Sunday, June 18, 2017

Summer 2017 Road Trip ~ Day 4: Cherokee, NC to Asheville, NC (Monday, June 5, 2017)

What a nice change from our previous night's stay at the hotel under construction!  Last night we stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Cherokee and it was very comfortable. I had a wonderful night, wished I could have slept longer but I wanted to be able to check the news, etc. before my daughter woke up.

I left reviews on TripAdvisor for the last 2 hotels where we stayed. Darn it, I should have thought to read the review before making my reservations because everyone was complaining about the state of the Chattanooga hotel! Speaking of which, I need to go check the reviews for our Asheville hotel... Phew, everything seems to be alright, people love it. Good to know.

Well, chances of rain for Cherokee and Asheville are both 100%. I'm hoping that since we'll be dipping South quite a bit with the Blue Ridge Parkway before going back North towards Asheville, we will at least get some good weather at the stops we had planned to make!

Last night we looked at the pictures we had taken and they're... meh.  The cloud cover and rain from yesterday really didn't help translate the beauty of the area we travelled through.  Or maybe we just suck as photographers!

Breakfast this morning was fine. I think the hotel in Columbus spoiled me, though :)  I had 2 scrambled eggs, 1/2 an English muffin (I kept the 2nd half for a later snack), a banana, and 2 cups of skim milk. I brought a cup of decaf along for the trip.

The breakfast offerings.

My breakfast. No pancakes or muffins here!
After breakfast, we left for the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, just 5 minutes from our hotel.  It was very interesting and very well done.  We spent about 90 minutes there. You can spend way more time there, but it was getting a little busier than I preferred, and since it was a lot to read, constant people moving around (including young children) was very distracting. Also sometimes the lighting was dimmed, which was good for the ambiance, but made it very hard for me to be able to read the explanations of the exhibits. Still, a good experience.

Book in Cherokee
We left Cherokee at about 11:00 a.m.  First we stopped by their Subway to get our subs for lunch as we planned to eat them somewhere on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  As we got on the Parkway, it started to rain and it got very foggy!  The first part of the trip was a little scary, only because it was so foggy and it's a mountain road. But traffic was very light and the speed limit is only 45 mph. There are a lot of "overlooks" where one can pull over to admire the view or to let the people behind you go ahead and some people did that for us.

The entrance to the Blue Ridge Parkway (hard to see because of the color contrast). This isn't a toll road at all, yay!  But it's 2 lanes all the way to Virginia, winding through the mountains, with tunnels and sharp turns, and the speed limit is 45 mph the whole way. Also there are very few bathrooms so be ready to exit from time to time to find a place to pee and eat!  There are a lot of overlooks, though, so that's nice.  We encountered cyclists (aargh), motorbikes, RVs (only a couple and they were going the opposite direction), and several maniacal drivers, almost all of whom seemed to be from Florida. WTH?!

Approaching a tunnel

Hmm, I wasn't driving 45 mph in that fog, let me tell you.  It was scary not to see further out than that and I'm glad the cyclists stayed home when it was foggy!  There isn't a bike lane, you see, and they tend to bike in small groups so you had to pass them blind, which was very unnerving, especially with a large SUV such as mine.

I was worried that my daughter's experience of the Blue Ridge Parkway would be limited to this!
We first stopped at the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center.  It's the highest Visitor Center on the Parkway. It was so foggy that I almost missed the turn!  We obtained a map of the Parkway from the Visitor Center, and then took a 1 mile (round-trip) hike to the top of the mountain we were on. Don't let the small distance fool you, it ended up being quite challenging as it was very steep! It started as a paved trail. We met a family coming down the trail who warned us it was very slippery.  We started understanding why they had said that once the pavement ended and we had to climb on several rocks arranged as steps of sort. Of course it had rained (and was raining/drizzling as we were hiking!) and it was very foggy so it looked precarious to me.  We were glad to get to the top and I was completely out of breath!  Going down was harder on the knees and I had to be careful not to hurt my right knee so I had my daughter help me in a couple of instances (I completely forgot to pack my knee brace!). It was 57F/13.8C at the top. We had started the hike wearing jackets but soon we got too hot so we just wore them around our waist.

Almost missed the turn!

Yours truly. Hey, my butt doesn't look as big as I feared! I should always wear black and walk
around in the fog, LOL.

Yes, the fog really helped. Here the fog is going away (picture taken after our walk). See how
high we were?

Here we go...

Beginning of the trail. It was labeled as an "easy" trail on the map. Oh, OK. Doesn't look bad and it's
only 0.5 a mile to the top...

Yeah, this is going to be a piece of cake!

Beautiful rhododendrons... or were they mountain laurels?  I can't really tell.

Pine nuts

Still manageable, if a little steep. It doesn't look it but don't forget we're at over 5.000 ft in

And then... it started getting a little more daunting...

More steps?! Puff, puff...

Oh, good grief... and this is the easy trail?!

Yes, we climbed this by the way. It ended up being my daughter's favorite hike because of all the fog. She loved the fog! Good, because I was really worried that she was hating the trip because of the fog!

After a while we got to the top. It was so foggy that there really was nothing to see. There was a bench so we sat down to catch our breath and took silly selfies together :)

Then it was time to negotiate the descent.  I was worried that we would slip and fall, and also that I might hurt my knee so I was extra careful.

Going down. It was in the 40s or 50s, I seem to remember, but I had put my sweater around my waist a long time ago!

I wish I had gotten a walking stick, something that I ended up wishing on several occasions
during the trip but I never did buy one.
By the time we returned to the parking lot, unhurt and triumphant, it had stopped raining so we headed to a picnic table with our Subway sandwiches. Only as soon as we sat down, it started raining for good!  So we packed up everything and ended up tailgating in the SUV. It was fun and we had a relaxing time enjoying our sandwiches and chatting.

There is no way we only walked 18 minutes... we were so slow!

Tailgating in the SUV
As we continued to drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the fog soon burned out in places and we were rewarded with the sun shining in several places so we were able to stop at several overlooks and my daughter took lots of pictures. Yay!  She was excited to see the views, as she loves being high up in the mountains and looking at mountains. I was so glad she actually got to see some of the views!

Finally, we get to see "The Blue Ridge"!

Driving conditions have improved somewhat, although the road is still wet and pockets of fog remains at times.

I did mention that my daughter loved taking pictures of mountains, fogs, clouds and rocks, right?  You'll see more of those.
And we were excited to spot a little chipmunk  trying to cross the road ahead of us. Luckily, we didn't hit it but we also completely missed taking its pictures. You don't see chipmunks in Florida, at least not in our neck of Florida :)

Source: Yahoo Photos
We stopped at an overlook where we thought we could look at a rock called "John Rock" but the view was very overgrown so we didn't see anything at all.

Mountain laurels were blooming everywhere!

And those little blue flowers were everywhere as well!  So pretty.
Another stop we made was at Graveyard Fields Overlook. We saw a lot of cars parked there so we decided to check it out and snagged the last parking spot.  We went down a lot of stairs to a waterfall called "Second Falls". It wasn't very far away, only about 0.3 miles, but the hike down there was fun and pretty.  The hike was up was more challenging as it was a lot of stairs to climb! Not as many as those I had to climb in the Alps though, so I comforted myself with that thought :)

The name was a little ominous but from what I remember, it had to do with tree stumps that had been left a storm, that made it look like the mountainside was covered with a field of graves.

Groan... more steps! Still, so many people were at the overlook, we figured it was worth a peek.  People were coming up wearing bathing suits (?!). A young mother, when I asked her if it was worth going down to look, reassured me that it was.  OK, then, let's go!

The narrow paved trail meandered down the mountainside through tree copses.

Oh my gravy, more stairs!

A small bridge crossed the creek. A lady and her dog were having a good time. My daughter loves dogs,
especially big dogs. We saw many big dogs on the trip and each big dog gave her the chance to tell me, each time. "Oh my gosh, I looooove dogs! Especially big dogs! (Squealing) ooooh, look at him, he's such a big boy!  Oh I love him so much!".
A small boardwalk...

The worst part is that we had to climb all those stairs back up again!

But yeah it was kind of worth it. I think those kids were all part of a lifeguard group that
was on a roadtrip.

On the way back up, my daughter asked me to take her picture in the middle of the creek.
We ended up leaving the Blue Ridge Parkway South of Asheville as it had started raining again and driving on the Parkway when it's raining isn't as much fun, and we headed straight to our hotel. We're staying at another Country Inns & Suites in Southwest Asheville. It's very nice. Tonight we're sharing a King-size bed.

We rested for a couple of hours. Well, my daughter watched "The Office" on her laptop while I planned our route for tomorrow.

At about 6 p.m. we were hungry so we decided to drive into downtown Asheville to check out the restaurants there. My in-laws used to live in Fletcher, just 20 minutes away, so I have been to Asheville several times and each time I have been disappointed with the downtown. Tonight was no exception.  Everyone looked either homeless or like they were tourists. It was drizzling and I guess Monday night isn't a busy night in Asheville. A lot of storefronts are unoccupied and we walked around quite a bit before finding a restaurant that we agreed on.  To be honest, I would have eaten in a bunch of different places (Dim Sum, Himalayan Restaurant, Mediterranean Cuisine, etc) but my daughter is picky and only likes chicken.  She had declared that we needed to avoid Italian restaurants because she loves pasta and she was trying to be healthier, but after looking for a while and being very hungry, we passed an Italian restaurant and decided to just eat there.  Not a mistake, it was SO GOOD. It's called "Modesto Wood Fire Kitchen". If you go there, have the Organic Chicken Carbonara.  It's served with a fried egg on top and it's so, so good!  For dessert, we shared an Orange Blossom Creme Brulee that was made with Grand Marnier. Ooooooh..... and in case you think "What happened to your diet?!" I'll have you know that I haven't been eaten ANY of my exercise calories at all since I have started dieting. So I think I'm OK :)  I didn't have any bread and I drank water.  And then we had to walk back to our car.  Did I mention that parking was $7?!  Yikes.

Our meals. They were so totally delicious! Seriously, go eat there if you're in Asheville.

I didn't take any pictures of downtown Asheville. It was rainy, it was dusk, and nothing would have turned out. Plus, it wasn't all that picturesque.  Asheville is mostly known for the Biltmore Estate, which is amazing, but we'd already visited it on past trips to Asheville so we skipped it this time.

Back at the hotel, I called Greg and Youngest Son and exchanged the low-down on our days.  I miss my guys and my kitties!

Youngest Son texted me this picture of Explorer and his brother Tabby Kitten, taking a nap
together on an armchair.  We missed them!
Tomorrow we'll be driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway again.  We'll first visit the Folk Art Center just outside of Asheville (we don't want to go to Biltmore since we've been there before) and then head to Mount Mitchell State Park, where we plan on having lunch at the restaurant located there, and do some hiking. After that we'll head to Linville Falls and hike to see the Falls, before heading to our hotel in Blowing Rock, NC.  The weather is supposed to be cloudy but not rainy.  I just hope that the clouds will be higher than us so we can see some views :)


  1. I think Asheville is beautiful, Cherokee I can take or leave, though it is magnificent in the fall.

    1. We must have visited different parts of Asheville :) Cherokee itself was meh although I kept on thinking that we didn't see all of it? But I agree that it must really be gorgeous in the Fall. My BFF suggested that we should drive the BRP parkway together in the Fall but I think the road must be pretty congested then. I enjoyed that traffic was so light during this trip!

  2. It was great to "see" you! It's the first time I've seen you, I think. Your hair looks very pretty. The countryside looks lush and green and very pretty (when you can see it through the fog!) You deserve a star for climbing all those stairs! I would have given up and told my daughter to go down on her own, I'll sit and wait at the top of the stairs! LOL. Thank you for all the pictures and the lovely narrative. Through them, I was able to go on your hike with you, while sitting in my armchair! My preferred way to hike, if you ask me! :D

    1. Alright, quite honestly I would have liked it better if you had said my tush didn't look too bad :) Thanks for the compliment, though! I used to be very blonde but now it's just light brown. I still think of myself as a thin blonde though, ha!

      Weren't those stairs something?! Ugh. We had a great time, though. It was nice that it was so cool. It really makes a difference in my enjoyment of the hike.

  3. After that day's hike, y'all earned that YUMMY-looking grub!! Way to go....I would have crawled behind ya!

    1. And we walked around downtown Asheville for quite a while before finding a restaurant that appealed to the both of us, so I was really relieved that the food was really excellent. And yes, I argued in favor of the creme brulee with my daughter by pointing out how much we had earned it, damn it. Usually I don't have to convince her but she was trying to be good for both of our sakes!

  4. Nathalie, so nice to see you and BTW, your tush looked good. I, too, am enjoying your vacation. It has me thinking maybe we need to take a trip to the Blue Ridge. We haven't been there in a long time and we love the mountains.

    1. LOL, thanks Live and Learn!

      I hope you make it to the Blue Ridge Parkway. I'll definitely go back and explore more of the small towns along the way, I think.

  5. Beautiful photos as usual. Like Bless, I feel as though I was there. It is like no words needed to be said. (although the narration is much appreciated.) I am glad that your daughter really enjoyed the hike and the vistas. I know they would have been magnificent without the fog, but she still seemed to enjoy the day. Glad the temperatures were perfect for hiking. I look at your bare arms and hope the mosquitoes aren't out. Ha. Glad the hotel rooms have improved. The restaurant meals look so yummy. Did you ever have a bad experience?

    Your ability to climb all those stairs is absolutely ah-maze-ing! You are truly fit and it shows in those pictures of you with your tight little tush.

    1. I think it was probably too high for mosquitos? There were no bugs. I was worried about ticks but we didn't run into any either, good thing because I kept on forgetting to have us drench ourselves in DDT!

      My daughter looooooooved the fog during the hike but she was really happy it dissipated later on so she would see the mountains.

      I'm trying to remember the restaurants. I think the most disappointing was Red Lobster when I had the steamed fish and broccoli, because it just didn't even look appealing! I was trying to be good but after that I resolved to treat myself once a day while still trying to be healthier than usual, since I was able to be so good at breakfast and we found Subways everywhere for that Veggie Delight. So that worked out well.

      "My tight little tush", hahahahaha. Thank you for this, my dear :)

  6. Enjoying all the posts about your travels with your daughter. Come up to Connecticut if you want chipmunks I have at least 20 on my property

    1. LOL, yes, I'm sure your chipmunks are like my squirrels :) I should be happy that at least squirrels don't dig tunnels. They are so adorable, though!

  7. Your comment about all the Florida tourists reminded me of the same comment made by a friend of mine who lives near Asheville. She loves Asheville and likes living there, but has made comments that it has become overrun with tourists and is losing its small-town charm.

    And all those stairs? Dear, your glutes got a wonderful workout and you DESERVED the yummy food from that Italian restaurant. I'm making note of the restaurant's name, since my son lives about a 90-minute drive from there, and I want to go visit the next time I visit my son.

    And I agree with the others - your tush looks great!

    1. You and I should go on a roadtrip, do all those hikes in the mountains and then go eat at all those yummy restaurants. The hubbies? They need to stay home and take care of the papaya trees and cats!

      And thank you for my tush compliment, hahaha!


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