|Craggy Dome, Copyright KBuffaloe|
But our goal for this trip was the picnic area, located at mile 367.6, and the Craggy Gardens Trail.
The Craggy Garden picnic area is a spacious lot dotted with picnic tables comfortably shaded beneath a canopy of trees. Several trails can be accessed from this area, including Mountains-to-the-Sea and Douglas Falls.
The Craggy Gardens Trail is Hike 18 in Kevin Adam’s North Carolina’s Best Wildflower Hikes. As we learned during our hike, and as Adam’s mentioned in his book, a heath bald is located near the summit. Websters defines heath as a tract of wasteland, an extensive area of open uncultivated land usually with poor coarse soil and inferior drainage. According to the Guide to the Natural Communities of North Carolina, Fourth Approximation (March 2012, Page 11) Heath balds are "areas dominated by dense shrubs, with natural absence or near absence of tree cover, in topographically exposed, high elevations."
It sounds desolate, but as we discovered, the area is actually lush. The dominant shrub is Catawba Rhododendron, and rhodos line the trail to the pinnacle and at one point, form a tunnel.
|Rhodo Tunnel, Craggy Gardens, Copyright 2014|
Craggy Gardens is a refreshing stop along the Parkway, and now that I'm familiar with it, it's likely we'll return again and again. Photos from our trip:
For mobile users: Craggy Gardens Photos on our Smugmug Site