After breakfast I caffeinated at West End Bakery with a vanilla latte. I heart foam art! They had GF baked goods so I also got a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin to enjoy as a post-hike treat.
After properly fueling, I headed out to the trail head. I ended up taking the Blue Ridge Parkway to get to the trail head. The views along the drive are just stunning. I pulled off at several look-out points to take in the views...
And snapped a Saturday Selfie!
Most of the look-outs have signs telling you your current elevation as well as the elevation of the peaks you are looking at.
After meandering along the parkway, I arrived at the trail head and easily found the Charlotte group. When I read about this hike it said it had some strenuous parts but I am going to say that the meet-up description could have been more strongly worded. I am in good shape so I was able to do this hike without too much trouble but it is probably the hardest hike I have ever done. First off, the trails were not marked, so you had to really rely on directions (luckily another group member printed some off) and secondly, it was long and strenuous as we covered about 8.4 miles over the course of 6 hours (which includes time for a lunch break). I would definitely do it again as the views were beautiful but I would start earlier if I did it again (we started around 11:30).
The views along the climb up were beautiful as much of the trail was along the Shining Creek.
After about 2.5-3 hours of uphill climbing, we made it to the top. The views were beautiful! We sat on the rocks at the top and ate the lunches we had packed.
Then it was time to head back down. Most of the trail was fairly flat but there was one 1.5 mile section that was basically straight down and very difficult so we took our time on that section. Occasionally there were little trails off the main trail to look-out points.
One of the coolest things we saw was this little teepee that someone has recently built. We met several people out on the trail who were doing multi-day hikes in this wilderness area, so someone must have gotten ambitious and built this!
We got back to the car around 5:30 and I was beat at this point. A group of 14 of us started off, but 6 of us went ahead as we were moving at a faster pace. I need to email one of the girls from the group to find out when the rest of them made it back... I hope they all made it back safely and during daylight because this area of has had bear sightings lately so I would NOT want to spend the night out there!
I headed back to my hotel, showered, and headed into Asheville. I started off by going to a tapas restaurant called Curate. I had 2 small plates - the top dish is a tuna and tomato salad with a sherry vinaigrette and micro greens, and the bottom dish is piquillo peppers stuffed with Spanish goat cheese. I am usually not a big fan of goat cheese but these were delicious!
I intentionally ordered smaller plates to save room for dessert as I wanted to get gelato from Chocolate Gem. I got 3 scoops: chocolate, sea salt caramel, and cappuccino. It was delicious! They also had many truffles and caramels but I stayed strong and did not buy any!
The next morning I did another meet-up with the group I hiked with on Friday. We got to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway once again, but in a different directions so I got to take in some new views. We stopped off in this adorable little village called Little Switzerland. The views were amazing!
After that, we headed to Crabtree Falls where we did a hike that was just under 3 miles round trip, I think.
And then we drove to another nearby waterfall where we did a shorter mile hike to the Roaring Forks waterfall. Multi-level waterfalls are my favorite so I especially enjoyed the views of this waterfall!
We got back to Asheville around 3 and I had to dash back to Charlotte to make it to 5 pm mass. When I took this trip I thought it would be my last but it's looking like I'll be back next Monday to do another hike with the Asheville group (weather permitting). Knowing I would likely be back in just over a week made leaving a little bit easier. And I will pass through this area on the drive back so at least I'll get to enjoy the views from the car!
My time in Charlotte has been, in a word, craptastic, but one great thing that has come out of my time here is discovering Asheville. There is just something special about this city and its surrounding area. One of the people I hiked with commented that Asheville is a place that people come to heal and I can see how this is true.
I don't know that I will ever come back to Charlotte unless I have to come for work, but I will most certainly come back to Asheville.
Is there a place you've visited that has totally captured your heart? I have several places that are all very different such as Paris, New York City, Asheville, and Vancouver. They are the kind of places that I can keep coming back to over and over again and I will never tire of them!