Tag Archives: National/State Park

Asheville in Autumn

Mountain vistas from Craggy Gardens Pinnacle

Mountain vistas from Craggy Gardens Pinnacle

A Few Favorite Activities
By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Slivers of bright red, sunny yellow, and brilliant orange cover the Blue Ridge Mountains in Asheville, North Carolina.  The last week of October the autumn leaves are getting ready for the annual burst of fall foliage in these brilliant colors.  Our timing is great as a cold front comes through and the trees show off their colors in just a few days.  Autumn in Asheville is spectacular and even more so for Florida folks, who don’t get an annual “Leaf Experience.”

Driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, as it travels up the mountains from Asheville, we are greeted with an array of fall colors.  Today, it is absolutely clear Carolina blue skies.  The road is mesmerizing as the colorful trees overhang the parkway then breathtaking vistas offer miles of mountain views showing off their autumn foliage.  The Parkway offers many Scenic View areas for an easy pull-off to better take in the spectacular mountain vistas and snap some pictures.  After enjoying an enchanting scenic drive on the Parkway, we reach the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area.  (Only 18 miles from Asheville on the Parkway).  Plenty of picnic tables are available offering great views in this hillside picnic area.  It is a relaxing picnic lunch near the mountain top.

Our annual photo stop

Our annual photo stop

Now to get up close and personal!  It’s hiking the Craggy Garden Pinnacle Trail, a 1.4 mile round-trip hike to the 5,892-ft. to the top.  The trail winds through a canopy of rhododendron and various trees as it ascends 600 ft. to a fantastic panoramic 360-degree summit.  We have hiked the trail many times and have favorite spots for taking photos of the winding trail as it climbs through the canopy of trees.  Each year we take a photo at a special tree on the trail and recently added a photo of a tangled roots from a fallen tree.  A volunteer Ranger points out Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River, a few miles away.  Today it still fascinates us the scenic beauty along the trail and the fantastic vista at the Pinnacle as the mountains display their brilliant fall colors.  On the return along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a must see is the Folk Art Center, a fascinating museum of Appalachian arts and crafts.  The craftsmanship and talent are amazing.

Downhill hole with Scenic Blue Ridge Mountains

Downhill hole with Scenic Blue Ridge Mountains

Another favorite activity is a round of golf at the legendary 18-hole course at The Omni Grove Park Inn.  Arriving early for our 8:15 AM tee time, the weather has an impact with a 2 hour frost delay.  Despite having played the course several times in the past, on each visit this 6,400-yard championship course continues to challenge and intrigue us.  Selecting the proper tees is imperative to really enjoy this Donald Ross course.  The front nine is mainly in the valley and then begins to wind through the hills on the last few holes.  The back nine really brings in more holes with elevation changes demanding more accuracy with our club selection.  Putting is consistently a challenge on these greens that often prove difficult to read.  Be prepared for long uphill fairways to tiered greens, downhill fairways to elevated greens and more nuances to add plenty of challenge for each level of golfer.  It is terrific day of golf as we navigate the tree-lined fairways and bent greens with amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains all around and the stately stone structure of the 100+ yr. old Grove Park Inn.  Elevated tee boxes on the par-70 course provide perfect sight lines for each drive.  Again this fall day is clear blue skies making for even more spectacular scenery.

View from the Sunset Terrace

View from the Sunset Terrace

After golf, we enjoy lunch at the Grove Park Inn.  Today it is the Sunset Terrace where we are ready to recharge our batteries.  Taking the shuttle from the golf course to the Inn, we are quickly seated on the Sunset Terrace with views of the golf course and Blue Ridge Mountains.  On this beautiful clear autumn day, under “Carolina blue skies” we enjoy both the ambiance and lunch with scenic mountains.  On many visits, the Blue Ridge Mountains have been hidden by clouds but today with no clouds in the sky we truly see for miles from the Sunset Terrace.  Enjoying our drinks of a local beer and a rich Chardonnay we soak in the beauty of the mountains.  Opting for sandwiches the “Seared Crab Cake” and the “Smashed Cheeseburger” are tantalizing.  Sharing the sandwiches gives us each a chance to enjoy the various flavors.  The Crab Cake sandwich had plenty of crab while the Hamburger with the special sauce was so moist and flavorful.  Cheers to a great day of golf and scenic lunch.

Shopping is fantastic in Asheville from its variety of upscale stores, unique art studios, crafts shops, and antique emporiums.  Each year we find unusual treasures from home décor items to fantastic clothing sales.  On our walk through downtown Asheville we visit the numerous shops featuring local artists at the Grove Arcade, then stroll Woolworth Walk – an art gallery and craft emporium.  Later we roam through the Kress Emporium featuring regional artists and crafts people along with a selection of fine antiques and collectibles.  In Biltmore Village we find an array of specialty shops as well as national chains.  We always stroll the New Morning Gallery and the Southern Highland Craft Guild, as we seek unique items for our home.  A must visit is the 77,000 sq. ft. Tobacco Barn with its 75 vendors.  As we walk each aisle we easily see why it was voted the “Best Place to Buy Antiques in Western North Carolina.”  A stroll through the Tobacco Barn is like going back in time.  The Dillard’s Clearance Center at the Asheville Outlets offers fantastic bargains with all merchandise 65% off and many selected items with an additional 30% to 50% off.

Forestry Camp Dining Room - notice the logos on beer and wine glasses

Forestry Camp Dining Room – notice the logos on beer and wine glasses

Asheville is known as “Beer City” so a visit to a local brewery is a must.  In 2013 on a Beer Tour, we visited Burial Beer Company, the week it opened.  Today it is expanding and recently opened a unique venue in South Asheville.  Arriving here we find their new facility called Forestry Camp.  Originally Forestry Camp consisted of six buildings on two acres of land built by the U.S. Government shortly after Franklin D. Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) on April, 5 1933.  Burial repurposed these to house a production brewery, corporate offices and multiple barrel-aging facilities.  With foresight and painstaking efforts the sixth and final building became the new home of Forestry Camp Bar & Restaurant.  The downstairs has the Camp Bar with a communal hall offering a multitude of beverages from coffee, beer, wine and cocktails as well as a varied food menu.  Dining on the second floor, we learn that Chef Brian Canipelli (owner of Cucina 24, James Beard nominee) has created an intriguing “sharing menu” utilizing his skill and creativity to a seasonal, Appalachian-raised menu inspired by the traditions and spirit of the Basque Country.  The setting upstairs is unique.  The original wood of the building has been refurbished while creating a rustic yet upscale dining venue.  Our choices are Grilled Olives, the Radicchio Salad and Trout Kokotxa & Collar.  Each dish is perfectly prepared and delicious.  Additionally, the drink menu is eclectic with more international offerings.  We wish the team the best in their new business venture.

Bananas Foster Station

Bananas Foster Station

A finale for our fall adventure in Asheville is the Friday Night Seafood Buffet at the Omni Grove Park Inn.  While the past two days have had picture perfect fall weather tonight is a rainy night.  Arriving at the Great Hall of the Grove Park Inn, their huge fireplace warms our spirits.  Entering the Blue Ridge Restaurant we are immediately given a tour of the buffet encompassing three rooms.  The Friday Night Seafood Buffet is amazing.  The challenge is how to best describe this variety of farm-to-table artisanal buffet.  One room features desserts including red velvet cupcakes, bourbon pecan pie, lemon pound cake, scrumptious brownies, vanilla cheesecake, key lime tart, chocolate mousse, Crème Brulee, various torts and a Banana Foster Station.  That is only a sampling as there are more dessert items to fill your sweet tooth.

3-eyed Balloon Octopus

3-eyed Balloon Octopus

The next room has a wide variety of salads including kale salad, bean salad, grilled veggies, multiple cheeses, smoked trout, peppered mackerel, a huge Shrimp Station of fresh shrimp and BBQ shrimp, a Taco Station, oysters Rockefeller, mussels, soups and more.  Beware – it would easy to fill up on salads.  The Seafood buffet includes a nice range of seafood dishes from fried catfish, fried shrimp, salmon, a flaky wahoo dish as well as other meats for those opting for non-seafood choices.  A huge hit was the Crab Leg Station with fresh poached crab legs.  Our waiter Stan quickly provides all the essentials for having crab legs (fork, crab leg cracker and drawn butter).  Some of the side dishes included dirty rice, green beans, collard greens, hominy casserole, broccoli, and Mac n cheese.  Plus there was a Stir Fry Station.  The buffet definitely has something for everyone.  This is a unique dining venue with its views of the Blue Ridge Mountains even on a rainy night and a wide variety of foods to enjoy.  Our strategy is to take small portions and pace ourselves to make the most of this delightful buffet.  The waiters are excellent.  In our area they quickly recognize birthday and anniversary celebrations.  One table had a special seat for the “3-eyed Octopus balloon” made in the Great Hall for the little girl.  Our finale for this wonderful buffet dinner was the Bananas Foster – it was fun watching them be made and they were delicious!

A rainy night, Richard off to get the car.

A rainy night, Richard off to get the car.

As we finish are short visit for our Autumn in Asheville, it is a nice evening in the Great Hall Bar, watching the mesmerizing huge fireplace, listening to the combo band and enjoying an after dinner drink.  A wonderful finale to our respite to Asheville in the fall.  With the rainy evening, Richard, my Prince Charming tonight, with umbrella in hand retrieves our car from the parking lot.  Note: The Inn offers is complimentary 3 hour for outside guests.

If you go:
Asheville Visitor Center
www.visitasheville.com
Blue Ridge Parkway
http://www.blueridgeparkway.org
Craggy Gardens Pinnacle Trail
https://Ashevilletrails.com/blue-ridge-parkway/craggy-gardens-pinnacle-trail
Forestry Camp, 10 Shady Oak Drive, Asheville, NC 28803
828.505.4452
www.forestrycamp.com
Omni Grove Park Inn, 290 Macon Avenue, Asheville, NC 28804
800.438.5800
http://www.omnihotels.com/hotels/Asheville-grove-park

 

 

 

 

5 Great Places to Camp With The Family This Summer

By Jocelyn Brown

camping

Over 77 million U.S. households say they include someone who camps at least occasionally. Last year the number of families that go camping increased by 64%, and it’s expected to rise again this year. Camping’s popularity has risen in recent years, perhaps in response to the increasingly chaotic world we live in. Experts say camping and hiking have been proven to reduce stress, increase physical fitness, and provide a heightened sense of well-being. Continue reading

The Swag: A Luxury Mountain Paradise

An Enchanting, Serene, and Remote Retreat

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Scenic views of North Carolina's highest mountain ranges

Scenic views of North Carolina’s highest mountain ranges

A refined luxury inn and the highest inn east of the Mississippi, The Swag sits atop a 250 acre oasis in the North Carolina Mountains where nature and serenity create a remote mountain paradise.  A serene retreat to recharge and indulge the senses.  Original architecturally designed luxurious accommodations lure guests with surprises, warm hospitality, and charm for an unconventional and extraordinary getaway.  With incomparable Smoky Mountain National Park views and a panorama of over four of North Carolina’s six highest mountain ranges, The Swag meets the definition of paradise “a place of extreme beauty, delight and happiness.” Continue reading

Into the Wild in Cazorla (Spain)

By Sally James

Cazorla Nature Preserve

Cazorla Nature Preserve

If you’re tired of visiting big cities and you dream of enjoying an unforgettable experience in the midst of nature, one area that you will enjoy as much for its serenity as for its adventure offerings, is Cazorla, in the south of Spain. Cazorla is around an hour away from the city of Jaén and comprises both a main town, and part of a mountain range known as the Cazorla Nature Reserve (in Spanish, the Sierra de Cazorla, Segura y Villas) – the largest protected green area in Spain, home to ancient towering trees, dramatic waterfalls and serene tracks which vary in length and complexity. The Cazorla Nature Reserve was declared a World Biosphere Reserve owing to the rich variety of flora and fauna. Continue reading

Visit National Parks to Discover Some of the World’s Most Breath-Taking Natural Spaces

By Jocelyn Brown

Banff Canada by Ezra Jeffrey

Banff Canada by Ezra Jeffrey

The 7,000 national parks across 100 countries all around the globe, offer travelers the chance to experience the world’s natural beauty first hand. National parks are conservation areas used to help protect and preserve areas of natural land. The land is often semi natural or all natural. But there is some developed land which can call itself a national park, just as long as a country or state declares it as being its own property. Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder, but there is no doubt that these parks offer the best in magnificent landscapes, environmental wonders and fascinating plants and wildlife. Continue reading

Hiking with Casper the (Un)Friendly Ghost: Four Haunted United States National Parks

By:   Jocelyn Brown

Photo by Andrea Boldizsar

Photo by Andrea Boldizsar

The United States National Parks have a dark and brooding history. Many visitors mysteriously vanish on hikes through these parks, and over the past 100 years, there have been 1,100 missing persons cases that have never been closed. Unable to cross over, these restless souls continue to haunt the parks and if you’re hiking at night, you’d better watch out for these spirits. They’re not all as friendly as Casper. Continue reading

Memphis: A City of Music Legends that Rocks

Feel the Beat of Rock’n’ Roll, Soul and Blues

By: Charlene & Richard Mixa

“I’m Going to Memphis!” is our chant as we begin our musical journey to Memphis. Sitting on the bluffs along the Mississippi River, Memphis is famous for its influential strains of blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll that originated here. The home of music pioneers who produced new beats to American music and their impact is still heard today.

Sharecroppers migrate to Memphis seeking jobs and bringing their music

Sharecroppers migrate to Memphis seeking jobs and bringing their music

“All Shook Up!” The music of Memphis actually “shook up the entire world.” The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the story of the birthplace of rock and soul music. A video begins our introduction on the music originating in the rural fields and with the sharecroppers of the 1930’s. Donning headsets, we wind through the six Galleries on a digital audio tour. The Rural Culture Gallery explains the impact of blues, country and gospel music that unexpectedly combined for a musical revolution. Each stop on the audio tour explains the intriguing story of the music and its impact on the musicians, the city, the culture, as well as, social and racial barriers. Continue reading

A Taste of Traverse City

Sipping, Sampling, Dining, and More!

By: Charlene & Richard Mixa

Scenic View through trees at Bowers Harbor Inn (Mission Table)

Scenic View through trees at Bowers Harbor Inn (Mission Table)

On the shores of Grand Traverse Bay sits the captivating unique town of Traverse City. Glacier-sculpted landscape created miles of sugar-sand shoreline, rolling hills, and a majestic peninsula. Located on the 45th parallel halfway between the North Pole and the Equator the climate flourishes with lush vineyards, as well as, cherry and apple orchards. Continue reading

Asheville: The Call of Mountain Adventures

From Treetop Thrills to Luxurious Spa Caves
By Charlene & Richard Mixa (aka Mimi & Papa)

The Mixa's  take on the Adventure Center of Asheville

The Mixa’s take on the Adventure Center of Asheville

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. Continue reading

Enhance your Irish Adventure- Head North

By Sally James

Last year over 1.3 million Americans embraced the opportunity to visit Ireland. Yet only a relatively small proportion of these adventurers opted to enhance their Irish experience by heading over the border into Northern Ireland. Here we take a closer look at some of the delights which the region can offer and highlight why it is a must on any Emerald Isle itinerary. Continue reading