Asheville and Its Blue Ridge Parkway Might Have Converted Me…

Have you been to Asheville? You must go!

Growing up in Shanghai, I had always been a city person, fascinated by the prospect of visiting all the skyscrapers throughout the world. Unfortunately, I am married to someone who has no interest in visiting cities, and thus have been “forced” to often forgo the cities and drive to the places that offer the most “nature.”

Our quick cross-country Labor Day weekend trip was no exception. Even though neither of us had been to Charlotte before, we drove our Budget rental car straight away from the city upon landing around 11pm on a Saturday night.

The trip was conceived when I saw a United flash sale that offered two round-trip tickets between Las Vegas and Charlotte for $280 all-in. I knew that TravelWhimsy would veto the idea of flying all that way to visit a city, so I pitched an alternative of visiting Asheville, a town we had recently learned as America’s happiest place. I also made it a point to mention that we could stop by DuPont State Forest to see the waterfalls featured in the first installment of The Hunger Games movie franchise.

In order to optimize our scenic drive route for the following day, we made a last-minute decision to stay in Greenville, South Carolina, for Saturday night. Our route on Sunday included Caesars Head State Park in South Carolina, DuPont State Forest in North Carolina, various waterfalls throughout the Pisgah Forest (along Route 276, the Pisgah Highway), and a small portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

   

Despite the stormy weather, the short drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway was my absolute favorite part of the entire trip. The breathtaking beauty of the surrounding mountains in clouds does not pale in comparison to all the famous American scenic byways we have driven. I had never felt such a strong desire to return to nature until I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I told TravelWhimsy that one day we should drive the entire 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway and also visit Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the two parks connected by the parkway.

Sunday dinner was supposed to be at Asheville locals’ favorite Southern food joint, Tupelo Honey Cafe, but circling around the bustling downtown area in heavy rain to find parking even had me run from it. Fortunately, the cafe has a second location to the South of Asheville, providing ample parking and equally excellent food.

 

The big plan for Monday was to visit Max Patch, a bald mountain on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee offering a 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains and forests. It is supposed to be one of the highlights for hikers of the 2,184-mile Appalachian Trail. The thunderstorm brought by Hurricane Issac only got bolder, but we still decided to give Max Patch a shot and were very glad we did. The drive from Asheville to Max Patch is less than 50 miles, with the final portion on unpaved narrow road climbing up the mountain. The 1-mile round-trip hike from the parking lot to the top of the mountain was easy. I was able to do it in my flimsy plastic flip-flops in the rain, as my Vibram FiveFingers had been soaked on the previous day.

We meant to catch an hour of mineral bath in Hot Springs, North Carolina, before heading back to the Charlotte airport to catch our flight home on Monday night. An immediate appointment was not available, so we’ll just have to return in the future. The drive in the mountains from Max Patch to Hot Springs was very scenic and definitely not a waste of time.

I think this trip, Blue Ridge Parkway in particular, might have converted me to someone choosing nature over cities. My arms might not have to be twisted next time we go on a trip!

Have you been to Asheville? You must go!

 

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