Friday, May 31, 2013

Camping World, Asheville, North Carolina

Well, we’re here at Camping World in Asheville getting the work done on our rig from our tire blow-out a couple weeks ago. They have us connected to electric & water at night and during the day, besides running some errands, we’ve been hanging out in the store chatting with people and making ourselves right at home.  :-)

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina ~ Day 4

We drove back to Newfoundland Gap (where North Carolina & Tennessee meet) to hike a bit on the Appalachian Trail (AT). A bit about the AT ~ it is a 2,184 mile trail connecting Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. The trail passes through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia.

We decided to do a four-mile one-way hike to Charlie’s Bunion (then, obviously, four miles back). We got a late start and didn’t get on the trail until 11am, which is about two hours later than we normally like to start. We were fortunately, however, as it was a cooler day, the trail was a bit shady, and the higher elevation (5,046’) kept things a bit cooler.

Backpackers often stay at various shelters along the AT and we came upon one about three miles into our hike ~ this is Icewater Spring Shelter. There were large flat wooden areas to sleep or hang-out in rough weather and a fireplace. There was also a large flat area for tents and more sleeping bags. 
Also provided was a water source (when not frozen), although one has to treat (i.e. boil) any water before drinking.

We passed a few wildflowers and in 2 ¼ hours arrived at Charlie’s Bunion ~ there were great views and many other day hikers enjoying a snack before making the trek back.
We headed back to the trailhead and clocked 4 hours and 20 minutes for the 8-mile hike, not too bad considering the stops for photos, snacks, restroom (i.e. nearest bush) and such.  This was definitely a great hike, and now we only have 2,180 miles to go! :-) 

Side note: So here’s something that Brad has overlooked and Suzanne has chosen not to remind him - A few years ago we did some day hikes in the Grand Canyon.  A couple years after those hikes, Brad came home from work one day to find Suzanne quite excited that we had secured backcountry passes to backpack the Grand Canyon rim-to-rim. He seemed to have no recollection that Suzanne mentioned this desire during those day hikes. Moral of the story…….ya never know when we might backpack a lot more of the AT (and neither does Brad).  :-)

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina ~ Day 3


We took another drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway today, this time from the south, starting in the Great Smoky MountainsNational Park (which is actually the “end” of the Parkway as it was built north to south) and going as far as we went from Asheville last week.

We enjoyed a few remaining flowering shrubs and trees along the way

As well as some great views.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina ~ Day 3

We decided to take a hike today from our Deep Creek campground, about a 4.6 mile walk by three waterfalls. We started by passing Juney Whank Falls, a nice, high falls. (Waterfalls never take good pictures, unfortunately.)  
There were lots of options for continued hiking, and we consulted our trail guide, but we kept taking wrong turns to continue on the trail to the other two waterfalls. We ended-up backtracking and taking a different route to the other two falls, which was basically walking a gravel road that was once used for driving, so not much of a “hike,” rather a “walk.”

We passed Toms Branch Falls across the stream 

and continued (past lots of children, strollers, and people in sandals, re-emphasizing the lack of a “hike”) onto the Indian Creek Falls, which were nice as well.  Nice waterfalls, no doubt, but a very different outing than originally planned. 

We also decided that today was shower day! We are drycamping at Deep Creek Campground and are pretty good on water consumption, but if we don’t have to take military showers, we won’t. There are hot, clean, $3 showers just past the park entrance, so there we went and it was a great way to spend $6!
After getting all clean, we decide to meander the town of Bryson City, the town just outside the Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky’s National Park.  It isn’t a big town, no doubt, but plenty of restaurants that serve (newly) squeaky-clean people like us, so we tried the Bryson City Cork & Bean Restaurant.  Bryson City Cork & Bean used to be a coffee and wine shop, but expanded to dining a few years ago –Suzanne had a wonderful chicken, pesto, gouda, avocado crepe; Brad had a hamburger – way to bust out of your shell and eat something different, Brad! :-)

Oh, when we were hiking we passed a swarm of butterflies – took a few tries, but we were able to get one decent photo, but it doesn’t do justice to the deep blues & turquoise colors on the wings.
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina ~ Day 2

We decided to take a drive today and explore the Smoky’s, so went for a drive along the main road, about a 39 mile one-way drive. We saw some elk at the first visitor’s center and went in and got some hiking information for another day.  
 Our drive continued to the peak of the Smoky’s, Newfound Gap, where North Carolina and Tennessee meet.We plan to come back here, as the Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses this area and we plan to hike a bit on the popular route. 
Zoey seems to have a preference for facing Tennessee.......

There were some great views along the road..................

We continued into Tennessee and stopped at another Visitor’s Center before heading into Gatlinburg. What can we say about Gatlinburg? We’ll it is just past the National Park border and an entirely different world! The National Park has no concessionaires, it’s surprisingly low-key, but Gatlinburg is a whole different story – tons of people, shops (mostly chains) and noise. Not our idea of a fun day, but as they say, there’s something for everyone in this world and many will enjoy this town.

We quickly u-turned and continued back home, over the same 39-mile road and back to our rig and called it a day. :-)
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina ~ Day 1

We are camping at Deep Creek Campground in the Smoky’s, but had a heck of a time getting here! We were originally planning to stay at Smokemont Campground, but although he sites were large enough for our rig, there was no way we could get into the sites, the driving was too tight. We tried a couple different sites and eventually decided to make the move to Deep Creek. 

Deep Creek isn’t as centrally located as Smokemont, but a nice campground and we were able to get into a site, although still cumbersome. One of the complaints we have about both campgrounds in that there are tons of low-hanging branches (low enough o scrape the roof of our truck, let along our 12’9” RV!) We asked the camphost about this, whose response was that it was the beginning of the season and the grounds crew just hasn’t gotten to it yet. Uh, no, these branches are much bigger than one winter’s growth! 

But we’re here and ready to explore the park! :-) 

Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina

Let's start out by saying WOWI  The Biltmore is the largest private home in the US and probably the continent. This mansion was built by George Vanderbilt II (one of several grandsons to the family patriarch Cornelius Vanderbilt) and completed in 1895 on a125,000 acre (Currently 8,000 acres) estate near Asheville, NC. Unfortunately photography is not allowed inside the home, so we took pictures of some of the beautiful gardens at the estate grounds
The Biltmore has 250 rooms and is lavishly decorated with priceless pieces from Europe. The outside and inside of the home is nothing short of amazing. The mansion was built during the gilded age of our country, before income tax, so it’s not really known the size of the family’s wealth at the time or how much the mansion cost to build. We asked several of the docents in the mansion and none would even venture a guess (likely they were instructed not to provide an estimate…weird), so a quick internet search and  found one estimate to be $10 million dollars back then or around $250 million today. George named his mansion after the family’s ancestral home in Bildt, Holland.
Today the Biltmore is a tourist attraction that is still owned by the family.When visiting Biltmore there are several options and ways to experience the house, gardens and estate. The admission fee if $59 the day or you can save $15 with a 7 day advance purchase (which we did). This fee allows you to do a self-guided tour of several floors of house, all the gardens, free wine tasting at the Biltmore winery and the ability to drive around the estate. There are multiple add-on tours and options if you want to see and learn about the mansion and family in more in-depth. We toured ourselves and found the provided informational guide informative enough for our interests.
It's a bit pricey, but well worth the price even if you are mildly interest in this kind of thing. One should plan on spending no less than 4 to 5 hours. There are several eateries on-site that provide quality food or you can also bring your lunch and have a nice picnic in one of the many gardens. Enjoy!

PS - We' are heading to the Great Smoky Mountains, and not sure about Internet connection, so hang tight if there aren't any blog updates for a bit, There may be......there may not be........ 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina ~ Day 2

It was a bit rainy, but we thought we’d still go of a hike, since a little rain never hurt anyone ~ so off we went to Craggy Gardens and Crabtree Falls north of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Well, it got a bit foggier as we climbed the Parkway, and this was the view at the Craggy Gardens trailhead, and since it’s a hike to a panoramic vista, we moved on....... this fog at the trailhead of Crabtree Falls. Yeah, bummer. And the driving wasn’t very fun, as there were times that we could only see the yellow line in the middle of the road, so the lesson learned was that when it’s raining in Asheville, it’s probably cloudy in the upper elevations of the Parkway.

We enjoyed a lunch of quiche and soup in the SwitzerlandCafé in Little Switzerland, and headed home.

  RV Blind and Shade Restringing Mail-In Service 
Easy and affordable - no matter where you are! 

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