Friday, April 22, 2016


We drove over to West Jefferson, NC yesterday, about 4 1/2 hours away, to be closer to the race site and have a chance to check out the area while we were here. As we drove across the state, the land got significantly hillier and more rural once past Raleigh-Durham/Greensboro/Winston-Salem. West Jefferson itself is a lovely, rather large and vibrant downtown - we were all pleasantly surprised. We meandered down the main street in the late afternoon, stopping in at several shops and enjoyed a nice dinner at the Boondocks Brewing.

Historic Downtown Jefferson

Had to check out the big cows on the side street

Ashe County Cheese Co.

Enjoying a few local beers at the Boondocks Brewery/Restaurant

It was overcast but not raining when we woke up this morning, so after breakfast, we headed over to Grayson Highlands. The drive was a little less than an hour along windy roads through valleys and along bubbling streams lined with rhododendrons. It was also clear from some of the farms and houses we passed that this could be a rough place to make a living.

We would up through the hills, finally arriving at the Grayson Highlands State Park Visitors Center, which lies just below 5,000 feet. We were in the clouds but it wasn't raining. We stopped in to look around and found out that we were the first visitors of 2016! After some wandering, we headed back down the road a short ways to Massie Gap, where we hiked out on the Rhododendron Trail up to the junction with the AT.

Oh man, does this bring back memories! Such an incredibly gorgeous area, with wide sweeping vistas, open grasslands, jumbles of rhododendron and mountain laurel, rocky outcroppings and best of all, ponies! It worked out perfectly - we saw ponies, had the trails to ourselves and only got sprinkled on at the very end of the hike. So thankful to be back exploring this area even if briefly, and to share it with Sam and my parents!

Grayson Highlands State Park

Rhododendron Trail vista

Along the trail

Headed out on the trail


Another pony!

Hi pony!

Completely unconcerned with us ;)

Out hiking

AT junction

Sam and the AT

AT northbound


AT trail

Oh hi there

Happy hikers

Along the trail

On the AT

Mom, Dad and the ponies

I'm certain it's going to be nice and hilly during the race tomorrow but it is sure to be a beautiful ride!

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