Friday morning, we had tentative plans to hike some of the AT and Virginia Creeper Trail before leaving Damascus and setting out in the direction of Roanoke, but I could tell that Ann's bum leg was really bothering her. Not to mention that she crashed at 8:30 the night before and was still asleep at 7:30. It seemed a no-brainer that we should take a zero today.
Because we weren't hiking, we could take our time; our only real commitment was a 7:30 dinner in Roanoke, so we set off on foot for breakfast, forgoing the complimentary breakfast at the inn, in favor of dining at trail favorite Mojo's Trailside Café. Damascus is tiny and easily walkable. We walked from the inn to and along the main drag, Laurel St, home to several outfitters and which also doubles as the AT, to Mojo's. It's kind of bizarre seeing AT blazes on the sidewalks and buildings. As you might imagine, just two weeks before Trail Days starts, thru hikers were pouring out of hostels and rooms all along our walk.
|Mojo's: A Favorite AT Dining Stop|
I got huevos rancheros, two over easy eggs sitting on top of corn muffins. Ann got an everything bagel with bacon, eggs, and cheese. This and two cups of coffee was plenty for breakfast, way more than I would usually eat. We lingered over our second cup of coffee before heading out for the walk back to our car.
|"Huevos Rancheros," Eggs on Cornbread Muffins|
|"Everything-Everything" Bagel Sandwich|
We had walked a few yards back towards the inn and the Jeep when we walked back by Crazy Larry's Hostel. There were several hikers outside and we got to chewing the fat with a half a dozen of them, talking about what hikers talk about, weather, shelter, mileage, food, beer, and so forth. In particular, a couple of them were really excited about the ponies up at Grayson and how long on the trail to get there (2 days).
As we were chatting, a couple of Northern Orioles were serenading us from the maple tree not a dozen feet away from us. At one point, I asked the hikers to talk Ann out of through hiking the AT. There's no way that they would have tried to talk her out of it and once she gets an idea in her head, there is no dissuading her. The whole issue became moot when Larry popped out of the house bearing a platter of bacon pancakes for everyone. We declined because we had just stuffed our faces, but I noticed that none of the thru hikers refused second breakfast!
|Crazy Larry Offering Bacon Pancakes|
Walking back, we stopped on the bridge over Laurel Creek to watch the whitewater and to admire the large stands of Dame's Rocket on the banks. We were kept company by several barn swallows sitting not four feet away on a wire, chattering away. As we got about halfway back to our inn, we passed a beauty parlor as an old woman was coming out, just having had her hair did. We both started chuckling as she crossed the street, a woman whose picture should be in the dictionary next to the definition of "blue hair." Her hair was a lavender-blue shade the likes of which I haven't seen in 30 or 40 years!
We left town due north for I-81 north to I-77 south to US 58 east to Meadows of Dan, VA where we picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway north. We did this to avoid backtracking on US-58 which is hugely winding and super slow, hence the hour and fifteen minutes from Grayson Highlands to Damascus the day before. Our plan was to see the iconic Mabry Mill then head north along the Blue Ridge Parkway to Chateau Morrissette for lunch and then continue north on the Parkway into Roanoke where we would be staying the night.
|The Iconic Mabry Mill|
|Mill Race Trestle|
|Still Life: Shake Roof with Dogwoods|
|Split Rails Fronting the Parkway|
|Mill Pond Ducks|
|Chipping Sparrow, Spizella passerina, in Cherry Tree|
|Chervil Scented Sweet Cicely, Osmorhiza claytonia|
|Flame Azalea, Rhododendron calendulaceum|
|Red Trillium, Trillium erectum|
|And the White Form, Trillium erectum var. album|
But, we were going right by it and one of my many jobs is as a professional sommelier and so I like to taste wines when I get a chance, to know what is going on. I really must say that while they still make a lot of the sweet cashflow generating wines, their dry wines are really not bad at all. I was pleasantly surprised. We even got a bottle of Merlot to take with us to drink on Saturday night.
|Outside the Chateau's Restaurant|
|Musing on the Mountains with Merlot|
Our food was good. In fact, like the wines, it really exceeded our expectations. Our starter flatbread was the least good of our dishes. The fig jam was really seedy, the ricotta on top didn't work as well as a good goat cheese would have, and the arugula goes on the flatbread after it comes out of the oven so that it stays fresh and vibrant, not before it goes in the oven so that it comes out dried, crisp, and tasteless. My pulled pork sandwich was well made but unmemorable, but the fries were really good. Ann's catfish was beautifully done with an excellent crust.
|Flatbread with Figs, Bacon, Ricotta, and Arugula|
|Pulled Pork Sandwich|
|Off the Hook Catfish|
|Random Overlook on Parkway|
|Beautiful Vistas Everywhere|
|Spectacular Flame Azalea, About 15' Tall|
|Rock Castle Gorge|
|Looking East from Parkway Near Roanoke|