Recently, I and my husband had a small mountain trip to Asheville and the surrounding areas. It was a great mini-gateway and I wanted to share my memories and favorite places and stops with you.
Why we went
Last year, in September, we had planned a wedding photo shoot in Asheville. Unfortunately, there was a hurricane and we had to cancel our mountain trip and reschedule the photo shoot for this year. But lucky us, on the day of the photoshoot this year, it was also pouring like crazy! We decided not to reschedule and just went anyways.
It is a weird feeling to have your wedding photo shoot 9 months after your actual wedding but what a fun story to tell!
What we packed
Honestly, this time we were not really planning to go out and wanted to stay outside in the mountains driving and exploring as much as possible. So we packed our own food such as sandwiches, cookies, fruits, etc. We simply didn’t want to waste our time in restaurants for breakfasts and dinners every day.
We went to the restaurant only twice and stopped a few times for some quick snacks at the gas station or fast food (I know, I know). But regardless, I think we did just fine. This was the best decision!
Going to a restaurant always requires you to dress up nicely or have makeup on. And when we are in the mountains or in nature, I don’t care about being fancy. I just want to be wild and free, and stay outside as long as possible. I think this is something that we will be doing more frequently when traveling.
If you want to save time, and money, definitely pack your own stuff. Stopping at different overviews and eating a delicious sandwich was really cool and reminded me of my childhood.
Our mountain trip to Asheville
We left on Tuesday around 12 PM and it was a good decision. Initially, we planned to leave on Wednesday but changed our mind. We got to the area relatively fast and it was not packed on the roads. Raleigh in the afternoon can get extremely busy and I am definitely happy we left earlier in the day too.
First day at Cherokee and Road to Nowhere
I was extremely excited about this mountain trip and especially the trip to Cherokee. I am interested in Native and Indigenous tribes and their history, and visiting that place was special. After driving to the reservation, dropping our things at the hotel, and taking a little break, we headed to the Road to Nowhere.
Road to Nowhere is a tunnel that was abandoned and never finished due to lack of money. And let me tell you, it’s indeed creepy. We decided to go through the tunnel, it was dark and a bit scary. At times, I had a feeling that the tunnel was stretching and the end of it kept getting far away from us. But we made it to the other side. We even walked a bit further to where the trail begins and stayed there for a few minutes in silence. It was a great feeling – calm atmosphere, birds chirping, we were the one with nature.
You can climb on top of the tunnel or go hiking. Despite this place having chilling vibes, it is actually very nice out there.
Afterward, we drove around and stopped at various locations. Driving on the mountain roads is a very freeing feeling and I always find creatine inspiration there. Later in the day, we decided to go for a drink at Nantahala Brewing’s Taproom & Burger + Bar in Bryson city. I got their hard kombucha and it was SO delicious. Definitely recommend it. The downtown is very sweet and small full of cute bars and shops. There is also an old train that you can take (book in advance) around the mountains to the various locations. We did not have a chance to do it this time but now it is on my bucket list.
As I mentioned, we stayed in the hotel at the reservation. It was fine except for the fact that someone, probably our neighbor, knocked two times on our door. It was really creepy. But we had a fine room and some company – ducks and geese who roamed behind the hotel. The hotel is facing the Oconaluftee River that you can see from your room and the birds love to stay there. They are very social and we even gave them strawberries and lettuce. Not strangely but they preferred berries. By the way, did you know that ducks and geese can’t eat bread? It’s dangerous for them, so please don’t feed them bread, crackers, chips, or cookies.
While it was extremely interesting staying on the reservation, it was also very bittersweet. I would love to go back, visit the museum and learn more about the area and its people. The contrasts of the local life were quite eye-opening and sad.
Wednesday. Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and Asheville
On Wednesday, we had an early start and first went to the Oconaluftee River and the local park surrounding it. My husband went fishing and I sat there on the rocks journaling, reading, and doing some Oracle cards spread. The park has a few sitting and picnic areas as well as some information about the area. Then we went to get coffee at Qualla Java Cafe. I got a hazelnut latte with oat milk and it was the best hazelnut latte in my life.
Finally, we headed to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. We had a quick mini picnic there and then started hiking. It was quite busy, and we couldn’t hike all the way around because the tree fell down further on the trail and we had to go back. I’d say we spent around 2h there. We had a great time, and have seen huge trees.
Later we kept driving around and stopping whenever we saw something interesting including the Fontana dam or the small picnic areas. My favorite stop was 801 Joyce Kilmer Rd. It is such a beautiful and romantic-looking place. On top of that, you can swim in there!
Dustin also showed me where his grandpa used to live in the mountains. It was so nice to see this part of his life and to finally see the place that he told me about.
Later we drove to Asheville where we were staying for two nights at the Cambria hotel. After showering and making ourselves look like normal people, we decided to go to Nine Mile – one of our favorite Asheville vegan restaurants. But both restaurants were packed. If you are ever in Asheville, I definitely recommend visiting Nine Mile but book in advance because both locations are extremely popular.
Since we didn’t really plan to go out and it was all spontaneous, we had to look for another option which happened to be Itto Ramen Bar & Tapas. They have multiple vegan options, the people are nice and in general, it’s not a bad location. I’d say 4 stars out of 5.
Thursday. Photo shoot day
The Thursday morning was gloomy and rainy. Honestly, I was about to get upset but I couldn’t allow myself. “We will take great pictures regardless!”, I told myself.
In the morning we went to this cute coffee shop Summit Coffee Co. right in front of our hotel and headed to Grove Arcade. We walked around looking at furniture, yarn, and decorations, and then we’ve stumbled upon a crystal shop Enter the Earth. Of course, I had to go. I got around 7 crystals and a few smudge sticks.
The rest of the day we decided to spend at the hotel. We watched some movies and started getting ready. By the time we left, it started raining very hard. Our photographers were kind enough to let us into their home to dry a bit, and then we started shooting.
I was very nervous because I and wet hair just don’t go together. But regardless we made it fun and I enjoyed it. Of course, it would’ve been way better with sunset in the background, but it is what it is. I love that we created a fun memory for ourselves and will have photos capturing that time.
Friday. Going back home
So Friday we got up relatively early and left our hotel. First stop – coffee! We got coffee from Penny Cup Coffe Co. I loved that coffee shop, they had vegan bagels, good service, and the general vibe was great. It reminded me of Lucky Tree in Raleigh.
Then we headed home but before we decided to drive around a bit longer. Again, we did not have a plan and I feel like no plan can bring nice surprises, like…
Seeing a bear
We were talking a lot about seeing an elk or a bear. We were driving and Dustin said, “I think it’s a bear. Oh, probably not!”. For a second, we both thought it was a trash bag but then we passed it and saw her face – a mother bear with two tiny babies. We stopped and backed up (I know dangerous, but no one was behind us). I was not able to take a picture, just a video of her. We couldn’t believe that we actually saw a bear, and at that moment I also couldn’t get my phone.
It was definitely the highlight of the day, it was amazing to see this wild animal with her babies. I even joked that now my whole personality is going to be seeing a bear.
I also like that we were not able to take a picture of her. We take pictures for social media so much that we are not really in the present moment. This memory though is ours, we don’t have to prove to anyone on social media that it happened (although, I did post a video). This event – a mother with her babies – will leave in our memories forever.
Anyway, after seeing the bear, we kept driving around and stopping at different locations and overviews. We didn’t plan any stops and it made everything way more fun. We saw some signs for Mount Mitchell and just decided to drive there Mount. It was such an interesting stop, the highest point of the Appalachian Mountains is definitely a must.
There are multiple trails, a little cute shop that I recommend visiting, and a few learning centers. One learning center is next to the shop where you can find more information about the area and its history. And the next center is further on the road when you go to the top. There you can find skins of different animals and the ranger will explain to you about different types of the animals, their habitat and you can even touch the furs.
The place was incredible and breathtaking. Driving up there was extremely interesting because you can see how the scenery changes. I felt so happy and free there, far away from world problems and obstacles.
I think this small mountain trip to Asheville was a success. I definitely want to have another trip to Cherokee and 801 Joyce Kilmer road in the future. Mountains have something magnificent about them, maybe it is the fact that you can feel reunited with your truer senses and witness the beauty of our world.
Have you traveled this year or plan to? I’d like to know where, leave the comment below about your favorite or upcoming trips.
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