Epic Best of Appalachia Tour

I recently returned from an over the top Best of Appalachia Tour with Wildland Trekking, my sister in law, and eight new friends in the mountains between Tennessee and North Carolina.  I’ve struggled with writing this blog post because I’m not quite sure how to adequately capture how amazing it was with words.  Perhaps one way to summarize is to say our last day of hiking was canceled due to severe weather, but the other four days were so satisfying, I didn’t even mind.

Look at the water!

Travel and Tourists

We drove to Asheville on the Saturday before the hike.  The drive was long and boring, but boring is probably the best thing possible for a twelve-hour drive.  Sunday was Palm Sunday, and I attended Mass at the Basilica of Saint Lawrence.  Built in 1905, it is the largest, freestanding, elliptical dome in North America.  Everyone was friendly, and the building was beautiful.  My only “complaint” was there was only one bathroom, outside and down the stairs in an alley.  I suppose that’s what happens when your church is that old!

The plan was to shop on Sunday after church, but rain shortened our plans.  We still hit the mall and outlet mall and ate too much food, as one would expect.  That evening, we met up with our group to discuss the hike.

Hike!

On Monday, we were supposed to do a hike at a higher elevation.  Due to ice and downed trees, the road there was closed.  I didn’t know that was even a thing that far south in April.  Thankfully, our super-guide, Nicole, was on top of it and we switched plans and did Wednesday’s hike instead.  We stopped about halfway up a trail to rest in front of one of the many waterfalls.  It was so beautiful, perfect, and picturesque that I had that feeling one gets when confronted with something much larger than oneself.  It was humbling and perspective-changing.  We discussed how the same thing could happen with tragedy, but we’d rather have the waterfall.

We stayed at Dancing Bear Lodge Monday and Tuesday nights, and I was unprepared for that amazing experience.  We had the restaurant (and amazing chef) to ourselves.  I don’t think I’ve ever eaten as much as I did on Tuesday night.  Our lodges all also had private hot tubs on the back deck.  It was the perfect end to both days.

Tuesday included a bear sighting!  We were far enough away to be safe, but I saw a momma bear and at least two cubs through the binoculars.  We explored some local human history before heading out on another eight-mile hike up to a waterfall.  This waterfall wasn’t quite as big as the one on the first day, but we were right next to it.  We were the only group there at that time, so we enjoyed lunch mere feet away from the amazing sight.

On Wednesday, we completed Monday’s eight-mile hike, which was part of the Appalachian Trail.  It was the hardest hike by far, and my Fitbit said I went up 200 flights of stairs.  We ran into several through-hikers or people who backpack from Georgia to Maine non-stop.  They were thrilled when our guide offered them our leftovers from lunch, and I’ve never seen anyone so happy about vegetables.  Our destination was Charlie’s Bunion, which was fantastic and high and also terrifying.  I was starving by the time we returned to Asheville, but the restaurant Wildland had picked out for us did not disappoint.

I was very sore starting on Thursday! Our hike was hilly and windy, but we had 360-degree views all around at the top of each of the hills visited.  We finished a little earlier and enjoyed walking around downtown Asheville before another perfect dinner.

As I said, Friday’s hike was canceled due to severe weather.  There was wind, flash flooding, and lightning just for fun.  We headed home early, and thanks to the weather, our twelve-hour drive turned into fourteen boring hours.  But again, better a boring fourteen-hour drive than a scary one.

Recommendation

This is the second Wildland Trekking trip I’ve been on, and I’d recommend the company to anyone looking for an excellent trip with good food, a good guide, and wonderful views. The Best of Appalachia Tour was rated an activity level 2.  I’m in reasonable shape but did find each day somewhat challenging.  Keep that in mind when planning, and make sure you’re prepared.  It’ll make the trip so much better.  Otherwise, they take care of everything!

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