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Day 5 really made us happy about stopping in Asheville the night before. While clocking in at only 132 miles, it would have sent both me and En over the edge if we would have tried to push ourselves at night.
Leaving the Super 8 in the morning was the last time we would take a shower for the trip. Heading back to the Parkway early in the morning made us happy to be leaving the valley floor. It was already in the 80s before 9 AM. It would turn out to be another sweltering day in Asheville and the entire region.
Shortly after leaving town we started seeing signs about the upcoming detour. We were awake and we missed the sign to turn off the Parkway. I don’t want to think of the frustration we would be in the middle of if this was at night and we were already tired. With a bit of backtracking… and then back-back-tracking we managed to find the detour. Once we were on the detour it was easy enough to follow it around the edge of the Pisgah National Forest for a few miles before starting the long climb back up to the parkway.
It was a long climb, but it was some of the twistiest bit of road of the entire trip! I can only imagine the trouble that RVs would have in this bit of road with the sharp turns and the steep grade — it wouldn’t leave a lot of room for mistakes. The white van with all the hikers didn’t have any problems though. In some stretches we almost had trouble keeping up with the van. A van with a dozen people in it. With a trailer of backpacks.
You could tell it wasn’t his first time driving this bit of pavement.
As we neared the top of the ridge we suddenly found ourselves stopped. The detour has construction.
Not being in a rush we didn’t care. If this had been yesterday we would have been seething. It’s not something I want to think about too much.
The last hundred or so miles were a repeat of the rest of the Parkway with gorgeous views all the time. A highpoint of the Blue Ridge was reaching the high point of the Blue Ridge at 6053 feet above sea level.
Before we got to the campground we decided to stop in to a transportation museum in Maggie Vally, but it turned out to be closed on Tuesdays. Alas. Next time.
Leaving the valley towards the Parkway we noticed that the ground was still wet from a recent rain. The entire day it was mostly like that. While we got a small shower, we seemed to miss the brunt of the long drenching rains that were scattered around the area. I’m not complaining.
At last we got to our turn — heading to Balsam Mountain Campground. This was the only real destination that we planned our trip around.
At first we went all the way up the road to the start of a dirt loop trail. We decided against trying it on a fully loaded bike. I’m thinking it’s for the best. Another gut feel decision that likely made the trip a better experience. We drove back down the mile to the campground and looped around the camp grounds a few times picking out a site. We chose #36 since it was set back from the road a bit. This was both a blessing and a curse since it meant we needed to carry things further.
The clouds above started to look threatening again so hurriedly we set up the tent and move our stuff in before even paying. That was next on the agenda after the camp was fully good to go.
The rain held off for another hour or so while we walked around the camp grounds and enjoyed being on top of a mountain. We knew the storm was coming because we could see it in the distance bearing down on us. As the thunder started we made a bee-line back to the camp site we set up and rushed into the tent as it started to rain down hard. The thunder slowly rolling around the valleys around us and raindrops pelting the tent.
We were warm and dry.
After about half a hour it all cleared up. The blue sky was immediately above us again. We made up some dinner, brewed a bit of coffee and enjoyed more walking around.
This campground was one of the oldest in the park and the highest that you can reach in a vehicle. Looking at the steps leading down to our site made that history real. This is one of the campgrounds of the old park system that you watch on TV.
Slowly we headed back to the tent.
Night fell onto a nearly perfect day.
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