Asheville, Chimney Rock, and Lake Lure
Last weekend, Fred and I headed to the North Carolina mountains, where spring wasn’t that long ago and nature is just now trying on her summer dress.
Asheville is pure funkiness (in a good way). It’s posh Chapel Hill meets hip Carrboro times 1,000. Infused with “Food not Bombs” gatherings, eclectic vegetarian cuisine, and bango-wielding street artists, it didn’t seem out of place to see an adult woman hula-hooping on a street corner.
We parked the car near Grove Arcade, where artisans display their crafts along sidewalks and classy indoor boutiques offer unique gifts and the latest creative trends. And, in case you didn’t notice it when you parked your car, check by the elevator shaft, where you can experience rock climbing adjacent to the city parking garage.
After swooning over the crafts and rock climbing, theological geeks that we are—we went to St. Lawrence’s Basilica. I have an affinity for Catholic churches while Fred appreciates the tradition for its ornamental style, altars, patronage to saints, and rituals. After indulging in a veggie burger and sweet potato fries at Rosetta’s Kitchen, we were greeted back to the downtown carnival by a beggar who said,“Hey kids! I’m kinda in a bind—and I need $1,000!” Welcome to Asheville—where funkiness meets fine taste.
From there, we ventured to Patton Avenue Park, where kids with hip, tattooed parents of all shapes, sizes, and colors play in a magical water fountain whose sprays exit randomly concrete holes. The kids squealed as they jumped from one hole to the next, hoping to guess (correctly) where the next surprising refreshment will come from.
Further into downtown, where “Food Not Bombs” gathers, female street artists paint themselves gold and stand frozen on pedestals in the heat until merciful citizens throw coins in their basket. Suddenly they awaken with flowing arms and mystically give chocolates to children.
This entire circus is nestled in a hilly valley that, when you are in the midst of it, feels as quaint and as art deco as Mayberry.
After my Asheville baptism (by fire?), we drove the windy, car-sick road through Apple Valley to Chimney Rock and finally Lake Lure, home to “Dirty Dancing” and the Hitching Post campground. Glenn, a man in his midlife, has run the place for 23 seasons. He talks deliberately and he’ll share what he knows about the town gossip if you ask him. The Hitching Post bunk house is quaint and lovely—but no Holiday Inn (according to Glenn). It’s a deal and a place to hang your hat if you lack proper camping equipment like we do. But you have to be willing to walk the 75 feet to the bath house, which is the cleanest camping bathhouse I’ve seen, and I’m a freak about these sorts of things.
We spent the next two days hiking the magical forests, trails, creeks, rivers, and waterfalls, of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock, our breaths taken by the beauty of the God’s creation. The earth was inspiring; the weekend with limited cell phone reception and no internet was renewing. Two days in a weekend like that can feel like two weeks.
Though magical, the mountain roads still make me imagine that winter is the pits, but for me, winter is the pits anywhere. But it’s hard not to feel anything but amazement as you wander the funky streets of Asheville, reach the famous Chimney at Chimney Rock, walk the lush forests of Lake Lure, and pretend you are Baby (Jennifer Grey) with your man Johnny (Patrick Swayze), walking in the starlight at the Hitching Post camp ground.
I’m renewed and thankful.