September 16, 2011 – It’s a Friday afternoon; long week. What do you do? Decide to do a random road trip, of course! We briefly considered our options and settled on on Asheville, NC and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Tony made hotel reservations while Louisa packed a suitcase, and we were on the road!
September 17, 2011 – The first hike of the day was the Mt. Pisgah trail. The trail reminded us of a scene out of “Lord of the Rings,” it’s lined with rhododendron bushes and features a slightly uphill, curving path and sections with stone steps and tree roots covering the path. Once we reached the top we were greeted with some interesting fog views. It was moving past us, and occasionally we could catch glimpses of neighboring ridges covered with trees. The return trip featured lots of juncos; we also heard a few chickadees and saw our first Eastern Towhee.
Up next was part of a trail to an old fire tower. This trail had different scenery – it was more grassy, less rocky trail, and lined with deciduous trees covered in moss. Once the trail started to descend prior to yet another uphill stretch, we decided we’d seen enough and headed back downhill to the car.
Our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway continued as we tried to find parking at Graveyard Fields. By 1pm parking was at a non-existent premium, so we hiked up the (crowded, but still had available parking) nearby knob trail. The trail gave us some nice views of the neighboring mountaintops, as well as the fog below us. Yes, we were above the clouds!
Early Girl Eatery in downtown Asheville was the dinner destination of choice. We sampled a variety of dishes, and greatly enjoyed each one – broccoli and cheddar hush puppies with apple butter (so different, so good!), grilled pork loin (thin sliced, nice and smoky) with white, bacon-flecked gravy, candied yams (one of us loved these, the other thought the flavor wasn’t quite their style – too much orange and nutmeg; they were good for what they were, though) and mac n’cheese (creamy, milder white cheese sauce), a mixed bean burger with BBQ sauce (great burger, very moist, but couldn’t really taste the BBQ sauce in it) and avocado/sautéed red onion/tomatoes (all fresh!) and lettuce, roasted curry squash soup (perfect with a bit of salt and pepper seasoning), and a biscuit with homemade blackberry jam (let me just say you *need* this biscuit and jam!). The food was all fabulous, as you can tell from all the excited parentheses; good enough to warrant two trips in two days? Definitely!
After dinner fun was an REI shopping trip to get Louisa some hiking boots, then we went back to the hotel. Although there was a fair going on near the hotel, traffic wasn’t too bad.
September 18, 2011 – We got to Graveyard Flats early to get a parking spot, and walked over to see a few of the waterfalls. The trail is nice and easy (well, after an initial steep downhill) and gets crowded quickly. We beat most of the crowds, though, and so had a chance to view the water and beginning Fall foliage in uninterrupted solitude, at least for a few minutes.
As promised, dinner was again at Early Girl Eatery. We had to start with the hush puppies again, this time with both the apple butter and garlic/dill dressing. We actually preferred the dressing to the apple butter; it’s similar to a Greek dressing. Entrees were a pan seared trout with toasted almond butter, mashed potatoes, mac ‘n cheese, curry pumpkin soup (a bit sweet, and even better than the squash soup), and a buttery, melt-y, fabulous pimento grilled cheese sandwich.
Downtown Asheville is reminiscent of an artist’s community; there are sculptures, paintings on the side of buildings, and street performers on multiple corners. Louisa had a hankering for ice cream; on the way over to the shop we passed a woman dressed as a clown, standing in a doorway and juggling while singing a Fleetwood Mac song.
Kilwins was our after dinner stop for ice cream and fudge. We tried toasted coconut and dulce de leche ice cream, as well as chocolate peanut butter and French silk fudge. Everything was delicious and tasted very fresh; the ice cream was actually some of the best we’ve ever had! We would definitely stop there again for ice cream and candy.