Further Up and Further In
After waking up, eating breakfast and getting charged $20 in taxes on our room (those punks), we headed into the Great Smoky Mountains. The skies were overcast so we were really unsure of what we would be able to see as we drove up to 6,000 feet. (We seem to have this habit of visiting mountainous regions when its cloudy and overcast). As we wound our way up the windy roads we took every opportunity we could to search for the mountains beneath.
Eventually we found Clingman’s Dome Road which was open for this first day of the season and we slowly began our ascent to the top. As we climbed the clouds played tricks on us. Certain spots would be completely shrouded in mist, and then all of the sudden the sun would blaze through and we’d see wisps of blue everywhere. It all reminded me of the scene at the end of the book we brought with us – ‘The Last Battle’ – where the Penvensie children explore the far reaches of Narnia as they press on ‘further up and further in’ and everything is made new.
After about an hour of driving we fnally we reached the parking area, and found ourselves above the clouds! As far as we could see white and blue intermingled to create a breathtaking scene. We stared off into the distance, took a few photos and then leaving the chair behind hiked to the top of Clingman’s Dome.
The hike to the top was steep and tiring (especially with a baby on one’s back), but we made it all the way up to the observation tower and it was worth every step. On the way up we met a couple who keep teasing Hobbes when they passed us. It was a bit chilly on top of North Carolina/Tennesee, but the view was beyond words.
When we left we a hid a few Orange Chair ‘calling cards’ in the gift shop and made our way over to the Blue Ridge Parkway. We drove along this for a little over 12 miles on our way to Columbia, SC. At a fitting overlook we stopped for a photo with another C.S. Lewis book ‘Till We Have Faces’ and, soon after, took a nap at the last pull off (which to our dismay was the only ‘vista’ without a vista). With new energy and full stomachs we continued on our journey south.
It didn’t take us too long, and before we knew it we were now in South Carolina. At the welcome center they gave us multiple postcards and maps (one map was of BBQ joints in South Carolina), and immediately began looking for a place to take a picture so we could enjoy the next day without scrambling for a shot. We saw on the map that there was a ‘Sumter National Forest’ on the way, so we set our sights on that location.
When we reached the exit we got off and there were no signs for a National Forest. We followed our GPS which took us to a random drive-way that was apparently in the forest. All we saw though looked just like a back woods community. As we tried to figure out what to do I spotted a random dirt road and we decided to quick pull off and get a picture there. It wasn’t anything special, but it seemed to stand out from other pictures we had taken so far on the trip.
After finding, or not finding, our National Forest we made our way via backroad – to avoid traffic – to Columbia, SC. There we enjoyed a great time with friend involving Applebee’s, NCAA Basketball Games, Harry Potter Clue, Crash Team Racing till 1am, Krispy Kreme donuts, and watching two toddlers play together (or something like that) for the first time. It was really nice having a place to stay that wasn’t an over-price hotel.
The next morning we decided to save ‘Congaree National Park’ for another trip – because we had a lot of ground to cover before severe weather hit – and set off for Georgia to see Stone Mountain.
- Just experiencing the change in scenery and weather as we climbed Clingman’s Dome was really amazing. Before we left I already hoping we could return one day when Hobbes was older.
- Interacting with people on our hike up to Clingman’s Dome made the strenuous hike more fun. People would make funny comments like, ‘If they can do it with a baby on their back, I can do it’.
- Our lunch stop was memorable even without much a view. At one point Hobbes, as he tried to stand up, fell on his face in the dirt. I probably shouldn’t have laughed, but it was quite comical to see him go through all that work to stand only to fall on his face. He was fine though and enjoyed watching the cars fly by on the road.
- With The University of South Carolina playing in the NCAA Tournament that night things in Columbia were pretty upbeat. So it was exciting watching the game at Applebee’s with everyone else – even though South Carolina lost.
- Playing old video games with old friends is the best.