50 Hikes 50 States–North Carolina

view of smoky mountains with dead tree snag

On this segment of our 50 Hikes 50 States Project, we had landed in Spartanburg, SC, had hiked South Carolina and Tennessee, and really looked forward to getting to North Carolina. Not only did Asheville await us, but we also couldn’t wait to see friends. In addition, one of these friends would join us to hike to some waterfalls, and I was thrilled to finally have some local knowledge on a hike.

We left Townsend early in order to get across the Smokies, enjoy the Blue Ridge Parkway, and hike in North Carolina before the afternoon storms hit. The Blue Ridge Parkway delighted us with giant views of well, smokey, mountains. Not as high or as pointy as the Rockies, they undulated for hundreds of miles. With the smog down from the TVA, I had the prettiest views of the Smokies I’ve ever enjoyed.

Waterfall, Waterfall, Waterfall!

Our local hero, trail guide, and good friend met us at the trailhead at 11. He asked if we wanted good views or great waterfalls. Having just come from the Queen of Good Views long the Blue Ridge Parkway, we picked the waterfall route. And rather than follow the trail that everyone else was hiking, local Joe took us on his secret approach to Cove Creek.

Thunder, Thunder, Thunder, Poison Ivy!

poison ivy image

Leaves of three, leave it be. Poison Ivy.

Thunder banged.

Up the side of the mountain through pink azaleas and white rhododendron, we scrambled to the thunder of the falls, dodging leaves of three. Poison ivy popped up around every bend. But the sound of the waterfall kept us moving, and suddenly, we were there!

wild mushrooms and oak leaves

Leaves of three–but this is baby oak with mushrooms.

In Colorado, hiking to waterfalls takes much effort. Giant elevation combined with big elevation changes make hunting for waterfalls a lot of work. So we were pleasantly surprised to already be there when we got there. Gushing from spring rains, Cove Creek burst down boulders, chilling the air a good ten degrees.

And when humidity is touching 95%, a cool-down is nicely received.

And More Waterfalls!

waterfall with rhododendro

We took our obligatory pictures, crossed the creek (thank heavens for Salomon waterproof boots I get from REI!), and then climbed up to the top of the waterfall and viewed some more.

Thunder clapped again.

three handsome hikers at waterfall

At this point, we hadn’t hiked more than two miles. Our local friend wanted to take us further up the mountain, so off we went.

And the first drops started to fall. Thunder said hello once more.

Scurry Scurry Scurry

 

clear glass waterfall

I called truce. Although I had my rain slicker with me, and I love to hike in the rain, as you saw on our Tennessee hike, I’m not a fan of thunder and lightning. So we headed to lower elevations and hiked for a short while along the lower creek before the sky opened up.

Lunch in Asheville in the Time of COVID

grit stack with veggies

We said good-bye to Joe and headed to Asheville. Tummies grumbled for lunch, which we found at Early Girl Eatery. A grit stack topped with fresh veggies tasted amazing, which I chased with a local beer. Asheville had just reopened that weekend after being closed due to COVID-19. The restaurant did a beautiful job not only serving us delicious food, but also maintaining six-foot separations with the tables. We felt safe to be served by masked waitstaff.

Followed by Dinner in the Time of COVID

falafel taco

That evening, we stayed in a darling Airbnb in the Montford Historic District. Itching to stretch our legs again, we walked about a mile down to the riverfront where Asheville is renovating an industrial area to be a bit more artsy.

We found an old Quonset hut filled with the mouthwatering White Duck Taco. I grabbed a falafel taco, while The Hubs chowed down on a vegan jackfruit invention. Sitting along the French Broad River, outside at picnic tables, was the perfect way to enjoy funky Asheville.

An Urban Art Walk in Asheville

art murals

The next morning, we had a few hours to kill before meeting Joe and his wife at their home in Hendersonville for some homemade pizza. Our Airbnb host turned us onto the self-guided Urban Art Walk in downtown Asheville. A perfect way to enjoy Memorial Day, we started the walk at the Veterans Memorial and meandered our way through town.

Asheville is cute. Filled with funky ways to display its history through artwork, we ambled through its historic district, its connections with Tom Wolfe, and its recognition of transit through time. We loved this interactive art-deco piece called On the Move that makes transportation sounds like horses and trains when spinning its wheel.

Good-Bye to Friends, Hello Atlanta

We enjoyed some homemade pizza with friends who have traveled the world. Our conversations naturally went to the world of travel and how to travel in this day and age. Unlike us, our friends weren’t ready to travel yet. Making the decision to travel right now is very personal.

Fortunately, we are healthy and haven’t been sick. Although we take all the precautions, we know that we are taking risks that no one is quite ready to define nor understand. Our flights on Southwest were partially full. The Atlanta International Terminal at Hartsfield was dead empty, and another terminal in Atlanta was completely closed, storing planes in its gates.

empty in the international terminal

Not a soul in the Atlanta International Terminal

TSA and the airlines seem to be doing a good job at sanitation, mask-wearing, and social distancing. But outside of the airports and planes, people’s willingness and/or the local government’s orders are willy-nilly and haphazard. It’s certainly a protect-your-own, wild west adventure traveling from state to state.

handsome couple hiking

When we got home we pseudo-self quarantined, not spending time with any friends or family for a week. We will continue to travel; our next stop is Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin. But at any moment, we might not go, too. We watch the COVID counts and we’ve agreed between us that either one of us can make a game-day decision to not go on a trip. Travel may have to wait. At least for now, it’s drastically different and risky.

What You Need to Know about This Hike (Click for interactive map)

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WELCOME

Chris Englert, the Walking Traveler, has visited over 60 countries and all 50 states. Usually traveling with her husband, yet sometimes by herself as a solo traveler, she uncovers neighborhood walks, urban hikes, and vegan/vegetarian eats that other guide books miss.

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