For this episode we venture away from the Atlantic Ocean for a few weeks to meander the Blue Ridge Parkway and see what remains of the autumn foliage on display in the Appalachians. It was sad leaving the coast but we will return after blowing some leaves in the Virginias.
The Commonwealth of Virginia
First up is Shenandoah National Park. Traveling in the shoulder season definitely has it perks – the campgrounds and National Parks are nearly empty. We just barely caught the tail end of the leaf peeping at the north end of the Shenandoah Valley.
Alas, the leaves were mostly on the ground by the time we arrived and setup the Airstream but that didn’t stop me from venturing out onto a few trails to see what was left of the fall color program.
Lots and lots of bare trees to behold. One annoying thing about camping during the fall forest foliage dump is the ridiculous amount of leaves that end up on the Airstream roof solar panels.
Little Stony Man Trail was the perfect little hike up to a vantage point with excellent views of the Shenandoah Valley and beyond.
We camped near the little town of New Market, VA which provided some interesting history and a decent latte for the drive to our next destination.
Hello West Virginia and the New River Gorge National Park. This was just a quick afternoon stop to check out a few overlooks and drive the narrow road that traverses deep into the gorge and back out again.
Summer is obviously the best time to experience New River Gorge for hiking and white water rafting. The area was mostly buttoned up for the winter when we arrived.
We were getting a little bored with leafing so I decided to switch up the itinerary and stay in WV a bit longer to do some wine tasting at the local Blue Ridge wineries. Lily and I moved to a stellar location close to the town of Floyd, WV that offered some spectacular valley views right outside the Airstream door.
The wineries were big and impressive but the fruit wine was horrible. At the end of the day, wine tasting was a nice change of pace and I got to meet some interesting people at the tasting rooms.
Back at the Airstream we enjoyed one last peek at the leaves before heading into the next state for a few days of hiking and adventuring.
The State of Tennessee
The Smokies beckoned us to come and explore the old growth forests. So, on a cloudy day we entered the most visited park in the United States – Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
The clouds subsided just in time for my hike to Alum Cave. Being the most visited park in the NPS, the trail was crowded to the point of annoyance with people completely unaware of trail etiquette. But I was able to meander along for a while and get some good pics without any people interfering.
The trail to the cave was really fun with lots of “natures staircases” along the way. I’ve said it before, National Park hikes are the best.
Arriving at Alum Cave I had to ask people “was this it?” because it didn’t look like a cave at all. It was more like a giant overhang. But regardless of my disappointment it was still a glorious sunny day to be on a trial out in the woods.
Heading east we made a stop in Asheville to visit The Biltmore Estate. This was a quick stop with the Airstream attached while en route to Charlotte. It is an impressive and super busy/popular place. After seeing The Breakers in Newport I knew I had to stop in Asheville and continue my education of the Vanderbilt lifestyle.
The Biltmore was all decked out for Christmas and the self guided audio tour was really really good. I would like to come back to Asheville someday and stay a bit longer.
Lily and I arrived in Charlotte for the singular purpose of visiting John Van Buren and family. It’s always a wonderful treat to drop in on friends while Airstreaming around the country and this certainly was no exception. Three wonderful days of golfing, breweries, eating, drinking, and visiting. Thanks for the hospitality JVB, see you in Seattle soon!
The Outer Banks
Welcome to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore. This is absolutely the most enchanting stop on our trip so far. Rodanthe is uniquely beautiful and the seashore utterly captivated my soul.
We spent several days exploring the lighthouses and life saving stations positioned around the seashore. Oh, and the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills was very very interesting.
And what’s better than a beach front happy hour at sunset. The Airstream was parked mere steps from the ocean and I could hear the waves crashing and roaring all day and all night.
After five days on Hatteras Island, we loaded onto the ferry to Ocracoke Island for more days of sunny seashore exploring and sunset happy hours. Ocracoke is a tiny little town with a lighthouse, tiny narrow roads, and a pirate themed atmosphere.
Pristine white sand beaches and a local brewery in town is the absolutely perfect vacation in my opinion. I sampled them all!
About the only things to do on Ocracoke is beach, drink, eat, and relax. And I had no problem doing any of that. Even Lily was on beach time and enjoyed relaxing with me at the campsite.
The Outer Banks are simply amazing. The sunsets were like perfect paintings every night. I can’t wait to return someday soon.
So, that’s it. After many wonderful and relaxing days it was time to say goodbye to the Outer Banks. I absolutely loved it there and plan to return again soon.
Next up, we continue south towards Florida with a few interesting stops along the way. See you again soon for more adventure updates and don’t forget to check out @paulandlilygoplaces for lots more pics and videos.