The Mountains are Calling (Part 2)

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” –C.S. Lewis

Into the Mountains…but first–coffee

After leaving our little cabin in Wears Valley, K2 and I turned south heading to Highlands, NC for a brief 3 day stay.  Before embarking over the mountains and the many a twist and turn of the roads ahead, it is important to fuel up before one begins. And so, K2 and I stopped for coffee. Our love, or possibly obsession, with coffee is not what one would imagine. While it is true that in many situations, we will scout out coffee shops in an area we plan to visit more ardently than perhaps the actual place we will be sleeping, it is not for the beverage alone that we invest so much of our time. It is for the ambiance, the atmosphere, the quaint and familiar feel of home on the road. Oh, good coffee is important too, (or in my case, hot chocolate). It is just that we do not want to feel like we are sitting in some chain coffee establishment with all the modern fixtures and equipment, 300 different coffee types to choose from, and all of them taste the same. Sometimes less is more. We remember the experience long after the food or beverage. I refer to these places as all style and no substance. Of course, it is great if both are outstanding, both the beverage and the place, but that is unfortunately not always the case. For some people it is not that important what the atmosphere may be, and they are fine for any of you that enjoy them, it is just not our cup of tea…or should I say coffee? With that as a way of a backdrop of sorts, I give you the Heavenly Roast Coffee Shop. Swings on the front porch welcome you in and once inside you feel like you just stepped into a cabin in the woods for a nice warm up from the winter cold. It has a quaint and warm feel of a mountain cabin with rocking chairs in the corner and a fire burning in the fireplace. At the time of our visit, it was just before Christmas so you had the added charm of the seasonal decorations complete with a trimmed tree. It also was convenient that it sat on the corner of the road that we would start our trek shortly after our brief, albeit essential stop. Stop in sometime if you are in the area and tell them I sent you. They will have no idea who I am or why you said that, but just smile like you know something that they do not and enjoy the coffee and the ambiance. So, with coffee in hand, we began our journey south through the Smokies. As luck would have it, or at least our luck, it began to rain about the same time we were sipping our first coffee in the parking lot.  At least it was not snowing, right…?  It was a steady rain and not a deluge of water coming down, but given the already narrow mountain roads with the many twists and turns, it does make the trip more arduous, stressful, and daunting—especially for the driver.  That short straw I purchased online was starting to pay big dividends for me as I enjoyed the rain-soaked scenery as K2 tightened her grip on the steering wheel and we wove our way through the mountains. 

The Road Ahead

The roads were narrow and filled with sharp corners, switch-backs, and an endless supply of mountain scenery that makes the roads seem inconsequential by comparison.  Well, inconsequential for the passenger on this leg of the trip anyway, which I was! The road signs were somewhat comical.  They seemed to consist of just a series of wavy lines that were drawn by some elementary student as a class assignment.  I looked at them and assumed they are exaggerated to some degree, as there is no way a road can turn like that in real life. And like most of my assumptions, I find that I do not know what I think I know as K2 turns the next curve and I find myself sitting next to a protruding mountain face that I could quite possibly reach out of my car window and touch with my hand. It is then that the realization sits in that not only is the road signage accurate, it maybe even understate what lies before you.  One sign we saw was just a circle.  And true enough, we went in a circle!  I half expected to see other geometric shapes on future signs along the road, perhaps a square or isosceles triangle.  My mind scrambled to recall the Pythagorean Theorem hoping that it would help to navigate the road ahead of us, but I came up empty.  I instantly wished I had paid more attention in class and was rethinking my statement to Mr. Chapman so many years ago that I would never use Geometry again after high school.  But the roads, like our lives, seem to straighten themselves out over time. And now it was time to switch and my turn to drive for the remainder of the way.  And as luck would have it for me, it stopped raining.

How it looks on your phone
And the reality of it

Dry Falls

As I have stated before in my blog, K2 and I love a good waterfall.  Near the end of the scenic mountain road, also known as Hwy 64, and close to our final destination of Highlands, North Carolina, there is a small turnout in the road for a place called Dry Falls.  Dry Falls sits in the Nantahala National Forest and is one of many falls along the Cullasaja River.  Any opportunity for a reasonable walk to a waterfall is readily accepted by us both and so, we pulled into the empty parking lot to see what the place was all about.  There was a path and stairs that made the walk easier than some we have visited in our travels.  As with any good waterfall, you can hear the roar of the water long before you can see it or feel the spray of mist on your face.  Dry Falls was anything but dry on that day, as recent rains from the previous days and weeks had swollen the river above and it was dropping the 75 feet below with authority and with volume.  I only found out later that the name comes from the fact that in the dry season you can actually walk behind the falls to the opposite side and not get wet from the water.  That was not the case on this day, but the ability to wander behind the falls was still viable and so we stood behind the water as it rushed by us from the bluff above and managed to stay reasonably dry in the process.  It truly is spectacular to witness these things up close and in person. Just watching the wall of water pass by us as we stood there, reminded me that there are bigger, more powerful forces out there that shape our environment and our world. It is always good to feel small in a good way. It is always nice to be put in place in our position in this world and in the grand scheme of things, to find our perspective again in nature. We highly recommend making this a stop if you find yourself meandering along Hwy 64 near the Carolina border in your wanderings and your travels.  After a few moments enjoying the scenery, we climbed back up the stairs to the car to finish the final leg of our journey. On to Highlands, North Carolina.

Happy Wandering!


Welcome to The Heavenly Roast

Three swings…no waiting.

Warm up by the fire with a warm cup of coffee
Rain greeted us as we started our journey
Still raining as the road begins to narrow.
My turn to drive. Notice, no rain drops…
A short walk down to Dry Falls.

First glimpse of the falls.
Now the unmistakable sound of a waterfall.

And the mist hits your face as you draw nearer.

Behind the wall of water

It is both beautiful and mesmerizing.

Dry Falls

And after the falls…
“Over purifying rocks I will empty into the endless sea.”

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