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East Coast fall colors run in 2020


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#1 Vic Harder

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 05:46 AM

Gearing up for more travel time this year, including a fall colors trip.  We are starting in Calgary, Alberta, and will drive to Nova Scotia to start the trip, and go at least as far south at Richmond, Virginia, where one of our daughters is living right now.

 

We are driving our 2006 Chev 3500 4x4 with a Puma on it, likely carrying our canoe on top.  Our preferences are:

 

1) BLM/NF camping

2) Quiet spots to camp 

3) Places to canoe and hike (a good hike = 10 miles or so round trip, 2-3000' elevation gain/loss)

4) Not hugely interested in museums or history... even though I know the area is rich with it!

5) Great colors/scenery

6) Good beer, food, music.

 

We have about 60 days for this trip, and we are looking for recommendations.  On routes, places to see/visit and camp. 

 

Thanks!


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#2 PaulT

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 06:22 AM

This transplanted Western North Carolina boy recommends you continue south through the Blue Ridge Parkway into the Great Smokys.  Stalking Light published some great fall color photos here on WTW from places like Cades Cove. Fall colors continue well into October. Perhaps Foy can suggest camping spots. I’ve been gone too long to suggest any.

 

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#3 Foy

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 04:46 PM

Howdy Vic, and welcome to the South,

 

Just a few quick spitballs for your "advanced daydreaming" stage of trip planning:

 

Coming from and to Calgary, the northern half of MN and WI are each chockablock full of Fall colors early on.  I'd even consider a pass into Wisconsin at Duluth and then on to Michigan's UP, and an out of the way but gorgeous swing up into the Keweenaw Peninsula on the way through Marquette and Munising enroute to Mackinac Straits.  There's a whole lot of color in MN, WI and both parts of MI, all the way down towards Flint, MI.

 

Approaching central VA, you can pass through west-central PA (Laurel Highlands) and most any part of WV should be nice. I'm not familiar with NF units in PA, but I do know there's a lot of SP and SF lands in central and western PA.  In WV, the Monongahela NF is huge and fairly remote relative to large cities and Fall colors there should really pop.  

 

Entering VA, the Monongahela NF in WV gives way at the border to the George Washington and Jefferson NF (now administered as one unit?).  In northern VA, the NF lands are all on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains (which up there is a single broad ridge around 10-15 miles wide from base to base) and includes Massanutten Mountain and the narrow valleys within it.  West of Massanutten is the 20-25 mile wide Shenandoah Valley with the Alleghany Mountains then mostly being NF lands up to the WV border.  Practically the entire length of the WV-VA border is NF land on both sides.  

 

Atop the Blue Ridge in northern VA is Shenandoah NP with the 105 mile-long Skyline Drive (SD) running its entire length.  The southern end of the SD is the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP).  The BRP is a unit of the NP service and runs 469 miles through VA and NC to Cherokee, NC where it feeds into the Great Smoky Mtns NP (GSMNP).  Even though I went to college in Boone, NC, have a vacation home near Blowing Rock,  and lived for a couple of years in northern VA in the shadow of the Shenandoah NP, I can't in good faith recommend spending a lot of time along the SD or the BRP during "leaf season".  The reason is simple:  Crowds, crowds, and more crowds, especially on weekends.  If your preference is for more remote areas and less-crowded campgrounds, the SD and BRP in October are not what you're looking for.

 

But the good news is one can enjoy some Southern Appalachians in WV, VA, NC, and TN without needing to spend too much time on the SD and BRP provided that one employs some NF campgrounds within the Monongahela, GW and Jefferson, Pisgah, and Cherokee NFs.  I have some specific info for hikes for you in southwest VA, northwestern NC, and northeastern TN which I'll post if you think your wandering may include the area where VA, NC, and TN come together north of Boone, NC as well as some ideas for hiking and camping a little further southwest of there down around Hot Springs, NC.

 

Foy


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#4 Vic Harder

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 06:25 PM

Great info!  Keep it coming!


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#5 Smokecreek1

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 06:53 PM

Hey Vic, while I play allot out here in the west and except for my time in the Army, I have never played in that country, but I always carry a copy of "Camping with the Corps Of Engineers" (by SI Minke). Foy and those of you that live back east would know more about them there  , but here they are clean, cheap and neat,have hot showers and boat/canoe access only prim. cgs. They seem to be in most states and all are associated with water projects.  It is just a good travel book to carry when you hit a new state, just  pull it out and see what is there.  A nice shower in a safe place is always a welcome stop! Enjoy your trip-bet you are having some fun planning this !

 

Smoke


Edited by Smokecreek1, 11 February 2020 - 06:54 PM.

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#6 Foy

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 08:01 PM

You're correct, Smoke, the US Army Corps of Engineers designed/built/operates many flood control and water supply projects (dams and reservoirs) in the middle and eastern parts of the country.  Similarly, the Tennessee Valley Authority and even some for-profit electric utilities.  Many if not most all COE and TVA lakes have camping facilities and most are pretty nice. Every COE facility I am aware of offers advanced booking via the Federal NP, NF, NM, BLM etc online reservation system at www.recreation.gov. Pretty much any large reservoir in WV, KY, VA, NC, and TN is likely to be a COE, TVA, or public electric utility lake with camping readily available.  There are some interesting "paddle-in" camping opportunities at some.

 

Even though I shy away from the crowds on the BRP in October, I will here suggest consideration of booking a mid-week campsite at Julian Price Memorial Park, a NPS campground along the BRP just south of Blowing Rock and in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain State Park.  Price Park Campground has two loops and one of them is on 45 acre Price Lake. The campground on the whole is on a trail network including parts of NC's Mountains to Sea Trail (MST), with connections to the Tanawa Trail (a BRP trail system), to Moses Cone Memorial Park (another BRP unit, but sans campgrounds), and the Grandfather Mountain State Park backcountry trail system (pack-in camping by permit only).  Price Park and Cone Park are NPS properties on both sides of the narrow BRP corridor which were donated to the NPS in the 20th century by wealthy families which had strong ties to the NC Blue Ridge Mountains.  Price Park is around 2,500 acres and Cone Park is nearly 3,000 acres--both are mostly back country and Cone Park has +25 miles of gentle grade carriage trails looping through it.  Price and Cone parks are contiguous and Price is contiguous to Grandfather Mountain SP on the other side.  So, with GF Mtn's 2,600 acres of back country, we have about 8,000 acres of densely forested back country with good access via trails, most of which are foot trails only (Cone Park being the exception, allowing equestrian access, which is well used during Spring-Summer-Fall weekends.) 

 

Less than 40 (slow, twisty, slow, and twisty) miles from Price/Cone/GF Mtn is Grayson Highlands SP in Virginia.  It's adjacent to the Jefferson NF as well as segments of the Appalachian Trail (AT).  The areas around Erwin, TN and Hot Springs, NC are in AT territory, too.  

 

Both the NC and the VA state parks systems offer online reservation booking. In the case of Price Park, above, be aware of the 6 month rolling window for reservations via www.recreation.gov.  I understand the Price Park campgrounds spots get booked up exactly 6 months to the day before Fall weekend dates, so be aware as March and April arrive.

 

I'll offer up some specific hiking ideas a little later.

 

Foy


Edited by Foy, 11 February 2020 - 08:01 PM.

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#7 Vic Harder

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Posted 11 February 2020 - 11:15 PM

Hey Vic, while I play allot out here in the west and except for my time in the Army, I have never played in that country, but I always carry a copy of "Camping with the Corps Of Engineers" (by SI Minke). Foy and those of you that live back east would know more about them there  , but here they are clean, cheap and neat,have hot showers and boat/canoe access only prim. cgs. They seem to be in most states and all are associated with water projects.  It is just a good travel book to carry when you hit a new state, just  pull it out and see what is there.  A nice shower in a safe place is always a welcome stop! Enjoy your trip-bet you are having some fun planning this !

 

Smoke

I am just getting started on the planning, and already getting excited!  Can't get too focused on this trip yet, as I still have a camper to finish building out, and a trip to Utah to go on soon!  

 

The COE book I see on Amazon is by Wright, not Minke??


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Power considerations thread - https://www.wanderth...e-power-scotty/

 


#8 Foy

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Posted 12 February 2020 - 11:22 AM

My friend Randy Johnson wrote: Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway, a hiker's trail guide, in 2010.  An updated edition was released in 2017.  Both are Falcon Guidebooks available on Amazon.  Both provide detailed trail descriptions for hikes which are on NPS and NF lands associated with the BRP, and both include trails nearby which are strictly on NF or State lands, including segments of the AT in central VA which are 5-10 miles off of the BRP.  Randy's works are fine resources.

 

Foy


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#9 larryqp

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Posted 12 February 2020 - 01:55 PM

Canoeing- I assume you are interested in flat water rivers and lakes, not whitewater so:

 

Umbagog Lake is a wilderness lake located in Coös County, New Hampshire, and Oxford County, Maine. It is one of the most pristine lakes in the state of New Hampshire. It lies in the towns of Errol, New Hampshire, and Upton, Maine, as well as the townships of Cambridge, New Hampshire, and Magalloway Plantation, Maine.Wikipedia

 

Saco River in NH & Maine, has both flat and white water. Guide books available as well as outfitters running shuttles.

 

 

Be advised that on weekends during the fall foliage season the "leaf peepers" create traffic jams in the mountains and many camping spots are full.

 

Many, many years ago we would purchase a road pass to drive on the private logging roads in Northern Maine along the Pennobscott River, camping, fishing and canoeing. Don't know if you can still do that, but logging trucks have the right of way and they do not slow down.

 

Algonquin Provincial Park, north of Toronto, west of Ottawa is beautiful, if you are taking the route thru Canada, great canoeing and camping.

 

You didn't mention National Parks, but I highly recommend Arcadia National Park near Bangor, Me, lots of easy hikes, beautiful coast and GREAT lobster. Less crowded after Labor Day.

 

I lived in NH and played in VT, NH and Maine for over 25 years, but haven't been back for 20 years, so things may have changed regarding access and crowds, but Northern VT and Northern NH are less crowded than the southern ends. Maine away from the coast and north is less crowded. Of course once the kids go back to school mid week the crowds slack off.

 

Have fun planning, lots to se and do, you will burn up 60 days rather quickly. 


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#10 Smokecreek1

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Posted 12 February 2020 - 03:05 PM

I am just getting started on the planning, and already getting excited!  Can't get too focused on this trip yet, as I still have a camper to finish building out, and a trip to Utah to go on soon!  

 

The COE book I see on Amazon is by Wright, not Minke??

Vic-my copy is a old one-that Weight one appears,/looks to be the same one that has been updated that I've get it!

 

Smoke

 

Smoke


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