Day Sixteen: Thursday, October 14th, 2004
        Up bright and early and back on the Blue Ridge Parkway once again. Well, trying to stay on it. Just past Linville Falls a section of the parkway was closed from the hurricane damage so I had to veer off it and come back on later on. My first target was to find a spot at mile 349 on the parkway which gave a view used in the opening and closing of Mohicans. Unfortunately, the parkway was once again closed at the 345 mile mark and I could go no further.

        I veered off the parkway for good this time and set off for Chimney Rock Park. Actually, before I go on I should mention one tidbit from earlier in the day. As I was driving along I noticed a rather forlorn looking dog along the side of the road. I got out to see him. He didn't seem all that old and had the look as if he was lost or had been abandoned. His fur was kind of matted down and his eyes were really runny. He was extremely skittish. Even when I tried to coax him towards me with a wiener he wouldn't come near, though he gulped the pieces of it down when I threw them to him. I ended up giving him three wieners in all but could never get near him.

        Part of me wanted to just take the time and maybe eventually get him to come and then I could get him cleaned up, maybe even take him to a vet to get checked out. And if I was home I think I would've done just that, asking around to see if anyone was missing a dog, putting up some signs. But I ended up just tossing him another wiener and then taking off, feeling somewhat guilty for not being able to do anything more for him. Another car did stop as I was leaving so perhaps they were in a better situation to help him out. Still, I can't help feeling bad about the poor dog.

        I actually had my first picnic breakfast today. I picked up a little coleman burner (the kind that sits on top of one of their gas cylinders) and I was able to fry myself up a couple eggs. True, I burned them a little and was missing some key ingredients like salt, pepper, and a plate... But they were still very tasty. (I had to make my toast as if I were making a grilled cheese sandwich.)

        Around noon or so I made it to Chimney Rock Park, named after a particular rock formation that rises straight up like a... you guessed it, a chimney!

        There were a number of trails going up and around the mountains. One was a fairly simple trail going to the base of the waterfalls, one was a difficult one going up to the top of the waterfalls and circling around to eventually meet the "chimney", while another stairway would take you directly to the chimney. There was even an elevator set right in the rock that could take the wimpy people up to the chimney without having earned the right to the view through hard climbing. (Here's a map of the trails.)

        The trail to the top of the waterfalls was my trail of choice. They actually had a number of spots on the map marked as being filming locations for The Last of the Mohicans. Emptying all the excess baggage from my backpack and loading up the Mohicans DVD into my laptop, off I went up the Cliff to Skyline trail. Two minutes later I was too tired to go on so I gave up and headed for home.

        Well, not quite. The trek was very tiring, especially at first. It reminded me of hiking up the Stawamus Chief in Squamish, BC. I think I nodded and said "hi" to more people today as I passed them on the trails than I have in the last couple years.

        Unlike with the Chief, the view here was open to you almost the entire climb upwards. Any time you wanted to take a breather you could just pretend you were actually just taking a couple more photographs of the beautiful scenery. Some of the sections involved climbing stairs or nearly crawling through brief tunnels. One section, called "Wild Cat Trap", was so narrow I had to take my backpack off to squeeze through. I pity the chubby fellow who walked all that way only to have to turn back. Imagine if that was your only way back to civilization and you had to just sit there and lose enough wait to get through!

        Can't you just see Magua and his men walking along this trail?

        The trail up to the top of the falls was supposed to take approximately an hour. Perhaps the best location along the trail was one called Nature's Showerbath. It is hard to walk through here without getting soaked with all the water drizzling down from up above. And it is at this very spot that Magua and Uncas fought. (Of course the fences were not there at the time. Interestingly enough, one lady told me that they had not removed the fences for filming, that back then the fences were not even there. Would have been a very precarious hike back then!)

        Here we have the section that Uncas hid behind before smacking the first warrior with the butt of his rifle. The rock formation in the background that looks like a protruding nose is very prominent during these scenes in the movie. You can also see the spot where we see Chingachgook running through in slow motion as he sees Uncas being killed. We also have a sad attempt by me to mimic that dramatic scene. Hey, I would've done better but to get that shot I had to set my camera on a thin ledge above a hundred foot drop. I didn't want to do many takes!

        It was around this point that I filled up my memory card with pictures. No problem, all I need to do is take out my laptop and transfer all the pictures over. Sure... Only when I was getting rid of all the unnecessary stuff from my backpack, I mindlessly took out the adapter to let me do that. So, I ended up having to go through all the pictures I'd already taken and start deleting some of them. Fortunately there were a bunch that I had taken when I first started which I could easily go back and get again once I returned to the car. Still, very aggravating, and it made me start trying to make every picture count.

        I'm pretty sure that one of Magua's men got knifed right at this point. Then we get to the Hickory Nut Falls themselves. At the top of this, with water streaming around their feet, Magua meets his maker at the hands of Chingachgook. Unfortunately, this section was really fenced off so I couldn't really get any good pictures. I suppose I could've climbed over the fence and gotten a little closer, but...

        Instead, I sat up at the top of the falls, took out my laptop, and watched the finale of Mohicans right up there. Pretty cool. They should have midnight showings up on top of the mountain.

        One of the great things about the way they filmed the scenes in Mohicans is that they actually filmed it like it could have happened. It wasn't like in so many movies where in reality the person runs left and somehow shows up further to the right. Climbing up the trail you could see where Magua and his men went, where Uncas attacked from one side and where Hawkeye and Chingachgook were climbing up on the other side, and how Magua continued upwards to the top of the falls after killing Uncas, only to have Chingachgook catch up with him.

        Despite a breather at the top I was exhausted and was also rather chilled so I was anxious to head back down. And if that weren't reason enough, I should also mention that there are no washroom facilities anywhere along the trail. My descent was a lot faster than my ascent.

        On the way down I took a slightly different path which took me through the Needle's Eye, which is the ultimate test for anyone who has a problem with heights or enclosed spaces. A long steep stairway going through a great gap in the rocks, with it almost completely closing in around you halfway down. Very creepy!

        Once I got back to the car it was around four o' clock. With the park closing at seven I needed to ration my time. I wanted to get to the top of Chimney Rock and I also wanted to make the 45 minute trek to the base of the waterfalls and back. Being so exhausted, I decided to wimp out and take the elevator up to the top. They had a gift shop up there and even a little restaurant so I took a bunch of pictures and relaxed for a little bit before taking the stairs down and heading for the base of the falls.

        With an hour to go before the park closed (hey, I had to stop by the gift shop and buy myself a Chimney Rock Park t-shirt) I headed for the lower section of the falls.

        At that point I was all ready to just lie down at the bottom of the falls and go to sleep. But instead I left the park and headed south into South Carolina. With apple shops everywhere I stopped off for a bottle of apple cider and then drove until just before nine when I found a campground just outside Greenville. (I was in luck this time, I arrived just a few minutes before they locked the gates.)

        Every state park I go to is completely different. I know part of it is simply because each state has different rules, but even within the same state I sometimes see vast differences. At this park, all the gates are locked after nine. You need a special code to open them. Meanwhile, instead of going to the office to check in, you just find a spot and the guy from the office will find you! Rather inconvenient for the poor guy, especially in my case since I must've made three laps of the camping area in the dark trying to find a spot that had a tenting area. (3/4 of them were only for RVs)

        But eventually I found a spot with the help of the guy running the place and set up my tent. I got a little paranoid when I read all the park rules. Along with being locked in, people were not supposed to be roaming about the campground area after dark. Sounded like we were living in a real dangerous area.

        I was exhausted and was able to fall asleep fairly easily, despite the fact that acorns kept falling on to the tent (and my car) every few minutes.

on to the next day...