Quick getaway in the Outback
LimitedTimeOnly last edited by LimitedTimeOnly
No, not a getaway from a crime, just daily life (again, not a crime). No, not the Australian Outback, my 2020 Subaru Outback XT. I had vacation time planned this week, but was unable to go with my original plan, and my wife is working intensely right now and can’t join me, so I decided to do some car camping and hiking.
The first thought was to ambitiously drive west and visit the Barber Motorsports Museum, maybe spend a night in Memphis, then spend several days camping and hiking in Ozark National Forest before heading back, visiting friends in Nashville, then getting home to Charlotte. By the time vacation had arrived I had no energy for all that driving and the planning needed for the hiking, as well as coordinating with hotels and friends.
There are lots of wonderful spots in North Carolina, so I waited for the weekend crowds to disappear and headed out early Monday morning to the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. This area is east of Ashville, while my wife and I typically spend time in Pisgah west of Asheville, so I figured that a solo trip would allow me to explore without worrying about making sure that it was a perfect and comfortable experience for her (or our dog). It worked out quite well.
On Monday I drove up to the Lost Cove area, and hiked down to Huntfish Falls. At the trailhead my car mingled with its own kind.
After the hike down into the valley I had lunch by the humble falls and the pools, it was very relaxing, just what I needed.
I then hiked upstream and back along Lost Cove Creek for a couple of hours, enjoying the mountain laurel.
This trail requires multiple crossings of the creek. I knew about the crossings from a visit about 13 years ago that a friend led, and brought sport sandals in my pack, but chose not to change into them, preferring the boots for the hikes through underbrush. Fortunately, I hike with a pair of poles which proved invaluable in maintaining balance on slippery rocks as I stepped across. This only lasted so long and on the third crossing I soaked a boot as I lost my footing.
A bit further upstream the fourth crossing required shallow wading across, and I just wasn’t up for it. After taking a break to wring out my sock and dry off my foot temporarily, I put the boot back on and headed back, managing all three crossings without error. Along the way I came across a small black rat snake and a small copperhead snake, as well as a bevy of butterflies hanging out.
I hiked back out of the valley to my car, and drove a very short way to another trailhead where there was a nice spot to set up my car camp. This wasn’t where I thought that I would end up, but when I saw it, I decided that it was perfect.
After set up, the predicted rain came through and I enjoyed the first use of my cheap awning consisting of a tarp lashed to the car roof rack and two collapsible poles. This kept me dry in fairly light rain and allowed me to sit, relax, and cook a bit of dinner.
Later I made a fire, and dried out my sock and boot. It is wild to watch steam coming out of the inside of a boot. I may have had it a bit too close, as some of the rubber toe pulled away from the rest of the sole. It may be time for new boots, these are fairly old.
Tuesday morning I broke camp and drove on to where I thought my friends and I had camped 13 years ago . . . but it definitely wasn’t the place, so I’m glad I took the nice site when I saw it. I did explore down a side road to find some interesting camping spots, including one where a very lifted and capable vehicle could drive up into the campsite . . . or one could park by the road and carry things 50 feet. There were a number of such sites that I saw during my visit (since I was solo I could stop and check each of them out to satisfy my curiosity). On the way back out, as I was crossing this creek I got to spend some time with an owl that swooped in front of my car and perched just upstream and stared at me.
Eventually I worked my way back to paved roads and over to Linville Falls. I had planned to hike in the Gorge, but spontaneously decided to visit the tourist site of the Falls given that the crowds were low compared to any other weekend visit. I felt a bit out of place having my hiking kit on and my poles, while families with little kids and elderly folks were making the same walk, but so it goes. Nice views (the falls are hard to capture in a photo), but it made me want to get into the Gorge and by the river, so I moved fairly quickly.
The last time I visited with my wife I picked a bad trail and we climbed down almost vertically, and stopped halfway and turned around because it was no fun. This time I picked a trail that was meant to be shorter and less of an elevation change. It was, but had many very tricky obstacles. Eventually, though, I got down to the river and enjoyed a comfortable lunch next to some nice rapids.
As I was finishing lunch the water looked so inviting that I considered stripping to my underwear and going for a swim. About two seconds after that thought a snake swam up to shore in the river, looked at me, and continued swimming along the shore upstream. I took that as a sign that I should not go swimming.
After some exploration, I hiked back out on a different trail that had more elevation gain, but far, far fewer obstacles to climb over, up, or through, so now I know my preferred way to take people to the bottom of the gorge.
After walking back along the road to my car, I drove south along Old NC 105 looking for a great campsite. Happily, since it was a weekday, most spots were available for the choosing and unoccupied. In the end I feel that I picked the best spot, with a terrific view.
I set up just in time for a torrential downpour that I knew was coming. The tarp awning was useless in this condition, so I spent about an hour and a half chilling in the passenger seat of the Outback with the A/C running, the music playing, reading and having a couple of beers. Once the storm passed I got a fire started and had some dinner.
As dusk came, I got to hear a coyote calling from just below me in the gorge, then a bit later from farther away. Later, once the fire died down, I got to stare at a lot of stars, which I couldn’t do on Monday. Nice.
I woke up far earlier than planned on Wednesday thanks to a Whippoorwill perching right by my tent and doing its best impression of a car alarm at full volume. Thanks, Nature.
This meant that I was up for the sunrise over the eastern side of the gorge and Table Rock Mountain, which was a treat.
After breakfast I packed up everything and then forced myself to simply sit and enjoy the view. Such a rare opportunity and I had nowhere that I had to be.
Then I drove out, continuing to investigate campsite options and side roads, watching a wild turkey and later a little fawn cross the road in front of me. Overall, very enjoyable and relaxing, and great to not be on a timetable other than my own.
And the Outback was the exact right vehicle for the job, staying sure footed in loose gravel and soaking up the ruts, rocks and bumps, while cruising comfortably on the way there and back. I’m pleased to find that I continue to NOT regret passing on more truck-like options when I got the Subie.
WhoIsTheLeader last edited by
@limitedtimeonly Wow, that was quite a journey for you. I thoroughly enjoyed this read.
Taylor Martin last edited by
and then forced myself to simply sit and enjoy the view.
This is such an underrated activity. Just sitting and being, with no reason or rhyme. Whenever I'm sitting in a particular chair I like (I have one here n MD and one back in my FL apartment) I find myself just sitting. Nothing on my brain, looking around, and enjoying the peace of it all.
I do that outside whenever I can, because using 0% of the brain is wonderful. Sounds like an excellent trip.
Hike last edited by
@limitedtimeonly I just want to point out that an Outback XT in red with the sport grill is the best Outback. Love how it looks.
MisterButtercup last edited by
@limitedtimeonly The snake was just stopping by to tell you how good the water felt!
LimitedTimeOnly last edited by
@misterbuttercup I remember swimming in a Pennsylvania creek as a kid at summer camp, and having to keep an eye out for snakes. As such I still would have gone for it, but the timing was such that I really, really felt like it was a sign.
MisterButtercup last edited by
@limitedtimeonly Whoa, yeah that would've be a no swim from me at summer camp. And yeah, usually if you get one of those "feelings" it's best to listen/pay attention.