2. Backpacking Smoky Mountain National Park…10.2007

Thursday, October 25

we woke up this morning, packed up our stuff, loaded the car and left our cute little cabin.  we ate  breakfast at a place in Weaverville called "Well-Bred Bakery".

we wanted to visit a town called "Black Mountain" where we thought there were many Artisans and funky shops, etc.  there were about three small galleries, and a couple of shops, but not what we'd hoped for.  those of you that know me well, know how I LOVE art crafted from wood.  we saw these neat boxes with small drawers all just amazingly made from wood.


we found the art center, but all they had going on there was an exhibit from one artist.  here are a couple of examples of her work:

the photos below on the right side are more detailed views of the pieces on the left.

although it wasn't art that "moved" either one of us, we both know that art is made to please the artist...if someone else likes it, that's just icing on the cake.

all of her pieces were over $1,000.  and I just wondered how many she was able to sell?  who bought them? and how did they display them?



we stopped into this cute coffee house for a cup of coffee, sat down and began making more plans.  the only thing we didn't get to do in the town of Black Mountain, was to visit the "Pisgah Brewery".  they only distribute their beer to local bars and tap rooms, and only sell growlers to the local liquor stores.  it just so happened that today, they were having an "open house" at their brewery beginning at 4pm.  it was only 1:30 and we didn't want to just hang out for another 3 hours, so we decided we would just miss it.  we both thought we were ready to leave Asheville and surrounding areas; we'd eaten great food, drank some really good beer, seen wonderful art, and talked to several really cool people, but we'd had enough "city-time" and needed to hit the road and see more country. 

since it was still RAINING, hiking was out.  we'd read about the "Blue Ridge Parkway" that goes all the way through North Carolina and through Virginia up to the Shenandoah National Park.  the one last place we wanted to stop right before getting on the parkway, was the "North Carolina Folk Art Center".  artists from all over the state have wonderful things displayed.


we saw pottery, paintings, quilts, jewelry, blown glass, fiber art, and of course, wood items.  this full-sized hat just amazed both of us. they told us that this artist starts with 150 pound chunk of wood (like a tree trunk) and starts turning it.  there are no seams in any of  his work, it's all one piece.  this hat, when done, now weighs 8 ounces.  it was awesome.

this guy  (in the photo below) made hand-carved wooden flutes and was there demonstrating his craft. 

Danny and I also spent about 20 minutes visiting with another artist whose medium is polymer clay.  it was really fun and she was also demonstrating her work.  I've played around a little with polymer clay, and had some questions for her.  she was really enthusiastic about sharing her craft and has even published a couple of books.  so I bought one and can't wait to try some of the projects outlined in the book.

on the way out of the building, Danny and I were visiting about driving up the parkway.  this nice man overheard us and started chatting with us about the current weather conditions on the parkway, north of the center (the way we were headed).  he strongly suggested we not go.  that not only were the views all in clouds and mist, but so was the highway, leaving zero visibility and that it was even difficult to see the cars ahead of you. 

we visited with him for quite awhile about where we were from, what we'd been doing and  our "backpacking" trip so far, and he (like several other locals) apologized about the conditions and hoped we would come back again to hike, but all of them had said it with a big smile on their face (because they were all sooo grateful for the rain! and we certainly understand that)  we visited a little while longer, he liked to hike and visit breweries too, and he gave us some new suggestions for both.  his wife joined him and restated his suggestion about not driving too far up the parkway.  we said good bye and headed for the car. 

we'd only just gotten in and closed the door, when the guy re-appeared.  he invited us to come to their home for cocktails!  he said he really felt bad that not only our backpacking trip got cut short, but we weren't even able to get back out to hike, and now, trying to stay in the car and drive the scenic highway wasn't even going to work.

we thanked him for their generosity, but we were going to try the highway, at least for a little while.  Danny and I were just blown away by this couple of retirees...they were dead-serious about the invitation and I bet it would have been an afternoon we'd never forget.

instead, we headed north on the "blue ridge parkway"

these are some of the photos we shot along the way.


we made it about 15 miles, and while we were headed up to higher elevation, the clouds were heading down.  by the time we got to "craggy gardens", everything was, once again, white.

deciding we didn't want to go 2000' higher, not being able to see the leaves on the trees or any views, much less any other cars, we turned the car around and headed south.

now we were discussing "plan f" or was it "plan g"? by now...whatever, we needed another back-up plan.

we still had time to make it to "Pisgah Brewery".  this was the most BASIC of beer-tastings we'd ever been to.  it was held, literally, in the room where they make all the beer.

we drank some samples, and then some glasses of beer, and headed back to Asheville.


we called the "cabin" place we stayed at last night, to see if they had a vacancy...and they did....not one with a real fireplace, but one with a gas fireplace, so "fake-fire" would have to do for tonight.  we booked it.

we'd heard about a really good vegetarian place called the "Laughing Seed" downtown.  the food was super- wonderful and really unusual.  we shared a salad with sesame-ginger dressing, hot and sour soup, and a Havana Cuban sandwich made with 3-grain tempeh, black bean spread, tomatoes, carmelized onions, dill pickles and spicy mustard grilled with gruyere cheese on a ciabatta roll and jalapeno-onion fries.  the atmosphere at the restaurant was really neat too.

we drove to our new little cabin....this one's name is...."Daze End" (I know it's corny, but it's dry and kind of cute) and it  has a tiny kitchen.

the temperature outside has dropped, so it's chilly, but the rain has stopped, at least for now.

Danny is already in the snooze-zone and I'm headed there soon....or at least to "visit" there.

we don't know what the plan is for tomorrow, but the forecast isn't good to think about any kind of hiking...

so...... we'll just wait and see what happens.

Friday, October 26

we  slept in this morning and then left the little cabin. we'd decided to go back to the "Tupelo Honey Cafe" a second time for breakfast.  we sat outside, enjoying the morning without rain, and super-enjoyed our breakfast (mine, in the foreground, is a new orleans style french toast with blackberry skillet jam...and it came with a flower!).

after breakfast, there were a couple of places we still wanted to visit in downtown Asheville. 

one was this old Woolworth's store; it still had a full service old fashioned soda fountain, but also housed local art work.  I bought a handmade paper notebook made from a beer carton....the one I chose is special because the carton is from Humboldt County's Lost Coast Brewery (where the boys live) and their "Downtown Brown"---my favorite of their beers. here's  photos of some of the other creations we saw.



here's some other shots of downtown Asheville.


the sun came out, we jumped in the car, put on our hikers and headed out of town.  we were driving about 25 miles south of Asheville to Dupont State Forest ( a recommendation from the nice guy we met yesterday on the parkway).  when we got there, we hiked to three different waterfalls.  the day was beautiful and it was great to be back in the woods!

      "Cascade Falls"

this is the Laurel bush that I fell in love with on the first day of our backpacking trip; it's everywhere in these mountains.

the next waterfall we hiked to was "Triple Falls" and it was really beautiful

these photos are of Danny climbing around up on the rocks next to the falls


the last falls we hiked to were my favorite!!! "High Falls"


the covered bridge we hiked to (see it at the top of the falls photo above?)


some of you know that Danny and I have traditional photos we take on all of our trips (they line the walls in our bedroom).

Danny will position the camera for a good shot, set it, and run. he's run through, up, over, under and around rocks, snow, water, and many, many other obstacles; and I just sit there and watch it all happen, sometimes just smiling, other times busting out laughing and a couple of times fearing that he'd break something on the way.

today during this photo, I was inspired to begin a new series of photos:  "Danny on the Run"


after our wonderful day of hiking, we headed back into Asheville, one last time.  since we'd eaten at "Tupelo" twice for breakfast, we were curious about their dinners after reading the menu.

so we ate there for the third time in three days...I guess you could say we really, really, liked their food.

so, about 9 pm we left Asheville, heading west.

tonight we're headed to..........

Saturday, October 27

Mammoth Cave National Park in western Kentucky; the worlds longest cave (380 miles). 

we're not serious "cavers", but we thought since we were "in the area"...or sort of...we would visit this national park.

we originally wanted to sign up for the 6.5 hour "wild cave tour", where you're crawling around on the cave floor, but our hiking boots didn't fit the required criteria.

so, we signed up for the next-level of tour:  a 4 mile hike over 4.5 hours through the cave.

there were a lot of people on this tour, but it was still pretty cool.  there were several different areas we walked through and the guide was pretty good.

I've not had much experience taking photos inside of caves, but here's what I ended up with.





you're not going to believe this, but there is an eating area in one of the cave rooms.  they sell boxed lunches and soup!

(once in awhile I can't believe some of the things our National Park System has done...

on my solo backpack trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon several years ago, I discovered there is a pay phone at the bottom of the Canyon!)

Danny and I had a lot of "hiking" food still with us, so we just packed our own lunch to eat.


when the tour was over, we stopped by the "Mammoth Cave Hotel" to check it out.  some of the National Parks have the most beautiful lodges...Yellowstone, Yosemite, Crater Lake, just to name a few; however, this hotel was plain looking.  Neither one of us would miss not staying here.

we pointed the car west and began driving towards Kansas...well almost.  Danny took my suggestion for the road back to the highway....and well...let's just say for about an hour we toured the very, very, back and way back roads of western Kentucky.

 just after 7pm we arrived  in Evansville, IN at a Starbucks...we needed a WHOLE BUNCH of caffeine to get us back to Kansas in the wee hours tonight. 

about 3am we arrived back in Linwood, got out of the car into our bed...our vacation was officially over. 

this trip was definitely different than I anticipated...

not near enough hiking and superb views, but instead we really enjoyed all the art, good food, great drink and the people we met.

Danny is every bit as "flexible" traveler as I am...one of the many reasons I LOVE to travel with him.

we've had a great time together...on the trails and in the towns...and I can't wait until we're on the road together again. 

As of this writing, I have no plans for further travels this year….


my heartstrings are pulling me towards California…I haven’t seen Pete for six months.  (but, my purse strings aren’t giving me the same message.)

I’m waiting to see if the kids will be able to come home for any of the holidays.


2007 has been a great travel year for me.  I ...

....celebrated my birthday in the sunshine state with Sara;

....took my first road trip with Peter;

.....visited  7 National Parks;

......took 4 road trips through 13 states;

.....had two trips to the Atlantic Ocean and one to the Pacific Ocean; 

.....vacationed with girlfriends, another family, all by myself and with my favorite travel partner--Danny, and

.....spent 19 days in Colorado …one of the most beautiful places on earth and my favorite.


there's so many more miles left to explore, people to meet and photos to take.

enjoy life!

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