Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Asheville Trip Part 1: The Sights

How Joe and I have lived in Tennessee for 5 years and not made it to North Carolina before now, I will never know. But we had a great time during our week in Asheville. It is just as awesome as everyone says! Our main plans were as follows: relax, go hiking, drink good beer. And we were successful.


Our first day, we decided to take a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the sights and go on a few shorter hikes. Fortunately, the Visitor Center was not far from where we were staying, and we easily picked up a map and pinpointed the direction we wanted to go. We climbed up and up and up through the mountains and were treated to stunning views of valleys below until we hit our first destination: Mt. Pisgah.


We stretched our legs on this 3-mile roundtrip hike. There were definitely some steep spots, but it wasn’t long enough for us to get too discouraged. The upside to the summit was a nice viewing deck. The downside is the giant satellite tower that doesn’t go a long way to contributing to the feeling of being out in the wilderness.


I was still hungry for some more outdoor time, so we continued south on the Blue Ridge to Devil’s Courthouse.


It was a short half-mile but very steep climb to the top from the parking lot, but it was beautiful with the rocks jutting out.


After that climb, it was time for us to head back into town to slake our thirst at Highland Brewing Company, but I’ll get to beer and food in a separate post.

We had decided that one of our days we would do a long day hike, and Jen at Peanut Butter Runner had written about the Greybeard Trail at Montreat. Since we were staying on the east side of Asheville, we were only a short drive from Black Mountain. On our way there, we picked up some sandwiches for lunch and ate a filling breakfast before hitting the trail. At about 9.6 miles roundtrip, we were looking at a good 4-5 hours of hiking, and we wanted to have plenty of water.

The first section of the hike was a moderate uphill along a creek. Knowing we had a lot of ground to cover, we took it easy. Then we hit a set of switchbacks, which was a nice change of pace, especially when we came upon this waterfall.


After the switchbacks, the path kept getting steeper and steeper. We started to see a few other groups of people who told us the top was just ahead. Our legs were on fire, and we wanted to eat our lunch. Finally, we arrived at the summit, which, frankly, was a little disappointing. It wasn’t cleared, so you had to peer over some bushes to see anything.


Something something about how it’s the journey not the destination. Those sandwiches and cookies tasted pretty darn good to fuel our hike back down. I always think going back down the mountain is going to be easier, but between watching my footing and burning quads, it doesn’t feel that much easier. At one point, we both acknowledged that we were grumpy and warm and ready to be back at the car. Once we arrived, we were so happy to see our vehicle, especially since it drove us straight to Pisgah Brewing Company. Hikes + Beer = happy.


The next day we hit up the most popular tourist attraction in Western North Carolina – the Biltmore Estate. Initially, I was not that excited. The tickets were expensive (even though we purchased them at Costco before we left), and I wasn’t too thrilled about encountering tour buses full of people after our past few days of lovely quiet in the woods. I’ve seen Monticello and the Belle Meade Plantation. How much more is there to see of old, historic houses, right?

I was so, so wrong. We paid an extra $10 a piece for the audio tour, which was helpful, even if we looked like idiots holding that thing up to our ears all the time. I would’ve paid the ticket price just for the art inside the house: tapestries, Albrecht Durer prints, and ceilings imported from Italy. It being spring, the flower arrangements in the house were glorious as well, and of course, the gardens were in full bloom.


It’s quite a bit of time on your feet between the house tour and the gardens, and then we walked down to the little lake. You could easily spend all day there, but we were getting hungry and drove the 5 miles down to the village part of the estate for lunch and wine tasting.

The next day we spent downtown, walking around and shopping.

Next up: Food & Drink!