ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
The city of Asheville is nestled in between the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some of our favorite sections of Asheville were the Old Section with art deco architecture, Lexington Avenue’s First Presbyterian Church, Mast General Store restored to its 1940’s era. Asheville’s largest building, the Grove Arcade has over 20 shops, galleries and restaurants. Battery Park Book Exchange is a must go to store in the Grove Arcade building completed in 1929.
Eclectic is the word to describe Asheville’s River Arts District. located next to the French Broad River. Warehouses are full of local artists’ Appalachian crafts, classical paintings, traditional pottery, textiles, and furniture.
Grove Park Inn opened in 1913. This hotel is made of granite stone quarried from Sunset Mountain, where the hotel sits on. Since the back outdoor patio overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains, this is a definite must is to go for sunset.
One day Patty had the pleasure visiting her long time flight attendant friend Kirk Cochran who lives in Asheville. Kirk and his partner Gene did an incredible job remodeling a mansion located in the neighborhood at the base of the Grove Park Inn. Taco Temple provided an excellent lunch to accompany hours of conversation.
Patty is on a quest to find the perfect biscuit. She found her #1 biscuit at Biscuit Head Restaurant in Asheville. The bar was raised so now the search continues to top Biscuit Head.
At the intersection of Asheville and the Blue Ridge Parkway is the Folk Art Center/Guild Crafts/Southern Highland Crafts Gallery. For local crafts made by regional artists and displays of gorgeous quilts, the Highland Craft Gallery in Hemlock Village is the place to go.
BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY
The Blue Ridge Parkway winds its way 469 miles along the crests of the southern Appalachians and links the two national parks, from Shenandoah National Park north in Virginia to the Great Smoky Mt National Park on the south end. We drove around mountain meadows, past split rail fences, and endless vistas.
Hardwood tree foliage was turning golden, yellow and browns. We missed the peak of colors plus the locals said that this year was not a good year for colors being that there were warm temperatures at night followed by high winds.
We drove through Mt. Mitchell State Park, up to the summit of Mt. Mitchell at 6,684’. The spruce-fir forest was pretty much in decline through the effects of air pollution, excessive logging, chestnut tree blight, and the Balsam woolly adelgid insect that decimated the fir trees and hemlock trees.
At the northeast tip of the Blue Ridge Parkway in John’s River Gorge was the charming village of Blowing Rock North Carolina. After exploring the town we went to Blowing Rock Brewery to sample a flight of their craft beers. Steve voted for the Scotch Stout with its high alcohol content and smoky aftertaste.
At the southwest tip of the Blue Ridge Parkway are the Cherokee Indian Reservation and the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Cherokee, North Carolina is the home of the eastern band of the Cherokee Indians. Since Patty’s Great Grandmother was part of the West Virginia Cherokee Indian Nation, Patty wanted to do a little research there. She discovered that possibly Christina Yankee Swisshelm was from the Ya Ka Nee tribe, Americanizing their name to Yankee. We picnicked in a park located next to the Oconaluftee River, considered sacred waters by the Cherokee.
THE GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
Smoky Mountains are among some of the highest peaks in the Appalachian Mt range. The native Cherokee called it ‘Shaconage’ the “land of the blue mist”.
Two of our favorite hikes were the Middle Prong Trail and the Chimney Tops Trail. Middle Prong Trail was a 3-mile trail that closely followed a rolling mountain stream with several cascades. Steve had fun trying and succeeding catching falling leaves off of the high tree branches. Chimney Tops Trail was a strenuous 4-mile loop trail located on the Newfound Gap Road. Newfound Gap is a low point in the mountain range and straddles the boundary of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Appalachian Trail crosses the Newfound Gap. This hike was the only trail that we saw autumn colors. The Park Service lets nature take its course when it comes to the leaves falling. The approximately 13 trillion leaves that fall from trees every year provide food for mushrooms, beetles, snails and worms. Apparently by next summer there is hardly a trace of leaves left.
We took a few day trips from Asheville. The first was to Travelers Rest, South Carolina to the Swamp Rabbit Brewery. One of Patty’s Wirt High School friends, Ben Pierson is the owner of this great brewery. Very tasty. While in South Carolina, we drove to Spartanburg, South Carolina to visit Patty’s cousin Warwick Doll and his wife Betty. Patty left Warwick’s house with reams of paper covering her mother’s genealogy of the Lewis and Doll family trees. Another day we took the Sierra Nevada Brewery tour at Mills River, North Carolina. This is a great very informative tour ending with a really generous tasting of their commercial and craft beers.
BILTMORE HOUSE AND GARDENS IN ASHEVILLE, NORTH CAROLINA
It is very impressive driving up to the 8,000-acre estate. The Biltmore House consists of 250 opulent decorated rooms within approximately 4 acres of floor space. This ‘summer home’ for George Vanderbilt was built between 1889 and 1895 and was based on France’s Loire Valley French Renaissance castles. For a perfect ending to our North Carolina adventure, we visited the Biltmore House during their Candlelight Christmas Evenings. Extravagant Christmas décor, dozens of Christmas trees decorated with ornaments and lights. All the rooms were accented by candlelight and lit fireplaces. There was a performance of a choir and musicians when we entered the main Entrance Hall and the Winter Garden room.
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