Greetings from North Carolina

America’s Favorite Drive – The Blue Ridge Parkway stretches around 469 miles from Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to Great Smoky Mountain National Park in North Carolina. With over 125 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway running through the High Country of North Carolina, it features charming mountain towns, lofty mountains, rugged landscape, thick forests, crashing waterfalls and so much natural beauty. As a former resident, I can say that North Carolina is home to some great weekend getaways.

In order to truly experience the Parkway stay in log cabins instead of hotels. Lately, I have been drawn to vacation rentals that offer space, amenities and comfort which is usually hard to find in traditional hotels. Being a morning tea person, I occasionally miss it when I am travelling. I love the idea of renting a cabin in a beautiful location and the freedom to make my cup of tea and breakfast. So this time we rented a mountain cabin in Boone, a town located in the North Carolina High Country. The cabin was at the top of a scenic ridge with a beautiful view into the valley and mountains.

Ridgetop Retreat cabin
View from the backyard

A morning cup of tea watching the gorgeous mountain view, evenings spent next to the fireplace playing Scrabble, a hearty home-baked pizza for dinner, building fire in the backyard; pretty much sums up my cabin life. There was a small lake and a gazebo picnic area near the cabin that made a great relaxing spot. As we walked down the paved road from our cabin, we were pleasantly surprised to find a river accessible for kayaking and tubing during the summertime.

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Sweater, Jeans & Sunglasses – American Eagle Outfitters. Scarf: Old Navy. Shoes: OC Runner by Onitsuka Tiger.

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After much relaxing in the cabin, we set out for a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway stopping by various picturesque spots. Stop by Moses H Cone Memorial Park with 25 miles of carriage roads leading to a Manor. The house and the estate grounds are now part of the National Park Service and open to public. Take a hike downhill from the Manor to Bass Lake or walk through the estate fields.DSC_0165_194 DSC_0167_196_edited IMG_20160305_235308

DSC_0160_190Grandfather Mountain towering almost 6000 feet offers some stunning scenery and mountain landscape. Their best attraction is the Mile High Swinging Bridge, a 228 foot suspension bridge that gives visitors easy access to breathtaking views. Don’t let fear of heights stop you from walking on the bridge, it could be the highlight of your trip. Keep in mind that it is typically cooler at the top of the mountain due to elevation. The park also has a nature museum and animal habitats which is included in the admission fee of $20 per person.DSC_0198_edited DSC_0261 DSC_0265_edited DSC_0272_edited DSC_0278_editedIf you have time to do just one hike, go for the Linville Falls located off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a spectacular three-tiered waterfall plunging into the Linville Gorge and can be viewed from several overlooks. We first went on the Erwins View Trail, a moderate hike that has four overlooks, each revealing a different aspect of the Linville Falls. This hike has many vantage points from where you can see a panoramic view of the falls, the hemlocks and the surrounding mountains.DSC_0177_206_editedDSC_0186_215_editedDSC_0180_209_editedBut if you are like me, you want to go closer to the base of the waterfall. The Plunge Basin Trail (departs to the left of the visitor center) is a bit rugged route through the forests that will bring you to an overlook and the Linville Gorge Trail takes you further down to the basin.  Linville Falls is probably the most photographed waterfall in North Carolina and it is at this spot that you see the magnitude of this waterfall dropping dramatically into the gorge.DSC_0251_272_editedDSC_0247_01_307DSC_0254_01_308After a good hike, getting so close to the waterfall was like the icing on a cake. I have yet to see the world’s best waterfalls but when I sat there near the basin, witnessing the strong gush of water flowing into the gorge, at that moment it was the BEST for me.DSC_0264_01_310_edited DSC_0266_01_311_editedDSC_0276_01_312When I was moving to North Carolina, people had all great things to say about the State. To be honest, I was still living in my California bubble and I did not bother to look it up on the web. I am glad I didn’t because it felt like it was the work of serendipity.

Meeting you was chance… becoming friends was a choice…. falling in love was an unexpected but pleasant surprise. – Mark Amend

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Photo Credits: Vijay Singh