Jen and I and the dog took a week off to head down south. There wasn’t much of a plan beyond finding a cabin in the woods for a few days and then poking around the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail for a bit. We didn’t do much serious hiking; just the few-miles-out-and-back walks in the woods to see some waterfalls and overlooks.
We managed to find a great cabin south of Asheville that was nice and cozy, and could actually have fit another half dozen people. It was part of a little private drive that was filled with empty lots, so we had the area all to ourselves. It had a wrap-around porch circling the entire cabin, with the most scenic section being screened in so you could sit outside but avoid the rain and bugs. We weren’t quite roughing it, but it was nice and relaxing.
We got a little freaked out when we read the lone one-star review that said all seven vacationers got full-body staff infections from the hot tub. Yikes. We played it safe and steered clear of that cauldron of disease, just in case. The managers assured us everything was ok, but something about rotting flesh simmering in a fetid bubble bath didn't appeal to me. Besides, just sitting on the porch overlooking the mountains and thunderstorms was plenty to keep us occupied.
We, of course, went up to the Biltmore Estate because we're both big Hannibal Lecter fans. We did the tour and went to the wine tasting room. Most of the wines were, how do you say, rather shitty, but I purchased a bottle for the in-laws, then promptly dropped it after the cashier completed the sale. I tried to catch it on the way down in a flail of arms and it bounced once unscathed, but shattered on the second impact. They gave me another bottle out of pity, so I commend them for that, but my original point still stands. Their wine tastes like fermented Welches; like Jesus. You know, vile communion wine, this is my blood and all that rubbish. It's that bad. My only regret is that I broke just one bottle.
That was by far our cleanest day. The remaining days were spent walking miles and miles on mountain trails, applying layers of bug spray and suntan lotion on top of sweat, dirt, and deodorant. We dragged Piper with us everywhere, and she was quite a trooper. She never complained, but I found out that she does have this bad habit of trying to kill you if you happen to trip or stumble while having her on a leash: She bolts, so as soon as you commend yourself on the fine job you've done of staying upright, the frantic dog has just reached the end of her thirty foot leash and jerks you forward with the clear intention of avenging gravity's recent loss. Other than that, she handled the mountain trails like a champ.
We hiked up several thousand stairs to Chimney Rock (near Bat Cave, NC. AWESOME), saw plenty of waterfalls and back-country along the Blue Ridge Parkway, and hiked up to McAffee's Knob near Roanoke. We camped for a few nights at random rustic campsites along the Blue Ridge Parkway and I was glad my wife didn't wake up to the sound of coyotes howling, because they sounded too close for comfort.
All in all it was a pretty relaxing time. A friend asked me, a bit confused, “So, what is it you plan on doing? Just walk around in the woods?” Yes. Absolutely. I would love to someday do the entire Appalachian Trail; to get away from it all for a few months of mind-numbing serenity. If that ever happens, I’ll be sure to write about it here.