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The Green Tunnel

Friday, May 15, 2015

After our adventures a top Chimney Tops, we finally left the Smoky Mountains for good, but decided to extended our hiking adventure into the Nantahala Wilderness nearby. Along the way our groaning stomachs became unbearable, so we decided to stop in Franklin, NC, which turned out to be the best pit stop spot ever.  While gorging ourselves on the belly busting BBQ “Fat Buddie’s Pig-Out For Two”, our dirty laundry enjoyed a good spin in the next door laundromat. Stuffed, we soon arrived at the Standing Indian Campground where James and I enjoyed our food coma in front of the camp fire soon after dusk.

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Peaks And Valleys

Monday, May 11, 2015

After a long night chatting with our new friends, James and Cat, we prepared a much needed, hearty breakfast which included steak, eggs, Greek yogurt, and fresh strawberries.  After surviving on dehydrated meals for so long, the sweet, juicy taste of strawberries with cold yogurt was just divine.  The steak wasn’t too shabby either.

If you’ve never visited the Great Smoky Mountain National park before, you should be prepared to smell a bit funky after your visit.  To our surprise, none of the campgrounds within the park had showers to clean up after a long hike.  However, after a tip from Cat, we enjoyed a long, hot, $3 shower at a nearby motel just outside the park.

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Beware In Bear Country

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

As we followed the Blue Ridge Parkway into the Smoky Mountains we knew that we would need some cash for the camping fees at the campground. So instead of making the turnoff for the nearby campground, we continued down the road towards Gatlinburg, TN in search of an ATM. All of a sudden, as we exited the woods, a magical place that can only be described as “Vegas meets Jersey Shore” appeared in the middle of the Smokey Mountains. Mesmerized by the neon lights, the bumping music, and a town that was one big amusement park, we immediately ditched the thought of heading back into the mountains for the night. James found a cheap hotel deal which included a hot breakfast buffet that we could not turn down. After a long hot shower, which left the drain full of dirt and grime, we stopped at the Smoky Mountain Brewery, conveniently next door, for a brew tasting. To our surprise as we left the bar around 11:00 pm we found ourselves in a ghost town, not a single person was to be seen on the streets. Off to bed.

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These Boots Are Made For Hiking

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Seriously in need to detox our bodies from our excessive beer consumption in Asheville, we headed off toward Black Mountain Campground at the foot of Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in North Carolina. As soon as we arrived at our claimed campsite, I immediately pitched our tent and slept for solid 20 hours as James caught up on some reading. I felt like I got hit by a truck, twice.  I’m fairly sure I went the entire day without eating a thing due to the burn out I was experiencing.

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Bottoms Up

Wednesday, April 29, 2015 – Sunday, May 3, 2015

Oh Asheville, what can I say about this small city besides that it truly lives up to its reputation as Beer City USA. As craft beer lovers, we spent the majority of our four days in town exploring the numerous breweries scattered throughout. There was no way to do it all, so we picked among the most must-see breweries like Wicked Weed, Green Man, Hi-Wire, One World, and Lexington Avenue Brewery, which was conveniently located downstairs from our accommodations, Sweet Peas Hostel. Speaking of Sweet Peas Hostel, after staying in the filthy, cheap motel in Boone, the hostel was absolutely incredible.  This was especially due to its extremely convenient location right downtown, meaning that we were surrounded by great beer, toe tapping good live bluegrass, and mouthwatering food.

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New Heights

Friday, April 24, 2015

Having tackled our first multi night backpacking trip, we were anxious to get back to civilization for a hot shower and cold beer.  But first, a hot meal was in order.  We stopped at a cute, country-side restaurant and store close to the North Carolina border for lunch. As we stepped onto the wooden front porch, I spotted a neon pink sign with fat, glowing letters at the entrance stating, “We reserve the right to refuse the service to anyone”. Nervously I looked down at us, worried that we would not be served due to our greasy hair and robust hiking stench, which smelled at least 3 miles against the wind. Luckily we somehow passed the evaluation process and we were seated; however, in a separate room and away from all the other guests.

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In Search Of Ponies

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

We spent the previous night at Claytor Lake State Park in Virginia enjoying kielbasa sausage and onions cook on a cast iron skillet over the campfire. Delicious. After a few warm beers and a good night’s rest we headed towards our first multi night backpacking trip through the Mount Rogers Recreation Area and Grayson Highlands State Park along the Appalachian Trail.

Our plan was to park at the Grindstone Campground and spend three nights in the backcountry, enjoying quite nights, scenic views, and hopefully spot a wild pony or two. We arrived to a closed gate and gusting winds. Luckily, as we were desperately trying to identify a backup plan (without cellphone reception) a campground host arrived to help rescue us. He let us know the campground would not open for another week, but allowed us to park behind the locked gates for the following few night as we hiked. Crisis averted.

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Heavenly Showers

Friday, April 17, 2015

After several days of exploring Shenandoah National Park, our adventure led us further South. Spending hours of hiking, camping, and exploring new parts of the park, we desperately needed a long, hot shower. The closest college town on the map was Harrisonburg, Virginia, which would provide us not only with a cheap room, but also with a variety of locally brewed beers to sample. Yes, it was spontaneous; although, exactly what we needed. A short hour after leaving the park, I felt the hot water washing the campfire smoke off my skin and pine needles from my hair. The feeling I experienced during my shower was indescribable and beyond any words.

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Into The Woods

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

With the rain behind us, Nadine and I were excited to begin our first day in Shenandoah on dry trails.  We had plans to spend the night deep in the woods, but decided to first tackle the short Stoney Man and Little Stoney Man loop before lunch.  We quickly packed up camp and headed towards the campground restrooms to finish drying our boots under the hand dryers before heading to the trail.

After a short drive North along Skyline Drive, dodging crossing herds of deer, we arrived at the trailhead parking area. Our trail route would cover a little under 4 miles while following a short section of the Appalachian Trail to the Stoney Man Overlook Trail, then a visit the Little Stoney Man before returning along the Passamaquoddy Trail and Bridle Trail.

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Rain, Rain, Go Away

Monday, April 13, 2015

The days of anticipation were finally over. Our chariot for the trip, a 2007 Chevy Cobalt, had been fully stuffed and was ready to cruise us towards our first destination, Shenandoah National Park. After a brief stop at our old home in Northern Virginia, we arrived at our campsite, which was perfectly hidden in the woods of the Big Meadow’s Campground. While James was gathering fire wood, I heard some movement a couple yards away from our tent. First I thought it was just James, until something grey caught my eye. As I took a couple steps closer, I saw a huge turkey searching among the leaves for food. Now I understand, why the turkeys served at Thanksgiving are so huge, these birds are gigantic.

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