Though my family lives up in Boston, and my husband’s is in PA, we decided that for the first time in 13 years we were not going to travel out of the state for Christmas. Wanting, snow, fun, and mountains we opted to travel to Asheville for Christmas week.
It was my first trip back in years, and it was all I remembered and more! With a wide network of several different trails all with in an hour or less from the downtown we had plenty of mountain running entertainment.
The first day I decided I wanted to run the Shut In trail. In the past I had signed up for this race, but due to illness I had to drop out the week before. This would be my redemption, sort of anyway. Emmitt, my four-legged-furry training partner and I started from the Arboretum, and ran up to Mount Pisgah, following the same route as the race. The trail is also part of the mountains to sea trail, and it crosses the Blue Ridge parkway many times on it way up, and you are never more than 1/2 mile from the road in case of emergency. Because of this, we were able to meet my husband at about mile 13 and continue the last part with him. This hike/run is well wort the trip. There are lots of great climbs, waterfalls, and tunnels created by the thick rhododendrons.
Here are a few pics of the run;
The next day we decided to hike rather than run and headed out to the Art Loeb trail in hopes of hiking up to Cold Mountain. Unfortuntately the weather had other ideas. The temps dropped almost 30 degrees in the higher elevations, and part of the way up to meet the trailhead the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed. Not to let a little snow and ice deter us, I checked the map and found a way around off of the parkway. Rte 276 north connects onto the parkway, so we drove back down to Shining Rock trailhead, and hiked up into the wilderness. The trails in the wilderness are not marked by blazes, but rather they are worn trails easy to follow through the dense forest. We hiked a very very steep incline for a few hours. There was a lot of bear scat along the trail, and a sign at the trailhead warned of recent bear sightings. The views were pretty amazing, but because of the slow icy mountain roads, and the detour we started too late to reach the Art Loeb trail, and knowing it would get dark, we turned around after a late lunch and headed back to the car.
The last day we ran a very nice network of local trails right on the outskirts of Asheville, called Bent Creek Experimental Forest. If you don’t want to go too far out of town, and don’t feel like climbing steep climbs, this network of trails are for you! In the winter dogs are allowed off leash, and many bikers were there with their dogs, Emmitt was really excited about that, and he set about meeting every dog-bottom he could.
To round out our trip we tried out many of the local resturaunts, stores, and even the Biltmore House that was all decorated for Christmas.
Some of our favorite places in Asheville are the Chocolate Fetish (I think the name is self explanatory,) The Laughing Seed, (the vegan in me loved this!) We had to stop and get Emmitt something special for Christmas, so we popped into Three Dog Bakery for a cake, a Christmas bow tie, and some toys. No trip is complete with out stopping into the Mast General Store, to buy some candy! Christmas day we toured the Biltmore House and got our fill of Christmas…I counted nearly 30 real, fully decorated Christmas trees in the house! I love a little history- gotta feed my mind. Speaking of feeding my mind, we also stopped in at Malaprop’s Bookstore and got a few books to read during the post run relax.