“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose”. — Dr Seuss
A compass tells you where true north is largely due to magnetism: that gravitational pull that tells you not just where TO go but where NOT to go. There’s normally over three hundred ways to get your bearing wrong and head off course. But sometimes … no matter how hard you try… it’s impossible to get lost…. it’s impossible to make a bad choice….. Food. Wine. Beer. Mountains. Coffee. Trails. Asheville, North Carolina, I get it: YOU WIN!
Normally, I like to do minimal research before exploring a new area. It’s not that I don’t want to be prepared for the adventure but rather I want to leave some stones left unturned. For this trip, I decided to be a bit more aggressive in my preparation. Even the most detailed plan still leaves plenty of room for exploration. IRUNFAR put out an excellent trail running guide for the Asheville – it did not disappoint. One thing was very clear: we would drink, we would hike and we would run. And we would still have miles, mile and miles left to explore at another day in the future.
The Great Smokey Mountains live in the north as well as the Appalachian Trail. While the AT in the northeastern United States is relatively rocky and rolls, the AT down here is very different – it’s very runnable, rolling hills with plenty of wonderful fast moving sections and plenty of peaks with view of the distant smokeys in any direction. You don’t think of North Carolina as having mountains but man, they sure do. It’s gorgeous.
The east we left unexplored for next time. Pretty much every range is a 45 minute drive except for the parkway (more on that later). A great resource is Romantic Asheville – even if romance isn’t your thing, they’re not talking about human romance – they’re talking about mother nature, baby. She boo-tea-fool. The east also has the tallest mountain on the east coast! It’s a shame you can drive up to the cement top – sort of the reason we didn’t check it out. Jurek and Speedgoat both dinged the bell on top of this puppy in the last year during their AT attempts.
To the west, there are TONS of waterfalls and hiking in the deep, plush forest. There’s Sliding Rock which is cool – Looking Glass – we took a long hike up to the top of some rock. This part reminded me more of the Catskills – both in terms of terrain and lack of visibility.
The parkway. This is a ten minute drive from downtown Asheville. This is really a cool way to checkout some of the local hiking – this highway is scenic enough but if you park at some of the sites along the route, you can basically hike/trail run alongside the entire thing. It’s basically 200 miles and then some. It makes me wonder if someone has done an FKT of the whole damn thing. The best part was that you can definitely UBER to the start and finish if you want to do a point to point. We ran an out and back from one parking spot but you can totally do this if you have not rented a car for the weekend.
This was the first trip using the new Fenix 3 HR. While you can read plenty of details on the DCRAINMAKER site about the tradeoffs, the main reason I got this watch was to be able to tackle serious distance and leverage the navigation capabilities. One cool feature is the “return to start” navigation. This ensures that no matter how deep in the forest you get, you can always find your way back to your car – I’m amazed it works but it really does work. What did we do before the Space Race launched geosynchronous satellites into orbit. Please don’t fall out of the sky any time soon – we NEED YOU!
You Are Here
Once back from the mountains, the food & drinks are next. There’s really too many amazing places to count. But a few of our favorites, in no particular order: