2. Spontaneous Asheville…August/September 2016

day 4
One of the events going on here is a Lego display at the North Carolina Arboretum.   I LOVE everything Lego (I follow a couple of Lego artists on Instagram) & wanted to check it out.  Its not like you can go hiking too early in the mornings hereits always foggy.  So the Arboretum would be a good place to start.  Its right out of Asheville along the Parkway & also a campus with students from UNC studying tree-stuff there :) The Visitors Center wasnt opened yet, but I grabbed a map & found my way around.  There are 14 different Lego displays & I made sure to see them all!

IMG 1878.jpg IMG 1883.jpg IMG 1888.jpg IMG 1892.jpg IMG 1897.jpg IMG 1906.jpg IMG 1910.jpg IMG 1918.jpg IMG 1926.jpg IMG 1930.jpg IMG 1933.jpg IMG 1936.jpg

IMG 1938.jpg

IMG 1943.jpg

 There were also other really cool things to see.  A wonderful Bonsai garden that was so lovely & big, a garden ‘quilt’, a little railroad thing (which I didn’t get) & some metal art.

IMG 1920.jpgIMG 1921.jpgIMG 1916.jpgIMG 1890.jpg

IMG 1908.jpg

There was something fancy going on though, because as I approached the Eagle display, a group of suit & ties & high heels & a reporter with a big camera came out of one of the buildings & started looking around.  I bet they were all super uncomfortable in the early morning heat & humidity.  No one smiled or looked too friendly.  But the weirdest thing was the campus cops…they seemed to be all around on this quiet morning in this tiny garden.  When I was sitting in my car in the lot as I arrived, one came slowly patrolling by….the zoomed around & came back to park behind a car that was near the Visitors Center.  After a few minutes he zoomed off.  But as I was walking around the gardens, an officer (armed & all) was also patrolling the grounds.  Then I saw her again inside at the Visitors Center while I went to the gift shop to buy a postcard.  Trouble in the gardens?  A big wig needing protection this morning?  Ummm…

My next stop was another drive down the Parkway to the Graveyard Fields trailhead.  I’d stopped here on my way in & the parking lot was full…I didn’t know anything about the hike at that point anyway.  But, since I’ve been here, I know there are two waterfalls along this trail & a meadow the trail goes through.  The mountains were beautiful this morning as I drove down the Parkway.


Lower Falls.


Upper Falls is only a mile from the lower falls but seem to take forever.  The last part of the trail is super rocky, rooty & muddy.  But there were some blackberries along the way!



The temps were climbing in the upper 80’s again & it was hot.  There’s another waterfall I’ve heard about to hike to, just off the Parkway, but it’s not signed.  I’d noticed when I was up here the first time there were quite a few cars in the lot, but I didn’t see any people or trailhead signs.  A definite clue there’s something good there!  So I’d asked & found out about Skinny Dip Falls.  And, so far, it’s one of my favorites!


I’d decided to explore a new road & town this afternoon.  So I took the windy road down from 4,300’ off the Parkway through the trees & into Waynesville.  It was a really pretty drive.  There are three breweries there & supposedly a quirky downtown.  I went to the Frog Level Brewing Company & ordered a flight since they wouldn’t sell single small pours (grrrr).  There are always some breweries that make you buy a flight & don’t offer small pours…or let me put it this way….IT’S CUSTOMER FRIENDLY TO OFFER THESE THINGS, but the immediate thing I didn’t like about the place was that they served their beer in plastic cups…even the flights in small plastic cups.  I won’t get on my soap box, but I’m sooooo trying to avoid single use plastics.  Then I asked for a ‘glass’ of water & he told me they only sold bottled water (eeeekkkk…I REALLY HATE BOTTLES OF WATER….the empty bottles are filling up our landfills & oceans & killing fish more than any other item.  I see a lot of people buying cases of single bottles of water….ok…I’m climbing down off that soap box now)  I said never mind…I’d go back to my car & get my own bottle (stainless steel) of water.  About 10 minutes later as I was drinking my beers, he brought me a glass of water.  One of the beers I ordered was a pepper beer…it was so hot I couldn’t drink it (doesn’t mean it wasn’t good, I’m sure there’s a tougher palate than mine that loves this beer).  But in the end, I didn’t think their beer was very good (I’m sure my plastics-opinion had some sway in the matter).  

My next stop was BooJum brewery.  I ordered a Tripel & it was really good.  I also ordered a side of Onion Rings which was the cheapest thing on the menu, but HUGE.  Sitting next to me was a couple of women & when one of them saw my onion rings she placed her order & our conversation began.  They were locals & lovers of beer.  I laughed when one of them said she was going to start tonight doing a Nacho tour!  I thought that was great (I didn’t mention my intensive research I’ve done on dip cones, margaritas, cinnamon rolls & my latest…Cuban sandwiches).  I asked the bartender about the name of the brewery & she said it comes from the East coast version of Sasquatch who was known to steal the gems from the miners…I loved it!  The couple was so much fun to visit with & we discussed beer & Asheville & things to do.  They asked me what my plans were for tomorrow & I told them, including a place I was looking forward to eating at.  They told me it was closed on the weekends but that the brewery I was going to would have the ‘best food truck in Asheville’ & even told me what I should eat.  Plan B it was!  This brewery, it’s bartenders & it’s clientele left such a better ‘taste’ of the town than Frog Level.

IMG 1945.jpgIMG 1948.jpg

I took a quick tour of the town…my fave place being the Mast General Store.  I’ve come across another store like this in Washington…it was so great.  It’s got wonderful women’s outdoor clothing, camping & hiking gear, cool jewelry…but I skipped the candy section.  I was tempted by one of the sweaters, but I knew I’d give in if I went to the candy section.  

IMG 1954.jpgIMG 1955.jpg

day 5
Today I was going to be hiking all over the River Arts District.  Wed been here 9 years ago, but I was sure the area had grown. Its mostly old big buildings that have been converted into working studios.  A lot of cities have these now, & I just LOVE THEM!  So many times you get to meet & visit with the artist or see them working.  I was excited!   I had a nifty little easy to understand map that Id read over last night & dog eared the studios I really didnt want to miss.  Most artists dont want you to take photos, so I dont have anybut once again their creativity made me sooooo happy.  It’s just amazing to see what they make & what they make it out of!

IMG 1966.jpg

IMG 1957.jpg

IMG 1958.jpgIMG 1959.jpg

This was one of my favorite painters & I almost bought this print (I got this off her FB page) but in the end decided I didn’t need it.  But watching her work & visiting with her was great.  https://www.facebook.com/bottinelli.fine.art

12679042 1122281931138011 1085184785 n.jpg

The other artist I really wanted to check out was super fascinating.  Most art while it’s original having been done by that artist, the type of work has been done before.  But this artist seem to have created a new format for painting with glass infused vinyl tape that he colors.  Stephen Lange was fascinating.  And some of his works have hidden pictures that you could see when he took a photo of it…I was mesmerized!  Here’s how his medium is described on the RAD website:  "Pixelated glass, metal & vinyl on Birchwood to create holographic/interactive art”.  Here’s his FB link:  https://www.facebook.com/stephen.l.lange


And all the turned wood items & amazing rockers & barstools from hand turned wood….so incredibly beautiful!  The only thing I bought was some really cool artsy birthday type postcards that I’ll send out…except for one, I may keep one!  The one studio I went to that was closed, but they had a display in the foyer, was Big Ass Greeting Cards.  They were great drawings & hysterical…but no way to purchase any.  In the middle of my touring, I stopped at Wedge Brewing which I was so looking forward to.  I’d read on their website & they looked like they had a ton of great beers (thought I might be there all afternoon!)  But when I got there, they had about 8 taps & none of the beer I’d seen.  I guess I’d been reading what they make….not necessarily what’s on tap.  I sampled a porter but settled on a Belgian Strong Ale & it was delicious.  Then I made my way out to the “Best Food Truck in Asheville” called El Kimchi.  The couple yesterday told me it was Mexican & Korean.  I didn’t know if that was combined food or they just sold both.  I ordered what they suggested…the Bibimbap:  your choice of meat, three veggies over rice & a fried egg on top.  I chose the meat the cook suggested & OMG…it was fabulous food.  I sat outside under an umbrella & it was super nice.  The Wedge is near the train tracks & as the train drove by, everyone hollered…looked like a fun place to hang out!

IMG 1962.jpgIMG 1963.jpg

In my study of all things Asheville, I kept reading about West Asheville…a super funky but really old part of Asheville.  I wasn’t far from there & since I wouldn’t be drinking beer all day at the Wedge, I drove to Oyster Brewing…which I didn’t know anything about.  I ordered a small pour of their Oyster Imperial Stout, which did have something Oyster in it, but the bartender assured me it didn’t taste like Oyster anything.  The boys LOVE Oysters & of course they get super fresh ones in Northern California & I’ve tried them several times when I’ve been out to visit.  But I don’t love them, so I was hesitant to drink anything Oyster. But, it was good Imperial Stout…without any fishy taste!  The young bartender & I hit it off & she told me about her upcoming travels next month to Yosemite & that her & her boyfriend might be driving through Kansas on their way back.  I gave her my name & number & offered them a place to camp or a room if they found themselves unfortunate enough to have to drive to through my home state.  The bartender told me now West Asheville has gotten so ‘big’ on their reputation, some people are delineating East West Asheville from West Asheville…crazy!   I couldn’t find any quirky shops but did find a second-hand gear store—they sold lots of manufacturer samples.  It was fun to look at all the stuff, but nothing screamed out to me to buy it.

IMG 1969.jpgIMG 1968.jpg

The next place I want to get to was only 1.2 miles away as stated by Mapquest.  But she’s been playing with me this whole trip so it was about 8 miles later I arrived at the Frugal Backpacker.  They also had lots of clothing that was manufacturer samples & all their stuff was new.  Patagonia, Columbia, Mountain Hardware, Chaco, Prana, Adventura…all those brands I love!  I tried on several things (& continue to look for my I-dont-think-I’ll-ever-find-it down quarter zip feather lite jacket because I think they only make them for men & I don’t want to wear a mens sized jacket) & ended up with a wonderful but little weird styled Mountain Hardwear Butterlicious (oh so soft) black skirt for fall & winter for $20.  Now I get to Goodwill the old icky faded one I have at home.

IMG 1970.jpg

I drove downtown & headed to the Thirsty Monk.  But it was an interesting drive…I was following my girl on Google maps on the highway when all of a sudden my girl from Mapquest started giving me directions…they were each trying to out do each other with their directions.  They were interrupting each other & talking over each other, giving different directions  & I was cracking up as I’d change lanes or make a turn.  I eventually made it to a stop sign & shut one of them off.  I swear I didn’t turn on Mapquest…I think she’s just jealous at this point (some of you probably think I spend too much time alone & am literally cracking up, right?)

The Thirsty Monk is a brewery but its mostly known for it’s selection of tap & bottled beer…over 100 choices.  As I was driving around downtown trying to find a free place to park, I drove by Asheville Brewing which I’d heard good things about, just hadn’t made it there yet.  I swear, in about a 5 block area there are 7 or 8 breweries (I was learning a little more about the city the longer I’m here & the more my Mapquest girls plays with me!)  The Thirsty Monk has an upstairs with certain types of beers & downstairs with Belgian Ales…I headed down.  It wasn’t too crowded for a Saturday afternoon & ordered their own Old Bruin beer…a small pour that was delicious!  A bit later, the couple next to me asked me what I was drinking & the conversation began!  They were originally from Wisconsin (we talked New Glarus) now from Tampa (told them I loved their pedestrian bridge!)  As the conversation progressed & they told me about the wonderful little Air BNB cabin they were in, they asked me where I was staying.  This is always an interesting turn in the conversation.  Someday I may just say “the Hilton” or “Holiday Inn”, but being truthful about my weird lodging usually leads to more interesting talk & it did this time too.  We talked of  campers & trailers & Colorado (which they love too).  She asked if I’d send her my tripscib link…which I will do.  We wished each other happy travels & they took off.  Check out all the different kinds of glassware in the pic below.

Now the bar was empty…just me & the new bartender.  He must have overheard my conversation & then we talked about the Blue Ridge Parkway & camping.  He asked me if I’d heard about the lady that had been hiking alone earlier in the year that they found tied to a tree….Huh?  uh…No…I hadn’t heard that.  The discussion took a definite dark turn.  I’d told him I’d been creeped out by the forest twice.  He told me he'd lived in Colorado for several years & just thought the whole vibe there was different…more welcoming in the backcountry.  He said people here were nice, but something was not as friendly along the trail.  Ick….I didn’t like hearing this.  I think he felt bad that I was getting nervous about being alone camping & hiking in the area, but I assured him I was good.  (However, DON’T Google murder or death on the Blue Ridge Parkway….it will scare the crap out of you…& don’t ask me how I know this.)

IMG 1974.jpgIMG 1975.jpg

I finished my beer, said good bye & walked to Asheville Brewing which was packed with Saturday evening partiers.  I found a spot at the bar & ordered a their Mountain Monster…11% Imperial Stout.  It was good.  I also ordered a slice of pizza to soak up some of the alcohol, which was also tasty.  I swear I could eat good pizza everyday!

IMG 1976.jpgIMG 1977.jpg

My last stop for the night would a free concert in Biltmore Park…that sounded lovely right?  Well, it turns out it’s not a park but a shopping district.  All the higher end shopping & restaurants.  I parked & walked to the area where a decent band was playing.  It had started about an hour ago, so I thought it would be in full swing.  But, (I know, call me a mountain snob) I’m so used to going to the free concerts in CB & other mountain towns where people & kids are up dancing, everyone’s brought food to picnic,  people are clapping & interactive, the atmosphere is open with lots of green space & great scenery in the background.  This had a whole different vibe.  It was small area of green grass surrounded by concrete.  No one was dancing.  No one was clapping. We were all penned in my PF Changs, Barnes & Noble & other big buildings.  I’d been there about 25 minutes just taking it all in (& clapping to the music) when all of a sudden the singer stopped & said the show had been cancelled due to lightening.  People folded up the lawn chairs & made a quick exit.  So much for concert.  I was only .5 miles from Starbucks & needed to update the website which has lacked my attention during this trip.  After driving 10 miles to get there (don’t ask) I ordered some kind of tea drink (I get tired of coming to Starbucks, but they do have good internet & long hours) I did my website-thing until I closed them down for the night.  Another good day in Asheville!

IMG 1980.jpg

home  1  3  4

 vikhill@gmail.com                                                                                                                                                    © Vicki Hill 2022