Today's mission in Asheville (should we choose to accept it) started out as a bit more of an...odyssey...than we envisioned. The idea was to drive a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop at a trailhead, for a hike Husband had selected based on its scenic vistas and...whatnot. (I confess I wasn't totally listening to the description--I was perfectly content to be the chauffeur, and let him act as the Cruise Director on this one...) The road itself was gorgeous--rising into the mountains, winding through forestland, dropping off steeply on one side with a breathtaking valley view. We happily twisted and turned for miles, admiring the grand displays of nature...right up until the moment we arrived at the locked gate that prevented us from proceeding further. "Road Closed" the sign firmly declared; we can only assume for icy conditions, as it rained quite a bit yesterday in the lower elevations.
Oh-kay...Plan B, anyone? We turned around and headed in the opposite direction, toward another option Husband had earmarked as a possibility. For this one we had to meander quite a ways along a narrow, snaky-curved, hilly, highway (I use the term extremely loosely)...which was actually pretty darn fun in the Forester. ("Look at me, I feel like one of those commercials about all the daring locations you can take your Subaru"...I might have been heard to gleefully exclaim...) One of the highlights might have been when we passed through a town called Bat Cave, North Carolina, making us all giggle. (I can only assume they're referring to the flying mammal... not the Caped Crusader...but who knows?) Fortunately, we found Chimney Rock open for business, so we climbed out of the car...craned our necks upward...and prepared to scale the namesake formation via many, m-a-n-y steps. And I've gotta say--burning calves and shaking quads notwithstanding--the landscape was absolutely worth it.
And--because, you know, we hadn't had enough walking for one day--we also traveled a trail leading to Hickory Nut Falls, one of the "tallest waterfalls on the East Coast". While no Niagara, it was lovely. Afterwards, although we were famished campers--um, make that "hikers"--we had one more destination to try and squeeze in: the WNC Nature Center. Here, we got to touch a large corn snake held by a keeper...and mostly stand and stare at tightly-curled animals snoozing away the chilly afternoon. It wasn't a complete loss--the cougars were at least posed majestically on the huge rocks in their enclosure, and the wolves were prowling restlessly (probably waiting for us to jump in and provide them lunch, now that I think about it...). But the black bears were being allowed to follow their natural patterns, and hibernate during the Winter (which makes them very smart creatures, as far as I'm concerned) so we'll have to visit them when they wake up in a couple of months.
By this time hunger had shifted to top-priority, so we traipsed back to Asheville in search of grub. It was about 3:00...and New Year's Eve...a fact that hadn't occurred to me when considering the whole "finding a relatively quick meal" thing. The first place we tried, which Husband had thought sounded inviting due to its philosophy of using fresh, local, "farm to table" ingredients, had devised a special, limited, exceedingly chi-chi bill of fare for the holiday. Um...no, thank you. Our second attempt informed us that the wait time would be 40-50 minutes. Sorry, we'll have passed out by then for sure. Finally we settled on a brewpub called Jack of the Wood that I'd actually researched online the night before--the menu seemed yummy without being either too "lowbrow bar eats" or "overly sophisticated haute cuisine". (Oh, and the beers were appealing, too, of course.) It was what you'd expect from such an establishment: low lighting, wooden tables and chairs, simple decorations. But our meal was AWESOME (and not just because we were starving, either). And after all, it would have been an egregious oversight to spend time in a town known for its independent beer production...and NOT sample the wares, right?
As for the remainder of our Big Celebration...I believe the boys fully intend to watch more of that silly sport where men throw an oblong ball and run into each other alot...Derek has announced that he will, in fact, need to be fed again tonight...and maybe, if we're feeling reeeeally crazy...we'll tune in to some Ryan Seacrest and friends. We need to make sure we get a good night of sleep so we can kick off the new year with (drum roll) another day of trekking. (Whew, are we wild and crazy, or what?) So, rah rah and all that jazz--So Long, 2014!