First Road Trip Cross-Country, USA (Part 3)
Updated: Jan 18, 2022
Ski Lift in Beech Mountain, NC
What a hidden treasure! Encapsulated in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, and the Appalachian Mountains, the views here do not disappoint.
I will admit, when Anthony first approached me with, “how would you like to go to Beech Mountain, North Carolina for the month?” I didn’t know what to expect. My first thought was, “where?” Followed by a, “sounds like somewhere out in the boonies.” After spending only a few days here I loved it!
It is a ski resort town with about 10,000 people here in the winter and 5,000 in the summer. The locals are some of the friendliest people. Surprisingly to me, a lot of Floridians spend summers here and with good reason. At an elevation of 5,506 ft., summers rarely get above 75-80 degrees F and low humidity. There are also a lot of folks from New York, New Jersey, and further north, which offers a blend of interesting people.
The condo where we spent our month was such a great place for the kids and for keeping us all in great shape. Our unit on the 3rd floor (all stairs-no elevators), offered a beautiful view of the ski lift and mountains.
The resort had an indoor heated pool, 2 spas, saunas, fitness deck with cardio machines, fitness bands, corn hole, ping pong, and billiards. Out on the grounds, many options were available to play basketball, tennis, shuffleboard, mini-golf, and a small playground.
A very nice dog park called the Bark Park was right off one of the beautifully landscaped trails you can use to walk right into town. The same trail will take you to Fred’s General Mercantile, great for food, supplies, and a small cafe in the back known as Fred’s Backside Deli. Or to Famous Brick Oven Pizzeria, which offers a really nice mini-golf course, ice cream/bakery, and arcade.
There are several areas around town you can go for quick hikes and walks to keep you healthy and breathing in that fresh mountain air. Keep an out for loads of birds and wildlife.
Lake Watauga, Tennessee
In Anthony’s pursuit of catching those elusive fish, we happened upon Lake Watauga, TN. At this point, we assumed it would be a great attempt to finally catch the big one. Though that didn’t happen, we did find a great spot to bring a tube or raft and float around.
There were many families picnicking, grilling, swimming, and spending a day on the lake. In addition, you can bring your toys: boats, jet skis, kayaks, paddleboards, etc. It is about 2 hours from Beech. So pack a cooler, a bathing suit, an innertube/raft, your favorite people and take a ride.
Looking down at the bear from our 3rd floor balcony.
On August 13, we were settling down around 8:30 pm when Vallen went to shut our balcony door. He spotted the black bear was at ground level walking around. It was crazy looking down on him from our 3rd story balcony. I don’t think the kids appreciated being on the third floor until that moment.
Other people were on their balconies watching, too. It started pouring rain, but there I was in the rain with the phone getting some cool shots of this elusive creature.
Lake Coffey is a really nice spot to go and is only about a 9-10 minute drive from Beech. You can fish (the lake is stocked from April to the end of February with brown, rainbow, and brook trout. Or take a casual stroll around the lake. If you are like me, you will enjoy hiking the trails down the hill from the lake.
Save The Duckling
These are the sweet ducklings. Eastern Brown Water Snake, deer here love photo-ops, & pics around Lake Coffey.
On August 2, Anthony decided to go fishing. It was a fun day, we saw a brown water snake, does and fawns, plus a mama duck and her 6 ducklings.
After trying to find a good spot to try and fish we found an area with the ducklings. We opted not to fish next to them to keep them safe. We did, however, have the ducklings literally eating out of the palm of our hands.
Anthony was determined to catch some fish, so we looked for another spot on the other side of the lake. A family eventually took over the spot where we were next to the ducks. We noticed them fishing awfully close to them and before long the duckling got caught on the fishing line.
We were chatting with two older ladies we met earlier and saw the site unfold with a duckling caught on the fishing line from across the lake. The man jumped in the water trying to free the duckling, but it got away from him. Anthony went to help, but the duckling was in the center of the lake. The family gave up and left.
Another man fishing on the lake had a net and was able to wrangle up the duckling. Luckily we had some wire cutters in the trunk and were able to help the man who had caught the duck. A fly fishing lure was caught in the duckling’s tongue. The mama duck was trying to drown the duckling, that’s the unfortunate laws of nature.
Anthony cut the lure and the duckling was able to go back with his family. We watched to ensure the mama duck and siblings accepted the baby again. None of the ducks shunned the duckling after that.
The best part was getting to know the locals during that duck fiasco. Stewart was a nice guy who split his time between Florida and Beech Mountain. He gave us lots of tips on local spots and things to do around the mountain.
Visit With Pop
Keeping fit in Beech Mountain.
Since we were only a mere 9 hours from New Jersey, Pop decided to pay us a visit. We last saw him in Florida. It was nice giving him a tour of the mountain and all it had to offer.
We took him on a rigorous, ok technically “strenuous” hike through Lake Coffey’s Lower Pond Creek trail. He kept up beautifully and successfully completed the hike’s 1 ½ mile each way.
There is a lot of rock climbing, steep inclines and declines, and tree roots to navigate, making it a real treat for the kids (they do love that terrain). Also, there is an abundance of photo ops with waterfalls, rapids, trees, and mushrooms. We capped it off with a little fishing at the lake. It’s ok, we’ll catch something one day.
Another spot we ventured with him was the Emerald Outback Trail and ski lift. This is a great place to mountain bike, too. There are beautiful views and several trails you can combine to make a short or long hike.
As a side note, if you happen to come here in September, you can check out the Land of Oz. It is a big part of the area (very popular) and you will see Oz memorabilia at Fred’s Mercantile in town.
The next fishing spot we took Pop was Buckeye Lake, which is only a 15-minute car ride from Beech. They offer fishing year-round and a bigger lake than Coffey. Nearby is the Buckeye Recreation Center, with more hiking trails. Unfortunately, the facility and playground were closed due to COVID-19.
After 4 days of hiking, fishing, swimming, playing ping-pong, and cornhole, Pop was ready to return to Jersey fit as a fiddle.
One place we heard we should visit while in North Carolina was Asheville. It was much bigger of a city than I imagined for a mountain town with a population of about 94,000. It reminded me a lot of Portland, Seattle, even a bigger Flagstaff, with a hippy, artsy, grunge, and stylish vibe. There are lots of shops and boutiques, vintage clothing stores and records shops, ethnic restaurants, coffee shops, art galleries, theaters, and museums.
Some of the many magnificent views from our balcony: fog, sunsets, sun, & clouds.
As our time here has come to a close, we are ready for our next adventure.
I will miss the way the fog fills up the mountains all the way up to our door and then clears out again to blue skies. The beautiful 70-degree summer temps with cool evenings and thunderstorms.
The wildlife is a lot of fun to see and keeping fit as a way of life. This would be a great spot to come for a winter ski trip.
But I like the heat, so, for now, we are saying goodbye. I definitely look forward to returning again.