The Huddle House diner is inviting and cozy on an early November morning. While it isn't that far off from the Waffle House visited the previous morning (the signs are practically identical), it’s a far departure from the chilly sleeping bags we'd crawled from. A few minutes’ drive from our campsite in the expansive Pisgah National Forest gets us a hot cup of coffee while we wait for the sun to warm Looking Glass Rock.
An hour southwest of Asheville, Looking Glass gets its name from the way sunlight reflects off its giant granite dome. Standing at the base, the rock seems to disappear not far above us – an illusion, we discover as we climb, created by the curve rising over 800 vertical feet. Finally reaching the top, we're treated to a sweeping view of the changing North Carolina foliage and the distant town where supper awaits.
We venture up the winding, picturesque Blue Ridge Parkway to Asheville to dine with El Chapala's Mexican delights. Afterward, another hour of eastward travel finds us in Linville Gorge, the "Grand Canyon of the East," at the campsite for Table Rock. Like the rest of Pisgah National, camping is free and the sites clean and natural; bear-proof steel trash bins are the sole proof of man's presence.
As we climb the east ridge of Table, the wind from the west blows a low cloud past us, the rock cutting it and leaving only a small clear "v" where we climb. Everything around us is white. After scaling the quartz-riddled stone, we hike off the top through the Devil's Cellar, a narrow, foreboding canyon made all the more ominous by the dense fog around us.
A campfire supper of mountain pies fills us before we crawl, weary, into our sleeping bags. Well-earned, even this modest fare seems a feast, and with full bellies we curl up. The wind through the trees lulls us, rest finally coming to soothe aching muscles in preparation for the next day's adventures in Appalachia.