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Meerkat Travel Gang

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Oh yes! 🙂

GA to North Carolina

I don’t think Georgia liked us very much… As soon as we crossed the state line into GA it started raining and crossing into NC the clouds broke for blue skies and sunshine. 🙂
We got into Asheville at around 6pm via route 23 – it took us through a couple of National Forests and State Parks, and right through the Smoky Mountains! The little mountain towns along the way were gorgeous – Lakemont, Clayton…

Driving through downtown Asheville was an eye opener – topographically it also seems like a mountain city, but there is so much more going on than that! At a glance we saw a beautiful, natural little park-plaza, a rock obelisk, a great food co-op and people walking around that don’t seem like they would be hanging out together steoreotypically. I can absolutely see why a bunch of people (first among them Lauren Kessel) made me promise to make a stop here.

We’re going to try get some hiking in today, with pics of that to follow…

Just past Clayton, the road opens up and it's Smoky Mountains all around
Just past Clayton, the road opens up and it’s Smoky Mountains all around

First little glimpse of the mountains

The smaller highways and byways are so much more beautiful and interesting to drive than interstate!
The smaller highways and byways are so much more beautiful and interesting to drive than interstate!

Bike shadow

North Carolina greeted us with awesome blue skies and a little bit of sunshine
North Carolina greeted us with awesome blue skies and a little bit of sunshine

Blue skies!

Payne’s Prairie, La Chua

With one more week left in Gainesville, Kiernan and I had a really pleasant, sunny day to visit the Payne’s Prairie Preserve Nature Park. We drove there, but Abby Hogan showed me the Hawthorne biking trail that goes right past the North Entrance too – a beautifully scenic bike trail between downtown Gainesville and Hawthorne. From the North Entrance we headed to the La Chua trail and overlook.

When we were there the water levels were much higher than usual – the sink was full, plants and pollen floating on the water, making everything luminous green and the alligators weren’t sunning themselves on the bank of the sink… They were all along the trail and sometimes on it. The sign posts warn walkers to stay at least 20 ft away from the alligators, which is not too far away considering how fast they run. They look really docile (or comatose?) just basking in the sun, but it’s creepy seeing their eyes open and close or seeing them slip back into the water so quietly you’d never hear them coming up behind you. You get used to squeezing past them on the narrowing trail, though.

Besides alligators, there are wild horses, wild pigs and bison on the prairie as well. We didn’t see any pigs or bison, but we were on the trail early enough in the morning to see a small herd of horses with two foals at the end of the trail. They were too skittish to get really close to (with alligators all around it’s not surprising), but it was special 🙂

We stayed on the trail just long enough for it to get really hot, but not sunburned…

Payne’s Prairie Preserve Nature Park

T -8days

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