From Treetop Thrills to Luxurious Spa Caves
By Charlene & Richard Mixa (aka Mimi & Papa)
Zip through treetops, hike to a mountain top, slide down a waterfall, ride a wacky bus, play a round of golf, relax in an underground spa and tour a mansion, the Western North Carolina Mountains beckon adventurers from thrill seekers to pursuers of relaxation. On trips to dynamic Asheville we have hiked mountains, waded in ice cold creeks and been on tours to sample foods, taste beers and sip wines. Yet, each visit to these magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains brings a distinct twist on any adventure. Grandchildren, Louis (6 yrs.) and Lucy (4yrs) and their parents, Matt and Dawn join a few adventures adding to the excitement.
Exhilarating & Thrilling Treetop Adventure
Six of us, ages 4 years old to 73 years young, test our skills at Asheville Treetops Adventure Park. After gearing up and getting safety instructions, we head up to the treetops elevated obstacle course sporting five levels of difficulty. On the easiest Blue Course, at least 20 feet above the ground, we tackle walking across a log, traversing a half-broken wooden bridge, balancing on a beam, crawling through a wooden barrel, swinging to a platform, zipping, and more. The Park features 60 unique climbing, walking, zipping, jumping, swinging and rappelling challenges anchored to over 30 trees and towering poles. With self-assurance, a second trip on the Blue Course is a breeze. Matt braves the higher more demanding Orange Course, finding a new confidence, extra nerve, and the need for dexterity. Wow! He soars from one tree to another on a kayak, shoots down a slide into emptiness, rides a horse through the treetops, crosses numerous shaky obstacles, and takes a final leap of faith straight down to the ground. A course a foot off the ground would be easy. An obstacle course in the “treetops” requires bravado! In our 2 hour block of time we test our skills on the different levels and repeat courses. Now to prepare for the next adventure – Kidzip!
Louis Ziplines! Louis wants to zipline! He carefully watches kids on the KidZip, a zipline designed for kids ages 10 and under at the Adventure Center of Asheville. With safety gear on, Mimi and Papa zip first. Go Louis Go! Louis steps to the platform, with some coaxing, he pushes off. AAAGH! Zipping across Louis screams. (A shear panic scream). “Zipping is fast!” Despite anxiety, Louis boldly tackles each zipline. The adults also enjoy the KidZip with challenges for adults (no braking options). Actually, climbing rope ladders, wooden stake ladders and other obstacles to get to the next zipline is the hardest part. Luckily, the KidZip has two sections, an easier and a more difficult section, with an option to exit after the easy section. Louis quickly masters the easy section. Watching two 9 yr. old girls with their dad smoothly execute each zipline and obstacle, they show that a little practice makes KidZip more FUN. Departing we have new tales to tell, some sore muscles, and a few bruises. Knowledge is power! Next time we will be prepared to take on the Adventure Center of Asheville!
Climb to a Mountain Top and Slide Down a Waterfall
The mountains beckon! Hiking Lookout Mountain or the Craggy Gardens Pinnacle each rewards with miles of panoramic mountain views. Surrounded by mountains on three sides Montreat, North Carolina is a tiny town in the valley of Flat Creek that is a hiker’s haven. The Montreat Trail Map shows 21 well marked hiking paths. Lookout Trail is a slightly steep ascent and climb over large boulders to reach the top with extensive vistas. Louis and Lucy have fun hiking and delight in climbing boulders and stepping across rocks in Flat Creek.
Another impressive hike is Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 18 miles from Asheville. Full of energy after the car ride, the kids race to the top with their parents close behind. We enjoy a leisurely walk on a scenic trail that winds through age old gnarled trees and Catawba Rhododendron. At the top are spectacular views of oceans of mountains. Louis burns off energy running to the top twice. A second hike a few weeks later, blooming Mountain Laurel create more beauty at Craggy Gardens.
Nerve is required to slide down a waterfall. Sliding Rock Fall in the Pisgah National Forest, “Land of Waterfalls,” is crowded with people in line to take a slippery slide down a huge rock waterfall. Louis, carefully watches others slide down the rock plunging into a large pool. Hurrah! Louis and Daddy tackle Sliding Rock Fall! A bit timid, they keep to the edge for a slower slide. They did it! Afterwards, all cheer, as Matt slips and slides down the center of Sliding Rock Fall. Lucy enjoys wading in the cold water looking for rocks.
A Hysterical yet Historical Tour of Asheville
Hop Aboard for a FUN adventure. The Lazoom Comedy Bus Tour is a most unique yet informative tour of this eclectic and zany Asheville. An adult only excursion, with a 21 yr. old age limit, drinking beer and wine is approved. All Aboard! Our guide Buster, for “Bus Tour,” takes us on a rousing tour sharing historical truths of Asheville with comical quips of the city and its famous and often infamous people. Beware! Crazy characters jump on and liven up the tour. It’s a hilarious 90 minutes! Buster keeps us laughing with zany tales. Lazoom takes a history bus tour to a new and delightful level. Next time we must check out their Haunted Tour, Beer & Bands Tour, and Kids’ Tour which we are sure are even wackier. FUN! FUN! FUN!
Now to Play Around in the Mountains
The “Call of the Mountains” definitely includes the adventure of mountain golf. Playing the consistently challenging Etowah Valley Golf & Resort and the always demanding Grove Park Inn Golf Course tests the skills of these flatlanders. Now ranked among the world’s top 50 golf destinations by Golf Digest, a lot is happening at Etowah Valley Golf & Resort. Many improvements have been made on the course and at the Clubhouse as the new owners invest in this spectacular 27-hole golf course. The new Zeke’s Greenside Tavern with a large outdoor patio offers an eclectic menu. Playing the South Course, a valley course that offers wide fairways, yet has several water holes and doglegs with blind shots that keep us focusing on course management. The West Course takes us slowly into higher terrain with elevated tee boxes, uphill and downhill fairways along with some awe-inspiring mountain views. The finishing hole from the elevated green is very demanding. Hurrah! My golf skills and Etowah Valley Golf Course blend well together as I have a great score. The bent grass greens are as large as 9,000 square feet and putting is extremely difficult.
History and great golf combine timelessly at the Grove Park Inn Golf Course. Teeing off on this legendary course with scenic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains is thrilling. Originally designed by Donald Ross in 1926, its renovation in 2001 kept the same feel and spirit. Demanding! We have played the course several times, yet it continues to have a lot of “fight!” As the course winds along the base of the mountainside it then takes a turn straight up the hill to tiered greens where poorly landed shots will easily roll off the green. The next hole has elevated tees with spectacular mountain views and a fairway downhill to a valley and then a green above. Uphill, downhill, side-hill lies test one’s talent, skill, patience, and endurance. Even holes that look simple from the tee box have unique challenges. Unbelievable! We conquer the demanding 18th hole from its elevated tee to valley fairway to elevated green with bogies, which is like a par on this long hole. The Grove Park Inn Golf Course continues to lure us hoping we can tame it next time.
After fighting a golf course, we release our worries in the pure relaxation at The Spa at The Omni Grove Park Inn. Splash! Boasting twenty water features the Spa is the ultimate respite. First we each escape to the private Men’s and Women’s exhilarating inhalation rooms, saunas and eucalyptus-infused steam rooms. After soothing muscles in the hot tub, it’s a cold plunge into the 60 degree contrast pool. Invigorating! Meeting in the Couples Area, we sit under therapeutic waterfall that soothe the soul and enjoy a lap pool blanketed with 6,500 fiber-optic stars. Numerous mineral-based pools, complement the subterranean spa with cavernous rock walls, arches and tunnels. Fireplaces, a whirlpool and tiered outdoor terrace allow us to soak up sunshine and fresh mountain air. Grabbing a warm blanket, light snack and hot organic tea, we relax in the indoor fireside lounge with comfortable, oversized chairs. The Spa at The Grove Park Inn features 43,000 square feet of peace and quiet, 18,000 of which are amenities to enjoy before and after a treatment. After a morning of golf, this is the ultimate relaxation at this award-winning subterranean Spa
Biltmore Brings Romance
Reliving the Gilded Age at America’s largest home, the Biltmore is a cultural adventure. George Vanderbilt felt the “Call of the Mountains” when building his massive estate in Asheville. Parking in the Garden Parking lot, we avoid the congestion and take a leisurely walk while admiring the fabulous beauty of the Summer Gardens. At the House, with an audio handset, it’s an in depth tour of 41 rooms of this 250 room house. The audio shares the life and times of the Vanderbilt family. Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film is featured showing centuries of wedding fashion through movie costumes and family heirlooms. Fantastic! Elegant wedding attire from seventeen iconic movies, including Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice and Out of Africa blend in beautifully. In Antler Hill Village at The Biltmore Legacy displays focus on the Vanderbilt families’ weddings. After a tantalizing lunch at Cedar’s Tavern, we stroll through the displays at the Round Barn and watch videos of working on the Farm. The finale is an informative wine tour through the Biltmore Winery, formerly the Creamery, that ends with tasting of the rich legacy of Biltmore wines. Cheers to “The Call of Mountain Adventures!”
If you go:
This is our seventh year visiting the Asheville area and each visit presents new and unexpected adventures. We stayed in quaint town of Black Mountain, North Carolina, about 15 miles east of Asheville. Just off I-40 Black Mountain is an easy ride to Asheville while relishing the relaxation of a town that is warm and welcoming. Staying at Close by cabin (VRBO #832746) for a month, we thoroughly enjoyed our visit. The cabin is close to Black Mountain and the hiking trails of Montreat. Yet, it is very private. The 3 bedroom cabin is clean, quiet and cozy. Nature is close by as bunny rabbits hopped by, birds tweeted and flitted around, lightening bugs glowed in the dark, and even deer roamed. Close by Cabin was delightful for our mountain retreat on our month long mountain adventure.
Adventure Center of Asheville, 1 Resort Drive, Asheville, NC 28806
Note: In addition to the Asheville Treetops Adventure Park and KidsZip the Center also offers adventures of Asheville Zipline Canopy Adventures, KOLO Bike Park, QuickJump, and Wildwater Rafting.
Biltmore, One Lodge Street – Asheville, NC 28803
Black Mountain, North Carolina
Close by Cabin (VRBO #832746)
Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway
Etowah Valley Golf & Resort, 470 Brickyard Road, Etowah, NC 28729
Lazoom Comedy Tours, 14 Battery Park Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Montreat Trail Map
Pisgah National Forest – Sliding Rock
The Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville, North Carolina 28804