Monday, July 8, 2013

Epic Trip 2013

Epic Trip 2013: 3 Jeeps, 4 states, 5 people & over 2,000 miles driven

This trip was first conceived a little over two years ago when after reading several post on my friend’s Murph blog ( who’s been traveling around the world for the past 3 or 4 years, I decided I wanted to go see the country driving my Jeep. One of my Lifeguards suggested and brought me a map to the Blue Ridge Parkway.  After a parking lot briefing of what he had done and gone camping  at it was decided, Blue Ridge Parkway was the destination for this long distance trip. On October 2012 I meet Derek while camping on Ocala State Park, Fl and the first invitee was on.  On February 2013 at Ocala National Forest we (Derek and I) met Kevin and Laura, and another amazing friendship was forged and the group was complete for what was still the unnamed trip. My father who until a little over a year ago was a truck driver by trade, when I first told him about this trip he was so excited, as this was his favorite drive in the entire country, gave me pointers on what to expect while driving the parkway and its steep hills.  A month and a half before this trip my father passed away and because of how excited about this trip he was and how fondly he spoke about driving thru it (BRP) it seemed like the perfect resting place for his human remains. So now the trip had a name and more than one reason to be completed.

On Friday June 14, 2013 we began the “Epic Trip” and our first stop was Lake Louisa State Park in Clermont, Florida.  This stop also included a visit to my Aunt Elaine’s house and my cousin Jessica would meet up with us to join on this adventure.


Later that evening I had a birthday celebration with a great cake made by my aunt.

 On Saturday June 15th, Kevin and Laura met up with us after Derek, Jessica and I went on a hike around the park . 

Jessica and Derek "shooting back"

Kevin and Laura picked up this M-416 military trailer with a RTT already set up on Tampa the previous day.


Sunday was driving day to South Carolina by way of back roads in Georgia, this part took much longer than anticipated and I had what was one of the first technical difficulties by losing 12v power outlets, which meant charging the GPS and phones would have to be done using the portable power plant. Second of the technical difficulties came in the form of the CB radio microphone’s cable being cracked and needed replacement. After much driving we realized that finding a place to eat open on a Sunday was going to be a much bigger challenge than anticipated, but eventually we ended up at Mi Sombrero (a Mexican restaurant in Baxley, GA).

Still in the middle of Georgia and over three and a half hours away from our next camp ground.  The decision was made to take I-95 and stop at the first truck stop to replace the microphone on the CB radio.  South Carolina and at camp on Suntee State Park by 11 p.m.  Setting up camp in the dark seems to be our “thing”.
June 17th, 2013 my 36th birthday and I woke up to a beautiful morning by the lake and Derek making breakfast for me and Jessica with coffee in hand. My birthday meant we get to go for a group hike on the forest. Not only I got my birthday hike on the forest but our friend Brian came to visit us that afternoon and stayed for dinner.


June 18th, 2013 a morning jog, breakfast and pack up and off to the next destination, Blue Ridge Parkway! North Carolina here we are!  Beautiful hills and mountains all around us. A bittersweet moment as my final farewell with my dad’s remains was that much closer.




We arrived at Mount Mitchell State Park to a beautiful sight at an altitude of over 6,000 feet and finally no cell phone reception. The campsite’s were beautiful however, not drive to/thru. Looked like we would have to camp on the parking lot when in comes the ranger to check us in and very nicely to help us with our dilemma. She called the other campsite in the Mount Mitchell area and told them that we would be arriving there in about an hour so that they would not close the gates. It was supposed to be a 25 minute drive, mostly thru an unpaved road that goes thru the forest into a valley where Black Mountain Campground is. After a lost i-phone and over an hour searching for it with no results we finally arrived at camp. Setting up camp in the dark (again) after the first (unplanned) adventure of the trip.

Little did we now that this whole area is a black bear sanctuary, and we had a visitor in the middle of the night who left his “signature” on my tent after going thru some of our things, talk about a close encounter, the claw marks where barely 12 inches above where my head was on the inside.

Derek's in-Jeep hammock set up


Next morning after taking pictures of the “crime scene” and a good breakfast we were on our way to Mount Mitchell for a hike, but first a small search and recovery mission was necessary to find Kevin’s i-phone, which I found. A huge sense of relief came over everyone and a little celebration was in order in the form of a hike.

One can only describe this place as breathtaking, not only because of the thinner air in altitude, but also the scenic views that only get better the more one looks around. After the hike and a short drive in the area around the campground we came back to camp to relax and sit by the fire for a great warm meal by Laura. The second night we had prepared for possible visitors by installing a “bear alarm” made out of paracord and empty beer cans. Sure enough we did have a visitor who triggered the alarm and left teeth mark on my cooler, but left with no other incident. It was time to have some breakfast and pack up to move on to the next destination.


On the way to find another campground we came across Crabtree falls and since I had mentioned I wanted to find a waterfall to spread my father’s ashes at, Kevin and Laura suggested this one. This turned into an impromptu 3.60 mile hike.  After saying my final farewell we still had over 2 miles to go to make it back to the trailhead, where our vehicles were parked at.



From there to the next camp, and Kevin and Laura had something special in mind and boy was it special, they got us a cabin where we had an amazing time, where Jessica and Kevin made a delicious dinner which was followed by some hot tub time. Next morning we were off to Grandfather Mountain and eventually to find another campground.

Grandfather Mountain: we had to leave the trailers parked outside, as they were not allowed due to the steep inclines and sharp turns on the hill going up. Once up at the top the views were amazing.



We stopped at the small town of  Spruce Pine N.C. to get Kevin’s trailer tire and hubs replaced and have a look at my brakes which where sounding a little worn. This proved to be a little more difficult than we would imagine as every shop in town was booked. Once we found one that could things still didn’t go as smooth as we would have wanted, but it got done after some delays, torching, and drilling.

Finally made it to a campground somewhere in N.C., Rose Creek campground, again well past 10 p.m. and this was the only place with any availability since it was the first day of summer and everyone seemed to be camping that weekend. We arrived and set up camp under the watchful eyes of curious onlookers about or trailers and tents. We had decided we were waking up early to get on the road and stop for breakfast somewhere along the route back to Florida with a stop at South of the Border.

After 9 days on the road one finds out a lot about those around you, as for those I've surrounded myself with, well they made the breathtaking scenery look dull. Hope you enjoyed the pictures and like always, "leave only your foot prints"