We’re in the midst of summer in North America, and one of the most popular aspects of the season for many American families is camping and adventurous road trips. During our recent trip to North Carolina, we stayed five days in Chapel Hill, across the street from the campus of America’s oldest public university, the University of North Carolina, as Bell was partaking in a research course at the historic Carolina Inn. While we didn’t partake in the camping part, after her course, we drove west towards the brewery capital and foodie haven of the southeast, Asheville, and continued on what’s been coined “America’s Favorite Drive,” the Blue Ridge Parkway.
The Blue Ridge Parkway weaves 469 miles from the North Carolina border with Tennessee northeast through Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountain portion of the Appalachian Mountain chain. The stretch of the highway we drove was from Asheville, North Carolina to Tennessee, before continuing on through the Smoky Mountains to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee (a real spectacle of attractions, traffic and everything the neighboring peaceful mountains are not).
Directly along the picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway, there’s not many restaurants and accommodations (which is a good thing), but we stopped at the beautiful Pisgah Inn for lunch. Unfortunately during lunchtime in summer, wait times are long, so instead of waiting we drove off the Blue Ridge Parkway and found a grocery store to buy some food for a picnic. There’s lots of parking areas that offer beautiful scenic overlooks to enjoy a picnic in a more natural setting than a bustling dining room.
The most surprising aspect of being on the Indian reservation were all the Confederate flags we saw, many of which were being sold in shops and many other flags proudly sported on peoples trucks and motorcycles. A friend from Tennessee explained that many people of Cherokee descent also identify with southern heritage, but many of the employees on the Indian reservation lease the store fronts from the Cherokee. During our visit, we saw tribal election signs posted (it’s always election season in America, even on the Indian reservations).
While Cherokee is interesting, it wasn’t one of the highlights of our road trip from Chapel Hill to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. What was gorgeous was just after leaving Cherokee, right before driving onto Highway 441 to cut through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Loads of cars were stopped, as grazing in the valley, on the footsteps of the beautiful mountains, were a huge flock of deer!