Tucker was eager to get back into the woods.
At the end of the trail is the staircase that leads straight up to intersect with Hickory Falls Trail. Leave it to me to adopt a dog that looks at this and is raring to go as fast as he can. Note: these stairs are not inclusive of the 499 steps needed to get to Chimney Rock.
We walked the trail back to the intersection of the Outcroppings Trail which had some beautiful views along the way. There weren't a lot of people on this stretch, but enough to make the secluded feeling of the view seem other-worldly, as if we were just looking out a window, not a part of the landscape we were seeing.
Luckily they place a lot of landings along the way. Our first stop was Vista Rock. Not only do you get a vista of the valley below,
We reached the main pathway between Sky Lounge and Chimney Rock which was teaming with people. I walked up to the front doors and saw the sign that stated “Service dogs only allowed.” I walked back to a park ranger and asked if that was true.
“Yes, because they serve food in there,” he told me.
I told him that I thought my dog might be on the verge of heat exhaustion and could someone help me get some wet towels for him if he couldn’t go in the air conditioned room.
The ranger kindly went inside and got two cold, soaking wet towels for Tucker while Tucker and I found a shady spot under a table umbrella. I wiped him down and then held them under his armpits (or maybe they’re called leg pits?) in the hopes of bringing his body temperature down. I had just read about a dog who died in the Mojave Desert while hiking. Even if Tucker was just being overly dramatic, I didn’t want risk it.
We spent twenty minutes there, and Tucker seemed to cool down. It was hot, but I wasn’t sweating unless I moved.
A woman who shared our table in the shade said there was at least a breeze at the top of the rock. So when I felt he was as back to normal as he could get, we did the short climb up to the top of Chimney Rock for some natural air conditioning.
There was not a breeze.
Tucker was a good sport and let me take his picture, but his tongue stuck out even further, as if searching for that alleged breeze.
A few minutes later, Tucker’s old self resumed enough to see that the staircase led to somewhere he hadn't been yet, and so we clearly hadn't reached our goal. He pulled me to keep going, so I begrudgingly let him, hoping he knew his own limits. Lucky for us both, the trail led to the one spot he needed to be: The Opera Box.
“Do you want to sit here?” one of them asked.
“No, that’s okay. I’ll sit back here with him. He needs to get cooled off. Thank you though.”
They were talking about the hikes further up and I asked if they were worth the climb.
“Well, it's a nice view at Exclamation Point which is right above this, but it’s 399 stairs.”
“So… is it this view?” I asked honestly.
They paused, and then shrugged with a laugh, “Well, yeah.. but higher up.”
Her friend chimed in with, “You can see little more of the valley and the falls.”
“Yeah, I think I'll pass on that one then.” I replied.
“But Devil’s Head is pretty cool,” the other woman said. “It’s only a little bit further up.”
She showed me a picture.
“Oh yeah, that’s worth it.”
I thanked them for their insight having gone before me. I sat with Tucker a little bit longer and then when he stopped panting for more than five minutes, we took the next staircase upward to Devil’s Head.
Like many of my crew whose origins were New England and New York, I agreed that Asheville reminded us of where we grew up. Perhaps the Appalachian Mountains carry some sort of vibe along it’s spine that flows down to the valley towns that lie beneath their shadows.
I hope to return to this magical place in the Mountains. Until then, I thank Asheville and the mountains around it for giving Tucker and me our favorite overall experience in our traveling lives so far. Northern California is where my heart lies, but Tucker and I would love to play in North Carolina again sometime soon.