Choooo Choooo all aboard

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We saw a hot air balloon from the interstate. I think that’s the second or third time in that area. I would do that sometime but I did have a friend who had to make an emergency landing on Hwy 26.

The day started with a wrong turn close to our first stop based on directions that were a little off. We were following two sets of directions to Alarka Falls. One from a 2008 post and one from a website I visit often. We were trying to get to the Falls to see the waterfall while we were over at Bryson City. When we did find it we were pushed for time if we wanted to eat more than granola bars before the train ride.

P1330441-smWe passed bear hunters, and paving crews before reaching the end of the road where you get out to start the trail. We went at a breakneck speed (really because I tripped once). I was on high alert over the acorn covered ground for bear or snakes in the sun on our first really autumn-like day of the year. I was in front so I was mostly using my walking stick as a spider- web-knocker-downer instead of its intended purpose.  I was going as fast as a walk uphill as I could go without it being a jog, and was regretting drinking my normal pot of coffee earlier. I don’t do well going uphill. I really don’t so well going uphill at that pace, when I have a full bladder! I am loving my new lighter weight hiking shoes by Merrell. One advantage to having small feet is there is usually my size on the clearance racks. 🙂

So this waterfall is long and not one you could see from one spot so I since we were really short on time I left the tripod. We did the 1 mile and all photos and were back to the car in 25 minutes. Whew. Now curvy roads back to downtown. We got there in time to inhale lunch at Subway, which was good because the GSMR doesn’t serve gluten-free options for the celiac in the family.

We were debating between the open air and open-air premium but they did not offer any meal for someone with celiac. The seats were a little bigger and there was a cup holder to go along with that meal but I’m glad we did just the open air.

Hubby recently got glutened at a local Italian restaurant. Yet another place that has gluten free bread but prepares the food in the same area so there was cross contamination. Hey pizza makers… don’t sprinkle the pan with regular flour when someone orders a gluten free crust because not everyone is doing it for a fad. Celiacs enjoy eating out with family and friends too.

Great Smoky Mountain Railroad is pretty terrible about answering questions on social media, but in person, everyone was pleasant. I can’t say that I’d want to do it again but I am glad we rode it once. We picked the diesel open air to Nantahala Gorge and were aiming for fall color.

There was LOTSA kudzu, the water was really low and the color this year isn’t great. We had too much drought followed by downpours of rain from the hurricanes. So most of the trees were green, brown or bear – but hey loafin is loafin and you can still see beauty all sorts of places if you look. We saw waterfalls, horses, people kayaking, an outhouse, and we even saw a few Sasquatch… or something. If I were the one in the outfit I think I’d prefer the bright white one to the black one especially this time of year with the hunters out there.  A lady on the bridge exclaimed she saw a panther… I excitedly looked to see either a beaver or woodchuck running on the rocks near the water. The offload took quite a bit of time so we really didn’t have an hour layover at the Nantahala Outdoor center but we took the opportunity to walk around and walk back through all the train cars when we got back on.

On the way home we pulled into Lake Junaluska to get a look at their cross lit up at night on the lake.

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