Before I visited North Carolina for the first time, I had repeatedly heard two things about it — The Blue Ridge Mountains, and Blowing Rock. These are considered must-do’s in North Carolina, which is known for its natural beauty. Despite only having lived here for less than a month, and not having seen too much of it, I can confirm that this state is absolutely breathtaking.
After a cool day inside, with me feeling overly emotional and homesick for my friends back in Queensland (and missing Australian coffee like I’d parted with my own flesh), Jim suggested a drive to cheer me up. Where would I like to go? No-brainer — if it’s not a Goodwill store, it had to be Blowing Rock. Jim and I did head up to Blowing Rock in February last year, but it was winter, sleeting, and thick with fog. The drive up was stunning, that broody greyness that appeals to the gothic fiction reader in me, but it was so foggy and rainy that we decided against the actual rock at the last minute, and stopped for pizza instead. This time, on a cool but sunny and clear day, it was full steam ahead to Blowing Rock.
We took the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the most scenic route, and were rewarded with breathtaking views overlooking the Appalachian Parklands. There were several viewing stops which we took full advantage of, madly trying to record the beauty on my iphone video function. It’s just not possible to capture it on film. Jim drove slowly, allowing me to take in all of the beauty, and we watched the weather gauge in our car drop from the sixties, down to the low forties the closer we got. For my Australian friends, once we arrived at Blowing Rock the temperature was about 6-7 degrees, and my three-quarter jeans and light jumper (sweatshirt), were not cut out for the cold and the wind. It was actually the wind that was surprising — it was blowing a gale and we were warned to hang onto our phones etc if we were brave enough to walk out onto the viewing platform. Sounded like a dare, so I had to do it of course. Admittedly, I had to hold onto the railing as it was so windy I struggled to stand upright.
It cost us less than $20 USD entry for the both of us, and we were given a map to direct us. I was imagining nature trails that went for miles, and an hour long hike out to the rock, but I was wrong. You pretty much go out the door of the gift shop/info centre, and the rock is on your left. It’s really not that big either, which surprised me. I think it must be the angle of photos I’ve seen of the rock that make it look gigantic. I know I am not making this sound like compelling viewing, but I am giving my take on it. The rock itself whilst not enormous, is definitely worth seeing. What makes it so spectacular is the fact that it’s actually a cliff which is four thousand feet above sea level, and it overhangs Johns River Gorge three thousand feet below. Added to this, the walls of the gorge “form a flume through which the northwest wind sweeps with such force that it returns light objects case over the void.” And to make it even better, you’re actually allowed to climb on it and sit on the peak! I climbed as far as I dared, but as I struggle with ongoing dizziness, I thought it best to not stand out on the edge. It looks like a marbleised wave and is quite beautiful.
I loved the fact that there were only two other couples there besides us, so it felt as though we had the rock to ourselves. It was way too windy to romantically stand on the observation tower hand-in-hand — it took all the energy we had to not blow away, so we pretty much just looked around on our own. The views from the Blowing Rock are spectacular. I leaned over the observation deck as far as I could, to try to capture the views. Being spring, the colours were so vivid and gorgeous; greens, burgundy, brown, and the tiny little blossom buds in pink and white. The gardens were stunningly looked after, with flowers in bloom, and everything meticulously cared for. A gorgeous old-style house was converted into a museum and photo gallery, which shared some of the rich history of the area. Sadly, the snack bar is closed because of COVID, and we were craving the sweetness of a hot chocolate to warm us up.
I loved the time we spent there. It was well worth the trip and I am so glad I have the photos to look at. The cold and windiness made it even more memorable, and even though I don’t think I will go and see it again, I’m so pleased to tick it off my list.