One road trip you will want to take
Road trips are "in". They were never really "out" (remember National Lampoon's Vacation?), but with the current Covid-19 pandemic, they're increasingly popular. Given we don't have to wear a mask in our own car if we're driving solo or with quarantine mates, we can stop as needed (though less frequent is advisable minimizing exposure to the Coronavirus), and best of all, those spectacularly scenic views!
It was for these travel advantages that I embarked on a road trip to North Carolina overnighting at Pilot Cove. Another major reason was to hike the Pisgah National Forest and Black Balsam Knob & Tennent Mountain in North Carolina. An easy (3-4 hours) drive from Atlanta, especially pleasing (and slightly longer) if you take the Blue Ridge Parkway route.
First up, Pisgah National Forest comprising more than 500,000 acres offers incredible hardwood forests, 400+ miles of hiking and biking trails, waterfalls and more waterfalls (250 in fact).
The trailhead entrance where I parked was High Falls in DuPont State Recreational Forest within Pisgah National Forest. Hiking through the lush forest, I stopped to admire several waterfalls, all different, yet each dramatic in nature. My overall favorite was Bridal Veil Falls, a 60' cascade and 120' tall waterfall: it dropped off an overhanging ledge (featured in The Last of the Mohicans), then the water sheeted down a long, shallow inclined plane of granite before tumbling into the pool below. The cascading white shape truly resembled a bridal veil and the accompanying rushing water sounds created an instant higher mood lift.
Less than half a mile off of US 276N and a world removed from the highway traffic noise, tucked away in Pisgah National Forest, is Pilot Cove, forest lodging at its best for anyone preferring to 'glamp' vs. camp (also possible in this forest). I settled into the rocking chair on my spacious wooden deck after a hardy day of breathtaking hikes that included stops to admire the spectacular waterfalls. With a spoon in my right hand, I treated myself to an entire pint of mouthwatering Ben & Jerry's ice cream, the "Half Baked" flavor to coincide with how I was feeling. :) Insider tip: it's available in one flavor in limited quantity at Walmart around the corner from Pilot Cove for almost half the price of other stores.
The next morning soon after awakening to birds chirping, I pulled on my sturdy hiking shoes, filled my backpack with plenty of water alongside a healthy quinoa lunch, and set about exploring Black Balsam Knob & Tennent Mountain. Following a 45-minute stunning drive through Pisgah National Forest to Blue Ridge Parkway, I arrived at the parking access to Art Loeb Trail, the start of a relatively strenuous double summit 5-mile loop up to Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain.
I trekked uphill for about 2 miles between dense thickets of wild blackberry bushes, balsam firs, and tall grasses before beginning a rocky climb to the Black Balsam summit with incredible and plentiful 360-degree views on the rock outcrop. Here's where I enjoyed my quinoa lunch, feeling a cool breeze in the bright sunshine - sure beat eating at my desk. :)
From there, I descended, trailing through dense, low vegetation with bees buzzing loudly in this idyllic landscape before beginning a steady climb to Tennent Mountain with its awe-inspiring views of rolling terrains. It felt so peaceful and relaxing, I could have stayed for the rest of the day... A mother and daughter with their dogs prompted me to let them have this space to themselves and so off I went descending via Ivestor Gap Trail for the final time to where I began.
I changed into clean clothes and started the faster route back to Atlanta. As I was driving, I reminisced about childhood family road trips which reminded me of the Griswolds and brought a smile to my face.
I also pondered a second home in this serene part of North Carolina which would mean more adventurous road trips returning to this state where the motto is "To be rather than to seem". Ahhh, so fitting after just being in nature's purest form.