The Cabins at Healing Springs are in a valley, sandwiched between hills owned by a lumber company and hills coated in Christmas trees. The lumber trucks woke us early, so off we went to amble among the Christmas trees at dawn. I was reminded of the hilly regularity of Tuscany. Sasso, not having been to Tuscany, was more interested in bounding through the grass surrounding the trees.
Next we headed off to Grayson Highlands State Park. Which, yes, is in Virginia, so it sort of felt like cheating if the point of my travels is to get to know North Carolina. But state boundaries are arbitrary, right? And it was half an hour away, and I’d had too many people tell me how beautiful Grayson Highlands is not to go. The drive was lovely, on narrow winding highways meadering through fall-colored forests and past farmhouses painted with quilt squares. I was just thinking the curviness of the roads would make it a great place to drive a sports car, when a yellow Corvette suddenly appeared, and just as suddenly disappeared into the distance. Then I decided I was happy to go slowly and soak in the beauty of the place and the moment.
The leaves in Stone Mountain State Park weren’t at peak yet, but Grayson Highlands showed off the full range of fall color. Our first hike, the Twin Pinnacles trail at the highest point of the park, was striking in its cold desolateness. And it was windy!
One of the liberating things about traveling alone is the ability to decide, hey, sure, this trail was pretty short (2.1 miles), but I’m feeling kind of lazy today. Let’s do another short, super easy hike, then go take a nap. So that’s what we did. The short, super easy hike was a half-mile or so wander on a trail I picked only because I liked its name–Split Rock trail–and becase it was near the park entrance at lower elevation and hopefully less windy and more fall leafy.
We wandered over to this cabin, inhabited by a historic interpreter, before departing for naptime.
We also took a few minutes to do some recall training on a long leash, because Sasso wanted to play in this grassy field so badly.
A few more tree-and-mountain views before hopping back in the car: After a delightful, refreshing nap, I dragged myself (and Sasso bounced) off to our next adventure. Mount Jefferson State Park is right next to Jefferson and West Jefferson (surprising, right?). Hiking North Carolina tells me that “Jefferson” is a fairly recent name for the mountain, but declined to share the original name–it was changed for good reason and was apparently a racial slur. The mountain has rocky overhangings used to shelter runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad; the craggy barrenness of it made me think the mountain would increase the feelings of terror the runaway slaves must already have felt.
I’m sure that in the summer Mount Jefferson has an entirely different feeling. It had possibly the best picnic area I’ve ever seen, with tables tucked in among the trees. I realized how lucky I was to be there on a random Tuesday; Sasso and I had the trail to ourselves. For that matter, we had pretty much all of the trails on the trip to ourselves.
My fingers were chilled after the hike, so I abandoned any desire to check out a new local restaurant (because I was not willing to sit outside) and went through the Taco Bell drive-through. But before sitting down to eat in our cabin, we took a final romp through the lumber company’s fields at sunset.