My Experience At Boone, NC & Appalachian Mountain Photography Competition Reception (Gallery At

At the end of last year someone talked me into submitting some photos to the Appalachian mountain photography competition. The competition is held every year for photographers in the Appalachian region. Thousands of people submit their work, some are picked to be a part of the gallery. I was one of those picked for the gallery this year.

Let’s skip ahead about six months or so to March. The gallery reception is coming up quickly and I’m thinking I don’t want to go to this thing all alone, where’s the fun in that… So I talk my dad and my buddy into going to Boone for the weekend. About a week before the reception we have this big grand idea to make a bigger trip out of it. We’re thinking maybe a little trip to savannah and we could catch the reception on the way back. My buddy had been talking about going to Charleston for a while anyway. We had been talking Charleston up for the entire week. Thursday comes along (the night before we leave) and I find out no one had looked at places to stay… I’m thinking isn’t his the first thing you do… I my buddy had already looked, turns out he hadn’t… So 7pm the night before the trip we’re looking at hotels in the Charleston area. We find nothing that even came close to being affordable for us. I call my dad up and I have to tell him Charleston is off, which broke my little heart.

I roll into work the next day doing the walk of shame because I was supposed to have already been in Charleston. I’m sitting at work feeling all bad when it hits me! “Why not spend a few nights in Boone! I have to be there anyway.” I start making some phone calls and before I know it the vacation is happening again.

8 A.M. Rolls along and no one is to be found. I knew that I told them 8 A.M. I start my car let the frost melt off. I pet Daisy (my blue heeler) for a little while. 8:20 A.M. No one’s around. 8:27 A.M. My father finally arrives and we load his Wally World bag luggage and “sugar pills” in to the car. 8:45 A.M. here comes my buddy out of his out with a duffel bag that could hold a body. I’m standing there thinking “I’ve got my clothing including reception cloths, my camera equipment I travel with, and a laptop. I’m still the lightest packed… How’s that work?”

Not a lot is said for the first hour of travel other than my dad singing in the back seat which he does often. We weave our way in and out of the cut down mountains making our way south. Finally my copilot’s eyes open, just in time for lunch as luck as it. We spot a pals (regional burger chain) high on a ridge in Virginia. It’s my buddy’s favorite burger place so I figure why not. After eating my father insisted on buying apples for the drive south, which wasn’t bad looking back. We wander over to Walmart and do a little shopping. I swear my dad has some kind of lawnmower/TV fetish. It doesn’t matter where we’re at we have to look at them, also I’d like to extend a big thank you to that Walmart for putting both TVs and Lawnmowers right up front so we didn’t have to walk to the back of the store. We got our apples and hit the road.

We drive a little farther south and happen up on the Virginia creeper trail. It’s a 30 some mile rail trail that goes through the Damascus, VA area. We took the opportunity to get out of the car and stretch our legs for a bit. We took a quick hike on the trail, maybe 3 miles at most, it was a very nice 3 miles. Lots of bridges, rocks, moss and meandering steams. Someday if I find time I’d like to go back and bike the creeper.

We finally made it to Boone sometime in the late evening. We were exhausted, hungry, and numb butted from the car ride down. We all glared at the small guy running the service desk, ask for our room, and did the standard “If you were here only for a couple days where would you go to get a taste of Boone?” He answered with “The Pedalin' Pig!” and he pointed behind us and said “about a mile on the right.” We answered with a “perfect!”

We walked in to the pedalin’ Pig and I immediately loved the atmosphere. It had kind of the log cabin/unfinished feel to it, vintage beer signs were everywhere. It was my kind of place I could tell. We sat at one of the tall tables and I was looking for a place to put my coat I didn’t see any where so I just kept it on for a few minutes, I ended up bumping my knee on something under the table that turned out to be a coat hook! I immediately thought “you saints among men!” I mean it wasn’t a big thing but it was, ya know… We ended up getting this super sweet bohemian waitress who told some jokes and took our drink orders. We’re sitting there deciding what to order, I figure mine out and of course my dad and buddy have the same thing I get because that’s the way it works with them. We sit there for a few and our food came out. There was this foreign object garnishing out dishes. Much to my joy it turned out to be a pork rind! We all ended up getting the pound of pulled pork, mac and cheese, and of course the crinkle cut fries. It was all very good.

We made our way back to the hotel waddling from our pork filled bellies. I was wondering around the hotel when I realized how much it looked like the hallway Danny was riding his big wheel though in the shining. So of course I had to make my dad and buddy play the part of the twins so we could send another friend a weird snapchat. After watching the snap I feel like my dad and buddy should take the place of the twins in the eventual remake.

We woke up the next morning bright and early. We made our way on to the Blue Ridge parkway and headed towards Grandfather Mountain.

If you’re ever in the Boone, NC region Grandfather Mountain is well worth the visit. Grandfather Mountain features several trails, the mile high walking bridge, and a zoo. Its twenty dollars per adult it might be less for children I’m not really sure.

My dad opted to stay at the gift shop seeing as he’s terrified of heights. My buddy and I made our way up the winding mountain cutbacks. (Quick fun fact: a piece of the running scene was filmed in one of these curves at Grandfather Mountain.) Having been to Grandfather Lots of times we decided to skip the zoo and head straight for the overlooks.

Once you make it to the overlook parking lot it’s just a short hike to the mile high bridge. There you can watch person after person talk themselves into crossing the bridge. I’ll be the first to admit that the bridge makes me a little queasy, but I’ll also say it gets easier every time. Do yourself a favor and cross it.

After an hour or so of taking in the scenery we decided to go gather my father and head south on the Blue Ridge. Our next stop was to be Linville Falls. It’s a nice section trail that follows the creek to a set of waterfalls. There are two separate hikes to see the falls there. You can hike the short one to see the smaller set of falls, and you can add an extra couple of miles on that to see a nice view of the larger set of falls from above. We did the short hike while we were there since it was so late in the day. We ended up meeting some friendly North Carolina natives and chatting with them for about an hour.

After Linville Falls we made our way back to Boone since it was starting to get dark. I decided to introduce my dad and buddy to Chipotle. To make a long story short they loved it. With full bellies we called it a night.

Early the next morning we pack up our stuff from our hotel and go looking for this (ghost town) my buddy had heard of the night before. I figured why not a ghost town sounded like a great time before I had to be at the photography reception. We go driving off to the middle of nowhere. We’re taking all these little side roads. It was kind of nice to leave the beaten path which I was totally fine with until we ran out path period. We ended up on this goat path with trees growing in the middle of it so we had to find a new destination. We decided on Mount Jefferson. Mount Jefferson was a little north of Boone so that gave us just enough time for a quick hike and time to make it back to the reception later that night.

We drove north and after getting lost about 4 different times we finally found the right road to Mount Jefferson. I feel like you could basically drive all the way to the summit. We hopped out and took about a two mile hike to the top. According to a park ranger we meet, we were about 2 weeks early to see some of the most beautiful plant life in the state. Of course I’m sure he’s just a smidgen bias.

We spent a couple hours at Mount Jefferson and made our way back to Boone where we got to eat in a 2 story Wendy’s, because why wouldn’t you… It was sort of neat although the balcony didn’t affect the taste of the food what so ever…

The Reception was approaching fast, we headed towards App State. Upon arrival I slipped into my suede blazer and felt like someone for a few minutes. I walked in the front art center, collected my name tag, and went to go find my piece. After passing the beer, the wine, and the catering I didn’t see my grass hopper. So I took another spin around the gallery, still didn’t see it. Then I glanced up right above the tacos in the catering line and saw an insect that I knew. I’m not sure who thought it was a good idea to put the creepy insect with the catering, but I would have thought twice about it.

I looked around for my dad and my buddy and I could immediately tell that this event wasn’t their thing. They both had that super nervous/don’t care look in their eyes. So I went and relived them of duty and told them they could go walk the streets or something. I spent about another hour and a half listening to the awards being given. (I didn’t receive any on this occasion.) I enjoyed myself a well-deserved beer and then I decided to leave. I met up with my dad and buddy on the street and we all walked down to The King Street Creamery and had ourselves one of the best ice creams of all time. We wiped the ice cream from our mouths and headed home in the darkness.

We had a great trip! I wish it would have lasted longer and maybe that it would have started out in Charleston but sometimes you just have to do what you can do. If you ever get the chance to visit Boone, NC take that opportunity and make sure you taken in some of the Blue Ride Parkway!

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