Little Stoney Creek Picnic
We crossed into Tennessee around 1p.m. Tennessee was a state we hadn't even touched on our 2008 road trip; we were now definitely exploring entirely new terrain. It wasn't really for twisties, though - at least not for the moment - for I was making a direct beeline for some good stuff in the *next* state....
Tennessee flashed past in about an hour and half; as I said, I was following the grand loop I had planned out, trying to maximize a course between the potentially excellent roads I'd identified. And the next batch of excellent roads was a wee bit farther to the south, in the state of North Carolina. We crossed over right aound 3pm at a place called Allen Gap, leaving us a nice solid five hours of daylight to locate and then carve up some twisting tarmac.
NC has excellent twisties, too
NC has excellent twisties, too
With regards to sporty roads, North Carolina is one of the more famous states in the east. Mostly it's because of the Tail of the Dragon (which is actually partly in Tennessee) and partly because of signature routes like the Blue Ridge Parkway (a section of which runs through the mountainous western part of the state). Also the Appalachian Mountains reach their crescendo in North Carolina, with the highest and biggest peaks in eastern North America. This higher elevation and greater relief require more ambitious mountain roads, and, well, fortunately for us sports car lovers, some pretty damn fine roads. Really fine.
We made our way along pleasant - but not yet truly twisty - regional highways, enjoying the wooded mountains around us. Fifteen minutes later, we cross through the small community of Hot Springs, nestled in the deep valley of the French Broad River, and then headed south on NC-209.
NC-209 around here is also known as "The Appalachian Medley". A fine name for a road that winds vigorously through the mountains of the Pisgah National Forest - and with excellent pavement and a nice 55 mph speed limit.
As nice as The Appalachian Medley looked (and was, and sounded), there was another backway that had some intriguing-looking squiggles that had attracted my attention. NC-63, which branched off of The Appalachian Medley and climbs up and over a 4000+ foot high ridgeline at a place called Doggett Gap. Once on NC-63, the squiggle signs and 20-mph advisory turn speeds were a very good indication of greatness ahead.
A single hairpin and a foray into and out of a small side-hollow marked the ascent to Doggett Gap, but that was just a little warmup. The good stuff was on the other side of the gap, where the highway snaked down into the farm valley of Little Sandymush Creek. On this descent there were some awesome sections, including a big, diving hairpin. Many esses and switchbacks through shady forest, and then a sudden emergence at the bottom into the idyllic farm valley. The diving hairpin was so cool that I had to get out and snap a few shots. Also got out and took some nice shots of the S2000 cornering hard on the new Dougies.
Hairpin below Doggett Gap
Another Beautiful NC farm valley