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Thursday, October 18, 2012

Asheville & Mt. Mitchell

Asheville NC,

We decided at the last minute to take an all day drive from home to Asheville, NC and Mt. Mitchell.  What a gorgeous day it turned out to be for the trip.  Beautiful blue sky and great temperatures in the mid 60s to 70s in the lower elevations and much cooler on top of Mt. Mitchell.

The toughest part of getting to the mountains from Monroe NC is getting through Charlotte.  Once we get to Kings Mountain and off of I-85, it is pretty much smooth sailing.  We decided to go the old route; westbound on US-74 and Alt 74.  This route takes you through the beautiful town of Lake Lure, past Chimney Rock, Bat Cave and finally into Asheville.  This is the route we used to take as a child with my father driving the Dodge.

Lunch time rolled around and found us in downtown Asheville on Wall Street near Pack Square and the Grove Arcade.  Many of the trees were beginning to show their fall colors, depending on the elevation.

Wall Street is home to our favorite vegetarian restaurant, The Laughing Seed Cafe.    They specialize in vegetarian and pure vegan dishes.  Much better than anything in Charlotte, and you NEVER have to ask if your choice includes any meat products. 

I had a delicious Ruben made with tempeh instead of meat, and their soup of the day special.  Pam had their special lentil soup and a vegan Sloppy Joe made with barbequed tofu instead of meat.  Both were very tasty and filling.  (Sorry, I left the camera in the car so no pictures of the food.)

The Laughing Seed main entry faces the Wall Street side, but for those carnivores, it is actually upstairs from the Jack-O-The-Woods pub that serves great burgers and other good dishes.  It is entered from the Patton Ave, or simply go down the stairs inside The Laughing Seed.

By the way, there is a public parking garage on Wall Street that can be entered off of Otis Street around the corner from Wall Street.  It is very convenient to all of the Grove Arcade, Wall Street, Patton Avenue including Early Girl Eatery, Tupelo Honey, and many many more.  This has to be one of the more scenic views from any parking garage I have ever visited.

After a short walk around the area we were back in the car and headed toward the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP.)  We soon found ourselves at the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center. 

It was noticeably cooler at this elevation, and only a few miles from Mt. Mitchell.  The visitor center is very nice with a scenic overlook, gift shop, and restrooms. 

The view in the picture above is toward the east.  I think that is Burnett Reservoir in the distance.

Below is a a northward view of the BRP and one of it's tunnels.  We did see a couple of RV's on the parkway, and it is certainly not all that intimidating with the easy sweeping curves and the wide shoulders.  Speeds are limited to 45 in most areas (35 in some areas) and no commercial traffic is allowed.  However, if driving a big rig, you would need to be cautious with the tunnels that are arched.  And if driving an RV, one must be very selective about which road is used to access the parkway as some of the roads are very steep and curvy

It was getting a little late in the day and our drive home from here was about  2 or 3 hours.  But what a beautiful day!  And how many times have we been to Mt. Mitchell only to be disappointed by the fog, clouds or even sleet at the peak?  So we decided to try it again.  What an awesome surprise.

Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in Eastern North America  at 6,684 feet above sea level.  It seems to have it's own weather system.  So what a nice surprise when we arrived at the peak and found a beautiful view and bright sunshine.

Here is Pam in the obligatory "standing behind the sign" pose.

Since the last time we were here, they completed a brand new observation deck on the peak.  It provides a great view of the entire area and more.  It is only a short 200 yard walk up from the visitor center.

After the balmy 70 degree temperature in downtown Asheville,  48 degrees felt a bit cold. But what a view. 

Chuck on the Mt. Mitchell Observation Platform.

View from Mt. Mitchell toward the Southwest -  BRP is seen across the peaks toward Craggy Gardens.
Soon we were finally ready to head home.  We went north on the BRP and then on  Hwy 80, a very tight, steep, curvy road (not to be attempted in a large RV!)  Soon we were past Buck Creek Campground and in Marion NC, back on the concrete ribbon (I-40) eastbound and finally back home.

What a pleasant day trip.

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