Monday, April 19, 2010

Lake Lure and Adventures at Chimney Rock

Roger here....  Our campground (The Four Paws Kingdom) is only 19 miles from scenic Lake Lure and Chimney Rock State Park.  We passed through this area several years ago pulling a travel trailer (no way to stop), but determined that if we were near again, we would explore this interesting place.  So, we hopped in the Toyota Matrix (our Toyota is one of the older versions that stops when you hit the brakes), loaded the dogs, and headed toward the mountains.

We got a quick glimpse of Lake Lure before we actually arrived at the town.  What a beautiful lake.  It is nestled among the surrounding mountains and filled with tree-lined shorelines and cozy mountain cabins.  As we entered the town, the road passed between an inviting public beach and the impressive Lake Lure Lodge.  (An interesting side note:  some of the scenes from the movie Dirty Dancing were filmed at Lake Lure.)  The interesting architecture, the tranquil lake, the mountains, and the imposing granite cliffs give Lake Lure the feel of a village in the Alps.  Beautiful place!

Just down the road (less than a mile) we entered the town of Chimney Rock.  The town itself, under the granite cliffs, was an interesting, touristy place with restaurants and shops.  However, the main attraction was Chimney Rock State Park.  The entrance was on the main street, right in the middle of town.  We drove a couple miles up the side of a mountain before reaching the toll booth ($14 per person), but probably worth it for the scenery and the hours that we spent there.  The attendant told us that the main parking lot was a few more miles ahead.  We decided to stop at one of the well-placed picnic tables  
  along the roadway to eat the lunch that Dianne packed.  Then on to the parking area.

AND NOW THE ADVENTURES BEGIN....  The main attractions in the park, other than the spectacular views of the rock formations and the valley below, were the hiking trails.  Hiking was the reason that we ventured into the park in the first place.  Our dogs love walks in the woods, as do Dianne and I.  The first thing I wanted to do was walk to the top of the granite chimney, twelve stories.  My wants often get me into trouble.  The path to the top was advertised as moderate to strenuous, and it was the only way for the dogs to get to the top, as they were not allowed on the quick-and-easy elevator.  Strenuous was not a problem.  We are all (dogs included) reasonably fit.  The thing that we did not anticipate was the long stretches of steep, winding, and OPEN stairs that wound through, up, and over the giant boulders.  

Dianne has always been a little afraid of heights, and she will admit that she was a little uncomfortable.  But, the real problem was Chaplin!  About half-way to the top he literally froze on the steps - would not go up or down!  Jasper was on my leash, and was literally bounding up the steps, but Dianne could not get Chaplin to move.  After a struggle, we reached a flat catwalk area.  Dianne wanted to go back down.   I said, "Oh, come on!  Hiking to the Chimney top was the main reason we came.  Selfishly, (as Dianne will tell you),  I insisted that we trudge forward.   We traded dogs, and off we went - up about ten steps, where Chaplin again froze and went into his stubborn, I am not movingmode.  Poor thing, he really was scared.  So, we abandoned the climb and slowly descended back to the start.  

Dianne suggested that I take the elevator to the top while she watched the dogs.  Since I knew that she really did not want to hang over the edge of a cliff, even for a spectacular view, I agreed.  The trip on the elevator was uneventful, other than the friendly operator extolling the food and must-haves in the gift shop at the top.  I quickly ascended a few more steps to the top and took a couple of dizzying photos straight down, trying to capture the stairs and catwalks where we had so much trouble.  The view of the valley really was something to see.  

Because I knew that Dianne and the boys were waiting, I didn't linger.  When I found them back at the entrance, a small group of people were talking to Dianne about Chaplin's plight.  He was hiding behind the bench with his tail so much between his legs that it seemed to be attached to his stomach.  Joking with the group, I said that "The dog and the blonde lady didn't care for the steps."

We did go on another hour-long hike before leaving the park - much more to everyone's liking.  We ambled along Hickory Nut Falls Trail to a tall waterfall that cascaded down the bare rock face.  Spectacular views of the cliffs and the valley below!  We knew Chaplin was happy because his tail unclenched and returned to its normal position behind his body, rather than wedged underneath it.  Jasper (as always) had a blast, scampering along the trail.

One more thing to do: ICE CREAM!  Since we don't keep it in the motor home (because I can't resist eating it), I seek it out during excursions.  Just outside the park entrance, I spotted a giant ice cream cone sign.  I had maple-walnut.  Dianne had coconut-chocolate-almond.  The boys split a vanilla.  Chaplin decided it wasn't such a bad day, after all!  

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