Native Azalea Trip 2006

Don Hyatt’s Notes

Friday, June 16 

Begin trip from McLean at about 9:00 AM and drove via I-66 to I-81 toward Roanoke.  Decided to stay in Marion, VA, that night and would meet up with George McLellan and Ken and Sandra McDonald.  Tijs Huisman and I traveled part of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Roanoke to Mabry Mill, and left via I-77 to get to Marion.  Unknowingly, I passed George on the road and we both pulled up to the Best Western about the same time.  Tijs and I saw some R. catawbiense, R. maximum, and Kalmia along the Parkway.  We picked up missing supplies at the Walmart and Ingleside grocery store and ate dinner at the motel which had great food.  The next morning, we had an excellent hot breakfast buffet at the hotel before leaving for Mt. Rogers. 

   Marion, VA:

   Best Western Marion

   1424 N Main St.

   Marion, VA 24354

   (276) 783-3193


Saturday, June 17

We drove toward Mount Rogers (highest point in Virginia) and parked at the Massie Gap Parking area in the Grayson Highlands State Park.  The entrance fee was usually $2.00 per car but they charged only $0.10 per person because they were celebrating the anniversary of the state park.  We hiked various trails admiring Kalmia, R. catawbiense, and R. calendulaceum, and apparently hit the catawbiense at its peak.  Lots of color variation along the Rhododendron Trail and Rhododendron Gap.  We enjoyed seeing the wild horses, too.  It was a long day and very tiring, but we left in late afternoon and drove to Elizabethton, TN.  We checked into the Americourt Hotel for three nights, ate dinner at the Mayflower Seafood Restaurant (fried Alaskan White Fish), and called it a day.


   Elizabethton, TN:

   Americourt Hotel Elizabethton

   1515 Highway US 19 East Bypass

   Elizabethton, TN 37643

   (423) 542-4466


Sunday, June 18

We got up early and drove out 19E past the town of Roan Mountain toward Spruce Pine, and eventually took a right onto Roaring Creek Rd.  We drove all the way to the end where there is a gate for the forest service road, parked the cars, and started the hike.  He hiked up to the Overmountain Victory Shelter, and then joined up to the Appalachian Trail for the hike out to Big Yellow Mountain.  Parts of the trail were very steep, but the views were magnificent and the Giant Cow Parsley was in peak bloom.  We finally took the spur to Yellow Mountain, just prior to Hump Mountain, and saw the calendulaceum at the edge of the open meadow.  The trip out took 3 hours to get to Big Yellow, and about 2 hours to return.  Parts were steep but the views were spectacular.  We got back to Elizabethton in time to take a short hike out to Engine Gap to see the calendulaceum.  We ate dinner at the Applebee’s Restaurant adjacent to Walmart, and returned from the restaurant about 11:00 PM.

Monday, June 19

We rose early and started on our hike into the Roan Highlands, leaving about 7:30 AM.  The forecast was for rain to move in between 12:00 – 2:00 PM, so we wanted to get out and back before the storms arrived.  We parked at Carver's Gap and hiked past Engine Gap, to Jane Bald, and directly out to Grassy Ridge Bald for a snack.  We did make a few stops for rest, and got back off the mountain by 2:30 PM… in the rain.   We drove back toward Elizabethton, and ate a late lunch at the McDonalds at the intersection of 19E and Rt. 321 / Rt. 67.  We had hoped to see J. Jackson’s nursery between Boone, NC, and Mountain City, TN, in the afternoon.  Unfortuinately,my cell phone couldn’t access anything so we decided to go back to the motel.  We ate dinner again at Applebees in Elizabethton since the meal the previous night was great and the “up-scale” restaurant in town was closed on Mondays. 


Tuesday, June 20

We drove from Elizabethton toward Johnson City and then I-26 east toward Asheville, NC.  We stopped at the NC Welcome Center to get maps and books, and continued south to get onto the Blue Ridge Parkway.  We ate lunch at the Mount Pisgah Inn, and made several stops along the way including Graveyard Fields where we hiked to the waterfall, and Grassy Mine Ridge Overlook where we photographed calendulaceum.  We had reservations in Franklin, NC, at the Microtel Inns and Suites.  We ate a modest dinner at the Prime Steak and Buffet in Franklin.  Menu:  Senior Citizen’s Special (Mon-Thurs):  All-you-can-eat Sirloin Steak, Salad Bar, assorted meats and hot foods (fried chicken, ribs, fish, vegetables), cold foods (fruit, potato salad, cottage cheese, etc.), rolls, ice tea, and the dessert bar, (assorted ice creams, cookies, cakes, etc.).  Price was $9.50 including tax. 


Franklin, NC - Tuesday Night

Microtel Inns and Suites

81 Allman Drive

Franklin, NC   28734





Dinner: Prime Steak & Buffet

319 Carolina Mountain Dr.  (Right off of Palmer onto Park, and then right on Carolina)

Franklin, NC  28734




Wednesday, June 21 – Check out of the hotel after breakfast at Huddle House, and then onto Wayah Bald to see the R. calendulaceum and R. arborescens.  We intend to spend the night in Townsend, TN, at the Valley View Lodge (formerly a Best Western), and use that hotel as a base for both Wednesday and Thursday nights.

   Townsend, TN:

   Best Western Valley View Lodge

   7726 E Lamar Alexander Parkway
   Townsend, TN 37882
   (865) 448-2238
   (800) 292-4844

Thursday, June 22 – Hike up to Gregory Bald.  We left the motel promptly at 6:00 AM and arrived at the trail head by 7:15 AM.  It took me about 4 hours to climb the mountain, so I got up there at about 11:15 AM.  It was a long day, and one of the hottest on record.  The azaleas were in peak condition, and we enjoyed the beautiful flowers and sunny weather.  We met Andy Whipple from Indiana, and toured all the familiar plants.  We left the mountain by 2:00 PM and got down the mountain by 5:30 PM.  Everyone was tired, but after a shower we went out to dinner.

Friday, June 23  – Visited Don Shadow’s Nursery and he gave us a private tour of plants and animals.  George McLellan filled his truck with assorted trees and plants.

Shadow Nursery, Inc.
254 Shadow  Nursery Road
Winchester, TN  37398

We spent the night at a quality Inn north of Knoxville for the evening and had dinner at a Cracker Barrel Restaurant.

Saturday, June 24

We drove to Sevierville, TN, to visit Vivian Abney and her East Fork Nursery.  Tijs bought many plants, as did Don, George, and Brent. George, Don, and Tijs then headed up I-81 to Mountain City, TN, to see J. Jackson and Lindy Johnson who have a small native azalea nursery.  They had wonderful plants and a superb Bed and Breakfast that can sleep 6 to 8 people.

East Fork Nursery
Vivian Abney
Bethel Church Road
Sevierville, TN

Tennessee Rose Nursery

J. Jackson and Lindy Johnson
843 Wallace Road
Trade, TN  37691

Don and Tijs spent the night in Roanoke, and headed home the next day. 


   Roanoke, VA:
   Quality Inn, Roanoke Tanglewood:
3816 Franklin RD SW
   Roanoke, VA 24014