When I first talked to my mom about exploring new places to put down roots, she suggested we would like Asheville, NC and was she right. We fell in love with this small city pretty quickly after arriving and ended up staying a week. It isn’t hard to figure out what made this city click for us. Asheville has a lot going for it. Tucked into the Blue Ridge mountains, the city offers fantastic views all year long. Growing up near DC and NYC, and then spending five years in Philly had led me to the inaccurate assumption that major cities have 1 million + residents. Heading down the East Coast has opened my eyes to the idea of living in a city without being packed in with 11,000 people per square mile.
Once we arrived we set up shop at Izzie’s, a coffee shop we frequented each day so Henry could get some work done. The Parking Authority showed us the way to some free parking (NOTE: After this we started asking people in charge of parking if they know of any free parking and they have helped us every time!) and we found ourselves directly across from the Moog Factory, where Moog synthesizers are made. Their showroom features lots of toys for the musically inclined and daily free tours. Moog is responsible for the modern synthesizer and has a long list of artists and songs that owe their signature sounds to his synth like She’s so Heavy by The Beatles and Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd.
The company is employee owned and sources a great deal of its supplies from local businesses in the Asheville Area. While the tour was full of interesting tidbits, my favorite anecdote was people hated the theremin when it was first invented, and not just because it was hard to play. People thought it was magical and or haunted. Also the creator was imprisioned in a soviet camp for many years, and once free, returned to work at the camp voluntarily.
Asheville’s main drag was full of local shops and boutiques, a few breweries, and great restaurants. Strangely, it also had three stores offering 3-D tapestries. I think we enjoyed this small city so much because it had streets full of small local businesses, including a few outdoor gear stores which is always a plus. Walking down the street in the evenings there was live music pouring out of each restaurant, even on a Monday. There was a cafe that was built out of double decker bus, and a glass blowing studio (unrelated but also cool). We only saw two homeless men, one of whom was wearing a suit, and only head a women catcalled once and it went something like this “Hey, your dress is pretty!” Asheville showed us some good ol’ southern hospitality, without the southern accent. Asheville also introduced us to our first Kava cafe, which we did not visit, but more on that in the future.
One of the first things I do when we pull into a new city is check out the yoga studios in the area (I have a handy app for that) and Asheville surprised me with a donation based studio at the top of the list. I love when studios are able to create a space that makes yoga a lot more accessible to a lot of people that could benefit. To top it off, the studio was awesome and right next to a Trader Joe’s. Just in case I wasn’t already sold on the city, the Trader Joe’s never has a line… what? Is that possible?
While in Asheville we happened upon an REI Garage sale, which is kinda like the new iphone coming out for wealthy outdoorsy people. Returned gear gets super discounted and people willing to wait in line benefit! Henry and I got our hands on some wool long johns that had been returned because they kept their former owner too warm, and a skybox- an addition to our home that now stores our camping gear and anything else we don’t need while we are in our van.
But the best part- the Blue Ridge Mountains. We arrived during “peak foliage time” and the mountains were one fire with red, orange,and yellow leaves. We drove through on the Blue Ridge Parkway and climbed to the top of Craggy Gardens.
A short climb to this peak, which smelled slightly like dog poop the whole way, probably due to the many dogs making the climb. The view at the top was awe inspiring. As we sat a man took out a flute and played his mountain songs (I guess) and a drone flew overhead to catch an aerial view for a nearby tourist. Wiry trees canopied the walk way and slowly faded away as the elevation rose. Once on top, we realized that this had not been the short hike we intended to take. We headed back down to find Mount Mitchell, the highest peak.
Mount Mitchell was a crowded hike, shorter and steeper than Craggy Gardens. The view from the top was worth it. Maps showed all the mountains in a clear view and their names, I could not tell one lovely hump of a mountain from the other so I will take the experts word for it. Country music poured out of one hiker’s backpack as they photographed the scenery and selfie sticks threatened to poke us at every turn. We stopped to eat the mountain top restaurant, which was cheap and wholesome, and featured the amazing porch above.