Friday, May 23, 2014

Exploring Western North Carolina

Twice in the past few months, we've gone out to western North Carolina, or "WNC" as it is described on bumper stickers and travel pamphlets. The west of the state has beautiful mountains, and includes the Pisgah National Forest, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
I think those are the Smokies behind me.
Over spring break back in early March, we had grand plans for a backpacking trip around Linville Gorge. After perusing some backpacking websites, we were scared off by reports of impassible rivers, and weather predictions of freezing temperatures and snow (we just don't have the gear for that). We picked a shorter backpacking loop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and a few longer hikes in Pisgah National Forest.
Pretty, steep trail.  
Well, what we didn't realize is that the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed for much of the winter. Buh-bye Great Smoky Mountains, due to lack of access. After a long detour, we ended up spending a lovely few days camping and hiking in the Pisgah Ranger District section of the Pisgah National Forest.

Looking Glass Falls
After school got out, Neil's dad and brother visited for a week, and we headed out to WNC once again. We made it to the Linville Gorge area, spending a day and night on Table Rock, part of the Grandfather Ranger District in Pisgah. This part of the park is much higher in elevation than the Pisgah Ranger District, and had breathtaking views that seemed to go on forever. We had a chance to visit Mount Pisgah in the Pisgah Ranger District during that visit as well.
From the top of Table Rock. 

After a downpour on Mount Pisgah. I forgot a raincoat!
Now, you didn't think we made it all the way to the west of the state without visiting Asheville, did you? For those of you who don't know, we love craft beer. Asheville apparently has the most craft breweries per capita in the country (though Portland still wins for most craft breweries, period). Over our two trips, we sampled brews from Lexington Avenue Brewery, Asheville Brewing Company, Wicked Weed, and Wedge Brewing. That leaves ten more craft breweries in Asheville to try!
The eclectic building that houses Wedge Brewery. 

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