This is our first visit to North Carolina and while it was short, and fairly limited in what we could see in the area, we found it spectacular. The Asheville area will be a definite must stop for 2017, although probably a month later when all the rhododendrons are in bloom! We stayed at a private campground just east of Asheville which was nice and convenient, but the sites where a lot smaller than what we’ve been use to. Our site was about half way up the mountain and the view was beautiful, but the drive up the narrow twisty road was a bit hairy!
The coolest part of this stop way getting to see and spend time with Robin, a military friend of Jerry’s from their Okinawa days. They hadn’t seen each other in 37 years (7,705 miles away 😳). It could have been weird, but they reconnected like it was yesterday.
Our only big hike was at Craggy gardens, a 30 minute drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway took us to the trailhead. We had hoped to make it to Douglas Falls to see the 70′ waterfalls, but the threatening thunderstorm and a little common sense made us turn back a mile early. Of course the dire warning from three local hikers coming up while we were heading down did help in our decision. The hike was beautiful, but going over slippery moss covered rocks and tree roots was tough enough without being extra slick with rainfall.
We drove south toward Hendersonville to check out the homestead of Carl Sandberg. Again we found spectacular scenery and a lovely hike to “bald rock” that looked over the valley below. The homestead is now owned by the NPS and still has gardens and a working goat farm (the babies were adorable). The home is open for tours, but is currently being restored (which, from the outside looked it was in major need of), so we skipped that.
On the other end of the homestead spectrum we spent a day at Biltmore, the estate of George Vanderbilt. This estate is still a private residence, but is now opened up to the public for tours. We almost skipped the visit due to the admission price, but the architecture, art, and antiques, not to mention the size and grandness makes it a MUST stop if in the area. While the home is amazing (think Downton Abby on steroids), the grounds and especially the gardens and huge greenhouse are awe inspiring. Many miles of hiking trails, and the grounds are dog friendly! We also visited the winery (which surprising to us, had some decent wines) and Cedric’s Pub (named for the family St. Bernard) where we had a light lunch of some amazingly good local cheeses and a beer. We’ll be back and depending on how long we stay in the area, may purchase a year pass (great deal compared to daily pass).
Given the rise in quality breweries in the area, we of course had to visit a few of those as well. Yes, we do have a tough life! From the small, funky and not fancy “Wedge” to the large and incredibly elaborate Sierra Nevada brewery, and a couple in between, we did not have one beer that wasn’t good to great or outstanding. We liked Sierra Nevada so much that we went back for a second visit with Robin and her husband Don for lunch. Not only good beers, but great food as well. The beers aged in bourbon barrels where incredible!
Another day was spent visiting some local mountain towns in the area….Black Mountain, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure are all lovely areas, but very touristy. Betsy made the comment “how do you know your in a tourist town? By the number of fudge shops”.
A lovely drive through the windy mountain roads to Hot Springs on the Appalachian Trail.
All in all, a very beautiful area of the country, and an area that is now near the top of our list (so far!) for potentially settling in if/when we get tired of full time RVing.