous trail. There is 1 long straight stretch near the beginning that’s a huffer and puffer. Then when you start the final climb to the top, that’s a little steep. But, other than that, the switchbacks make the trail pretty easy to maneuver. I myself would call the overall trail, moderate. About 1/2 way into your walk, you will come to a nice view. Today there was an art class of youngsters that were sketching the view. We then continued on to the summit. Once you take the last climb to the top, make sure that you check out the view on both the north and south side of the summit. The summit elevation is 5,520 feet. You have views of The Peak, Three Top and Bluff Mountains, Mount Jefferson, Grandfather Mountain, Mount Mitchell, Mt Rodgers, and the Iron Mountains in Virginia and Tennessee. And of course the azaleas.

The park also has back country campsites, and a picnic area with toilets. In the winter time, apparently this is a popular area when it snows for cross country skiing.

We haven’t been to the park since they created some new trails. Here is a good page to view the trails and their descriptions. http://www.ncparks.gov/elk-knob-state-park/trails

Address:  5564 Meat Camp Rd, Todd, NC

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Summit Trail takes off to the right here. As you see, there is a road straight ahead. This road goes straight up the mountain.

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The trailhead with kiosk

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Butterfly along the trail

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These next 3 photos are views from the 1st overlook

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Not far from the top, you go through this cool part of the forest that has many skinny trees

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These next 7 photos are some azaleas that were still blooming at the top

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The board on the north end of the summit that shows what mountain peaks you can see

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One of the views from the north side

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And then a shot from the south side

Asheville, NC – North Carolina Arboretum

For my monthly posts from the arboretum, search by “ranger annette north carolina arboretum”.

This was our June trip to the arboretum. We chose this weekend because the arboretum was having their day lily show. Of course I took several photos from the show. But, as Steve normally does, he took photos I believe of every bloom. As I was going through the photos to select a few for my post, I was even wondering if he had taken some twice. Normally while he is taking a photo of every bloom at the shows, I go outside and roam around the gardens nearby the education center where these events are held, to kill some time.

We didn’t do any hiking today. We just spent time at the event and then checked out the gardens to see what all was blooming.

Here are some photos from today.

Address: 100 Frederick Law Olmsted Way, Asheville, NC

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These first 9 photos are from the day lily show

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And then the rest of these are photos from the gardens

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Mouth of Wilson, VA – Grayson Highlands State Park

We go to Grayson Highlands once per year. Normally when the rhododendrons are blooming. For my 2013, 2014, and 2015 posts, do internet search by “ranger annette grayson highlands”.

But, this year we probably went a couple of weeks too late to see the rhododendrons blooming. We saw one bush with one rhododendron bloom on our walk today.

We started out by hoping to catch up with a friend that was camping with some gals from her photo club. We were hoping that they would be breaking for lunch and would be at their camping spot. When we arrived, they weren’t there. So, we had our picnic at their camping spot. While we were having lunch, one of the ponies was walking through the campground.

After we finished lunch, we headed back to Massie Gap to park. We headed across the little meadow to the Rhododendron Trail trailhead. Rhododendron trail heads up the hill in front of you. It’s easy to moderate and about 1 mile round trip. Once we got to the top, we turned left and headed to the perimieter of the park on Horse Trail North. It’s only about 1/2 mile to the perimeter of the park. We then turned around and headed back on the trail above Horse Trail, which is the Appalachian Trail. This is where the ponies were today. And that is where we ran into my friend and her group. We took photos and visited for a bit, and then headed back to the car.

After we got in the car, we headed up towards the visitors center. We parked in a gravel parking lot on the right. We then headed over to the picnic area. There is a walkway that takes you to an overlook. We took some photos there and jumped in the car again.

We then started heading out of the park. Before we exited the park, there was a paved parking area / overlook on our left. This is Sugarlands Overlook. Got out and took some shots here and headed home.

Was a little disappointed that we didn’t see any of the steers today. Where we usually see ponies every time, it’s hit or miss on the steers.

Here are quite a few photos from today.

Address: Grayson Highland Ln, Mouth of Wilson, VA

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Heed the warning as you walk across the meadow to the trailhead

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Kiosk at trailhead. Good information and map.

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Starting the walk up Rhododendron Trail

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Looking back / above where we parked. A couple of people on Big Pinnacle.

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View of the road that goes up to the visitors center and a slight mountain view

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A couple of blooming bushes with mountains way in the background

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I can tell you that people don’t pay attention to this sign. We always see people trying to feed the ponies.

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One of the two azalea bushes that we saw blooming today

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Just some bloom

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An orange azalea

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A couple of serious hikers that are definitely going to do more than spend the day in the park

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Another mountain view from Rhododendron Trail

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Grayson Highlands does a great job of marking their trails

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The boulders that people are always climbing on off to the right of Rhododendron Trail

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We’re going to head south

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On Horse Trail NORTH?

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The one rhododendron that we saw today

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A view from the horse trail

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I believe this is a piece of Mount Rogers

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Zoomed in on people on top of Mount Rogers

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Zoomed in on a few ponies on top of Mount Rogers

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We are at the edge of the state park. When you walk through the turnstile, a sign showing how far it still is to Mount Rogers.

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Then, when you turn around, this is your view

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As we took off on the upper trail (Appalachian Trail) captured a few horseback riders coming up Horse Trail North

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Now, the ponies that we finally came across

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These two ponies came right up to this lady and were nudging her while she was taking photos

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This was the only baby that we saw today

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This pony is a little further up the trail all by itself

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View from Appalachian Trail

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This is the view from the overlook at the picnic area near the visitors center

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Stopped at Sugarlands Overlook as we were heading out of the park

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View from Sugarlands Overlook

Roan Mountain – Rhododendron Gardens

Prior week we went to Roan Mountain, which was the week before the Rhododendron Festival, to see how the rhododendrons were progressing. Today we went back the week of the festival to check out the progression once again since the gardens weren’t real spectacular last week.

We normally go to Roan Mountain the weekend of the festival, but we go on Sunday. We went on Saturday this time. We will always in the future go on Sunday. We sat forever in festival traffic trying to get to the top of the mountain. The traffic is not nearly as bad on Sundays. After we finally made it through the traffic, it was smooth sailing to the top.

As we usually do, we park in the first parking area and take Cloudland Trail (trailhead at upper parking lot) to the gardens. On our way, we always take the little path to the right and check out Sunset Overlook. We then take off to the gardens.

The gardens were much more beautiful today than they were a week ago. We strolled along the paved paths and also took off on the side trails. When we left the gardens, we didn’t do as we did previous week and walk some of the Appalachian Trail. We got a good rhododendron fix up at the gardens.

Here are a few photos from today. Twins were up later in the day when we arrived home, so a few of them. And, a couple of turkey photos. A big family of turkeys and their babies came strolling through the yard while the twins were up.

Getting there: Just start typing “rhododendron gardens” into Google Maps and you will get your directions.

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View into Tennessee from the first parking area after you pay your fee

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Steve at Sunset Overlook

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Zooming in on a view at Sunset Overlook

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Another Sunset Overlook view

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Walking through the pines to rhododendron gardens

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These next 6 photos are shots from our walk around the garden trails

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Me on one of the trails

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These next 6 photos were taken from the observation platform in the gardens

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I actually got both boys to look away from the turkeys and look at the camera

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One of the parents

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The turkey family

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Eli mowing my yard. It needs it.

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Now it’s Sawyer’s turn to mow

 

Roan Mountain – Rhododendron Gardens and Carvers Gap

As I sit here typing up this post, people are already starting to post photos of slightly changing leaves before the Fall season. As usual, I’m behind and am just now posting our rhododendron photos from back in June. I’m hoping to soon start playing some catch up because this has been the hottest summer on record, and we haven’t done a lot of hiking this summer. Temperatures in the 90’s with high humidity do not make for fun hiking.

But, as for this post, each year we try to go up to Roan Mountain and check out the rhododendrons the week before the annual Rhododendron Festival, the week of the festival, and the weekend after. This was the week before the festival At the very top of the mountain in the gardens, there was a lot of partial bloom. There were very few full blooms.

We started out by going up to the very top of the mountain and parked at the first parking area on your right, right after you go through the booth where you pay. If I recall correctly, it was just $3. We parked and picnicked. We then went to the upper end of the parking area and started out on Cloudland Trail. Not long after starting out on the trail, we turned right on a little side trail that takes you to Sunset Overlook. Alot of people don’t know about this little overlook. Beautiful views. We took some shots here and then continued on Cloudland Trail. It’s only 2/10 of a mile to the little turnoff to the left that takes you over to the rhododendron gardens. We took the pathways through the gardens. There is also a nice overlook that has you above the rhododendrons and has mountain views.

After enjoying the gardens, we drove down and parked at Carvers Gap. As I said before, there was a lot more rhododendron fully bloomed down there. We took off on Appalachian Trail. After a bit, there is a section where you walk through the woods, but then you are brought back out into the open. We walked to the top of the first bald and then turned around.

Here are a quite a few photos from today. The twins were up this past week. I only took 3 photos. 2 of Sawyer and 1 of Eli. Eli’s 1 photo was blurry, so I only have a photo posted of Sawyer this time.

Getting there: Just put “carvers gap” into Google Maps. That takes you right up to Carvers Gap. You will then turn at Carvers Gap and continue up the mountain to get to the rhododendron gardens.

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Cloudland Trail trailhead

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Cutoff to right to Sunset Overlook

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Coming up on Sunset Overlook

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These next 2 photos are views from Sunset Overlook

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One of the views from the overlook in the gardens

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One of the partially bloomed bushes in the gardens

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These next 10 photos are some close-ups. Keep an eye out on about 3 of the photos where there are bees either on the blooms, or flying near the blooms.

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Now we’re at Carvers Gap

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View across the road from the Carvers Gap sign

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Hitting the Appalachian Trail

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Enjoy these next 8 photos from our walk up the bald

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Sawyer at the house this past week. He’s ready to golf.

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