A Quick Trip to Asheville, North Carolina

Asheville: Where weird is normal.

That is their slogan, not mine.  If  I wrote a catchy slogan about Asheville, it would say something about culinary delights and unique jewelry.  It is such a cool place.  I feel like my senses are almost overwhelmed with all of the people to look at, incense and homemade candles to smell, teas to taste, and fabrics to feel.  At the same time, the city has such a laid back feeling that you are really at no risk of suffering from sensory overload.  I don’t exactly know how they accomplished it, but I hope other cities can follow suit.

We arrived in the late morning and wandered from shop to shop for a while.  Well, Rod wandered from bench to bench.  And then we wandered around a basilica.

This guy seemed to be a little suspicious of us.  Or them.  He didn’t even notice me right away.

I wandered by the library.  I bet the collection development policy for Asheville’s library is a bit different than ours….

Then we wandered into Indian food.  If only I could wander into Indian food more often.  We ate at Chai Pani on Wall St.  A few of us had not had Indian food before, so I was nervous/curious to see how everyone would respond.

We decided to order a couple thalis (sampler plates)–one veggie and one chicken, two orders of naan, and an order to masala shoestring fries.  The veggie thali came with saag, chickpeas, corn, yogurt, two flatbreads, and a dessert.  The chicken curry replaced the saag on the other plate.  The prices were very reasonable, and all of the food was very delicious.  I think we ended up with a total of five thumbs up and two thumbs slightly up.  Not bad for newbies, right?

Post-lunch time was filled with a little more wandering and a little more shopping.  I got a dress code appropriate, yet somewhat trendy, shirt for work, and Jordan found some much needed shorts for summer.

The heat was intense today, so found a place for some cool treats.

After a few days of being on the go, we were ready to head home in the afternoon.  I cannot attest as to whether or not anyone else slept on the way home, since I slept almost the entire time.  Ahhh, an hour and a half nap.

We stayed in for supper.  Jordan and Rod played grill masters, taking care of the burgers and my portabello mushroom monster (a huge mushroom).  We had some fingerling potatoes, carrots, and some brussel sprouts.  All seemed to go over well.  Leah and I walked to Market Square to pick up some Cafe 4 cupcakes to bring back to the apartment for everyone to share.  A lovely end to the meal.

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

Clingmans Dome and Laurel Falls | GSMNP

If you’ve only got one day to go to the Smokies, what would you do?  And what if that one day happened to fall on one of the busiest National Park’s busiest weekends?

There’s so much to see, so much ground to cover.  Jordan and I decided that a car trip to Clingman’s Dome and a short hike might fit the bill for our group today.  We had considered Cades Cove, but thought it might take too long, considering the holiday weekend.  A ranger at the Visitors Center confirmed our suspicions.  Cades Cove would take anywhere from three to fours hours today.  So we kept moving on Newfound Gap Road.  On the drive up, we stopped at the Newfound Gap Overlook for a while.  No matter the season, the view is stunning here.

The company wasn’t so bad either.

Onward we went to 6643 feet, otherwise known as Clingman’s Dome.  It is the highest point in the park.  Jordan and I have been here once before, but it was so cold and windy that we decided not to climb to the observation tower.  The second time we had tried going, the access road was closed.

The third time’s a charm, right?  Right!  I had not realized there was about a half mile jaunt to the top.  The closer you got to the top, the thicker the bugs, the grumpier the children, and the slower the pace.  But we all made it.  Maybe the bugs carried us up.

You had to climb that, to get to this:

And when you reached the top of this, you look out.

And when you look out, you see this:

We stuck around for a bit, but the bugs really started to stick to our arms, faces, shirts, etc.  And there were plenty of other tourists reaching the top and trying to get pictures without our group in the background.  We back-tracked and passed the Visitors Center to reach the Laurel Falls trailhead.

Why do they call it Laurel Falls?  For the Mountain Laurel of course!

The laurel is nice to see along the way, but naturally, the falls are the main draw.  Because it is a shorter (2.5 miles), paved hike (though a bit steep at times), it is very well traveled.  I had to maneuver to find a photo without others in it.

I played around with the shutter speed for a bit.  Wow, I still need work to get things to look like I want them to, but I am getting slightly smarter about using the shutter priority mode.

The hike was nice, not too long.  Thankfully, the trail was shaded most of the way, as the sun was beating down heavily upon the mountains.

When done with the hike, we actually stopped to take part in a cheesy tourist activity along the Parkway/66 in Pigeon Forge.  I never thought I’d see the day that Jordan played mini golf in Pigeon Forge.

But then again, I never thought I’d actually see those pigs fly.

I always enjoy a trip to GSMNP.  And I really was not excited about mini-golfing.  I only remember going once, maybe twice, in my life before today.  I ended up having a blast though!  The cheesy songs playing overly catchy tunes combined with the anthropomorphism of farm animals is enough to put me in a good mood 🙂  The hole-in-one on the first hole didn’t hurt either.  I did have to fish my ball out of a pond at one point.  Jordan lost his in a patch of green.  We never did find his, but when searching we found another lost ball.  It all worked out.

The night ended with some take-out BBQ and sandwiches and a photo viewing/giggling session.  Perfect.  Or as the cat on the course said today….”Purrrrrfecto!”

Boys Will Be Boys: A Trip to Nantahala National Forest

Boys will be boys.

Or rather, men will be boys will be boys.

After work on Saturday, I drove over to Cable Cove Campground in Nantahala National Forest to meet up with some friends.  Boys outnumbered girls 5 to 2.  Boys are different than girls.

When I first arrived, we set up our tent.

Soon after I arrived, they started supper.  Everyone else had habanero jack beef burgers and brats.

I had a veggie dog.

But then we all had s’mores.

Maybe I’m not so different.

But then the next morning, the others consumed eggs, bacon, sausage, and pancakes.

Katie enjoyed breakfast with her sporknive.

Over, really, easy eggs.

I had a tasty apple and a couple of these granola bars for breakfast.  Simple, organic ingredients.

And then I may or may not have had a morning s’more.  At Jordan’s suggestion.  Unfortunately, I was not around to document history.  Apparently, there was a pancake s’more consumed.

After breakfast, I took some fun pictures of around the campground and talked with Katie.

Even a self-portrait.

And silly, silly me.  I thought we were going to eat this guy.

But then we found the guys with the tomahawk.  Boys will be boys.

Poor, poor watermelon.

After clean-up, we caravaned to the lake, where we rented one of the roughest-looking pontoons I have seen.  But it did its job.  And it came with a really amazing captain.

(Okay, maybe two captains).

The scenery was amazing.  I was astounded that there were not more people out on the lake and that we were just a two hour drive from home.  As I mentioned in my teaser of a post, if you used your imagination, you might believe you’re in a different country.

I got some pics of the crew.

We docked.  And I took more pictures.  Plenty of our captain (Moose).

The boys skipped rocks.

Yeah.  Um.  Threw rocks.  Boys will be boys.

Toward the end of our afternoon on the lake, the sky became cloudy and the temperature dropped.  The wind picked up.  It was cold.  I took some more pictures…

…and then I hid from the wind.

While I tried to stay warm, this happened.

Moose didn’t know what to do about it.

And really, there’s nothing we could do about it.  Because boys will be boys.

May Day Wildflower Hike | Porter’s Creek

Happy May Day!

The weather has been lovely this weekend.  Yesterday, we spent the day watching movies and shopping for cars (more on the cars later), so we did not get much of a chance to enjoy the weather.  Today was a different story.  We had made plans with friends to meet up and enjoy the beautiful afternoon.

We drove to the Greenbriar Area of the National Park.  The trailhead provided ample parking, and the trail was much less crowded than I was imagining it to be.  We only put in 4.0 miles, but moved slowly since Karsten and I were snapping wildflower pictures the whole way.  I wanted to find lady’s slippers flowers; Katie wanted to find the elusive red salamander.

It seemed like we almost headed out in formation.

Along the trail, we saw butterflies…

and Smoky Mountain cemeteries…


and albino (okay chlorophyll-deficient) plants…

and shelf fungus galore…

and mystery staircases…

and Tarzan vines.

As I said, though, I was concentrating on the wildflowers today.  I’ve captioned the photos where I know (or am relatively certain on) the name of the flowers.  Please feel free to correct me/argue with me on ones I’ve offered names for!

Robin’s Plantain
Oxeye Daisies
Foam Flower
Wood Sorrel
Wild Geranium
Canadian Violet
Yellow Trilliums
Painted Trillium
Dog Hobble

We continued up the trail until we reached Fern Branch Falls.

We climbed our way toward the falls and rested for a while when there.

After resting, we headed back down toward the trailhead.  I don’t know why, but I am still amazed at how much faster the descent is when hiking.

We saw no lady’s slippers.  We saw no red salamander.  I truthfully was a bit disappointed that we didn’t see any lady’s slippers today, especially since I have heard from co-workers that they are on Porter’s Creek Trail and in bloom toward the end of April.  I will keep my eye out next go round.  I have a long way to go before becoming any sort of wildflower expert, but maybe someday I will at least be able to recognize the majority of those that we see on our hikes.