Granted, we’re still in a pandemic, and life is not completely normal. We feel comfortable on trails, but our only dining is outdoors, and we mask up for grocery shopping. We’re avoiding music venues and other indoor activities that we would otherwise seek out. But even if this is our reality for the foreseeable future, it’s manageable, and we’re finding joy in the small moments of everyday life. Truly, that’s all we have anyway, isn’t it?
Leisurely Dining At Beautiful Lake Toxaway
When we booked our stay at Lake Toxaway many months ago, I didn’t realize that it is a private lake. Our little RV park has a Lake Toxaway address, but it’s not part of the exclusive Lake Toxaway community. I was a little disappointed until I discovered that we could enjoy the lake by dining at the Greystone Inn.
After a long stretch of very little in the way of dining out, we hit the jackpot at the Lakeside Restaurant. We’ve enjoyed dinner and brunch on the patio overlooking the lake. Other than the servers wearing masks, this feels like the ‘before times.’ The food is superb, and the service is excellent. This is not just pandemic deprivation talking, it really is a fabulous experience.
On a chilly morning last week, we returned for brunch on the patio, followed by relaxing on the lawn and playing our version of Trivial Pursuit (we just run through the cards and both call out answers to the questions. We feel smarter that way, lol). We enjoyed it so much we have reservations for next week.
Click on photos for a larger version
Gorgeous Hiking In Gorges State Park
We’re doing a lot of hiking on trails near and far to balance out our culinary adventures. At only five miles away, Gorges State Park is right in our backyard. We’ve been at least a half-dozen times to hike various trails in the park.
Established in 1999, Gorges is North Carolina’s westernmost state park. More than 80 inches of rainfall each year keep the waterfalls flowing and provide a temperate rainforest environment for a wide variety of flora and fauna.
The visitor center is excellent, with museum quality displays and an inviting porch with beautiful views.
Rainbow & Turtleback Falls
The highlight of the state park is the trail to Rainbow Falls. Although we had hiked this trail twice previously, I started thinking about the name of the falls, and wondering if there truly was a rainbow to be found. Sure enough, if you hike in the morning, the sun is at the right angle to refract through the mist, creating a rainbow across the falls.
The trail is about 4 miles round-trip, and is rated on AllTrails as moderate (with some folks rating it as strenuous). I think it depends on how accustomed you are to hiking. We would rate it squarely in the ‘moderate’ category. It provides enough of a workout so that you feel like you’ve accomplished something, but not so much that you’re worn out.
On another day, we returned to Gorges to hike a lesser known option. The trail that goes to Stairway Falls isn’t marked on the park map. It veers off from the main trail to Rainbow Falls, and is a fun and interesting little adventure!
Although the trail begins benignly enough, it drops steeply and involves a bit of scrambling. It’s worth it. The falls aren’t tall, but they’re beautiful. And we had them all to ourselves.
Walking Trails In Gorges State Park
Other easier hikes in the park include the trail to Bearwallow Falls, and the Raymond Fisher Trail to a serene small lake. It’s a pretty spot to watch dozens of dragonflies and damselflies going about their acrobatic flights, while listening to the chorus of frogs from the sidelines. I still don’t understand why there are no biting bugs here, but we’re not complaining.
Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch
We moved our campsite three spaces over at the first of September. We’re now directly on the creek but on high ground, so no risk of flooding should there be another torrential storm. We’re delighted with our site, and Magnolia is happy watching the squirrels and abundant birdlife. I just hope she doesn’t outgrow her cat tree. I’m not sure if they come in a bigger size.
Speaking of Magnolia, some of you have asked about the litter box situation. Eric installed a cat door in a storage bay next to our bed that has an access door to the outside for cleaning the box. He walled off part of the bay for her deluxe litter box and added a motion-detector light so that she can see what she’s doing. She adapted pretty quickly, and now we get a kick out of her tapping the door to her ‘bathroom’ to turn the light on before she goes in. 😂
“it’s manageable, and we’re finding joy in the small moments of everyday life. Truly, that’s all we have anyway, isn’t it?”–love your attitude guys! Oh–that food and those beautiful waterfalls–amazing! And, where there’s a will, there’s a way–love Magnolia’s new litter box!
Cool morning brunch looks so scrumptious! Bigleaf magnolia tree! never heard of it, but it’s a wonderful shape leaf. Who woulda thought a cat needed a light to pee? Magnolia got lucky when you brought her home. Thank you for sharing :)
Terri, I don’t know if a cat needs a light to pee, but Magnolia sure likes her lighted litter box accommodations, LOL! We were surprised to discover that big leaf tree is a magnolia native to this area…it looks nothing like our magnolia at home in Florida. I’d love to see the blossoms.
Thanks, Janna. I still sometimes want my ‘before pandemic’ life back…but this is what we have now, and there’s plenty to be grateful for. It helps me to remind myself that no matter what, all we really have is this moment. We feel lucky that we found this special place to spend a couple of months!
hello: you are back to us on blog. WOW this place you are staying looks divine!
Oh, Latte is upset. He’s very annoyed that Magnolia has an auto light to the box. He has to travel through a tunnel in the wall to the garage cabinet…in the dark. Now he wants a light! :)
Always enjoying your blog.
Ed and Diana and Latte
I’m so happy you found us again, Diana! You and Ed really need to plan a trip to Lake Toxaway. This is exactly your kind of place. Even better is if you plan a trip here next October, when we’ll be here again!
And Magnolia says Latte deserves a light in his tunnel. :-) We miss you guys and hope we’ll get to see you this winter!
I’m finding so much inspiration and joy in hearing about your travels. Thanks for showing us the litter box solution. I’d been thinking about that sort of a modification to the trailer. We are catless now but it may be needed in the future.
Oh, Nancy, thank you so much for your kind comment! It makes me happy that our tales of our travels bring you joy. Do you have upcoming travel plans? I know it’s been a rough summer in Ashland. Don’t hesitate to get a kitty—the litter box modification has made all of us happier! :-)
Well, this is cool to know about! This park was established well after we’d left NC, and since we know so many people in the Mt. Mitchell/Asheville areas, we’ve never really poked our noses over there. But this is very enticing! Thanks for the reminder!
Gretchen, we’ve been delighted with the many trails and waterfalls in and around this area. I’ll be writing about much more of the hiking we’ve been doing in posts to come—I know you and Ken will love the options here! I hope your back is healing well and that you’ll be out on the trails soon.
My favorite post! This may be the new normal for us all and you’ve found out how to make the best of it and have the life you want. We’re adjusting also and learning new ways to enjoy the small things. The food looks grand as does your entire environment. It sounds like traveling with Magnolia has worked out and is just another facet of this new way of living! I love her bathroom set up, mondo creative and perfect for you all!
Sue, it’s still strange for me to think of this as our new normal, but it really might be…at least for a while to come. It’s been good for us to find that we can still travel and experience many of the things we enjoy—just as you and Dave are doing. (Should you ever come this way again, you would love it here!) We’re also delighted that traveling with Magnolia is working out so well. She’s a sweet kitty.
All I can say is “WOW”! You have found a little piece of paradise.
Magnolia is really getting big! Don’t worry about her outgrowing her cat tree. Cats love small spaces! Very clever litter box area..does she have a bidet, too?
Haha!! Magnolia loves water, so she probably would like a bidet! We really have found a little piece of paradise here, Sandy. It’s such a great place for us to all get accustomed to traveling again. And you’re right, Magnolia does love small spaces! We laugh about how big she’s getting, though. She was so little just a few months ago!
Amazing place! It’s good to see you making the best of the current worldly situation.
Thank you, Connie. We’re doing our best—and we’re feeling fortunate to be in such a beautiful place with so many good options!
Those meals at the inn would certainly give us plenty of joy even during these strange pandemic times! You look very content. I am so glad that you’ve discovered this charming area not too far from our mutual home base, so that we can (once again) shamelessly copy your itinerary in the future.
The cat door solution is great, but I love the extra touch of the motion activated light. Genius!
Shannon, we’re delighted that we found this beautiful place right in our backyard (well, at least not too far away from north Florida). Although we still have travel desires further afield, I can understand why people return year after year. We’ve already made plans to be here next October. Want to join us? :-) We haven’t run out of things to do yet, and it’s a peaceful place to be on the days that we don’t leave ‘home.’ I know you and Ken will enjoy it here.
The food pictures make my mouth water. Looks like a wonderful place no wonder you are repeating. Same for the falls hike. I love falls and 3 of them or more close by sounds divine. But the killer in this post is Magnolia turning on her bathroom light. You guys are SO clever. All 3 of you!
Sherry, I’ve often thought when we’re hiking the trails to waterfalls that this is exactly the kind of place you enjoy. And it’s not far from your home base! As I’ve mentioned, the hiking requires anywhere from a 15-minute to an hour’s drive, but it’s worth it to be based in a place that’s such a sweet park. Magnolia likes it here, too—she has plenty of squirrels and birds to keep her occupied. And she really seems to appreciate her litter box light, LOL!
That inn is just beautiful and the food looks wonderful. What a great find! You really have landed in the perfect spot and you both seem so happy and relaxed. You also seem to be there at the perfect time – it’s strange to see people wearing light jackets, but it would be more than welcomed at this point given that we’re still in the mid-90’s. Looks like you will be enjoying a lovely Fall.
Magnolia is living her best life these days, isn’t she? LOVE the private bathroom with mood lighting, and love seeing her maxin and relaxin in her tree! That little lady has got it made! :)
Laura, we’re so relieved that Magnolia has adjusted so well to traveling. And we’re all much happier with her private bathroom—no more shuffling the litter box in and out of the shower! I don’t know if she needs the light or not, but she sure seems to like it, LOL.
We feel so fortunate that we landed in this beautiful spot for the summer. It really is the perfect escape from Florida, with all of the things we enjoy. We knew there would be good hiking here, but we certainly didn’t expect such great dining options. Put this on your travel map for a future stay—it’s the kind of place you and Kevin would love. And there are plenty of trails for Thor to enjoy!
It all looks beautiful and like just the perfect place for you to be with so many of your favorite things close by. I think there is a nekkid person in your Turtleback Falls photo 🤭 I’m glad Maggie likes her new lavatory. Her photo looks like she’s in a decon chamber, which I guess is a good thing, considering! Such a lucky, sweet kitty!
Joodie, it does look like a decon chamber, LOL! We are all very happy with the new litter box set-up. Are you still appalled that we cut a hole in the trailer?
I don’t think there were any nekkid people at Turtleback Falls while we were there. At least, I’m sure we weren’t nekkid, haha.
What a beautiful area you are occupying and the Inn and food looks amazing. very
ingenuous of Eric to figure out a new bathroom for Maggie. Have a fun day tomorrow and
we sure hope Eric can celebrate his birthday in great fashion!
🎂🎂🎂🎂 Love, Your sister
Penny, we celebrated Eric’s birthday yesterday with a great (and hard!!) waterfall hike, and then a relaxing fabulous dinner at the Greystone Inn. :-)) Thanks for the good wishes…we’re having a wonderful summer/fall trip. You and Tom would love this inn!
Okay, I have to admit to getting side-tracked by your link to Greystone. I’m back after about an hour of trying to figure out when we can visit there. Looks like a good summer trip for 2022. Thanks for the link.
You definitely need to submit that rainbow falls pic to the park’s Instagram site. It’s a real beauty and well worth the hike.
Magnolia’s new bathroom is ingenious. Eric will be getting requests. Enjoy your new campsite by the creek. Until next time…
How cool that you’re planning a visit here, Suzanne! The Greystone Inn is beautiful, and seems like it would be a lovely place to stay. We’re enjoying our campsite by the creek, but I must admit, the inn would be even better! We’re delighted that we’ve been able to enjoy the ambiance of the lake by dining at the restaurant inn.
When you and Malcolm come here, be sure to make the hike to Rainbow Falls. It’s definitely worth the effort, and the trail is in good shape (unlike many of the other trails we’ve been hiking).
Goodness, what a beautiful setting! I’ve never heard of Lake Toxaway, but I’m adding it to my list. I love shrimp & grits (I make my own, but add cheese to the grits) and Rod loves rack of lamb, so that restaurant sounds perfect to us. And, would you believe that we play Trivial Pursuit the same way as you two? :) Great shot of the rainbow on the waterfall and cute photo of Magnolia in her tree. And a very clever spot to stow her litter box. She has settled into RV life very nicely, hasn’t she?
Les, when you and Rod travel east, definitely put Lake Toxaway on your itinerary! You will love this little RV park. We also make shrimp and grits (and we add parmesan or asiago to the grits) but we also enjoy trying other versions. So when you come east, plan to stay with us in Florida, and we’ll fix shrimp and grits for each other. :-) I love that you guys play Trivial Pursuit the same way that we do!
Thanks for your good wishes. We’re having a grand time, and Magnolia is, too. :-)
The lake and it’s pretty inn look like the perfect dose of “almost normal” in an area filled with abundant natural beauty! Your hikes are so green – and of course falls (especially with full rainbows) are the best. Love your pic at brunch and Eric’s in the large fan leaves – you’re both looking happy and healthy. Looks like you chose a perfect spot to get back on the road and explore.
Jodee, we are so happy we decided on Western North Carolina for our first time back out ‘on the road.’ It’s beautiful here, and peaceful, and offers so much of what we enjoy in our travels. As you said, it really does feel almost normal. These days, that’s good enough (as you know).
Too funny, comment populated with my legal name – now you know!
Your trip thru NC looks wonderful. It must feel so liberating to be back on the road again!
What is the weather like in NC this time of year? Looks lovely!!! The area around Lake Toxaway is so scenic, glad you found a way to enjoy some waterfront time. The food at the Inn looks delicious… major bonus points!!!
Hi Brenda, it’s great to hear from you! We’re delighted to be traveling again, even if it’s only a few hundred miles from home, LOL. And we’re really happy we chose North Carolina. The weather has been good (more humid than the west, of course) but cool nights and mornings, and lots of sunshine. August has afternoon thunderstorms in Western NC, but September has been gorgeous. I think you would love it here.
We’re hoping we’re going to get to see you two in Florida this winter!
But now I need to know your middle name!! I love Josephine. :-)
I always feel like the last to respond to your posts as I scroll through the thousand comments…haha! So glad to hear what a wonderful time you are having in NC. Love your waterfall hikes. I always enjoy hearing the rushing of the water over the falls. That full rainbow photo over Rainbow Falls is amazing!! Wow! Nothing like a little off trail adventure. Fun times! You’ve certainly found a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner. Lovely photo, Laurel, as you enjoy brunch:) Magnolia is just too cute. Clever idea to keep the litter box near but so far. Good work, Eric. Hope the leaves start turn for you!!
Pam, I always love hearing from you! And I appreciate that you take the time to comment on our blog. :-) We’re having a great time in North Carolina. The waterfalls are gorgeous, and we’ve been hiking several times a week. There are so many trails nearby! And it’s fun having a waterfall as a destination. You guys would love it.
We’re also taking full advantage of all of the wonderful restaurants with outdoor dining. We’ve been cooped up with our own cooking for 18 months, LOL!! I hope you’ll get to meet Magnolia. She’s quite a character.
“finding joy in the small moments of everyday life” … ahh yes … a good motto anytime, but especially during a pandemic. What a wonderful setting the restaurant has … love places like this. You’ve done some great hiking … nice to then be able to reward yourselves with some great food at the inn. So funny that Magnolia taps the door to turn on the light. Smart kitty.
Erin, it definitely helps me to stay present and happy when I focus on the small joys in daily life. Even in these challenging times, there is so much to be grateful for. I know you and Mui do the same. We’re having a great time immersing ourselves in nature and hiking adventures, and then enjoying the luxury of this foodie paradise. You two would love it here!
And yes, Magnolia is a little smarty pants, LOL!
Gorgeous photos, thanks and love the creative problem solving for Magnolia! Enjoy.
Thank you, dear Leah. We had no idea this little corner of North Carolina had so much to offer! We’re doing our best to experience it all (which of course, we cannot do. But we’re trying. :)) And we’re all delighted with Magnolia’s new luxury bathroom.
I’m late to the party as always so I’m catching up!
It is Maggie who is enjoying the travel while you and Eric are simply tag alongs! She even demurely demanded or cooed that she gets her own privacy complete with a motion detector lighting. That is such a cute picture of her silhouette.
Simple things simple moments gave us the greatest pleasures and you are the epitome of living a good simple life.
Love all the hikes, the yummy food and the lovely lady and the very cool birthday boy!
MonaLiza, You can arrive early or late, I’m always happy to hear from you! We’re definitely learning to enjoy a slower pace of travel. It might be kind of a shock when we do a much longer trip next spring/summer. But we will still focus on the simple pleasures all along the way. :-)
I think you’re right, Magnolia is good at getting her way. She always wants to be in the big middle of everything…she keeps walking across my computer keyboard as I’m trying to type this, LOL. Loved reading about your Hawaii adventure and seeing your gorgeous photos!