Down by the Toe

Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.
Albert Einstein

On the edge of Yancey County, NC and not far from Mount Mitchell lies Toe River Campground. Nestled in a bend in the Toe River this campground was exactly what I want to avoid in campgrounds.


My brother and I had planned to get away for a guys weekend of just hanging out and such. I picked the campground because it was on the Toe River and the river is supposed to have some decent trout fishing. When I arrived I thought, it looks good so far. The river flows by the office, game room and event hall. I stopped to check-in at the office as one usually does. The folks working were nice and I was checked-in in no time. Well, after I had to leave a credit card number with them to cover loss of the gate badge that I needed to get into the campground itself. I proceeded to the gate, badged in (just like I do at work) and started down the gravel road. I passed by a very nice swimming pool before arriving in the campground proper. Then things proceeded to go down hill and I’m not talking about the road.

The first sight that I was presented with was a pickup truck with a bed full of teenagers. This might not have been so bad but they were driving around the campground waving a huge Confederate Flag. If the rest of my family had been with me I would have turned around, gone back to the office and demanded a refund. Thank goodness they weren’t drinking too. Of course, that is VERY not allowed in this campground as indicated by the large signs threatening arrest if caught in possession of alcohol.


I found my site, eventually. Backed in and did the normal set up of the camper. This all went as expected since I have done it multiple time before. My site was right on the water and the one that I had reserved for my brother was right next to mine. Unfortunately, on the other side of me was a permanent or seasonal site. That would not have been so bad if it weren’t for the three large guys missing shirts and flashing lots of butt crack while working on a jeep behind their camper.  Now that I was set up I settled in to wait for my brother to arrive with his teardrop. Once he pulled up we were able to place his camper in such a way that both of the campers obstructed the worst of the scenery.

We settled in and visited for the afternoon and evening, made a wonderful dinner of salmon and wild rice, then had a few under the radar adult beverages. The following morning I made eggs, sausage and bagels while we decided what the plans of he day were. Soon, we had settled on just exploring the area, departed the campground headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway. First stop was Mount Mitchell which I had not been to since the new visitors center had been built and the radio tower was removed. I was probably 10-12 years old and remember the hike up as being rather rough which it is no longer.


There was not a concrete plan for the day, so after looking at the map, we decided to take the first gravel road on the right after we got back on the parkway. This ended up being 15 or so minutes down the road but was well worth it. Once we had turned off, and navigated past the local bear hunters gathered at the top of the road, we proceeded down one of the most fantastic gravel roads that I have ever been on. Obviously it was built as a logging road a century or so back but it has been maintained quite well. The road 20 or 25 mile long road ran through some of the best country in the Pisgah National Forest. We stopped several times and thoroughly enjoyed it. Eventually we emerged in a small valley community that had a lot of local color to it. At this point we decided lunch was in order so we headed toward Burnsville. This took us more than another hour and two more gravel highways to get there. Burnsville turned out to be less than what I expected but if you have an hour you should check it out sometime. It’s quaint-ish. We rounded off the afternoon by simply heading back to the campers and hanging out for the evening. I did manage to squeeze an hour of unsuccessful trout fishing in.

The next morning we had a quick breakfast. I don’t even recall what it was. Then packed up and rolled out. My brother headed to the Boone area to take is daughter to lunch since she had returned to ASU for her sophomore year just a few weeks earlier. I meandered down the mountains by an alternative route and for headed home.


I learned a few things on this trip. Avoid NC highway 80 with a trailer no matter how small, its a beast of a road. If you wish to camp in this area you would be better off staying at the state run campground 10 minutes away. Lastly, do extensive research on the campground to determine how it is run, I had assumed that since Toe River Campground is run by the county that it would operate by similar rules as the State ones we have visited. Specifically, the sites are used short term; not so here. There are campers that have obviously been there for years. Heck, some even had roofs and carports. I’ll talk about my thoughts on this in a later post…  Safe travels.

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