A preview of climbing at Hound Ears – and announcing the GU Energy giveaway winner!

Either I’m still reeling from my incredible trip out to North Carolina, or there are just truly no words to properly describe the bouldering mecca that is Hound Ears. My first experience competing in a Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition was phenomenal, and even though I’m still anxiously awaiting the final results from my score, I already feel like a winner.

I climbed the strongest I have ever climbed this weekend.
And it felt good.

There are still plenty of pictures to sort though (although somehow 75% of them turned out just slightly blurry, ugh!), and I am eagerly waiting for the final competition results to be posted so I can tell you all how I did, but here’s a little taste of my weekend up in the North Carolina high country:

We spent Friday night setting up camp at Grandfather Mountain Campground and feasting on Indian food provided by Triple Crown, and then climbed the entire day on Saturday. After the competition, we celebrated with beer, barbecue, and a very, very lengthy award ceremony.

On Sunday, Niko and I packed up early, and headed to Hendersonville for a wonderful little date excursion. I took him to my all-time favorite breakfast buffet, Dixie Diner, where we gorged on southern fixings and chatted with locals at the family-style seating. Then we headed out to JH Stepps Hillcrest Orchard for a few hours of apple picking before loading up the car and trekking back to Florida.

 
Successful weekend, eh? But now for what you’re really reading this post for – the announcement of the GU Energy Labs and BlenderBottle giveaway winner! There were a lot of great entries, and you all had wonderful things to share about what inspires you to train – but there could only be one winning answer:

 “My training inspiration? Checking off those boxes each day and knowing that I’m pushing myself to achieve a goal. Every workout builds on the previous day – I’m getting stronger, faster and when it comes to race day? Even though there are no guarantees on the outcome, I know I gave it my best effort.” – Erin Graves

Congratulations, Erin! For your perseverance when it comes to training, and a great attitude about pushing yourself, you’ve won a package filled with GU Energy Labs performance treats, and a sweet new BlenderBottle. Shoot me an e-mail at [email protected] to claim your prize. 

Didn’t win this giveaway? No worries, there are plenty more on the horizon – including a giveaway for a environmentally-awesome, BPA-free Eco Bottle! Click here to enter the Eco Bottle giveaway (all you have to do is leave a comment)!

Stay tuned for more on my weekend out in North Carolina, including an in-depth post on my climbing competition, and a look at my romantic apple-picking date with Niko. Until then, keep climbing, keep adventuring, and keep gettin’ outside!

Picking my own apples at Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard in North Carolina

After a wild evening spent celebrating the marriage of Kirby and Julia Crider, I awoke to my last day in North Carolina with a mean hangover that could only be cured by one thing: apple picking. I was invited to embark on a pick-your-own adventure during a lovely meal of homemade chicken pot pie with two 80-something-year-old women who regaled me all evening with tales of their own cross country adventures in the 1940s – bad ass.

As a Florida gal, I have picked many a things, like strawberries, tomatoes, avocados in my backyard, the works. However, I had never before had the experience of strolling through a sprawling orchard, plucking the prettiest apples I could get my hands on. My host for this adventure was Marie, a charming woman who makes some amazing apple butter from scratch. She drove Dena and I to the Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard on the outskirts of Hendersonville, and I was immediately in heaven.


The property boasts plump bodies of apple trees that sweep across the land for as far as the eye can see. The friendly women who worked at the orchard armed us with a map of the different apple varieties, and pointed us in the direction of the best pickings before setting us lose amongst the trees.

It was hard to control myself from snatching up every apple in sight, but Marie taught me the delicate process behind picking prime produce. Apparently, you should look for a flattened bottom to indicate a good apple – but honestly, I just went for the fruit that called out to me for whatever reason. Some were shiny, some had robust colors that couldn’t be ignored, and some were just too cute not to take home.

I was enchanted by the rows of apple trees, and the slightly rotten scent of fermenting apple flesh that wafted from the hoards of discarded fruit left abandoned beneath each tree. All was not lost though, as further investigation underneath one of the trees revealed that the lumps of fallen apples were being voraciously devoured by swarms of bees.

My woven basket was soon filled with all sorts of apples. My favorites are the little Galas, which can easily be eaten within a few bites if you’re not willing to commit to the idea of a big apple. Then there were the Jonagolds, a few Empires, and then the ultimate apple, my lone Honey Crisp. I had never tasted a Honey Crisp before coming to Hendersonville, but after just one bite into one I was hooked. It is hands down the best apple variety I have ever tasted – but alas, it was too late in the season to pick any, according to the orchard worker. I scoured the barren row of Honey Crisp trees in desperate search of overlooked treasure, and with my luck I was able to snag the final apple from one of the trees.

After satisfactorily loading myself up with a hoard of apples, we returned to the main orchard store to cash in our winnings. What I thought would surely be a fortune’s worth of apples miraculously only cost $5.00 – at a price like that, I could happily pick all my produce. I also stocked up on dehydrated apple rings made on the farm, and a few bottles of homemade cider.

The apples withstood crossing six state lines, a few nights of camping, funky changes in the weather, and a few other mishaps before making their way home to Denver. I offered my basket as a ‘thanks for letting me crash on your couch forever’ gift for the lovely men here in Colorado – and naturally I gave my beloved Honey Crisp to McGoo to try. He was skeptical about my musings at first, but after a few bites he admitted that it was in fact the best apple he has ever tasted.

As my travels in North Carolina come to a close, I have to once again thank everyone in this beautiful state who hosted me, fed me, took me on adventures, and made my trip amazing. I am overwhelmed with gratitude, and can hardly express my love for all of you. What a blessed little vagabond I am.

Mean Mr. Mustard in Hendersonville, NC – So nice, I ate there twice.

When I set off at the beginning of this adventure, I was prepared for a month of vagabonding and living out of my car. Upon hearing this, my gracious host in North Carolina set off on a mission to fatten me up with gourmet treats before releasing me back into the wild – and boy, did she succeed.

One of my favorite eats in downtown Hendersonville was a charming cafe perched just off Main Street. Its name is Mean Mr. Mustard, and you might be able to discern from the title that this dainty restaurant is entirely made in tribute to The Beatles. The restaurant owners spared no detail, covering the walls with Beatles art, albums, and other memorabilia. Even the salt and pepper shakers were miniature drums adorned with the band name.


I ordered The Eggman’s Basic, which is your standard breakfast spread with two eggs, hash browns, and bacon – plus a slice of their delicious homemade focaccia bread. I was in absolute heaven with my meal. Any time I go to a breakfast joint, I always order the traditional breakfast platter so I can compare notes with the other eateries I have sampled. To compliment my plate, I ordered a tall glass of “Lennonade,”  which was fabulous.


What really set this breakfast experience apart from any other was the atmosphere of Mean Mr. Mustard. The small building sat only a few handfuls of tables, and the intimate setting was amplified by the wonderful man who sat in the back corner playing acoustic versions of classic Beatles songs. Live music is no shocker for evening meals, but it was a really great way to start the day.

Our meal at Mean Mr. Mustard was so great that Dena and I returned the next morning after our yoga class with a group of hilarious women who kept me laughing for hours. On the second visit, I opted for lunchtime fare, and ordered a half Greek salad with half of a custom-made grilled cheese sandwich. Once again, the culinary creations at this restaurant had my taste buds begging for more. My next trip to Hendersonville will undoubtedly include a visit to Mean Mr. Mustard — and next time, I’m treating Dena whether she likes it or not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to the orchards for an afternoon of apple picking.