North Carolina “High Country” – Week 2

Our last week in the High Country of North Carolina began with a relatively easy drive from the Burnsville area up to Blowing Rock.  A drive to Blowing Rock though is not complete without a few pit stops first.  We weren’t really sure what to expect with the weather this week so we wanted to get some of our favorites out of the way first!

Beef Jerky OutpostValle Crucis, NC

This place has become a must stop for us on our trips up here.  First, Beef Jerky is great food to bring along when your hiking….until you run into a bear.  However, we’ve never seen a bear (knocks on wood).  It’s great protein, seals well in the package, and oddly both our kids love it!  There is an endless supply of all different types of jerky here.  From your normal every day orange teriyaki to deer, gator, snake, and camel.  They always have three types of samples for you as well!  The link to their Facebook page is in the header and click on the city of Valle Crucis in the paragraph header to go to the Google Map location as well.  You won’t regret it!

Over Yonder Restaurant – Valle Crucis, NC

Just a couple minutes down from the Jerky Outpost is the Over Yonder Restaurant.  It’s right across the street from the Original Mast General Store .  More on that in a minute.  Instead, let’s get to how good this okra was!  This wasn’t Cracker Barrel okra that’s for sure.  You could tell this was real and fresh!  Just take a look at this picture.  Considering this was a typical tourist time for them they were jam packed, but they fit us in right away, and food came out quick as well.  This was our first visit here and we loved it.  The cheese grilled cheese with the BLT salad was a perfect mixture!

As for the Mast General Store, if you’ve never been you should go, if only to say that you’ve been. The place is huge, and on the register of historic places.  Their prices are pretty descent for some of their gear and they always have a sale going on.  If you can’t find it here they have a surplus store down the road just a bit as well.  It really is a neat place, but be forewarned it will be crowded!

Appalachia Cookie Company – Boone, NC

Last on our list for the drive up was this amazing place!  If you’ve never been here, you must stop in and order fresh cookies.  They are so good and they’ve even won an award or two.  We’ve tried every single on on the list and have had them shipped to friends as well.  Our favorite go to is the Blueberry White Chocolate Oatmeal….you won’t regret it.  By the way the picture to the right is Flat Stella, she went everywhere with us on this trip.  Flat Stella was a school project for our daughter.  Stella had to go places with us and do things with us, and then my daughter had to draw the corresponding pictures.  Funny thing though, this picture is real, but many of the Flat Stella pictures we took I had to photoshop Stella in because we forgot to take pictures with her!

Chetola Resort – Blowing Rock, NC

The place we called home for our second week was the Chetola Resort.  The entire size of the facility was very big.  We had a two bedroom condo unit and while the pictures on their website didn’t reflect the unit we stayed in, it wasn’t too bad.  The master bathroom shower had issues all week with the faucet and the hot water and the heating in the unit itself struggled to keep up with temperatures in the single digits. They had a fire pit where they held a “bonfire” as they called it.  It was more like 4 or 5 logs and they sold hot chocolate for $3 and a paper bag to make 3 smores for $5.  That was kind of a downer for me.  All in all it was quiet, we slept well, and it was a nice location as we love the downtown Blowing Rock area.

Hikes – Linville Falls-Plunge Basin

It was so brutally cold that we were only able to complete 3 hikes all week.  If you include the two times my wife and I woke up to watch the sunset from a rock on the Rough Ridge trail, well then that’s 5 hikes.  As a family though we completed 3.  The first hike was Linville Falls-Plunge Basin , and this was a great hike.  When I mentioned before that our daughter does not do well with easy hikes, we meant it.  This trail was slippery with ice, huge boulders, quite a bit of mud, and a drastic elevation change and she loved and hiked every step of the 2 mile hike.  This was one of the more fun hikes, and one I’d love to come back and do in the summer when it’s hot and you can jump in the water.  Being that it was a little more than 20 degrees, we hid from the wind at the basin floor and ate lunch before beginning our climb back.

Beacon Heights Trail to Grandfather View

This hike was a random decision to stop and hike.  We wanted to spend more time outside today as we knew that the cold front was coming in.  This hike was brutally cold because of the wind.  It was quite unreal how much the wind was howling and how the clouds were flowing over the mountain peaks.  The views were pretty.  It was a very short trail, our daughter actually fell asleep in the Deuter carrier she was so worn out from the previous hike we had just completed.  It was a short hike, 30 minutes total, but we got some good pictures to share in short time.

Crabtree Falls

Let me begin this description with the fact that there was no expectation for snow the entire week we were supposed to be there.  What does it do?  It snows a half inch the first day and about 3 inches the 3rd day we were there.  We didn’t mind though as it afforded us the opportunity to do a hike mid-morning to Crabtree Falls.  It had just snowed 3 inches, and we were the ONLY people at the trail head.  I came to appreciate this more than most things this week.  It was so quiet and peaceful…except for the occasional snowball the kids were throwing.  What was great was the animal prints we could see in the snow.  The kids loved trying to figure out what each print was, where it went, what it was doing, and were they looking at us as we were hiking.  As we made it to the falls, the temperature was about 15, but the sun was out and there was hardly any wind.  The falls were mostly frozen over and covered with snow.  It was very peaceful and beautiful at the same time.  This trail took us about an hour total and was a good warm up for the rest of the day.


The kids loved the snow.  That’s really all that matters.  We found places to sled, broke a few sleds, had a blast, made some memories, and it was so worth it.

First on this list, we decided to go tubing at Sugar Mountain.  Word to the wise, make sure you get there to be the first group and don’t go during Christmas or New Years holidays.  We went a few days after New Years during the middle of the week and had a blast.  Friends of ours tried to go to the session after ours and it was so packed they couldn’t even find a parking spot. Early bird definitely gets the worm.  The experience was good, I appreciated the fact they were more safety conscious than Beech mountain and our kids both had a great time.  We chose here because our daughter at 4 years old could tube whereas she couldn’t anywhere else.  This was great.

Famous Brick Oven – Beech Mountain

We can’t say enough good things about this place.  We’ve been here a couple of times, and each time the food is absolutely phenomenal.  Yes, it is always a little crazy because of how busy they are.  However, they are responsive, friendly, and again the food is excellent.  Our favorites are the pizza and wings.  I am not sure if we were worn out from tubing and sledding all day or if the food was that good, but we drove from Sugar Mountain up to Beech Mountain on this day just to come here again knowing we liked it last year just to have it again.  If you are near Beech Mountain you have to give this place a try, and while you’re there draw a cool drawing representing where your from on a paper plate and put it on the wall!

Appalachian Ski Mountain

We decided to take on snowboarding at night after the kids were going to sleep at Appalachian Ski Mountain.  Being that it was right around the corner from the resort made it a big plus.  If you have to rent gear the process is a little confusing, but they have people standing around to help answer your questions.  The wait was probably 45 minutes, which I didn’t think was too bad considering how many people were waiting.  What was even better is once we got on the mountain there didn’t seem to be nearly as many people as we thought.  We rarely had to wait to get on the lift and the last two hours or so there was no wait at all.  It had recently snowed about 3 inches and they had a good base already from the man made snow.  The staff was excellent, helpful, and polite.  We will most definitely come back here again in the future!

Downtown Blowing Rock

The downtown area of Blowing Rock is really pretty special.  On nice days during the holidays it is absolutely jam packed, too packed for my liking.  However, there are so many neat stores, restaurants, a playground for the kids,   free covered parking garage, and an excellent coffee shop.  We highly recommend Camp Coffee Roasters right on Main St.  They coffee is excellent and the bakery items are just as good with other local items offered as well.  This area is a not so hidden gem, but one I can’t wait to come back to.


We are always happy to answer questions and love featuring some of our favorite places to visit on our trips.  The extreme cold this second week made it hard for us to do as many things as we wanted.  The high never got about 15 and the lows every night were around 1-3 degrees F.  While it is definitely a dry cold without the wind,  making it tolerable when the sun was out, the last two days the wind was blowing a constant 35mph and snowing and it was far too cold for the kids to be out in for more than a short period of time.  The windchill the last two days hovered between -10 and -27 and we just weren’t prepared with proper hand, feet, and face coverings for the kids.  We love this area of North Carolina and hope you do too!

North Carolina “High Country” – Week 1

Leading up to Christmas this year the kids really started to show signs of understanding the importance of why we really celebrate Christmas.  It began a few weeks before Thanksgiving while driving in the car with my son.  We drove past a retail center that already had Christmas decorations up.  He asked why they had the decorations up already, and I replied they are decorating for Christmas so they can get a jump start on sales for people buying Christmas presents.  He then said, “It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, they should really just care about Jesus’ birthday.”  We decided that we should take the chance to “get away” for a few weeks during Christmas break from school, and we ended up in the High Country of North Carolina to do some hiking.

Mt. Mitchell Area

Our first week in the High Country we stayed in the area of Busick, North Carolina.  Don’t worry you can’t find the city on the map.  It’s one of those places with no cell phone signal, dirt road access, and a beautiful running creek parallel to the road.  The road dead ends at the Black Mountain campground with several trail heads.  What it lacks in grocery stores, it more than makes up for with great trails, fishing access, and quiet.  It’s a short ride to the Blue Ridge Parkway with the only negative to that being when the road is closed due to Fog or Snow.

Catawba Falls Trail

On Christmas Eve we decided to get out of the house, do some geocaching, explore the area and do a short hike to a waterfall.  We found several geocaches as we circled from north of Mount Mitchell to the west near Burnsville then south toward Asheville before finally approaching our hike at Catawba Falls.  This hike was relatively easy.  We decided to wander a bit off the trail to try and find another geocache, but unfortunately we never found it.  The trail was about 2.1 miles out and back with a very modest 330 foot incline.   Follow this link here for more details and to see full hike details on the All Trails App/Website.  However, it did make for a great stopping point at the waterfall and a great way to stretch our legs.

Roaring Fork Falls Trail

Christmas Day was upon us and we needed to get the kids out of the house!  Lucky for us this trail was right around the corner.  This was by far the easiest trail we hiked.  If we’ve learned anything hiking with our 4 year old daughter, it’s that she absolutely despises easy hikes.  This hike is 1.4 miles out and back and there were no rocks or roots or heavy inclines.  We were able to find two geocaches along the way, one of which was one of the types our kids love to find…geocaches with random quarter machine toys that other people have left behind.  The falls weren’t the most amazing we’ve seen, but they were fun to walk around and the hike again was something to let the kids burn some energy.

Peak of Mount Mitchell

The day after Christmas we decided to drive around and see if we could find some geocaches.  For the most part we didn’t do much except hunt around for geocaches.  The Blue Ridge Parkway had been marked as closed for the previous few days due to some unreal fog.  I’ve never driven in fog some think in my life.  Driving about 15 mph I still almost hit several deer and a group of turkeys twice.  We got back to the house sometime around 4pm and I happened to check the Blue Ridge Parkway website for a status update.  Upon checking I noticed they had opened the parkway all the way to the road that leads to Mount Mitchell.  It was a rare sunny day this week, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to see the sunset from the peak of Mount Mitchell.  So we loaded up and drove way too fast to the peak of Mount Mitchell.  We got there in perfect timing too.  The temperature was about 22 degrees.  As we got to the peak I jumped out of the car and ran the 400 meters to the peak on the paved sidewalk.  I then had to wait about 5 minutes to have the burn in my lungs completely stop.  It was so worth it though.  The colors across the sky were unbelievable.  Had it not been so cold I could say up there for an hour just staring at the sky.



Pinnacle of the Blue Ridge

This trail was very unique.  It’s a 2 mile loop trail with an almost 500 foot elevation change.  There is  1 off road parking spot right at the trail head (which doubles as a park service access road).  However, if you drive 1/4 a mile up the road there is more parking and you can walk off the road in the grass.  This is a loop trail and if to find the trail head on the right you will want to use the All Trails app to find it because it is not marked.  The entire first half of this trail was through weird overhanging bush trees and basically a straight up hike.  It most definitely burned the calves.  It was quite strange compared to the rest of the mountain area trails though.  When you are walking through the first half all you think to yourself is please let this open up at least once to see something cool.  This trail did not disappoint.  When we finally made it to the high point the trees disappeared and we were able to climb boulders to find some pretty amazing views.  We hung out on the rocks for a bit, took a picture with our daughters class project (Flat Stella) and enjoyed some snacks for a bit.

Fly Fishing

While we/I were semi prepared for some fly fishing.  What I wasn’t prepared for was fly fishing in the bitter cold.  We made a couple of attempts in the South Toe River, but unfortunately the weather was just too cold and too cloudy.  Stay tuned for our next trip to this area when there’s warmer weather in the spring!  For now, enjoy a few pictures of our son having his first go at fly fishing.

River Loop Trail / Setback Falls

For the end of our first week and first location we decided to give one last hike a go.  First, the All Trails app was way wrong on how long this hike was.  Yes, it is a loop trail, but it was more like 4.5 miles instead of the 3.5 miles it said it was.  The end of the hike was very strenuous, and honestly the views weren’t that great.  The best part of this trail was the 1/4 mile side hike to Setback Falls.  What made the falls really neat was the fact that it was so cold the falls were mostly frozen.  The kids had some fun and we took some neat pictures as well.

First Week Summary

All in all, we loved the area.  There are so many trails to explore and geocaches to find and in warmer weather plenty of places to fly fish.  We’d love to come back here again.  What’s great about this place, is that it wasn’t chock full of tourists like us during the holiday time period!