Thursday, April 29, 2021

Our Upcoming Trip to Greater Asheville, NC ... (Despite the National News This Morning) :)

*Edited - content and pictures added (not mine ;)

As I mentioned, last post, we're going to the mountains this summer :)

So ... we booked our trip weeks ago (though it was already difficult to find a cabin), and we will continue - despite one of our stays being near Blowing Rock/Boone, North Carolina, which made the national news, this morning, after a 13-hour-long standoff with the Watauga County Sheriff's Department and shooting, leaving 5 dead!?!

We will continue, because this event is actually an anomaly, for this normally very peaceful area (thus why it was national newsworthy).

This situation was apparently a domestic disturbance gone awry, which can happen anywhere in America, as can mass shootings and/or the growing number of paranoid, right-wing-conspiracy, white-redneck nuts with guns and bombs, who have always been around - especially in the South, especially in rural areas.

Plus, we plan on being mostly outdoors in nature near our cabins anyway, and we don't plan on going into town or popular spots much, during COVID, despite being vaccinated ;)

We booked our vacation stays in several spots in the greater Asheville area, from Blowing Rock/Boone down to Bryson City and a couple of stops in between along the Blue Ridge Parkway, but Blowing Rock is our top destination for retirement, as both Asheville and Boone are virtually the only two bright blue dots in the otherwise red sea that is Western North Carolina ;) 

My husband and I are drawn more to mountains than beaches - we both just feel most relaxed in a mountain setting, for some reason.

(Though I'd take either, if offered.  In fact, I'd take any free travel vacation offered,  with the exception of Las Vegas or the oceanic equivalent of Las Vegas, which is an ocean cruise liner - never been drawn to either, for a multitude of flashy, glittery, over-populated reasons.  Smaller river cruises are okay with us, though, so figure that one out.  Just another one of my "delightful quirks" regarding travel, which lucky for me, are quirks I have in common with my husband lol). 

As a quick aside, though my husband and I have enough differences in interests to keep things interesting, we both enjoy nature and history, and most importantly, we have similar values and similar goals and dreams.

In fact,  just today, at lunch, Mark said to me:  (paraphrasing a full conversation, which including later calling me on the way back to work): 

Mark: "I'm glad you agree about still going and that we agree on what type of places to stay and things to do, and that for the most part, we'll be staying around the cabin and hiking anyway, good plan." 


Me: "Yep, enough differences to keep it interesting, but we're still cut from the same cloth, baby! :)"   


Mark:  "True. Except the reason I called you on the way back to work, just now, is because there's some guy in the truck in front of me that has a "Kentucky Bigfoot Hunter" sticker on the back of his truck lol. Maybe we can go Bigfoot hunting while there?!? ;) hehehe 



So ... this needs some explanation lol.  My husband does NOT believe in Bigfoot, but he's fascinated with the type of people who do believe this, and their ridiculous accompanying videos lol. 
At most, he likes the idea of happening upon some cryptid that hasn't been discovered yet, or is thought to have become extinct, but actually isn't - like ghost sharks or mountain pygmy possums - or black panthers which some people say are still in North Carolina lol.   


Me: "LOL - hilarious! Wow, you should catch up with him, because it sounds like you just found your new best friend - because there's no way in hell I'm spending our vacay camping with a bunch of whackadoodles in the woods, hunting for Bigfoot lol.  Camping is fine, but not with THAT kinda crew - humans scare me more than any bigfoot, especially those types, with guns! lol." 
"Ghostie stuff is as far as I go with 'paranormal,' simply because energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred; it has to go somewhere, and I want to know where it goes lol.  Guess that's the day I'll visit the Biltmore Estate and gardens, since it's at the bottom of your list? lol"   


Mark: "Suit yourself, but you do know the Native Americans think he's a spiritual being, so that's a type of paranormal, right? ;) lol.  JOKING ... and I actually DO want to go to Biltmore,  it's just not as near the top of my list as yours; only because of the indoor tours possibly alongside non-vaccinated idiots without masks, in my face ... and I don't need a new best friend, I already have one - *smooch*." 

Aw, sweet much?  

Right back at ya, Boo, you're my BFF, too - maybe we can just wander outside, only in the Biltmore gardens rather than an inside tour, for this trip?  xo :)

Back to our mountain vacay, though Gatlinburg (where we were married) is closer, and fun for young kids and families, it has become so crowded that it's difficult for two grown adults to have any privacy, or even find a cabin that isn't looking directly into your neighbors' cabin anymore, plus it's become so touristy and almost Las-Vegas cheesy that we can't deal lol.

Thus, we've decided to look to the other side of the Smoky Mountains, where it's less crowded and touristy, there's better hiking trails and  there's more water - meaning unlike the Tennessee side of the Smokys - yes, it is officially plural with a "y" instead of an "ies" when you say it without the "mountains" part, for some reason - there is a plethora of mountain creeks, rivers, lakes, waterfalls, and natural "swimming holes." 

The French Broad River courses the entire area, to include coursing through the west side of Asheville itself.  As the name implies, it's fairly shallow, but broad, making kayaking, paddle-boarding, tubing, and even whitewater rafting a popular activity ...

... even through the downtown Asheville area.

However, I wouldn't recommend these activities actually downtown,  on the river, though people do - because I've heard it's more polluted with both trash and people, in this area, so you may find yourself in this situation ...

Yeah, erm - hat may be fine for party people who care nothing about COVID, but for us - no thanks :)

Thus, we'll go either up river a bit ...

There are even paddleboard yoga groups on the river, if you're into that ...

Or you can go down river, by the Biltmore Estate (discussed more later). 

As for Asheville itself, it's a bit different for a Southern city - not only because of its location, nestled in a valley on the east side of the Smokys, but because Asheville is a very diverse, artisan community - arguably the most liberal city in the South (often compared to Portland, Oregon, only less ... militantly liberal? lol)   

Like many diverse, more artisan/musical cities in the south, Asheville also has a plethora of (permit-holding) buskers and quirky street musicians and performers, so there's music everywhere, - folk, bluegrass, country, jazz, acoustical rock and pop  ...

Including Asheville's famous "Abby, The Spoon Lady lol ...

Like Virginia, North Carolina - and Asheville in particular - is known for it's colonial method of making pottery and blown glass, and you can even take classes in both to learn how ...

Though artisans are sprinkled all throughout Asheville and the greater Asheville area, of particular interest is the River Arts District, which was formerly a grouping of old, abandoned, run-down industrial buildings down by the river, now spruced up to display artisan goods ... 

Asheville also is unusual because they welcome, and take pride in, their street art ...

The River Arts District, in particular, is the section of the city where actual graffiti (as opposed to street art) is not only encouraged, but welcome on the abandoned industrial-plant buildings near the river ... 


We will "stay weird," thanks - sounds like the perfect "island of misfit toys" for a couple of weirdos like us :) 

Asheville also known as "Craft Beer City," because it has 26 craft breweries, but that's not such a draw for us lol. 

(Not sure why Tom Selleck and that guy from the Goonies is on the street art at this brewery/bar, other than 80s love, but okay :)

Just south of Asheville is the largest privately owned estate in America - likely the closest thing we Americans have to a European  chateau-style estate - the Biltmore Estate, built in 1889 by George Washington Vanderbilt :)

Because the estate is privately owned, you can visit the Biltmore, both the gardens and certain areas inside, but you can't actually stay in the home - thus, there are other, more affordable, chateauesque lodgings on the grounds, later built, as the Vanderbilts partnered with hospitality groups as income, in order to have the money for upkeep  ;)

Thus, these places to stay are The Inn on The Biltmore Estate, The Village Hotel, and various cottages on the grounds ...

However, as much as there is to do in Asheville, we think we'll prefer a little bit further north, in Wautaga County - which, other than Buncombe County and Asheville, is the only other bright blue county in Western North Carolina.  

It contains the cities of Boone (home to Appalachian State University) and Blowing Rock, which is also known as "Little Asheville" because of the amount of artisans there. 

Some of the best hiking trails, zip lines, and best views of the Smokys are found in this area  ...

Speaking of which, these pictures are views from the cabin we booked in the Blowing Rock area, which has a wrap-around deck (more views of the actual cabin upon our return), shared by various reviewers who had stayed in it :) ...

This area contains some of the best waterfalls, river rapids, and natural "swimming holes" in the region - they are literally everywhere - sometimes even on the vacation property you're staying on, so less crowds :)

The famous "Sliding Rock" you may have seen is nearer to Asheville, but a very popular destination, if you want to wait in line (which we won't be doing) lol.

Just a forewarning, the water is pretty cold, even in August - remember, it's runoff from the mountains ;)

Speaking of the temperature, the areas boasts an average temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit most of the year, but it does snow in higher elevations, making this area home to four ski resorts, which Mark is pretty excited about!

(Mark is a former heli-skier and once tried for Olympic skiing.  It's not high enough for any of that here, but it's nice to know casual skiing, snowboarding, tubing, and other winter-sport options are just down the road ;)

And the little towns of Blowing Rock and Boone are very quaint, with Blowing Rock especially containing artisan boutiques, like in Asheville :)

Southwest of Asheville, where the Smoky Mountains lower for a bit, before they transition to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia, in the Nantahala National Forest, is the Cherokee reservation/collection of villages, including Onconaluftee Village   ...

(This is the area where, as a child, making a quick stop at a trading post once, a Native American man told me I was a "hawk," that my totem was a hawk.  He probably told every child that lol) 

Since I was a child, the Museum of the Cherokee Indian was built, featuring art and history of the Cherokee people, including much history on the "Trail of Tears," which was what the Cherokee called the shameful attempt by both U.S. federal AND state government, to forcibly remove them (via military) from their ancestral lands in the Southeast and Deep South, under  the Indian Removal Act of 1830 under President Andrew Jackson, and relocate them to west of the Mississippi River and the U.S. southwest - so that white people could claim their land :(

It was not just the Cherokee removed, but mostly - 100,000 people from 5 tribes were removed, including the Choctaw, Seminole, Creek, Chickasaw, and Choctaw nations, after the very brief "Georgia Gold Rush" of 1828 and slave-owning plantations wanted their fertile land. 

Thousands of Native Americans died en route due to exposure, starvation, disease :(

The area is also home to the towns of Cherokee, Bryson City, Maggie Valley, and Sylva, which also provide stunning views of the Smokys (though the elevation isn't as high, here, and becomes less the further east you go, but they rise again near Georgia, to become the Blue Ridge Mountains) ...

... and this area is also home to one of the largest lakes in North Carolina, Fontana Lake :)

We'll be staying in a basic resort near the lodge, as well as staying at some lodges with entry from outdoors (rather than enclosed hallway) for social distancing, along the way during our trip, along the Blue Ridge Parkway :)

Also, urban areas in North Carolina, such as Asheville and Charlotte, are currently enjoying a tech boom, so my husband can always pick up a part-time IT gig if he gets bored :)

As I said, we're looking at these locations for retirement, and though we'd love a cabin, they're expensive - plus as we age, I'm not sure we want to be stuck in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere, with possible rednecks with guns next door lol

They do have gated mountain cabin communities, but again, super expensive.

Thus, we're looking more at condos, which in this area, can be just as private as a cabin, with views just as beautiful, plus nearby to groceries and hospitals - but NEVER ON A GOLF COURSE!

It can have a golf course, but never be located on a golf course lol.

That is because both my husband and I have found that we don't have much in common with most white American golfers - not all, but most -  they tend to have different life experiences than we did and different ways of looking at people and the world, so they don't get us and we don't get them.

However, it's a different story for international golfers or American golfers who are people of color - we tend to fit right in with them, for whatever reason -  despite the fact that neither Mark or myself plays golf lol. 

Here's an example of the type of condo we'd consider, which is in our price range versus a more isolated cabin - this is my favorite, including not only the view from the deck, but the screened patio with outdoor fireplace.  Keep in mind, this is all one attached but still private condo, reasonably priced compared to cabins ...

Or one like this ...

... or one like this!

I don't know about some of the decor (as most come furnished), particularly that dated, plaid/checked-fabric stuff  in the last condo's living room, except at Christmas - but can you imagine waking up to that view, every day, through the seasons!?!

I can't wait!!!

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