Lake Robinson

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When we need a quick escape on the water, there is nothing like a sunset paddle on Lake Robinson. It’s only 25 minutes away from our house, the view is lovely, and it usually boasts very smooth calm waters.  If you visit on a clear day, there are gently sloping foothills and sharper angled mountains piling up at the base of the lake, but on any day you are treated to a heavily tree lined, very clean body of water that is quite pleasant and quiet. Motors over 10 HP are forbidden, so there is not much wake or high speed traffic to worry about, and with the exception of the odd fishing boat or pontoon, we have often found the whole 800 acre lake essentially unoccupied. Though Robinson is bordered by homes, they are well-spaced and Greer Commission of Public Works maintains strict guidelines about cutting down trees and building within the 50 foot margin they control along the shore. I’m sure this gets trying for the home owners at times, but it has kept the lake looking very peaceful and natural.

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For some amount of time, I had very little interest in Lake Robinson because of what felt like so many rules and regulations. I am not a rule breaker. I don’t like getting in trouble. Maybe it’s because I’m a firstborn, maybe it’s just being a people pleaser in general (something I’m trying to work on); whatever the case may be, it made me feel nervous to have so many do’s and don’ts, like it would be easy to mess up by accident and get scolded. Paddle boards are off limits ( a posted sign now states this specifically) and online there is a whole list of motorized and non-motorized water sports that are likewise forbidden. Swimming is also off limits in these enticing, pristine waters, and for awhile, I felt like half the fun of kayaking was being able to jump in if you wanted to! All together, I had the impression of Lake Robinson being a stuffy, somewhat stifling place, but I really hadn’t given it much of a chance.

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No rules against selfie sticks!

When I actually began to visit the lake and go paddling there more regularly, I found a lot to like. We had some very friendly interactions with the wardens (no scolding :)), and I decided that touring kayaks are not super conducive to getting in and out for a quick dip in the middle of a lake anyway. It’s doable, but not super tempting to me.  I also learned to appreciate Lake Robinson for what it is instead of being disappointed and intimidated by what it is not. If you want a spot where you can swim, roll your kayak, try out your new paddle boards, go camping or beach your boats for a picnic in a hidden cove–this is not it. (See instead, Lake Jocassee) However, if you live in or around Greenville and want to crank out up to 9ish miles of paddling in a lovely, peaceful setting before breakfast or after work, this is a very convenient spot. You can get to it quickly and the access area is very convenient, well kept and inexpensive (only $3/kayak * Update: The day pass price went up to $20 this year (2015), while the year pass remains $30. I think it’s safe to say they are encouraging the yearly pass. We found this change super frustrating, but the lake is still an amazing spot. ). There are many nice spots to just sit and soak in the beauty or eat a lunch. Nice bathrooms are available and supposedly there is some decent fishing to boot.

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After realizing this and getting more excited about paddling as an adventure-workout that is possible during all of our relatively mild seasons, I came to appreciate Lake Robinson much more. We have visited numerous times over the last few months and the convenience combined with its natural beauty have me fully sold on this spot. If you haven’t been, you should go, even if it’s just for a picnic.*

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Photo Credit: David Nigh

Keep looking for adventure far and nigh!

*Note: Kayaks can be rented at Half Moon Outfitters in Greenville, Rock’s Country Store across from the park entrance, and Sunrift Adventures in Travelers Rest. If you do kayak, make sure to bring a life vest and a whistle. Free whistles can be obtained from the warden, but you could be warned/or fined without these items. Passes are obtained from the warden’s office.

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Nature’s Stair Master and a Cabin in the Woods

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This past weekend, we celebrated my husband’s birthday by making our way up to Bakersville, NC.  A friend mentioned Roan Mountain as a beautiful place we should explore, and since Bakersville is the “gateway to Roan Mountain”, it was the perfect jumping off point.  We discovered a lovely little cabin on VRBO called Birdtown Guesthouse which was situated about 25 minutes from the mountain and nestled amidst plenty of smaller peaks in its own right. The property is comprised of 60 acres including nearly 4 miles of trails. These trails were crazy–beautiful and fun, but crazy!

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The “easier” trail behind the cabin

As soon as we got there Saturday, we decided to strike out for a quick jog. The property owner warned us that one trail was somewhat steep and the other was VERY steep. We started on the “easier” trail and quickly decided that we might have gotten mixed up and landed on the steeper one. The trail climbed almost immediately crossing frozen streams and weaving through snow-specked leaf piles. It was intense and straight up for the most part until we reached an amazing ridge line with stellar views.

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View from the cabin

We retraced our steps and headed up the opposite trail only to realize it actually was the harder trail. It felt like a stair-stepper exercise machine that would not end. Our calves were burning, our glutes and thighs were on fire, and if something in our legs didn’t hurt on the way up, it got jostled and shaken until it did on the way down. We were kind of cracking up, between heaving gasps for air, about how we thought the other one was tough. Thankfully, the payoff in views was well worth the push up those hills. The second trail opened up into a meadow on top of the ridge and again we got to soak in waves of mountains basking in the chilly setting sun.We could not get over how cool it was that this cabin had such incredible trails right out the back door. Though the mileage was not particularly extensive, the workout was more than enough.

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Jane Bald in the distance

The next day we headed up toward Roan Mountain and the Appalachian Trail at Carver’s Gap. This area is right on the Tennessee/North Carolina line. After all the hype we had built up in our minds about Roan, we actually  ended up running North on the Appalchian trail (the opposite direction) towards some other balds.

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From the ascent of Jane Bald

Round Bald (5826′), Jane Bald (5807′), and Grassy Ridge Bald (6139′) comprised the majority of our run, and they did not disappoint. The views were absolutely incredible. Summiting these three balds and coming back was a distance of about 5 miles. In spite of gray skies and a very blustery wind, we had a wonderful run and cannot wait to go back.

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Grassy Ridge Bald

Getting There:  To get to Roan Mountain or this section of the Appalachian trail, type Carver’s Gap, Pisgah National Forest, Fork Mountain-Little Rock Creek, NC 28705 into your GPS or google maps. To check out the awesome cabin  and access those trails, look on their website or find it on Airbnb, VRBO, or Homeaway under Bakersville, NC vacation rentals.

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Coffee on the back porch of the cabin

What to Eat: Food is always a consideration, but if you plan on going up here, especially in an off season (like January), you really need to plan well. There are not many places to begin with and in winter many are closed or have limited hours. Bakersville has a Dollar General where I imagine you can get some snack things and basic groceries. Spruce Pine is probably 30-40 minutes away from Carver’s Gap and they have a very good pizza place called The Pizza Shop at Dry County Brewing. Knife and Fork is also very good as well as their bar, Spoon. Both places have excellent farm to table fare. In Bakersville, there were a few restaurants that looked fun, but nothing was open over the time that we were there. Again, I think a lot of this had to do with it being off-season. One other cool stop in Bakersville is Oak Moon Dairy and Cheese shop. This place was so cool! The goat cheese is incredible.

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Good to Know: This may be obvious, but it is colder at those higher elevations than it is in town. Make sure you pack good layers. Also, phone service is VERY spotty. It’s decent in Bakersville, but pretty bad on the trails and at the cabin.

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Look for adventure far and nigh!