There is something about that moment when we're driving along and the mountains suddenly jut into view that gets me every time, no matter where we are or which mountains lie ahead. I start breathing a little easier, smiling a little wider and have to resist the urge (or not) to belt out "Oh, what a beautiful morning!" for the remainder of the approach.
Jeff said it well as the Blue Ridge Mountains rose up before us a few weeks ago: "There's nothing dramatic about the Blue Ridge, but they're pretty and you don't feel like they're trying to kill you all the time." So true. They aren't the Rockies. They aren't the Andes or the Himalayas. But they are comfortable and beautiful in their own below-the-tree-line-type way. Plus they really are quite blue. (See the last photo for evidence.)
In October we spent a weekend in the Montreat area of North Carolina. This time we headed about an hour and 45 minutes north of Montreat for a week in the Grandfather Mountain area between Boone, Banner Elk and Blowing Rock. We stayed in a residential town called Seven Devils, perched on its own mountain. Our little cabin sat along a ridge at the top of Seven Devils at 3,655 feet, an altitude that is no joke on the scale of the Blue Ridge. (But when we thought of our place in Colorado, which sits at 9,200 feet in mountain valley, we had to laugh a little at the lack of intensity here in North Carolina. And then be grateful it's not -20 degrees, so the little ones could play outside.)
I wasn't sure how exciting the non-snowy winter mountain landscape would be to photograph, but the rising sun—and believe me, we were awake to witness every sunrise thanks to a couple of ear infections—sent me running for my camera each morning to capture its perfection. And then, of course, little things would start to catch my eye here and there...but only after we'd hit up our favorite coffee shop in these parts, Mountain Grounds Coffee & Tea Co. (We also fueled up along the way with takeout from Bella's and Valle de Bravo Mexican Grill.)
I decided to split my photos from this trip into two posts. This post covers the more classic mountain scenes, while the next focuses on a little valley community called Valle Crucis, which we fell in love with.
Above: Sunrise view from the cabin with clouds above and below. (Grandfather Mountain to the right). Below: Another perfect sunrise with the moon still high in the sky.
We didn't get to hike much on this trip due to weather and illness, but we squeezed in one hike along the Beacon Heights Trail, which required little effort but gave a big reward in the form of the view. If you've got more time and aren't hiking with a 2-year-old, check out the classic Profile Trail, which takes you up Grandfather Mountain to Calloway Peak.
My ladies and me.
Winter foliage. Most of the trees in this area are covered by green lichen (below, bottom left) which creates a stunning effect even when the trees are leafless.
I developed a crush on this old barn next to the road leading up to the cabin.
Another crush: Saddle Up Ranch, nestled along a steep section of switchbacks in Seven Devils. (I've got a thing for beautiful ranches, despite my ever-so-slight fear of cattle and horses.)
Having the Blue Ridge Parkway at your fingertips comes in handy when you're trying to get a girl or two to take a car nap.
Check back for scenes and a few travel tips from Valle Crucis. Click here to view more of our adventures.
I'm Julia Soplop, writer and photographer. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.