Thursday, November 13, 2014

Cooleemee Falls and its Famous Bullhole

Returning from our Stone Mountain trip,
I surprised Judy with a stopoff at a little
out-of-the-way place called the Bullhole.
It's located on the Yadkin River near an
old textile mill in the small town of 
Cooleemee.  We had read about it when
the Raleigh News & Observer had a series
this summer of little known curiosities in
all 100 North Carolina counties.

Apparently the River Park located here
has become a huge local gathering place,
though it was vacant on the chilly morning
we stopped by.  I could envision hordes of
youth and families playing here in warmer 

Take time to read the story of the
Bullhole (double click to enlarge).

These cautions apply to most rivers.

I'm sure this sandy beach is popular in the summer.

With caution, this area could be a great water playground.

This seems to be the ruins of an old dam on a
smaller side tributary of the river.

This catwalk is about 14 inches wide.  It was inevitable
that Judy and I would walk across it, though I wasn't
wild about the idea.

Here's what I didn't like about the catwalk.
You're looking straight down.  We had to
step across that gaping opening.  Not
for the faint of heart!

The dam and the rocks below.

The tranquil pool of the Yadkin above the dam.

Peering over the dam from upriver.

A man-made waterfall.
Double click to enlarge and read further
information about the park.  Plans are
underway to make further improvements.

On the side of the old textile factory, this
mural of Cooleemee's Old Square has been
created.  None of this exists now.  Main
Street is a combination of vacant lots and
residences.  All the signs of the old mill
village are up and down every street. A
quaint, lovely old town.

A bit more local history.

Cooleemee Falls and the Bullhole may not
be worth you traveling for 2 hours or more
just for a glimpse.  But if your travels take
you in the vicinity, it might be worth a quick
side trip.  If you like that kind of thing.
And we do!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Plants of the Trail and Highlights of Elkin, NC

I hope you've read my two previous posts
with highlights of my and Judy's hiking
adventure on Stone Mountain, NC's loop trail.
This post will show some interesting plants
we saw and show what we liked about Elkin,
the small town where we stayed.

This is Galax, which was once harvested commercially.
We've seen it in other mountain areas.

This maple leaf was determined to be a little different,
and we loved it.

On the peak of Stone Mountain mosses clung to
the rock under the shade of a bristlecone pine.

I haven't yet identified this dainty, low-growing,
berry-bearing plant.

This fungus reminds me of Indian Pipe, but I
don't know its actual name.

Ground cedar or ground pine is one of my favorite
wild plants.  I don't recall seeing it in this phase of
its cycle.  I'll have to read up on it a bit.

Along the stream and woodland paths was an
abundance of rhododendron.  I would love to see
this when in full bloom.
Now let's head to old downtown Elkin.
On I had found excellent
reviews of this restaurant, so we tried it
for lunch.  

This is the side of the same building. For lunch, Judy
and I both had the Southern BLT, which had bacon,
lettuce, tomato plus pimento cheese.  Yum.  Judy had
a side of broccoli and cheese soup and I had pimento
potato salad.  Yes, pimento again. And double yum.
After a full afternoon of hiking, we returned
to the welcoming arms of a Comfort Inn in
Jonesville, NC, just across the Yadkin River
from Elkin.  By getting a room that faced the
mountains, we were treated to this sunset.

Which soon turned into this sunset.

For dinner, we headed back to 21 and Main,
where we had enjoyed such a good lunch.
We dined in this outside enclosed terrace, with
a cozy heater centrally located.  It was a great
atmosphere and the service was exceptional.

I got steak frites and Judy got a huge pork chop
plus sweet potato puree and brussel sprouts.
It was all great.
We had read that this Comfort Inn would 
pull out all the stops on both service and
decor, and it was true. Here are some of
their festive fall decorations.

After a delicious hot breakfast at the Comfort
Inn, with amazing variety, we took a brief
spin through town before heading for home.
We saw a nice park, some lovely old houses,
and last but not least, this old railroad bridge.
You know I'm a sucker for all things related
to our country's rail heritage.

We would still have one stop on the way home,
a surprise I had saved for Judy.  That will be
in my next blog post, and will wrap up the trip.

On to Stone Mountain Falls and Beyond (Part 2)

In my previous post, I led you up and across
Stone Mountain, NC.  Now we're halfway home,
but it's not all downhill.  Here's another caution
sign for Liz Taylor as we approach a tempting
but deadly waterfall.

The waterfall is to the left of the wooden fence.
Here, we're above the falls.

Judy's starting to think like me.  She noted how this
looked like a dragon's head, so I took a photo to
show the grandkids.  They ALL love dragons!

Going down, down, down works on seldom used
leg muscles in a similar way to going up, up, up.

Is that perfectly clear?

Eagle-eyed Judy noticed this Ladybug
taking in the scenery along with us.

Why don't you enjoy this video of the
falls with us, too?

Near the bottom of the falls.

A sliding rock it is not!

Even after we left the falls, we followed the stream
and saw numerous beautiful scenes.

Apparently, this lone dead tree trunk is the only thing
keeping this boulder from tumbling down the hill.

I loved noting little dark hiding places beneath the
rock ledges.  But I was not going exploring today.

After three hours of hiking, we had circled to underneath
the mammoth mountain of stone for this view.

This small projection of rock seems to have been cast
into the meadow by some giant.  This is reminiscent of
the passage in The Hobbit when Gandalf delivers Bilbo
and company (with the help of the eagles) to the Carrock,
which Gandalf says is like some last outpost of the mountains,
flung far into the plain as if by some giant among giants.

This old homestead and pioneer learning station is
beneath the shadow of the mountain.  We had been
here before and didn't linger.  Daylight was waning.

Across that meadow, we could hear shouts and echos
of a small number of rappellers, honing their skills
on the lower regions of the steep mountain face.
I went near to observe for a few moments.

Boulders and stones of all sizes were underfoot, and
covered by leaves, so it wasn't safe to proceed.  I didn't
want to risk a turned ankle or twisted knee this close
to the "finish line."
Goodness! To have come this far, only to
have our way blocked by this fallen tree!
Turn back?

Never! As Gandalf would say, "On we go!"

No Gollum-like creatures seemed to be lurking here,
but we hurried on.
At last!  We were within a short walk of our car!
For the last while, I had been saying, "Let's just
keep putting one foot in front of the other."
There was little gas left in our tanks.

But we made it!  And boy, were we proud
of ourselves.  A little relieved, too. We didn't
hurry, but we were always mindful of the
early sunset.  The trail map warned people
not to begin the loop less than three hours
before dark, and we didn't cut it that close.
We started at 12:45 and were back at the car
at 4:15.

The sun was shining its last night (of Durin's
Day-- upon the keyhole, perhaps) and we
gloried in the brilliantly adorned foliage one
more time.
From the Ranger's station

Farewell, Stone Mountain.

Farewell, until we meet again.

We had just a 30 minute ride back to our
room for the night.  There's still more to
tell, but there will be two more posts for that.
Please stay tuned.
(Please inquire if you need explanation of
the Hobbit references)