Chimney Rock and Lake Lure, NC Ride

July 4th 2013

Dee and I planned this ride for a couple of months and learned the hard way to get motel reservation well a head of time. So I searched the web and found a place right at the base of Chimney Rock State park. Of course to get the best deal I payed up front. Plans made, we would leave early on the 4th of July and ride the interstate so we would get there early. I always get excited about good rides and check the weather for days a head of time. Ten days out weather.com says 50% chance of rain and thunder storms all that week, OK, Things can change. One week away from the ride the weatherman says something weired is going on with the Jet Stream and now there is a 100% chance of HEAVY RAIN and SEVERE THUNDER STORMS for the 4th, 5th and 6th of July. Oops! The motel is payed for, got to go!

 

Day 1 July 4th, 2013

 

Even though we had been watching it rain cats and dogs since Monday the 1st of July, we get packed Wednesday night, turned in early and plan on leaving early the July 4th in t-shirts or rain suits. I'm up at 4 A.M.,(did I tell you I get excited about rides) Yep, it's raining, not hard but it is coming down. I rolled Dee out of the sack at 5:30 and as she gets ready I check the weather and see that if we are lucky there is a window of mostly clear weather all the way to Chimney Rock. In rain suits we pull out of the driveway around 7:30. Our trip takes us from here in Old Norcross, GA to I-85 and I-85 to Greenville, SC, picking up I-26 just south of Spartanburg, SC. As we pulled onto the interstate it starts to rain a little harder, but not bad. Running I-85 in north Atlanta is no fun anytime and the rain makes me look for dummies even harder. Luckily it is early and not much traffic. The rain stops about the I-85/ I-985 split and we are lookin for the Cracker Barrel at Braselton, GA. While we enjoy our coffee and pancakes and we watch it rain side ways in the parking lot. Belly full and it's time to put some miles down. While we pay the nice folks it stops raining again. Easy riding up to I-26 and on to SC State Route 11 were we get gas and head over to highway 9 the scenic ride up to Lake Lure and Chimney Rock Village. Highway 9 is pretty twisty with some pretty good hills. No rain since breakfast, so far we are staying in that good weather window. We pull into Lake Lure around 11:30 and get to the motel in Chimney Rock at 11:45. Nice 185 mile ride.

Our Ride Motel

The Valley Court River Side Motel

Views From The Balcony

Valley Court Riverside Motel in Chimney Rock is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The motel is "CLOSEST TO THE RIVER" and conveniently located near center of Chimney Rock Village. The family oriented motel is on HWY.64,74A, near Black Mountain, Rutherfordton, Asheville, and Hendersonville, N.C. overlooks the Rocky Broad River. A small congenial motel with a friendly atmosphere in mountain surroundings. The A/C rooms resemble a cabin with knotty pine walls, king size beds with quilts, and shams. Cable TV, Free Wi Fi, and most have private BALCONIES. BBQ and picnic in back yard or take a short walk to the gift shops and dining. Lake Lure has boat tours of where"Dirty Dancing" was filmed and a sandy beach for swimming. There are many things to do in Western North Carolina that are not far from the motel. Stay at Valley Court in Hickory Nut Gorge and create vacation memories

Our room at the motel was on the road level and next to the office. Nice little room, old but clean and NO BUGS!. After unloading the Trike we headed back to Lake Lure to look for food. We found at neat Italian Bar and Grill overlooking the resort and beach area of Lake Lure, NC. La Strada Italian Bar and Grill looks kinda fancy but the food prices were OK and the food was real good. We sat on the balcony and I took the shots you see below. After we ate we planed to ride around the area to see the sights, but the longer we sat at the restaurant the worst the weather became, so we headed back to the motel. Darn good thing we did, just as we got back to the room the bottom fell out. No problem, NASCAR race was coming on a little latter and Dee has her I-pad. Before getting naked (don't think on that very long) I thought I should go out and get some drinks and snacks. The rain had let up so I asked in the office were to go and of course is was right next door to were we had just eaten. Good thing I had not taken off the rain gear. Only a mile or so to the little gas station (1930's little). Got some Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper plus snacks and headed back. Yep, It rained some more a lot of some more.

Toad Frog Strangling Gully Washer

Back at the motel Dee was in her PJ's and playing on the I-Pad. Girl loves her games. I unloaded the goodies and turned on the tube. Good thing the motel has WI-FI and good cable 'cause it started raining again. I mean it came a Toad Frog Strangling Gully Washer. Flood watch warnings going off from the Village and TV going nuts on the local channels. They are saying if you are near creeks, rivers or low areas move to higher ground NOW!! Oops! We are on the bank of a raging river. After the 1st Village warning alert I went out side and saw the motel owner looking over the river. I asked if we were in any danger and he assured me that all was OK. He went on to tell me how much worst it had been back in April. He said that he had been in touch with the Lake Laure folks and that they had opened the flood gates so the river would not rise any higher. Looks pretty high to me! Back to the room for some NASCAR. Race was good. Good nite all.

Day 2 July 5, 2013

Day 2 starts out at 7 in the A.M. with no coffee. Oh well I still have some Mountain Dew in the fridge. I get dressed and look around the lower deck and am happy to see that the river has gone down a lot. Back in the room Dee is still cutting the Z's. I figure that some place in the Village has got a cup of coffee with my name on it. I roust Dee out of bed and as she gets dressed, I watch the Weather Channel and polish off my Mt Dew. Still 60% chance of rain, but is not raining now. Peeking out the front door I see this big round ball up in the sky in a sea of blue, Wow, maybe we are going to get out of the room today. It is a nice little room, but not that nice! We climb on the Trike less rain suits for the first time since we left home. Just down the street (we could have walked) is Genny's Restaurant. Nice folks and good food. Still no rain and that round thing is still up there.

 

Lake Lure Boat Tour

One of the main things we planed to do on this ride was to take the Lake Lure Boat tour. After a couple of hours guessing if the weather will hold out we head off to Lake Laure to check out the Boat Tour of the lake. The tour takes us past local attractions and landmarks such as the locations used in filming of Dirty Dancing and the recently restored historic 1927 Lake Lure Inn and Spa. We listen to the legends, and learn about the natural and cultural history of Hickory Nut Gorge, home to Lake Lure, North Carolina from our boat driver.

Dirty Dancing – The Movie Set

The famous movie Dirty Dancing, starring Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey, was filmed here on location at Firefly Cove. After the Boys Camp reluctantly closed its doors in 1982, Hollywood discovered the property’s captivating setting and subsequently used the landscape – as well as the camp’s original cabins, gym and dining hall – to film the blockbuster hit, Dirty Dancing. Although most of the structures have since been destroyed, Firefly Cove treasures the land’s history and has preserved the remaining ruins of the camp’s gym and dining hall as integral parts of the community. Whether it’s the shadow of children’s laughter from Camp Chimney Rock, or because of the fictional family summer camp contrived for film – there’s no denying, Firefly Cove at Lake Lure is absolutely enticing.

300 WHAT!!!

The boat ride was a lot of fun. The weather was still good and we decided to head up to Chimney Rock. The top of the mountain had been covered in clouds from the time we had arrived but now it looked pretty clear up there. The entrance to the State Park is about a 1/4 mile from our motel in the center of Chimney Rock Village and from the entrance to the ticket booth is 1 mile, so the sign says. The road up the mountain is very narrow and all switch back turns (lots of fun). We pull up to the ticket booth and the nice lady says the admission was discounted because the elevator to the top was not working, but we could walk up the 300 steps. I asked her if the elevator was going to be fixed soon and she said it would be later in the day. Now, I'm not allergic to many things but one of the few things I am allergic to is 300 STEPS!!! So we made a U-turn and headed back down to the Village. Since is was close to lunch time we headed back to Jenny's, the same place we ate breakfast. I had a great burger and Dee had something healthy. After we finished we stopped by a small Biker Shop and looked around for a while. The shop was OK but had the same old stuff they all have (already have one of everything). At the Chimney Rock ticket booth the lady gave me the park phone number so I gave them a call to check on the elevator repair. The voice on the phone says the Otis man was there and the elevator would be fixed shortly so, we head back up the mountain. About half way to the top from the ticket booth part of the road was washed out with one way traffic. The delay was short and we were soon on our way. When we got to the top there was a lot of ambulances and EMT people in the parking lot. Found out later that some one had problems making it up the 300 steps. The elevator was still broke so we milled around taking photos and Dee shopped the gift shop. After about a hour the elevator was up and running so we went up to the look-out. Sure is a pretty view.

History Of Chimney Rock

Jerome B. "Rome" Freeman owned Chimney Rock, having purchased it and the surrounding 400 acres from a speculation company for $25.00 around 1870. It was Freeman who first thought of making a trail to the base and erecting a stairway to the top of the Rock; he opened it to the public in 1885. In 1902, with the financial backing of his brothers, Morse paid Freeman $5,000 for 64 acres of Chimney Rock Mountain, including the Chimney and cliffs. Many small tracts purchased over the years expanded the Park to nearly 1000 acres. In those days, tourists arrived on horseback or in carriages from the railroad stations of Hendersonville and Rutherfordton. Dr. Morse and his brothers built a bridge across the Rocky Broad River and started a three-mile narrow dirt road up to the base of the Chimney. Dedicated on July 4, 1916, the bridge was soon swept away by Hurricane Hilda and the great flood of 1916. Not to be deterred, they rebuilt the bridge and added a stone gatehouse two-thirds of the way up the road with a gatekeeper's lodge beside it (still on the road up the mountain). That bridge stood strong until March 1984, when a new steel bridge replaced the old structure. Guilford Nanney, a local man with inventiveness and skill, was responsible for the first trail (the Cliff trail) and for the complicated series of stairways that lead from the parking lot around Pulpit Rock and the Rock Pile up to the top of the Chimney. This was the beginning of the modern improvements, vantage points and trail system to Hickory Nut Falls that exist in the Park today. As time passed, visitors did not relish walking the hundreds of stairs on the trail from the parking area to the summit of the Chimney. In 1946, plans were drawn for an elevator to transport people to the top. Blasted out of the solid granite cliff, a 198-foot tunnel led into the mountain to the 258-foot elevator shaft. A massive piece of construction, it took eight tons of dynamite and 18 months to complete. The elevator was opened to the public in 1949, the same year the entrance parking lot, three-mile drive and upper parking lot were paved. Next, the Sky Lounge, a gift shop and snack bar, was built on top of the elevator. In the spring of 1963, a Jeep trail was added to the base of Hickory Nut Falls, ending just a few feet from the 404-foot drop. Jeeps were discontinued due to the energy crisis in 1977, and the trail became known as the Forest Stroll walking trail. During the 1970s and 80s, Lucius B. Morse III and Todd B. Morse (Hiram Morse’s grandson and great-grandson) became actively involved as the directors of the Park. They focused on improvements to make the grounds and trails safer and more convenient. They replaced bridges and stairs, improved trails, added scenic view points and refurbished the buildings and elevator. In 1981, they created the five-acre Meadows to meet the needs of large groups visiting the Park. One of the most dramatic rebuilding during this time period occurred after the Sky Lounge burned to the ground on Labor Day weekend in 1981. Helicopters were used to transport trusses and other building supplies to the work crews at the top of the cliff side building site, and the new Sky Lounge was ready for Park visitors in June of 1982. In addition to making the Park safer and more convenient, the Morses placed an even greater emphasis on the preservation of plants and wildlife in Hickory Nut Gorge. In 1978, two University of North Carolina at Charlotte professors had surveyed the Park and discovered an astonishing diversity of plants and many unique geological features. Based on that initial study, the Park opened its gates to botany, geology and other natural science students and professors. Through the work of these scholars, educational trail guides were developed, and many rare and endangered plant and animal species were identified within the Park’s nearly 1,000 acres. Chimney Rock Park hired a botanist in 1986 and an ornithologist in 1989 to supplement the work of the students and professors and to provide guided walks and educational presentations. In 1987, a Nature Center opened at the top of Chimney Rock road in a small, old stone building that had previously been used for storage and Park maintenance. The Nature Center presented information about the plants and wildlife of the Park and housed exhibits about the Park’s development. In 1992, a new, larger Nature Center opened at the Meadows to provide visitors with a better understanding of the Park. Developed by then-Park Naturalist Elisabeth Feil, it offers guests an introduction to the history, botany, geology and other special aspects that make the Park a truly natural attraction. A year-round schedule was adopted in 1992, and since that time, visitors have been treated to the wintertime beauty of the Park. In the spring of that same year, Todd B. Morse, who had been manager for a short stint in the mid-80s, returned to assume the role of president and general manager of the Park. While the family has always nurtured the property, Todd became the first member of the Morse family to manage the Park full-time since Dr. Morse. In 1999, the Park celebrated the 50th anniversary of the elevator, and in November 2002, it celebrated 100 years of the Morse family dream to “acquire, protect and share this natural wonder with the world.” In July 2006, after much deliberation and careful estate planning, the Morse family decided to list the Park for sale. Their goal was to achieve an outcome that was best for their family, the community, the land and their Park associates. On May 21, 2007, Governor Mike Easley announced that the state of North Carolina, with the help of several partners, had purchased Chimney Rock Park for $24 million to be the centerpiece of a new state park under development in Hickory Nut Gorge. Thanks to the commitment of the many people and organizations involved, the Morse family’s legacy of careful stewardship will be preserved and shared with visitors from around the world for generations to come.

 

Day 3

 

Day 3 was to be a long ride home by way of the Blue Ridge Parkway to Cherokee, NC, down Highway 129 over Blood Mountain, through Helen, Ga and on to the house. That would have been nice all day ride. But the weather was not looking good, so we packed up early and back traced our trip up. We did run into a little rain but not bad. Home by noon. This was a great ride and I think we will do it again in better weather. Total ride was 485 miles. Now to plan for the next trip.

 

 

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