Saturday, September 14, 2013

Highlands - Cashiers NC Trip

Susan and I decided to celebrate our anniversary in the Highlands and Cashiers area of North Carolina.  I've decided to break this blog about our trip into two parts.  The first part will be about the trip, where we ate and whether we enjoyed it, and some of the sights we saw.  The second part will be about Lake Toxaway, our favorite lake, and how it compares to Lake Spivey.

Lets get started with part one, the trip.  We spent out honeymoon here years ago and have always enjoyed the few return trips that we've taken to the area.  Since our trip was scheduled after Labor Day and before Fall and the changing of the seasons we found the area to be notably unattended.  Instead of leaving Max at home or at a local pet resort we decided to bring Max with us and let him stay at a farm near Highlands.  Loma Linda Farm offers "free-range dog boarding, day care and dog park".

Max sees his first horse


The view from where Max will be staying

Max on the porch knows full well that mommy is still inside

Max performs a site survey

Star waiting for Max to join the fun

Hey!  Do I know you?

After dropping off Max and while in Highlands we ate lunch at Wild Thyme Gourmet restaurant in Highlands.  It is not affiliated with the Wild Thyme Cafe in Cashiers.  Our first dinner in Cashiers was at Chile Loco, a Mexican restaurant which seemed to be the only place open on a Tuesday night.  We found it by happenstance driving around town.  We also ate at breakfast at Buck's Coffee Cafe in Cashiers every morning.  There's also a Buck's in Highlands.  The following days we ate lunch at Randevu in Cashiers and dinner at The Orchard.  On our last day we ate at Buck's for breakfast, and Cornucopia for lunch.  Both restaurants were in Cashiers.  For our last dinner we ate at The Gamekeeper Tavern which is located a few miles west of Cashiers on Hwy 64.

Our favorite place to eat breakfast was obviously Buck's because we ate there three times.  The staff was friendly, the food and coffee were good, and the cafe had lots of comfortable seating.

Our favorite place to eat lunch was Cornucopia.  The food was good, there is indoor and outdoor seating.  This is a popular restaurant so you might find that there's a wait if you go during peak times.

Our favorite place for dinner was The Orchard.  We made reservations for Wednesday night at 7:15pm.  It was good that we did because even during off peak times there was a wait for those diners arriving around 8:00pm.  You shouldn't be in a hurry at The Orchard.  Your dinner experience will likely take almost two hours but the food will be well worth the wait.  The service is friendly and helpful.  It was obvious to us that many of the other diners frequently dined there.

A little about the other restaurants.  Chile Loco had a fresh tasting Margarita that was not too sweet but the food was just your standard Mexican fare.  Randevu was recommended by several people but we were not blown over by it.  Susan's steak salad was mostly iceberg lettuce stems and craisins.  My Ruben sandwich looked perfect and tasted good but the bottom piece of bread was soggy.  The Gamekeeper's Tavern is a beautifully done restaurant situated behind an unassuming bottle shop and deli.  We found the food and service good but very pricey.

Our hotel, the Laurelwood Mountain Inn, is centrally located in Cashiers between Highlands, Lake Glenville, Lake Toxaway, and Whiteside Mountain.  All areas that we wanted to visit.  On previous trips we stayed at Innisfree Inn on Lake Glenville and the Main Street Inn in Highlands.  We also spent a few days at the Days Inn in Clayton, Georgia and two different hotels in or near Asheville, NC during different trips.   Obviously we like the area.  We like the mountains and the pristine environment, the waterfalls, trails, trees and rocks.  It's just a beautiful part of the country.

Laurelwood Inn in Cashiers, NC

The driveway to the Laurelwood Inn parking lot

The common area at the inn

The parking lot at the Laurelwood Inn

Another view of the parking lot at the inn

Our comfortable but tiny room

A water feature on the porch at Laurelwood Inn

The view from the porch at Laurelwood Inn

Downtown Cashiers is very busy and could use some sidewalks

The weather for our trip was perfect.  The low temperatures at night were between 60 and 65-degrees. Coming from Atlanta, it took us a few days before we felt safe enough to sleep with the windows open.  The cool fresh mountain air smelt so clear.   The high temperature was on our first day.  It only reached about 85-degrees.

On Wednesday we decided to do some hiking.  We hiked up Whiteside Mountain twenty years ago so we thought it would be interesting to do it again.  Back in 1993 Susan got stung by a bee.

The sign at the entrance to Whiteside Mountain parking lot and trailhead

We arrived at the trailhead at around 9:00am.  There was only one other vehicle in the parking lot.  Susan and I headed up the trail on the two mile loop.  I sent Susan ahead just in case there were some bears loose in the area.  "Is it safe Honey?  Go a little farther."

The path up Whiteside Mountain

At the top of the mountain there were several places to take pictures.

Susan and I on top of Whiteside Mountain

The trail on the return trip was much steeper and somewhat treacherous.  Fortunately for us it hadn't rained in several days so the trail was dry and not slippery.

Susan traversing the steps down Whiteside Mountain

After the hike we had the opportunity to use the facilities.  These are much like a port-a-let on steroids.  There's a seat fashioned over a hole in the floor over a pool of nasty, funky, and pungent waste.  Susan couldn't bring herself to stay inside.  I did and even took a picture down the "rabbit hole".  Outside the facilities, and all around Cashiers, you'll find bear-proof square metal trashcans.  We didn't see any bears.

The facilities at Whiteside Mountain

From Whiteside Mountain we drove over to Dry Falls.  Susan found these similar facilities slightly more accommodating.

The facilities at Dry Falls

Access to the falls is via a short steep set of stairs and walkway.

Susan descends the steps to Dry Falls

A "selfie" at Dry Falls

Dry Falls

One of the most notable things about Highlands and Cashiers is the lack of trash.  There are no billboards, roadside signs proclaiming "Cash for Junk", "Hail Damage? Free Estimates", or tree cutting services, and no trash.  Another notable difference is the lack of fast food restaurants and the people who patronize them.   Cashiers and Highlands are for retirees, hikers, kayakers, and fisherman.  We saw only two cyclists on the narrow, steep and twisting mountain roads.  This would be a place to mountain bike I'd assume but road biking would be another story.  Cashiers does have an annual century ride in May, the Tour de Cashiers.  Maybe my local bike club, Southern Crescent Cycling, will make this a destination ride next year.

Mountain road lined with Rhododendrons and Mountain Laurel 
I don't know how many miles we put on our car while in Cashiers but I drove a lot.  With our hotel centrally located we hit Lake Toxaway twice, Lake Glenville twice, Mirror Lake and Lake Sequoyah once, the road into South Carolina once, and all points in between.

Our drive back to Atlanta and the reality of life was sobering.  Even though we should have missed the bulk of the Friday noontime traffic, an accident slowed I-85 south to a crawl.  We exited the highway and drove back roads to I-285 and home.

Traffic jam on I-85 south

Thanks for reading.

Part two of this blog will cover the similarity and differences between Lake Spivey and Lake Toxaway.

See all our pictures here.