It turns out that Asheville and surrounding area is the Southern hippie hotspot. Typically, everyone is chatty and pleasant, but there is a higher proportion of tattoos, cold pressed juices, and electric vehicle charging stations. That aside, Biltmore Estate is still the number one (traditional) tourist destination in town and employs 1800+ people. We made the pilgrimage and the house is undeniably beautiful inside – the attention to detail is very impressive – but the gardens lack a similar impulse. Or maybe it is that they stick too close to the original plan and what I read as slightly dull is in fact a commitment to maintaining the historical integrity of the gardens.
Regardless, the drive into the estate is a beautiful introduction to a cultivated woodland and that is continued in the azalea garden that leads into the bass pond. The native azaleas and mountain laurel were blooming, along with some later magnolias, and the first of the stewartia – all things that we don’t see at home. And the diversity, size and sheer number of trees was stunning.
In fact, everywhere the trees were outrageous. I’ve never seen so much forest in my life. You get the sense that towns are veritably hacked out of the overgrowth and it is an effort to maintain open spaces. Plus it is really hilly around there. The Appalachians are no joke. You could not pay me to hike the Appalachian Trail – six months in dense forest with a lot of ascents and descents, plus snakes and bears, sounds like a nightmare.
Back to our trip though. #1 activity? Asheville Pinball Museum. $10 = unlimited plays on all manner of machines. I favored Pinbot, Popeyes and Breakshot. Mom got pretty into Phantom of the Opera and Dad really liked Spiderman. Only $2000 and one could be yours guys!!!