More terrifying than bears, more frustrating than double parking at overlooks, and even more sinister than the sudden switchbacks, the most painful lesson a new addict of the Blue Ridge Parkway learns is to fear the fog. It slinks in in late Fall, and stays around all day without ever burning off. It’s bad for your gas mileage (cause you’re doing 15 mph in a 45) and your heart (cause you can’t see more than over the end of your hood).
But it does a phenomenal job of thinning out the tourists during the height of leaf season! So take advantage, and take a goat!
Location: Moses H. Cone Memorial Park via the Bass Lake trailhead off 221.
Is it goat approved? This is a hiking and horse riding only park, so yes, in a manner of speaking it is goat approved in terms of “can I take a goat there without someone yelling at me?”. However, the park requests animals stay leashed, and with the popularity of this location the goat ideally should be. Those of you who own goats realize how rarely ideal conditions actually work out. If you don’t have a goat that does well on leash you might want to steer clear of this tourist magnet. Or buy a shock collar or something…
How you get there: Get on the Blue Ridge Parkway at any location convenient to you and ride up to the intersection with 221 just before Moses H. Cone. Get off on 221, and head towards Blowing Rock. It’s a small gravel road side parking area to your left a few miles after you get on. If you’re in heavy fog you can come in on 221 North or 221 South depending on your preference.
Time for hike: The hike recounted here is 5.5 miles long, and takes in all the interesting points on the east side of the park. This is a loop hike. Mobile caprine units will find that the trails here are ridiculously easy, especially for the mountains. You could kill everything at the park in one long day, so long as you don’t get hung up taking pictures for tourists. Or run out of ammo.
Trails to Take
Start at the Bass Lake trailhead. Go through the gate, and follow the incredibly well maintained signage to, no shock here, Bass Lake. When the weather is not foggy I have it on good authority that there is in fact a visible body of water at this location. Go to the right when you hit the lake, and over the dam. From here keep following the signs to “the manor”, (think “you seek Count Dracula in yonder castle” – it really improves the mood of a nice fall hike). You’ll come up alongside a barbed wire fence and see some old apple trees intermixed with the regular old forest. After another two miles or so following ye olde helpful signage you will arrive at the castle…*ahem*…I mean manor of Moses H. Cone. It’s big. It’s scenic. When it’s open it has a nifty crafts center and some very vampiric park rangers inside. Enter at your own risk, but in late fall it is likely to be closed and thus can be safely investigated without garlic, crosses, or proof of rabies vaccination.
This is the turn around, (or depending on tourist number, turn and run) point of the hike. Go back down the mountain and watch for signs to the “apple barn”. Take the first turn off you see to the apple barn. A short jaunt down this trail leads you to the apple barn, a big white building with a nice dry porch. This is also a location of park ranger activity during the summer months, so if you need help, or you want to avoid being “helped” with your goats, decide how to pass this obstacle depending on season. In October there was no one about.
Past the apple barn keep an eye out for the sign directing you to “the maze”. Forget The Shining, this is not your average hedgerow and stone labyrinth. It’s actually just a really twisted up section of trail that goes through some surprisingly dull woods. During the spring, however, it is supposedly is a great place for viewing the rhododendron and mountain laurel blooming. Note that both of these may be mildly toxic to goats if consumed and cause some of them to slobber excessively and appear rabid. Which is probably not ideal, cause you know, the tourists and everything. Mostly the maze just causes you to lose all sense of direction, so maybe more of a mental maze. When you emerge the trail will lead you along a development community road, then back down to Bass Lake and then back to where you parked.
1. This is a horse-centric park. Not all horses get goats, so if you aren’t into having a hoof shaped bruise on your forehead, get way off the trail if you see a horse coming, and then sit back to enjoy the fireworks when the horse goes “what the *#&$ is this?!” and tries to levitate away from you.
2. The area is popular with locals to take their dogs off leash, especially the trail section known as “The Maze”. It does give one significantly higher ground in a confrontation with canine loving retirees when it’s their unleashed bichon frise that is gnawing your legally leashed caprine’s leg off.
3. Turn on your lights in fog and watch out for people who haven’t thought to turn on their lights. Avoid the parkway in heavy fog if you aren’t familiar with it. Or you know, take it and live life on the edge (or at least just under 25 mph) for a bit!
4. Apparently the ground is laden with arsenic and lead in parts of the park, so maybe not a goat grazing hot spot.
5. The only water point available to goats are the ponds on the property.
In sum: When you feel the need to go vampire hunting in a state park because of the great atmospheric fog, always remember to protect your goat by draping garlic around it. But only in such a way that it can’t actually eat the garlic and thus negate your attempts to stop it from killing itself.