It’s been a few days since I’ve posted in the blog because we’ve been pretty off-the-grid for a few days. I mean that quite literally in regards to cell phone service, electricity and bathrooms. Day 9 was mostly spent in Asheville, they’ve been regarded as “Beer City USA” since 2009. Even though they’re mostly known for the amount of craft beers in the area they’re also a great destination to get outdoors. There’s a whole slew of places to hike, bike and view some great scenery on a drive. On Thursday we went to the North Carolina Arboretum, then hit up the Wicked Weed Funkatorium.
So, not much was in bloom at the arboretum but it was a great hike. I can imagine in the spring and summer that there’s a lot to look at! There’s a ton of trails though, we got the most of our time there, it looked like during the holidays they had a Christmas light show of some sort too, because most of the trees near the parking lot were covered in lights. Toward the end of our hike we found a bench near a stream and ate our sandwiches and talked about what we would do with the rest of our day.
We decided to visit the Wicked Weed Funkatorium, a brewery and taproom that focuses on sour and funky style beers. As I said last post, I’m not super into beer… But visiting a brewery that focuses on those sour styles was perfect for me because I actually do enjoy sours in small doses. We went on a tour for $12 each and we got to sample a bunch of beers that they had on tap. Afterwards we visited the beer shop and picked up a few things that we both enjoyed.
Thursday night was also our first night camping on the trip. Since we’re trying to save money we’re trying to camp for free at least some of the nights if the options are good enough. And no, I (mostly) don’t mean sneaking onto campground property after their offices close and leaving before they open. Let’s be real, even with the sun in my face I probably wouldn’t wake up early enough for that. There’s a website that you can look up free campsites in the area that you want to stay. It tells you how many miles away from your preferred destination it is, people leave reviews on their own experiences there and it gives you exact coordinates and elevations so there are no surprises.
The location that we chose was in the Pisgah National Forest. There was no service, it was off a dirt road that had steep drop off’s and the elevation was around 2900 feet. It was dark when we arrived so we really couldn’t tell what was going on. We passed one truck on the way in, so we at least knew that there were other people there. We finally saw a sign for camping and found a site with nobody there. It was actually a pretty great site! There was a tent pad made of gravel, a fire ring and lantern pole. We totally didn’t know it was a lantern pole while we were there though. We also couldn’t see much until our eyes adjusted. Setting up our tent wasn’t hard though since we had a tent pad to work with.
After we got our tent set up we made some dinner, set up the fire and got comfy. It was really peaceful up there in the mountains. The campsites were really far apart from one another so we couldn’t hear anybody else, unless it was the occasional car that was driving past looking for their own campsite. The next morning we woke up around 9:30, we had planned to go to the Great Smoky Mountains but it was quite a drive so while Elliot made breakfast I packed away our tent and sleeping bags.
The drive up to the Smoky Mountains was even more amazing that the drive to Asheville. We drove through the Cherokee Indian Reservation so there was a lot to look at. Summer is a lot busier of a season though, so a lot of places were closed. Naturally I pulled the car over quite a handful of times to get photos of the mountains. We finally made it to the visitor’s center at the beginning of the Smoky Mountains and we grabbed a map, used their restrooms… And it started to rain, not too hard but enough to make it obvious that we should bring our jackets on our hikes. On our way past the visitor’s center (both on our way in and on our way out) we saw some elk! But that was the most wildlife that we got to see.
We found an easy hike along a creek and took that way first. It was an interesting experience to say in the least because the bridges to cross the creek weren’t really bridges. It was just a log that was cut in half with a railing to hold onto. As terrified as I was everything worked out just fine!
Going further into the park there are TONS of scenic outlooks. Even if we weren’t going hiking, the drive would’ve been worth the trip alone. Of course, I stopped probably 8 times in what should’ve been a 15 minute drive… Making it much longer, but it was worth it! We saw some pretty amazing landscapes. Of course, because it’s winter some of the roads were closed but we were hoping for the best on our way to some of the trails, but they kept us off some so we had to settle on a different hike. Our second hike was challenging, we only went about halfway because there was supposed to be a waterfall, but where it was supposed to be it was totally dry. So we sat down on some rocks and had a well-deserved lunch and hiked back up.
On our way out of the park the sun started to set. We had just gotten through the Cherokee Indian Reservation and I made Elliot stop the car AGAIN to take one last photo of the sun setting over the mountains. It was most definitely worth the stop.
We had a great few days, we’re going to chill out the next two days then make our way back over to the Outer Banks for some more camping!