Month: July 2011

Dark Ridge Road: A Journey Into the Unknown, Courtesy of Googlemaps

We left Grandfather Mountain and I quickly pulled out the Googlemaps directions I’d printed out in anticipation for minimal cell phone reception in the mountains.  The directions were really convoluted, with turns every other mile and a general lack of heavy-traffic roads.  This made me a bit nervous, but we decided to embrace the adventure and go with it.

The drive started simply enough.  We headed back towards Linville and then drove through Banner Elk, North Carolina, which was an adorable mountain town.  I was hoping to return and explore the town sometime during our trip, but we were so traumatized by the following journey that we never retraced our steps.  Point is, check out Banner Elk, it is cute.

We drove up and down a road with number of chichi developments and a private airstrip several times before finally finding our very mislabeled turn off.  I need to note here that we had absolutely no cell phone reception and, therefore, no way of re-mapping our route.  We turned onto Sam Eller Road and immediately felt a bit uneasy.  Gone were the chichi semi-city developments and the straight, level road.  We were going up, up, up a twisty, wooded mountain road and the homes and the people we saw were getting more and more dilapidated.  We pulled to the side a few times to stare at a map and a man in a truck stopped to ask us if we needed help, but he was the last “normal” person we saw before we turned onto…

Dark Ridge Road.

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Grandfather Mountain

All right, let us do this vacation recap thing!

Jon and I left Chapel Hill on Thursday morning to drive the three-ish hours to Grandfather Mountain which is near Linville, North Carolina.  The Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation has been running some short commercials on the Travel Channel lately, and a bit of Googling showed that it wasn’t too far from the bed and breakfast we were staying at in Butler, Tennessee.  The mountain is 5,946 feet tall and is one of the highest points of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The mountain is also part of a state park and there is plenty to do.  You pay at the entrance ($15 per person) and are given a CD to listen to as your progress  up the mountain.  The disc has bluegrass music and a sonorous old man telling you about the mountain’s history and nature and other things.  One of the first sites you pass as you ascend the mountain is the playing fields for the Highland Games.  We had just missed the games, which are played in the second weekend of July.  That’s a bummer, because we love kilts.

So the first notable geologic site we passed were the Split Rock and the Sphinx Rock, two giant, billion year old boulders that are perched alongside the road.  So we got out and took some pictures with the giant and old rocks.

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I’m back!

Hi guys.  Jon and I are back from our Mountain Weekend.  We picked a good weekend to flee, considering that Chapel Hill and the rest of the country had been transformed into a fiery hell inferno.  The mountains, while warmer than usual, were a comfortable mid-80s most of the weekend.  Summer retreat success!

We had a great weekend and I will post about all the things we did and places we saw and foods we ate as the week progresses.  In the meantime, here are a few pictures of the Iron Mountain Inn, where we stayed, and some mountains, and some other pretty things.  Let them tide you over until I can sate your curiosity with detailed descriptions.


Mountaineering!

I’m leaving tomorrow for a long weekend in the Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, at a bed-and-breakfast which we are staying at for a steal courtesy of LivingSocial.  I hope to see some mountains and maybe go into some caves and see cavelike things and also maybe sleep a lot and read a lot and maybe I can go swimming some somewhere.  Anyways, the point of this is that the blog will go night night until Sunday or Monday when I am back.  Then I can post lots of pictures and y’all can be jealous of my camera skills and my vacation.

If you get bored you could go read last year’s 50 Days to Dragon*Con countdown.  I went to Hemlock Emporium today to get some adjustments made on this year’s new costume and I’m super excited about the whole thing.  I got the main bulk of the costume for cheap cheap cheap so Dragon*Con on a budget is a go!

Also, the last time I was in the Smokey Mountains, which was when I was fourteen or fifteen, my family and I totally saw one of these scrounging about the side of the road:

Bears, guys!  This weekend’s goal is to see more bears!  Bears!

Anyways, see y’all on the other side of the weekend!

Quesadillas, Inspired by KoKyu

So in my last post I wrote about the amazing KoKyu short rib quesadillas.  They were so good that they inspired us to make quesadillas for dinner on Saturday night.  We grilled up some flank steaks, made a filling of grilled onions, peppers, mushrooms and jalapenos, and stuffed the whole thing with plenty of grated Mexican-blend cheese.

Those are the flank steaks on the grill, Jon picked them up from the Carrboro Farmer’s Market.  I made a Mexican-style marinade with soy sauce (works like a charm in terms of adding salt!), oregano, lime, sugar, cumin and some oil and let the steaks sit in it for a few hours.  Jon cooked the flank steaks perfectly: they were so tender and pink on the inside.  We had a good guide in the Food Lab’s How to Grill a Flank Steak over at SeriousEats.

That’s the flank steak with the grilled vegetables for the quesadilla filling.

Quesadilla fillings!  Cheese, flank steak, peppers, onions and jalapenos!

Now here’s the fun part.  We decided that, once the quesadillas were assembled, we’d throw them right back on the grill to get that crispy, smokey finish on the outside of the tortilla.  This worked perfectly.

Look at that char!  Perfect.

The grill was such a great summer investment.  The last few summers I’ve lived in an apartment with no outdoor space, which is a bummer when reading amazing seasonal summer recipes that extol the glories of the grill.  Now I can make all the fantastic, summery dishes about which I’ve read.  Grill victory!

And yes, the quesadillas were delicious.