Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Six peaks, four days

We settled up the bill at our hotel in New Orleans. Somehow the $45 per night hotel ballooned into $76 after adding in all the taxes and fees! Apparently Louisiana state law requires safes in all hotel rooms and hotels charge $4 per night for this? That was just one of the many hidden fees charged. I felt a bit duped with all the extra taxes and fees, but we were glad to see more of New Orleans. It's a great city and one that I hope to visit again in more depth some other time.

From New Orleans we cruised through Mississippi and most of Alabama to camp at Cheaha State Park in northeast Alabama. We got there right as it was getting dark and we found the campground to be a little difficult to figure out. There was an area for RVs but the tent area was labeled "semi-primitive" without designated camping sites. Plus there was a group of American Heritage Girls building fires and roasting marshmellows all over the area. Although the one group leader seemed very nice (they're so polite in the South) we decided to go back to the RV area and pitch our tent in a RV spot.

The next day we got up and climbed the 75 foot tower marking the highpoint of Alabama.

We also discovered the other tent camping area lining the road leading to the tower. But again, there were no designated sites. People just pulled their cars over and camped on the side of the road. I've seen more orderly homeless people in Seattle.

We left Alabama and crossed over into Georgia, seeking out the highpoint of Georgia. There was a road almost to the top, but it was a 6/10 of a mile walk to the actual highpoint.

From Georgia we headed into the Smokies, camping for a night at Great Smoky Mountain National Park. This is the busiest National Park in the country and October is the second busiest month of the year (after July) although we did find a spot in the campground. In the morning we drove up to Clingmans Dome, the highpoint of Tennessee, and also the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. I thought the structure they built on the top was pretty ugly and wouldn't mind seeing them tear it down to make the highpoint more natural.

We detoured south into South Carolina for a quick walk up Sassafras Mountain, the South Carolina highpoint before getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway to head toward Asheville. We had a quick beer and dinner in Asheville, but apparently it wasn't quick enough because when we got to the campground at Mt. Mitchell State Park it was padlocked shut! We couldn't get in, and if you were already in I don't see how you could get out either! We also saw a black bear on the road going in to the park.

We continued on the Parkway for a few miles hoping there would be another campground but there was nothing out there. Eventually we gave up and ended up sleeping in the car. It was raining so camping might not have been that fun either. After 50+ days on the road, to have to sleep in the car for the first time wasn't that bad and we slept pretty well actually.

In the morning when the state park opened we drove up to Mt. Mitchell and walked the short walk to the top.

We then drove further on the Blue Ridge Parkway up into Virginia where we camped at Grayson Highlands State Park, probably the nicest campground we stayed at yet. It was super clean, there were free showers, the host was very hospitable and there were tons of trails. Plus, ponies! (Seriously, there were ponies grazing in the "high country".) We also saw another bear crossing the road.

In the morning, admist lots of rain and fog we braved eight miles (round-trip) of the Appalachian Trail to the top of Mt. Rogers, the Virginia highpoint.

We are now in Durham, North Carolina visiting several of our Seattle friends who have moved here. Durham is an interesting place. It's definitely a place of contrasts. Block to block it changes a lot and while there are some nice areas there are also some very scary areas that I definitely would not venture into at night. But overall, we're having a nice visit here. Tomorrow we head north for our final push to New England. We'll stop one night in Maryland and then it's on to the Catskills of New York for the weekend...

Here's a link to the rest of our pictures from our highpoint frenzy. Also, I have now done 34 peaks of my 35 peak challenge. I'm open to suggestions as to what the 35th peak should be. Let me know in the comments what you think...

Southern Highpoints


  1. Wow, nice work, good to get some news from you guys! Almost 6,700 ft huh? If that is the highest thing around I don't know what to suggest for your final peak, but congrats on making it to 34 already. I can't believe you guys have been gone so long, nor how much you have managed to do thus far. The U.S. portion of your trip is drawing to a close now, huh? Miss you both!

  2. If #35 isn't the Empire State Building, you should rethink the whole thing!

    I'm having a blast reading about all your adventures. Look forward to following you as you chase summer into the southern hemisphere.

  3. Thanks for the comments! It is amazing how long we've been gone; it's starting to feel pretty natural traveling around. I don't think we're heading into NYC so I don't think the Empire State Building will be #35. We did stop at the Delaware state highpoint but that is a lame #35 as it's only 450 feet and right on a suburban street so I'm still on the stay tuned!


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