A Mountain Escape

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Looking Glass Falls

When we moved to Savannah, Georgia, ten years ago, my oldest son was elated. “We live in a vacation destination!” he said. That may all be well and good, but sometimes, even when you live in Savannah, you feel like you have just GOT to get away.  Those feelings seem to strike me the strongest around the end of August, when I have sufffered through weeks of unrelenting heat and humidity.   It is true that we could pop in the car for a short drive to Tybee Beach, or a little further to Hilton Head Island and enjoy playing in the surf and sand.  But when we are seeking an ESCAPE, we dream of MOUNTAINS.


It was a wonderful thing when we identified Brevard, North Carolina, as a destination for quick summer get-aways. The distance from Savannah to Brevard is about 250 miles.  That is short enough that we can leave after work on a week day, arrive late, and get up the next morning with a full day of fun and adventure ahead of us.  We don’t lose a whole day traveling.

Brevard, the “Land of Waterfalls”, offers an abundance of wholesome, outdoor activities for a family to enjoy. A good place to “get your feet wet” is at Looking Glass Falls in the Pisgah National Forest.  Close to the parking area is an observation point for the waterfall.  A short descending stairway leads to the base. Whether intentional or accidental, the kids are going to get wet, so plan ahead. Remove shoes and bring a towel! Hopping on rocks and searching for salamanders and crawdads under creek bed rocks were beloved past times of my childhood, but unique experiences for my Savannah-born children.

Rocks to explore

River rock fun








The largest tourist attraction is Sliding Rock, and it is worthwhile. Sliding Rock is always anticipated by my family with dreadful delight.  Or is it delightful dread?  A large rock creates a natural slide, with a rushing stream to carry you along and plunge you into the icy water below.  We always go after public schools have started, and so there is never any crowd.  That means no long lines and no audience.  The rock can be rather hard on the tailbone, but the ride down is a thrill.   The sensation of plunging into 55 degree water initially takes your breath away.  Then you become acutely aware of every pore in your skin.  Then there is a warming sensation as the blood flow returns. It feels exhilarating!

Bracing for the plunge

Sliding Rock









Our family’s favorite waterfall is the Courthouse Falls.  We enjoy the pleasant drive to the trail head, and then the short hike to the base of the 45-foot waterfall.  The setting is serene: shady and cool, scented of earth, and serenaded by trickling water.  The water is cold and clear.  The older half of the family jumps in and swims to the base of the falls.  The younger half climbs rocks and wades in the shallows.  If we could visit only one waterfall, this would be my choice.



Courthouse Falls

Exploring the shallows








Racing toward the water












Dupont State Park offers other waterfalls to explore.  We enjoyed Triple Falls.  I highly recommend parking at the bottom of the falls and hiking to the summit, rather than the reverse, especially if you have children in tow.  That makes the return trip a fun, downhill dash.

Brotherly love

Rock hopping action








Good clean fun

Boys and sticks








A short drive from Brevard is Hendersonville, a major apple-growing town in North Carolina.  When we visit in late August we find an abundance of delicious apples to be purchased or, better yet, picked at “pick-your-own” apple orchards.  We pick as many apples as our car can hold.  Apple pies, apple butter, fried apples, candied apples, apples dipped in caramel… 80 pounds of apples never last long in our household!

Sampling the apples

Apple picking





Tasting the bounty

Flat Rock is also close to Brevard.  The home of the famous American poet, Carl Sandburg, is in Flat Rock.  While we have little interest in his poetry, we think his wife’s goats are terrific!  Lilian Sandburg was an amateur geneticist and a master of animal husbandry.  She bred world famous goats, and descendants of her goats still live on their estate.  There are also hiking trails on the property that lead to breath-taking views.

Mrs. Sandburg's goats

Petting the goats







Is this the rock of Flat Rock?

Breath-taking views







We have found a wonderful place to stay when we visit Brevard, and I believe it is a BEST KEPT SECRET!  We stay at Ridge Haven Conference and Retreat Center.  Ridge Haven was established by the Presbyterian Church in America.  I first learned of it when a son attended camp there.  They have all sorts of accommodations – camp sites, lodges, motel-type rooms, apartments – that anyone can rent!  They are comfortable and affordable!  And if you visit after the busy camp/retreat season, you may have Ridge Haven to yourself!  The scenic beauty is superb and the lake offers great fun for everyone!


Surf bike








Kayaking at Ridgehaven

Twice we have visited Brevard.  We have arrived late on a Wednesday night, hiked and explored for three full days, worshiped at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Brevard on Sunday morning, then returned home in time for supper on Sunday night.  We pack a lot of fun into a few days.  But each time we have returned truly refreshed and renewed.

The heat of summer will soon envelope us.  Perhaps your family needs a plan for escape.  I know where I want to go!

Ice cream break





Comments (0) May 16 2011