After Bearwallow, we stopped off at the historic Poinsett Bridge just a few miles into South Carolina – originally on the state road from Greenville to Asheville, built in 1820. We took just a short walk, but it was good to stretch our legs; it was indeed a picturesque spot, and Ritchey joined the Calahan Branch.
I took the advice of the nice couple I met in Brevard the other day, and visited Grateful Brews and the nearby Pita House for dinner – I absolutely stuffed myself on the best Mediterranean food I’ve had in years.
Today, we’re just getting some work done and plan to see more of this town later on this beautiful sunny day.
We stayed a whole week here, which is unusual, and a sign of how well we liked it.
some mornings, some of us have a hard time getting out of bed…
Hops waiting for the next chapter
I cooked myself breakfast on my new stove (just like the old stove. but cleaner!) and headed out for a final day on the fine trails of the Asheville/Brevard/Hendersonville area. This is a beautiful region, and rich and deep in very fine trails; it is a shame to leave, but also has run its course for me, at least in the short-term. Another beautiful ride, and another beautiful sunny afternoon at a brewery; a final night at my campground, and it was time for the next thing.
Leaving town, we headed first up to Bearwallow Mountain, to hike to the top. I felt I’d been sent up this mountain by a book, which has happened to me before. In 2012, my then-husband Chris and I backpacked up a peak in the Gila National Forest to meet an author who was perched at the top, in his fire tower, watching over the trees.
on that earlier mountain
It was a magical experience, and part of a friendship I treasure now, even though we don’t talk much. Now, I climbed most of Bearwallow in Foxy, and hiked only the last mile or so (although it was steep-ish). I was lucky to meet the author of Bearwallow more than a year ago. I was thinking of his book, of what I learned of his place, as I drove and then walked uphill.
hiking in hoarfrost
I love its crystalline structure
There were lovely views from the top –
but also this –
which I thought about not showing you at all, but this is not an instagram-perfect version of vanlife.
There was a fire tower – this one is for Phil, author of the unequaled Fire Season.
Rode another trail, this one in the Dupont State Forest, and the most fun I’ve had/the most suited to my style and the trails I’ve loved most in the past. A wonderful fun ride! Hops and I then traveled a few miles further into Hendersonville, and checked out two dog-friendly breweries. After a delightful and relaxing afternoon I returned to the campsite to cook my dinner, only to find that my stove & fuel had been stolen during the day.
I was angry with myself for leaving them unattended, and embarrassed at my own role in the theft. But then again, this is common practice in every campground I’ve known – and in driving around this one, I see lots of tents, piles of gear, chairs, and yes, stoves, left unattended. So I’m also very angry with whomever took advantage of the opportunity to steal from me my chance to cook my own dinner. In the grand scheme, of course, it’s not that great a loss, financially. I’ve been very lucky on the whole. When Foxy got hit-and-run in Houston, that was another difficult piece of ugly humanity to deal with; but that one turned out fine, financially, thanks to my insurance policy. And this one will be fine, too. It’s just money, and not that much of it. I’ve mostly been very lucky.
This is how I spent the next hour or two of my evening: working to process my feelings, to be upset but also philosophical and not too weepy. I’m still a lucky woman in this life.
Then I pulled it together and made the drive up to Asheville to the nearest REI, where I spent my annual dividend and then some replacing the stove – I got the exact same thing, having shopped and found nothing better suited. And then, what the heck, I was so nearby the Mills River location of Sierra Nevada… I had thought I’d miss this brewery, but why not? One beer later I was headed back for camp. And as Hops and I snuggled in for the night, I thought again: I’m so lucky. I love this life.
riding Dupont Forest
Hops & hops (I couldn’t decide who should be in focus)
(I know it’s April Fool’s Day but every word is true.)
Dogs are silly and exasperating and wonderful. I believe I’ve said before that Hops is both the best part of this journey and its biggest hassle. But totally worth it.
My parents sent me some special hazelnuts from Washington, and ever since, Hops has been begging for one. He loves peanuts, almonds, cashews. I finally relented and let him have one hazelnut, which he spit out and stored in his bed for a few days until I moved it to his food bowl to remind him that it was food. He didn’t eat for two days until I removed the offending hazelnut, and then he scarfed his food as if, well, he hadn’t eaten in two days. Hazelnuts are NOT for little dogs, apparently.
He fights like a little weasel or something when I give him a bath, and when I cut his toenails, he screams like I’m murdering someone; I keep joking that my neighbors are going to call the cops on me one of these days. But the eye drops and eye ointment? He sits perfectly still with his eye open for me. I don’t even have to hold his eyelids. I will never understand this dog.
He has two personalities: querulous whinging trembling lap dog who could really use another blanket AND another pillow; and wildman trail dog. The way he tears around outside when the mood is right makes my heart sing. So do his snuggles. I guess we’re a pretty good match, eccentricities included.
It’s been lovely here, and there’s so much riding I didn’t want to miss, and I found a decent campsite, so I’ve just stayed.
I’m camped in the Pisgah National Forest, in an improved campground with toilets and showers and water, for a very modest price. There’s even an old church on the grounds, which is not a service I require, but it’s very pretty.
A wooden version was originally built here in 1860; as it fell apart, the rock church replaced it in 1910.
I have been doing the usual: reading, writing, riding, and hiking with Hops. And enjoying the local breweries.
in camp: solar charging
with beer and book in the sunshine at Upcounty Brewing
Next up is Greenville, SC, and happily I ran into a couple at a brewery the other day who live there, so they gave me some brewery and restaurant tips. They were fans of Hops (and, I guess, hops). It’s a lovely world, most days.
A casual day of milling about… I dropped off the bike in the morning for a few minor issues and general check-up, found the grocery store and fuel for my stove, and walked the historic downtown shopping area. I found a few statues:
(I did not photograph the white squirrels and the monarch butterflies. don’t know why. sorry)
but otherwise it struck me as a pretty typical tourist-oriented historic downtown shopping area. Perhaps I’m getting a bit jaded. We landed at another brewery for a late lunch and to kill some time.
This place was almost as lonesome as the Art Loeb trail, which suits me fine: I brought a book.
Leaving Bryson City, I enjoyed another gorgeous drive through the national forest(s) that, though contiguous, go by several names as far as I can tell: Nantahala, Chattahoochee, Cherokee, Pisgah. We stopped to hike a section of the Art Loeb Trail. This was a short hike up to Black Balsam Knob, which several internet sources told me was both one of the most beautiful and highly recommended hikes in the area, and also (naturally) one of the most popular, meaning that (they insisted) I would not be alone on this hike. Well, there’s still hope: on a rainy Monday in March, Hops and I were absolutely alone, and it was glorious. I found the colors on this overcast day especially beautiful, and Hops was clearly exhilarated.
We arrived in Brevard and headed straight to the laundromat and then a brewery. Life is hard.
And we found a lovely spot in the national forest to park for the night, for free.