Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Leisurely travel . . . to the extreme

Husband Walter and I left our Georgia tribe Sunday morning, June 1. We would meet up with them again in Hampton, Virginia, for niece Becky’s and fiance Josh's wedding and festivities.

We had allowed extra days for a leisurely drive to Hampton and some sightseeing on the way. The next morning we departed our east Ashville motel for an entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway about a mile away.

By mid-afternoon the realization struck that we were only 60 miles from Ashville, our starting point. At an average 10 miles per hour, we set a new record low—or make that a record slow—for our personal travels.

Our first stop
But I did enjoy the chance to take a few photos of spring flowers and mountain scenery that our slow pace offered. And I especiaaly savored our first stop for the day, the Folk Art Center. The center features exhibitions, library and craft shop, all focused on fine crafts handmade in the Southern Appalachians.

On a stop there several years ago, I was awed by a quilt exhibit. From intricate traditional patterns to modern fabric “paintings,” I felt I was in the presence of masterpieces. 

On this visit one of the exhibitions was the work of recent graduates from a regional community college’s professional crafts department. Wood, metal, fabric, clay and other materials were the media for furniture, sculpture, pottery, screens, jewelry and more. The unique creations were beautifully presented.

The urge was strong to document what I saw with photos. I opted, however, simply to enjoy and to work on keeping my ever-precarious balance. I definitely did not want to be remembered as that stroke survivor who crashed the exhibit—literally, and ruined someone’s labor of love.

Hubby posted photos of the spacious facility here. I, however, spent my time in the exhibit space and craft shop. I couldn't resist buying a tiny wooden bride and groom. They were just two among a variety of “sunfolk,” Christmas ornaments handcrafted from wood, painted and dressed in tiny fabric apparel.

I love Christmas ornaments. but my official excuse was to have a “happy” for our real-life prospective bride and groom, Becky and Josh.

Mountain laurel on the grounds of the Folk Art Center

A bee’s eye view of a single laurel blossom.

We usually see rosebay (white) rhododendron on our treks to the Smoky Mountains and other areas of the Appalachians. But on this drive the Catawba (purple) rhododendron was putting on a show. 

The purple-pink blooms looked like the color and structure of the Formosa azaleas of our region.  Our azaleas cover the entire shrub but are single blooms. 

In contrast, the rhododendron blooms are a display in pom pom balls of clusters made up of multiple blooms.

A single Catawba rhododendron bloom

Catawba rhododendron blooms offer spheres of botanical color.

Plus we saw a bear. That always spices up my day. And even better, he was not eating people food. He was lounging on the side of the road scarfing down some type of large-leafed green plant. It was much healthier for him than the scavenged pizza and other people food that I have seen bears eating in previous mountain trips.

View from parking for trail to Mt. Mitchell summit.

One of our final stops before making our way to the interstate was a parking area at the entrance for the trail to the Mt. Mitchell peak and observation tower. We were at 6,578 feet elevation at the edge of the parking lot. The western mountains of our nation are spectacular, but I love the spring and summer green of these older mountains.

In 2006, prior to my 2011 stroke, we had hiked to the top of Mt. Mitchell, at 6684 feet, the highest peak east of the Mississippi.

It was cold in the parking lot, just as it was on our 2006 visit. And I remembered how much colder it had been at the peak. I was content to take a few photos and climb back into our cozy van. 
Three minutes after the first image from the parking lot, clouds move in over distant peaks.

Hubby’s post on the day’s jaunt is here.


  1. I am sitting here trying to imagine ME going somewhere, anywhere at all and NOT taking photos... i love the up close look at the mountain laurel. all that detail is amazing.giggle giggle at the New record slow...

  2. I like your style of slow travel. Those mountain laurels are beauties, I haven't seen any here where I live in California.

  3. My favorite thing here today is the Mountain Laurel! I LIVE in the mountains of the Blue Ridge Parkway and have for over 40 years. I have never seen one yet!

  4. The rhododendrons reminded me of Portland where I saw them for the first time. I was thinking how much they resembled azaleas, but did not notice how the rhododendrons have the pom poms until you pointed that out. So enjoyed the "bee's eye view" of the mountain laurel. What a great set of images!

  5. Yes, you could give 'crashing a party' a new twist if you lost your balance. Beautiful journey across my favorite part of the world.

  6. Loved the rhododendrons and must admit I have only seen pictures of them. Someday --
    Loved the leisurely pace you set. Too often we zoom through life. Well done.

  7. Wonderful views and flowers. I'd love to see them in person...:)

  8. Such gorgeous flowers Linda. I enjoy seeing types we don't have here on the West Coast.
    Glad to have you going slow and working on your balance but no pictures....thank goodness for your Hubby. (:0)

  9. Pretty pictures, Linda. Glad you enjoyed your trip.

  10. I'm glad you and Walter were able to take a 'leisurely trip. I always enjoy reading about your travels, especially in the mountains :)

    The Folk Art Center sounds like just 'my cup of tea'!