It seems whenever I post that picture of my truck on the wrecker, I get a bunch of PM’s asking me what happened. I thought I had posted that story here before, but maybe I didn’t because I can’t find it with search. So, I’m posting the trip report I wrote for a newletter when we returned from our week on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Sorry, it is long.
Trip Report: Blue Ridge Parkway – May 2002
We left after work and headed north on I-75 through Chattanooga and then north on I-81 out of Knoxville and into Virginia. The KOA campground where we planned on spending the night was full so we just parked at the local Flying J Truck Stop along with a few other campers. Got up the next morning and had a great breakfast at the truck stop and then continued north on I-81 to Roanoke where we picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 120. The Parkway starts at the Shenandoah Nat’l Park at mile marker 1 and ends at The Great Smoky Mtn Nat’l Park/Cherokee, North Carolina at mile marker 469.
One of the first things we saw after we got on the Parkway was a house cat that had met his demise in the middle of the road. While that in it self is not that unusual, what was unusual was the fact that a crow was having his breakfast at the expense of the cat. It is sad that the cat had come to an untimely end and maybe the crow should chow down somewhere else. But for some strange reason the thought that came into my mind was that for millions of years cats have been gulping down our small feathered friends without a second thought and it’s about time the birds got a little payback. On most days cats eat birds, but if only for this one time, on this one day, a single small bird stands up and eats a cat; its justice in its purist form. It was obvious; this was not going to be a “normal” trip.
We drove south on the Parkway till we reached Smart View Picnic Area around noon. We stopped and had lunch. Along the way we saw several white tail deer and turkeys with chicks. Actually, we saw lots of deer and wild turkeys everyday we were on the Parkway.
Leaving Smart View, we drove south on the Parkway to Mabry Mill. Mabry Mill is a restored water wheel powered gristmill set in a very scenic location with a reflective millpond. We continued driving south and camped at Doughton Park CG at mile marker 240. That evening we had several deer walk through our campsite.
The next morning we stopped by the restored Brinegar Log Cabin and then drove into Boone, North Carolina and bought a couple of $2 showers at the county recreation center. Met a local man in the recreation center shower who gave me some excellent fishing information on local trout streams.
We got back on the Parkway and had lunch at Linville Falls Picnic Ground and let the dog go swimming in the Linville River. We then drove south and stopped at Crabtree Meadows Campground were we stayed the night. That campground is known for having very large number of fire flies (lightning bugs) that flash in unison. At one time, there were probably 200 fireflies within 75’ of our campsite.
The next morning we again headed south with plans to drive to the end of the Parkway and camp at the Cherokee KOA; but it was not to be. At Asheville, the Parkway was closed for a landslide so we had to take a 40-mile detour through Brevard, NC. Brevard is at the bottom of the mountain and the Parkway is at the top of the mountain so the road from Brevard to the Parkway is a long narrow and very steep 9% grade with numerous hairpin switchbacks. We made it up to the Parkway at mile marker 415 and drove a few miles south past the Graveyard Fields and turned off the Parkway onto a dead-end road to the Shinning Rock Wilderness Area, near Cold Mtn.
We parked at the end of the road and walked some of the trails. But when we tried to leave, the clutch hydraulic slave cylinder went out on our 2001 F-350, so we were stuck. Being broke down 500 miles from home at the end of a dead end road at the edge of a wilderness area on top of a 6,000’ mountain 10 miles from the nearest pay phone was not good. However, we did have a cell phone that just barely worked. And it only worked if I held it in my left hand while standing in one particular spot along the road with one foot on a particular rock and the other foot on a particular tree stump. It wouldn’t work anywhere else.
It was getting late in the day but we did get hold of Ford’s Emergency Roadside Assistance who got a wrecker out to us within a couple of hours. Which was much better than I expected, considering where we were. I had told the guy on the phone to send a BIG wrecker, unfortunately, the wrecked driver showed up with a rather small wrecker that had quiet a bit of trouble lifting the front of my diesel truck with the camper in the bed. Once loaded, we got to roll off of that 6000’ mountain with truck, camper and dog in tow and back down the same narrow steep 9% grade that we had just come up only a few hours earlier. That was an interesting ride off that mountain; it brought to mind an old saying about a toothpick and a ten-pound sledgehammer, but I won’t go into that.
When we got to John Johnson Ford in Brevard, it was well after closing but one of their mechanics, Travis Odell, was still there working late on a customer’s vehicle. He found us a spot in the parking lot to leave the truck and camper. He told us it would be ok for us to stay there that night. Where else were we going to go? Before Travis left for the evening, he stopped by our “campsite” to make sure we had everything we needed; he was a real nice guy and turned out to be an excellent mechanic.
The next morning (Friday) the service manager, Kim Whitmire, worked us into their busy schedule. Travis had the clutch problem diagnosed and the master and slave cylinders replaced by noon. The employees of John Johnson Ford in Brevard, NC exceeded our expectations in every way possible. I originally thought we would be stuck there in their parking lot all weekend, but we were back on the Parkway headed south again by 1pm; Amazing.
That afternoon we stopped at Water Rock Knob and walked the trail to the top of the knob. Made it to the Cherokee KOA by 7pm, had a shower and went to bed after a long two days.
Saturday morning we got up and went to the all-you-can-eat pancake breakfast at the KOA and then headed into the Great Smoky Mtn Nat Park to Elkmont campground. We picked out a campsite by the river and let the dog go swimming. We then drove over to Cades Cove and drove the 11-mile loop where we saw 7 bears, bunch of deer and several turkeys.
We stopped along the Cades Cove Loop Road and I got out and walked a couple of hundred yards into the woods to get a better look at one of the bears. I could see him and I thought I was making plenty of noise so he would know I was there. But, when I was about 30 yards away when he looked up and saw me. He went running up the hill a little ways and then circled around and came running back down the hill directly at me. But he stopped about 10 yards away, reared up, came back down and slammed both of his front paws down on the ground and made kind of a “woof/grunt” noise. Then he turned and ran back up the hill and disappeared into the trees. Note to self: Don’t follow bears into the woods, they don’t like it.
We drove back to camp at Elkmont and grilled some chicken and hamburgers. We built a big campfire and recollected on the last few days: of breaking down in the middle of nowhere, finding the only spot where our cell phone would just barely work, being safely towed off of a 6,000’ mountain and down a 9% grade by a midget wrecker, camping in the parking lot of a NC Ford dealer, safely unloading our Lance camper in that gravel parking lot by starting the truck in first gear with the clutch engaged (interesting), finding a good mechanic that understood the problem and fixed it right the first time, the small Ford dealership having the odd-ball clutch part we needed to get us going again, being charged by a bear and walking away unscathed, and getting some excellent local trout fishing information from a naked man in Boone. As predicted, it had not been a normal trip. Yes, we had some bad luck with the clutch failure, but after that, things kind of when in our favor.
But, despite all that had happened, as I sat in my lawn chair watching the fire, I mostly thought about the deceased cat and the cat-eating bird. Maybe I had been too harsh in my judgment of the cat and the need for some bird retribution. Maybe this cat didn’t deserve what he got. Maybe he just ended up in a bad situation and things didn’t go his way. That’s kind how like is sometimes.
The next morning we drove home and back to the “real” world.
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Brad, thanks for the post. I think that you're right, though, I think you did say something about having trouble on the Blue Ridge Parkway to get that picture, but you didn't give us as complete a report before.
It's stories like that one which made get a cell phone.
BTW the crow eating road kill is no suprise. Up here it's ravens and crows who eat road kill and join the moose looking for salt on the road in winter.
Enjoyed your story....know those places and was just like being on the BRP again. There is a campground on highway 276 down to Brevard; it looks very nice. We were staying at Pisgah cg and drove down for a look see in case we wanted to stay there sometime. The would not let us past the front gate since they were full up....I just wanted to see it for future stays. Seemed those folks at the gate were full of attitude; been all over the US camping and that was the worst treatment anywhere.
You were very lucky at Cades Cove to see the bears, and not be worse for it. Lady was eaten just over the mountain that year. Might have been the same bear all pissed off from an encounter with some guy on the other side of the mountain . I think you deserve a trip down the Natchez trace so you can write another one for us.
There is a campground on highway 276 down to Brevard; it looks very nice. We were staying at Pisgah cg and drove down for a look see in case we wanted to stay there sometime. The would not let us past the front gate since they were full up....I just wanted to see it for future stays.
You must be talking about the Davison River CG. Link
We stayed there last Fall. It's a great CG. If you avoid weekends and Summer, it's not crowded.
Sometimes those volunteer park workers do get a little bit of an attitude. But I can only imagine what they have to deal with running a busy CG all Summer for no pay (kinda like being a forum moderator, except they get a free campsite ). I’m just glad they aren’t armed!