North Carolina & Georgia

North Carolina - Chimney Rock Hike

Georgia - Tallulah Gorge  

(Chimney Rock & Tallulah Gorge  State Park- First trip in our new RV )

On many of our trips throughout Europe and the USA with our own car or in a rental car, we had wished to stay in remote places and not be forced to reach the next accommodation or a pre-booked hotel in time. How many more opportunities would open up for us to stay in epic places and enjoy the freedom to travel at our own pace. After much deliberation, we decided to buy an RV for our future trips. To be as economical and independent as possible we decided to buy a Class B motorhome.

Easier said than done - with the Supply Chain crisis and the ongoing camping boom it became a challenge to find a suitable vehicle. In the end, we decided on an almost new 21 ft Winnebago Travato with only a few miles on the speedometer, which was for sale in North Carolina. After we agreed with the seller on the price and all arrangements were made we booked a one-way flight to Myrtle Beach, which was closest to our final destination.

We arrived in Myrtle Beach in the afternoon and after a night at the hotel on the promising beach of this educed place of South Carolina, we planned to drive on to the neighboring state to pick up our rig. After a restful night at the Paradise Resort, we enjoyed the unique sunrise from our balcony on the 17th floor to get in the mood for our upcoming tour.

After a short drive with our rental car, we finally arrived in Oak Island, where our future home on wheels was waiting for us. Our seller had already prepared everything and the motorhome was fully fueled and loaded with everything we needed for our trip back to Florida. After extensive instruction and completion of a test drive, we felt the vehicle was a good deal and looked forward to our trip home.

Around noon we went on our first motorhome trip. Since it was only Friday and the whole weekend lay ahead of us, we had no intention of taking the shortest route to Florida. We were excited about a side trip to the Great Smokey Mountains, which we had already visited a year earlier, and then planned to continue via Georgia to go home. On the way, we would do some small hikes and enjoy the autumn atmosphere in these regions. But before that, we had to register the car and get a temporary license plate. This took some time, and since we also had to return our rcar at the airport, our first day of travel ended already again in Myrtle Beach State Park, our first camping site on this trip.

The first night in the camper was exciting and challenging at the same time. However, we both agreed that the investment was worthwhile and we were extremely excited for the adventures that lay ahead of us in the years to come. Before we made our way to the Great Smokey Mountains, we treated ourselves to a long walk on the beach to the pier with the fine sand under our feet and enjoyed the still strong autumn sun.

Finally, we drove on back roads across South Carolina in the direction of Ashville in North Carolina, which gave us the opportunity to enjoy the country to the fullest. Unfortunately, we hadn't realized that it was the weekend and that October was high season in the Great Smokey Mountains. After countless attempts to get a campsite without the necessary reservation, we were lucky and secured the last spot for two nights at Orchard Lake Campground near Saluda due to a cancellation.

Unlike mild Myrtle Beach, temperatures in the higher elevations of the mountains dropped significantly at night this time of year, much to Pooneh's delight. We were glad that our propane tank was full and so we used the integrated gas heater for the first time. Refreshed and well-rested, we looked forward to driving through autumnal North Carolina to Chimney Rock State Park for the highlight of the day.

After only a short drive we reached the parking lot at the trailhead to Chimney Rock. From here, most visitors took the shuttle bus up to the base of the cliff to shorten the approximately two-mile hike to the summit. We avoided the bus and enjoyed the climb through the forest which rewarded us with all its autumn-colored trees.

After a rewarding hike through the forest, we finally reached the shuttle stop below the rock, from where steep stairs led to the summit. While we only met a few hikers in the first part of the hike, we had to share the further ascent with numerous international tourists who flocked to the summit to take a souvenir photo. Despite the now larger crowd we still found great vantage points to inhale the breathtaking views.

The last stretch to the summit, marked here with the US flag, was over a sketchy metal bridge to cross over a gap in the Rock. Once at the top, however, a fantastic view opened up over the entire region and we were rewarded with magnificent views on this wonderful late summer day.

We could hardly get enough of the views up here. However, on today's descent, we still planned to make a detour to the nearby "Hickory Nut Falls". The way down the stairs was easy for us and we could now pity the people who came towards us on the steep stairs and still had the way up ahead of them. After a short time, we came to the junction toward the waterfall and followed the well-signposted path to soon admire the waterfall plunging into the depths.

This detour was worth it and after enjoying the sound of the waterfall for a while we continued on the rest of the way back. When we arrived at the parking lot it was still daylight and we were looking forward to ending the day with a visit to Ashville. Last year we wanted to visit the "Sierra Nevada Brewery", which was closed at that time due to the Covid restrictions. This time the brewery was open and we enjoyed the variations of the beers with exuberant live music in the beer garden.

After the strenuous but impressive hike, this was a relaxing good end to the day and we were happy to finally set off towards the campsite. Having a wonderful weekend in the Ashville area and a hike in the Great Smokey Mountains, we sadly had to pack up and head back to Florida. But not without taking a side trip to Tallulah Gorge State Park in Georgia, which we were passing on our way home.

After spending a last (cold) night in our Travato in North Carolina, we made our way over mostly winding back roads towards Georgia. The attraction of our destination was Tallulah Gorge, a 1,000-foot deep gorge formed by the Tallulah River flowing along the bottom of the gorge. We arrived at Tallulah Gorge State Park around noon and found a large enough spot to park our RV, even though all RV parking spots were occupied.

In advance, we had already read a lot about the beauty of the park, especially in the fall. After Pooneh had picked up a park map in the visitor center we went on the way to explore the area. Basically, we had two options for hiking. There was the Rim trail with several viewpoints along the gorge or the strenuous descent and ascent to the bottom of the gorge. We initially chose the second more strenuous option and made our way towards the gorge.

Already here the state park presented itself in all its autumnal splendor. While we strolled through the picturesque autumn forest, we quickly approached the gorge that already overwhelmed us with the views. From here it went on about steep stairs that turned the 1000 ft down into the gorge.

First, it went down numerous steps, where the exhausted hikers coming towards us only suggested how hard the hike would still be. The descent was easy until we reached the Suspension Bridge, which halfway down let us cross the gorge. This very shaky affair in vertiginous height led only to more stairs on the opposite side of the gorge further down. Slowly a bad feeling came over us because we realized that after reaching the bottom we would have to go all the way back up to the parking lot.

We didn't let it bother us though and were not impressed by the sign that showed how many stairs up or down from this point were still ahead of us. We were determined to make it to the bottom of the gorge today, where promising impressions should have awaited us.

At the end of the steps, we were finally rewarded with the breathtaking view of the much-vaunted Hurricane Fall. Unfortunately, it was difficult to get an extensive view of the roaring waterfalls, as the observation deck was crowded with tourists who all wanted to take their souvenir selfies. However, with a little patience, it was still possible to enjoy an extensive view of Hurricane Fall.

From here it was only possible to follow the river downstream, which would certainly have been very rewarding if we had obtained a permit from the visitor center in advance. However, we had collected enough impressions of the falls and nature down here. Since the day was already advanced, we decided to start the steep climb up to later have time to explore the rim and enjoy the many beautiful views on our way back as well.

1000 steps later and after a 2 miles hike, we finally arrived quite exhausted at the top where we had started our descent about 2 hours earlier. Now it was time for a short break to eat the sandwiches we had brought with us before we set off on the next route, this time along the rim. It was very exciting to see the markers of our canyon hike from earlier today with a bird's eye view from up here.

In summary, we had some very nice experiences on our first motorhome trip. North Carolina and Georgia are great hiking destinations especially in the fall and we're sure we'll be back to spend more time at Great Smokey Mountain in the future.

For today, however, we had to make the long journey back to Florida and unexpectedly spent the last night boondocking at a highway rest area due to overcrowded campgrounds on this weekend.