Back on the parkway the road went up and up and up and up. We paused at Graveyard Fields which once looked like a graveyard of stumps until a fire swept through and now they look like a patchwork of foliage as the trees spread across the valley; we climbed down to a cascade where the curved rock stands out like a shoulder blade in the river, making pools and whirlpools and eddies, and the path is a mix of wooden steps and the stone of the cascade. Slogging back up the slope, I realised we'd gone from 'look! A trillium!' at the millpond and below the viaduct to 'oh, look, more trillium' but they're still oddly perfect and not quite real.
The road went up and up and up again and we stopped at the high point of the parkway and gazed out - other places felt higher and more exposed, but this had the Official Boulder and classic parkway views. The road dips and swoops up and down and round the descending radial curves all along and you'd never know that was the highest crest, although the trees are thicker on the lower crests. The trees were so thick coming around one corner that although I caught a glimpse of a waterfall across the valley, when we pulled in to the cascade overlook it was only a cascade overhear - we could hear the rush of water but we couldn't see anything through the trees.
It's more exposed when you come to the section marked as 'no parking in the watershed' - the streams and rivulets of water we'd seen from time to time ran over almost every surface of the rock. The gutters of the parkway all along are lined with square cobbles but here the water can sheet on down and head into the reservoirs.
The road goes on and up, right to the very top of the ranges and we looked down and down - and it was too cool, which is something in these temperatures! The overlook is being improved so the sign is gone but the posts remain like a gate into the sky - I leaned forward between the posts to feel the wind until I felt the cold and off we went round more slopes.
The parkway just kind of stops rather than ending; you slide on out onto a main road very suddenly. We were tempted by the Great Smokey Mountains park with the observation tower you climb by a huge circular trail (Look Point, which is probably a description of the visitors as much as the landscape) and I was tempted to buy the vacuum-packed country ham and post ii home but the south was calling and stopping only in Cherokee for ice cream and cringing at the tourist tat and Live Indian Displays, we hit the freeway and I went to sleep in the car as we headed south on the Palmetto Prideway.
I woke up some time before we pulled into Charleston. Coming in from the freeway you run through some rundown areas on the outskirts but historic Charleston is cutesy and historic, with narrow streets crammed with beautiful houses that are as close together as they'd be in London, rather than having the arms-wide elbow room of many American cities. Carriage rides rattle through the streets, street vendors sell woven hats and baskets spread out over the pavement and names like King Street, Queen Street and Broad Street make it feel like a town back home.
We drove down the main drag to check things out then onto a quieter side street to find a motel (there were prettier places but the Days Inn was nice anyway, and I suspect rather cheaper than the more upscale places). The warm muggy evening hit us when we got out of the car, and again when we headed out to find dinner, but it wasn't too hot or sticky to enjoy walking along and looking in the windows and looking at the way the big stone market is set up. We were hoping to find a Five Guys that we'd passed driving but it was just too far and we found a great barbecue joint that had some excellent local beer too; the menu was set up so you could pick one, two or three barbecue meats and a couple of side, and get a side order or ribs as well which meant we could try a bite of pretty much everything before heading back and falling asleep.
The carriage rides, we discovered when the horses woke us in the morning, went down the alley outside our room!