Monday, June 29, 2015

Appa (lay-shun) or Appa (latch-chian)???

Being a Canadian, I was taught that the pronunciation of Appalachian was the first one in my title, so when I first heard a North Carolinian pronounce it, the second way, it kind of surprised me that I had been saying this wrong all of my life.
Andrew was off to the XI International Rubus and Ribes Symposium in Asheville, North Carolina and I was able to join him and experience this beautiful little city tucked in among the Appalachian Mountains. The southern hospitality was evident from the moment we stepped off the plane in Charlotte from their charming accent to the slower pace at which they experience life. We arrived a day early to take advantage of cheaper flights, giving an opportunity to hike a piece of the Appalachian Trail (kind of a bucket list thing for me) and spent our first night at the Iron Horse Station in Hot Springs. The drive from Charlotte was rather slow as we wound our way through the many twisty roads after dark to reach our destination. However, after a good night's sleep, we ventured out on foot to a local diner and ate just enough to help us conquer our first hike. We began with Lover's Leap (not sure whether there is a story behind this name or not, but there were lots of vertical cliffs where one could leap if the motive was there). The temperature was low 90s with extreme humidity and with an elevation gain of 400 feet, we were really warm (hot) when we finished.

A painting on the wall of the little diner on our first morning, depicting some of the features of the Appalachian Trail.

Beginning of our first hike - very excited to see the Appalachian Trail sign. 

 The lower part of the trail on the French Broad River.

 Getting higher - same river.

The forest was dense with wild rhododendron bushes. The flowers would have been beautiful a few weeks earlier, but it was impressive to see so many in one place.

We had lunch at Nick & Nate's, highly recommended by a cleaning lady at the visitor's centre for Waynesville (which was closed for the day). We then headed out to tackle our second hike for the day - Max Patch Bald. It was rather confusing to actually get to the base parking lot, but after driving on gravel switchback roads in the extreme outback of North Carolina, we arrived. The drive there was very eye opening for me. I could picture the Hatfields and McCoys living here, making moonshine, eking out an existence on these properties just randomly tucked into the hillsides, with power lines hung precariously up the mountain. Very remote and, I would think, quite lonely. Max Patch proved to be well worth the effort to find it and we were rewarded with incredible 360 degree views at the top. The pictures I took do not do it justice, but the memory of being there is still fresh in my mind.

 At the 4,629 foot summit, views from the top of Max Patch Bald were astounding. 

 Standing on a survey marker with the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee in the background.

 My hiking partner following the white marked posts of the Appalachian Trail.

 And the real reason we were in North Carolina - Andrew touring the local blackberry farms.

Andrew spent one afternoon climbing very steep plantations of blackberries and raspberries while I shopped. :)

The next few photos are my perspective of Asheville. Lots of walking, browsing and enjoying the warm temperatures. Just a fantastic relaxing trip for me.

 Downtown Asheville is a prime example of a city trying to maintain it's history, but also giving the tourist plenty of local craft and artisan shops to browse in as well as a variety of cafes and restaurants to visit.

 A game of chess anyone? Permanent tables set up for the avid chess player.

 The Grove Arcade - inside a really unique shopping destination.

And outside The Grove Arcade - a beautiful structure built in the 1920s. You can read more about it here.

 And finally, a spectacular sunrise to send us on our way back to Canada. 

Very fond memories made in North Carolina and I will leave you with the greeting we heard most often while there ~ "Ya'll have a bless(ed) day, now." (said with that oh so charming southern drawl).

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