Sometimes the end of trip can be a letdown of sorts. But not on this trip, our Fall Color Tour 2015. Even after seeing gold in West Virginia, touring built environments with pops of color at Tamarack and The Greenbrier, and stumbling upon great finds like covered bridges and state parks, we lucked into some surprisingly colorful, yet unexpected, vistas in Virginia and Tennessee with the reddest reds and “orangy-est” oranges of the trip.
Now travel agents with tight agendas and must-see checkpoints might not like working with us. We like to ramble. And talk to folks. And gather info as we go. So, you can imagine our pleasure when we found a man in a Virginia rest area who shared his love of places we hadn’t read about. He even marked ’em on a map, and sent us on our way.
And that’s how we found Falling Spring Falls, the most photographed spot in the Allegheny Highlands. Located on Highway 220 just above Covington, the falls can be seen from a car, but you’ll definitely want to park and roam so you can listen to the roar, take pictures, and marvel at the sight Thomas Jefferson called “a remarkable cascade.”
The 80-foot falls drop from an overhanging ledge, and the walking path open to tourists takes you right to the edge . . . well, almost.
The area surrounding the falls offers woodland views of lesser waterfalls and babbling mountain streams cascading over moss-covered rocks. Add to that scene some colorful fall leaves, and you have the makings of frame-worthy photography when you get back home.
We were on a mission — to see The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia. And the “getting there” was spectacular in and of itself. We passed through (stopping a hundred times for pictures!) George Washington National Forest, ablaze for the season . . .
and finally saw what we had heard about for years but had never visited: the stately resort known simply as The Homestead.
Since 1766, generations of families have visited The Homestead, a place that can boast of hosting 23 U. S. Presidents and countless dignitaries from all over the world. The Homestead will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2016, no doubt packing lobbies and eating areas with guests remembering their first time at the hot springs resort as well as newcomers interested in starting a tradition.
We found The Homestead to be welcoming and comfortable. No doubt, if you love soaking in natural springs, playing golf or tennis, or relaxing at a world-class spa, you wouldn’t have far to go to indulge yourself.
Because The Homestead was booked for a wedding and two car rallies, the inn was at capacity, and we missed a chance to stay there. But we hope to return someday to this state and this romantic place. (Virginia Is For Lovers, you know!)
As we left The Homestead headed home, stopping at rest areas like this one in Unicoi County, Tennessee, we noticed that many people had the same idea — just stand and take it all in. After all, for autumn lovers, it’s nature’s finest show.
Finally, crossing from Virginia into Tennessee meant we were home. But not without another surprise: tiny Rocky Fork State Park state park 30 miles from Johnson City with a winding one-lane road and some of the prettiest scenery East Tennessee has to offer.
We stopped often and listened to the silence — the perfect end to our Fall Color Tour 2015!
For more information:
The Omni Homestead Resort, 7696 Sam Snead Highway, Hot Springs, VA 24445; 800-838-1766; http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/homestead-virginia
Falling Spring Falls: http://www.virginia.org/Listings/OutdoorsAndSports/FallingSpring/
Rocky Fork State Park: http://tnstateparks.com/parks/about/rocky-fork
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