Weeks 8-9: Snowstorms + Outdoor Love in Asheville, NC

Oh, Asheville. With only 20 days to immerse myself into the weird and wonderful world of Western North Carolina, I found myself literally feeling stressed out about making sure I soaked it all up. Spoiler alert: I didn’t. There was no way to properly experience all of the magic of Asheville in such a short time–but I sure did try.

Here’s a quick highlight reel from my favorite Asheville moments, sights, and sounds:

Katie Boué hiking DuPont State Forest in North Carolina.

Hiking in DuPont State Forest

Holy waterfalls! You like waterfalls? You got waterfalls, if you make the short drive out to DuPont State Forest near Brevard, NC. The area has six main waterfalls, and five of ‘em are easily accessible on a single trail. Obviously I had to hike it. It’s a wide trail, packed with people on a weekend, and not exactly a full “wild outdoors” feel, but still worth it for an afternoon adventure. Mcgoo and I hiked to Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, and High Falls. I spotted a covered bridge higher up in the hills, but we got lost trying to find the trail out there and eventually gave up.

The fellas from Bro’d Trip have a vlog that shows a bit of the hike–I totally went back the next day and re-hiked it with them, actually finding the covered bridge this time. Check out the video here, and skip to about the 1:07 mark to get to my cameo + the DuPont hiking.

Bonus spot: Make the short drive up to Buzzard Rock right before sunrise–and you’ll get epic views of the city below like this one: 

The sunrise view from Buzzard Rock in Asheville, NC.

Caught in Asheville’s 2015 Snowpocalypse

Somehow, I always end up in the southeast when there’s an epic snowstorm. And by epic, I mean usually just a few inches of snow that shuts down the entire city. This time, however, a whopping 13 inches dumped downtown–and totally shut everything down. The resulting adventures were probably my favorite part of my time in Asheville. Cars were rendered useless, and the people took back the streets on foot. Bar hopping across town while riding in a sled? Yes please. Whiskey just tastes better when you’ve trudged 3 miles in the snow to get to it.

Sledding during the big 2016 Asheville snowstorm.

Food and Beer and More Food

You guys. Asheville has a jammin’ food culture. The best trout (hell, the best fish. period.) I ever had in my life from The Market Place. Jamaican food so good we went two days in a row at Nine Mile–and yes, I ordered the same thing both times, it was that good. I had a religious experience eating the cheese plates at Wicked Weed. Pro tip: Get a beer flight the first time you go to Wicked Weed, because you will be back multiple times for those cheese plates, so you might as well figure out what kind of beer is your favorite to accompany all that cheesy goodness.

The amazing cheese plate at Wicked Weed Brewery in Asheville, NC.

For a full dive into my time exploring the Asheville outdoor industry scene–and peeks into my visits with outdoor brands like ENO, Farm to Feet, and more–check out my OIA Roadshow: Asheville Edition story on the Outdoor Industry Association website. Here’s an excerpt:

“If you’ve ever been to Asheville, North Carolina, you’re already in on the not-so-subtle secret that it’s one of the greatest outdoor destinations in America–but for those of you who haven’t received the memo: This Southeastern city was voted one of the country’s best outdoor towns by Outside magazine in 2006, and made it to the voter’s choice list in 2014, too. It’s a recreation mecca in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, right at the confluence of the French Broad and Swannanoa rivers. You can hike, bike, paddle, climb–and sometimes even ski–all within a short drive of the downtown area.”

I know, I know, there’s so much more to be said to fully encapsulate how incredible Asheville is. I wish I could have stayed longer to spend more time soaking up this vibrant city and its culture–but alas, there’s so much more America to explore!

Trip Report: (Epic, Beautiful, Strong) Climbing at Hound Ears during Triple Crown Bouldering Series

I don’t know about you, but ever since handing in my score sheet on Saturday afternoon after crushing all day at what easily qualifies as the most beautiful and bountiful bouldering crag I have ever visited, I have been obsessively refreshing the Triple Crown Bouldering Series website, eagerly awaiting to see the final competitor listing – and it’s finally here: The results from the Triple Crown Bouldering Series competition at Hound Ears are officially posted!

But before I reveal how I placed, let’s take a look back at my amazing weekend out at this unbelievable crag:

The adventure began early on Friday morning, as Niko and I left Tallahassee at 6:00 AM on the dot. We wound our way through Georgia and South Carolina before crossing the North Carolina state line early in the afternoon. After a few wrong turns, thanks to my newfangled Apple Maps app, we finally landed at Grandfather Campground.

I was expecting a huge crowd of climbers to be milling around already, but we ended up arriving before registration even began. We set up camp, feasted on delicious Indian food provided free from Triple Crown, and swiftly retreated to our tent to rest up for the big day.

Holy mother of climbers – I have never seen so many folks gathered at a single crag on a single day. Since Hound Ears is only open for public climbing during Triple Crown, the event was sold out. That means a total of 300 climbers were bussed from camp to the peak of the Hound Ears boulder field on Saturday morning. Epic.

Despite having spent the previous evening pouring over our printed guidebooks, Niko and I would have been completely lost without the guidance of an old Tally Rock Gym climber, Ben Wiant, who joined us for the competition with his wife. Along with two other Tally Rock Gym regulars, Monty and Sara, we trekked through the trails towards our first stop of the day: the Air Jesus boulder.

The group warmed up on a row of V0-V2s, and then we dove into a grueling day of crushing. Despite being slightly intimidated by the height of the magnificent Air Jesus boulder, I decided to hop on the V5 version of this classic climb, and sent it within three attempts. I immediately knew it was going to be a great day.

I also quickly realized that it wouldn’t be such a great day for photography. When you’re scurrying around an enormous crag trying to send 10 problems within less than seven hours, whipping out your camera loses priority, very fast. So excuse my not-so-epic pictures, oops.

Niko jumped on a sweet V9 called Air Satan (Low Start), but kept slipping off a slick foot on the top-out. He coulda, woulda, shoulda sent it, but it was early in the day, and we decided to come back to the climb later (which we never did, naturally).

The second part of the day day my favorite send, Bleed Me Out (V5). I was working another set of V5s called Satan’s In The Tires and Body Disposal when one of the Triple Crown judges saw me climbing and insisted that I hop on Bleed Me Out. Frankly, I had already crossed that one off my list of problems I wanted to attempt, purely based on the wretched name.

The route starts on a very solid ledge, with not so great feet. You have to launch out and cross over to a microscopic crimp knob, which you have to match before delicately swinging your feet over and hurdle up to the next tiny crimp. My crux came at the last crimp before the top-out; it was literally invisible from the two non-existent crimps I was already on. I was terrified, but somehow reached up, locked my tiny fingers on the equally tiny hold, and cranked up to the top-out lip. The highlight of my trip was a feeling of absolute elation, which was amplified when I looked down and realized the judge was watching me the whole time. (Thank you wonderful lady for encouraging me to make the send!)

Our next little hike took us to one of the ultimate classics at Hound Ears, a highball V3 called Heretic. I took a little rest while watching the boys crush the huge moves on this towering problem, and cheered Niko on while he sent Unforgiven (V7). Yet again, the Triple Crown judges lent a helpful hand in revealing a hidden crimper that Niko hadn’t been using during his first attempts. With this new bit of beta, he was able to quickly make the send. (Thank you Triple Crown for having such fantastic folks running the event!)

The last truly hardcore session was at the Lost and Found boulders, where I sent two V3s while Niko worked on a vicious V9 called The Brady Problem. It wasn’t a send for him, but he did get to watch Jimmy Webb nonchalantly stroll up to the boulder, send the problem, and merrily stroll away. Pretty neat.

At this point in the day, we were wrecked from the sharp stone. We retreated to the main area in search of burritos (which we missed out on) and easier climbs to finish the day. After getting whooped by a V2 called Evil Slug, Niko convinced me to hop on a lippy V4 called The Anchor, which I miraculously sent despite an overeager spotter who literally talked me off the wall during my first attempt. I loved his enthusiasm, but couldn’t focus on topping out the problem while he was shouting “Come on, come on, get it, get your foot up, crank up, crank over, let’s go, do it!” relentlessly in my ear.

After that, I was completely drained. Who knew climbing 10 V3-V5 problems could be so daunting? I ended the day attempting a few V3 and V4 problems, but couldn’t even lift myself off the ground – so I settled with my 10th score sheet listing, a V1, appropriately named “Lard Ass.” I scored my signatures, surveyed my score sheet, and turned it in to the judges. 

At the end of the day, I had no idea how my performance stacked up against the other lady competitors, but I had already won the battle against myself. With two V5s, a V4, and a handful of V3s, I had rocked my strongest day of climbing to date. I pleasantly enjoyed the remainder of the evening sipping beer and tequila/lemonade cocktails, gorging myself on barbeque provided by Triple Crown, and laughing at the wipeouts during the crash pad stacking contest.

When the winners were finally announced, I knew my name wouldn’t be in the top 3 for women’s intermediate, but my notions of where I might place were instantly crushed when the called out the name of the top climber, Alexa Russell. I had watched her climbing earlier in the day, and she crushed every V5 and V6 she got her hands on (keep in mind, we were competing in the V3-4 category) – and apparently, she’s only 13! I didn’t stand a chance.

Final verdict? I placed 15th in the Women’s Intermediate.
Not too shabby for my first competition.

Overall, I am so satisfied with how the competition turned out. My month of training truly paid off, and I felt incredibly strong throughout the day. The biggest improvement I saw was with top-outs. I have never fearlessly mantled over a flat ledge before, and my confidence was sky-high during Hound Ears. Even on the V2s, I felt like a champion as I rocked my body over the boulders – I only beach whaled twice! 

Next time, I’m going to incorporate more endurance training into my pre-competition workouts. Seriously, sending 10 problems (in seven short hours) at your limit is no easy feat folks.

PS: WHY OH WHY ISN’T HOUND EARS OPEN EVERY DAY? It’s my new favorite crag, and you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be attending every single Triple Crown there for the rest of my climbing career. Hound Ears 2013, anyone?

Oh! Have you entered my giveaway for your chance to win a sweet, BPA-free, 100% recyclable Eco-Bottle? Click here for your chance to win – all you have to do is leave a comment telling us why plastic bottles suck! Giveaway ends on Friday!

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!

An adventurous road-tripper’s top 10 travel moments of 2011

What travel blog would be complete without a year-end review of the best travel experiences from 2011? As I begin to daydream of all the amazing adventures that 2012 has waiting around the corner, I can’t help but reflect on the outrageous and memorable times I had on the road this year. Every moment spent road tripping across America is held dearly, but these ten moments stick out above the rest.

10. Escaping for a week of relaxation in the mountains around Hendersonville, North Carolina

My seven-week September solo trip deserves a big mention, but the leg of my adventure that deserves the biggest accolades is the week I spent lounging around Hendersonville, North Carolina. My ex-girlfriend’s mother invited me to stay at her charming country home, and I spent the week sampling the area’s best cuisine, picking apples at an orchard, dancing the night away at a climbing buddy’s wedding in Flat Rock, and exploring the mountainous region of Brevard.

My solo trip commenced with a rough patch of personal heartache, so this miniature escape truly assisted in establishing up the positive vibes that I carried throughout the remainder of my travels.

9. Celebrating my 23rd birthday boating on Lake Dillon in Frisco, Colorado

My solo trip ended just days before my 23rd birthday, and in true girly fashion, I was determined to make my celebration one to remember. Having freshly transplanted myself and my belongings to Denver, Colorado, I wanted to capitalize on my new surroundings. After browsing potential ideas like a pedal-yourself beer wagon, we settled on renting a pontoon boat on Lake Dillon. The drive out to Frisco was absolutely gorgeous, as was the entire day of mountainside boating. I discovered my new favorite whiskey, vanilla-infused Phillips Union, and our crew downed countless cans of beer while we cruised around the frigid lake.

Having been raised boating on the warm waters in Miami, this Colorado lake experience introduced me to a whole new style of waterfront fun – no sandy beaches around, this day was all about mountain peaks and snow forest landscapes.

8. A wild hike up a muddy cliffside during a rainy day at Boulder Canyon in Colorado

This was one of those totally unplanned, totally unpredicted experiences that taught me the value of relinquishing control and embracing the idea of getting very, very dirty. On our way to what we thought was a sport climbing area, a group of cohorts and I scrambled up a steep, chossy cliff that led to frequent falling rock calls, one very bloody knee, and more dirt caked underneath my fingernails that I could ever imagine – but it was too much fun.

I was skeptical about the messy scramble at first, since I was carrying my beloved Nikon camera and equipment in my pack, but after a sprinkle of rain turned our dirty hike into slushy chaos, all bets were off. I returned to the car slathered in mud, and spent the evening picking sticky burrs out of my hair – but again, too much fun.

7. Watching the sunrise over the Grand Canyon in Arizona

As the final ‘big’ stop on my post-graduation road trip with Niko in May, we made a pit stop at Grand Canyon National Park – but our original intentions didn’t involve a sunrise. Niko had been dying to see the sunset, so we raced our way along barren roads to catch the sun before it dipped beyond the rim of the canyon. Literally missing the sunset by three minutes, we decided to spend the night in the nearby tourist town so we could watch the sunrise.

After spending a very uncomfortable night sleeping in a hotel parking lot, Niko roused me from my catatonic state and we returned to the park. This time we made sure to arrive well before the sun, and were pleasantly surprised to find the area was nearly deserted – I guess the 5 AM wakeup call for the sunrise is reserved for only the most diehard adventurers. I was cranky and cold, but I ended up with one of my favorite Niko photos of all time.

6. Pitching my tent at Camp 4 in Yosemite National Park

This campground, located inside Yosemite Valley, is one of the most legendary watering holes for famous climbers. It was inspiring to camp at the same spot that housed icons like Lynne Hill and Ron Kauk – Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia even used to sell homemade gear from the camp’s parking lot.

Everything from waking up at 6:00 in the morning to queue in line for camp registration to the rusty bear-proof food lockers and name tags we had to tie on our tents for the ranger check-ins combined to create this inspiring air of climbing confidence and community vibes that spread throughout the grounds. I woke up in the morning pumped to climb some Yosemite granite.

5. My first sport climb at Sandrock in Alabama

An avid climber from the moment my fingertips first grazed the plastic holds at Tallahassee Rock Gym, it was a damn shame that I had never sport climbed until August 2011. Two years into my climbing obsession, I finally embarked on a sport climbing trip to a beautiful crag called Sandrock near Steele, Alabama.

The exhilaration of clipping into the anchors at the top of my first lead was only rivaled by the experience of sleeping out beneath the stars atop the rock formations at the mountain summit, and waking up to explosive hues of sunrise. It was one of the moments that cemented my adoration for the outdoors and living in nature – although the chiggers that infested my bellybutton on this trip weren’t the best reminder of why I love living in nature.

4. Getting a taste of desert life in Moab, Utah

Anyone who has asked me about my travels in 2011 has heard an earful about my infatuation with Moab. Niko and I spent a week living in the desert in May, when we came to visit our two buddies who spent the summer working as river guides in Moab. I became enthralled with the lifestyle of these dirty, leather-skinned desert people.

Over the course of a very short week, I photographed beautiful roadside climbs at Potash, hiked through Devil’s Garden in Arches National Park, ate sandy campfire food alongside my fellow tent-dwellers at the Lazy Lizard Hostel, and met some of the most amazing people I have ever encountered while traveling – Josephine, Paul, Chelsey, and Mike, I’m talkin’ to you.

Seriously, you must visit Moab. It is my most highly recommended destination.

3. A weekend at Still Mountain Retreat in Willits, California

After weeks of vagabonding throughout Moab and Yosemite, Niko and I readily accepted an invitation to join some friends for a relaxing weekend retreat at family cabins tucked high in the mountains near Willits, California. The entire weekend was a fantastic blur of great homemade food, excursions into the woods and nearby waterfall, and peaceful time spent in great company.

Niko and I stayed in a small cabin with an attic-like entrance to the second-story sleeping area – which inspired notions of simple living and small spaces.  It was so refreshing to experience this place tucked away from civilization, where all that mattered was when the next shuffleboard tournament would take place.

2. Driving into the mountains on I-25 on my way to Denver, Colorado

My September solo trip concluded with a final haul down to Miami to load up my hatchback with my belongings before returning to Denver to move-in. The push back to Colorado from Florida was grueling with a jam-packed car, but as I finally hit the Rockies after driving through hours of flatlands, I was overwhelmed by the most intense feeling of pure joy I have ever felt. My music was blasted at full volume, all windows were rolled down, and I literally burst out with ecstatic squeals as I wound my way through the beautiful mountains that would soon become home.

1. Camping solo for the first time at Lake Barkley State Park in Cadiz, Kentucky

Of all my travels throughout 2011, there is one experience that shines above the rest. My first night spent camping solo was a huge milestone for me as an independent traveler. While I spent seven weeks on a solo road trip, the first night of successfully pitching my tent, building a fire, and surviving the wilderness through daybreak was easily my biggest accomplishment.

My evening was spent at Lake Barkley State Park, a tranquil slice of outdoors paradise sitting near the town of Cadiz in rural Kentucky. Family and fans of my adventures had been dreading this day since the beginning of my trip, but I approached the evening with a calm attitude and wound up having a great night tending to my fire and basking in the peace of solitude. My first experience camping solo left me with overwhelming sentiments that I can handle anything my travels throw my way – and I don’t need anyone’s help to do it.

What are your top travel moments from 2011?
If you’ve got a link to your own blog post, I’d love for you to share it below in the comments section! You can also tweet pics and links to @themorningfresh, or share your experiences on The Morning Fresh Facebook page.

An ode to Mr. & Mrs. Kirby Crider, and the most charming wedding in Flat Rock, NC

Readers, on this romantic occasion, the documented evidence of one of the most beautiful evenings of my life cannot begin to be supplemented by my feeble words. Instead, I’ll offer a meek exposition to introduce you to the night, and then I’ll let photos and video handle the rest.

In a slick twist of fate, I was invited to attend the wedding of an old Tally Rock Gym climber, Kirby Crider, as my dear friend Matt Wood’s ‘plus-one.’ The nuptials coincided with the dates during which I planned to be in North Carolina, and the venue turned out to be a short 15-minute drive from Hendersonville – so I hopped onboard, and packed a single satin dress along with all my dirty vagabonding gear.

The wedding was held at the Highland Lake Inn, and the ceremony took place beside a large lake on a sprawling, green hillside. The non-traditional proceedings included violin playing, recitations from both Hemingway and Neruda, and a splash of Judaism with the smashing of clothed wine glasses at the conclusion of the vows. I wasn’t quite planning on taking too many pictures, but, you know me.


The reception was a wild celebration of love, friendship, and a shared happiness that radiated amongst the guests and bridal party. The collective of people was described best by the lovely man who wed Julia and Kirby, who brought to attention the fact that never before had this particular group of individuals congregated in one spot, and that it would likely never happen again. It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime occasion.

I was schooled on the art of true love throughout the entire evening. I learned the definition of everlasting as I listened to friends and family toast the newly weds and recount the tales of their relationship. I was reminded of chivalry by my date – and my quasi date, Jason – who pulled out my chair, linked arms with me as we walked, and ensured I was treated like a lady. Perhaps most importantly, I was taught to love and live for each moment as I stole away to the lakeside and dipped my bare toes in the lily-pad laden waters with a new friend.

Here my words fail, and I must leave you with a stunning video taken by a charming new friend, Ian. I do believe he also shoots with a Nikon D7000, and he gets extra points for picking up my lens cap for me when I dropped it on the floor in a drunken haste. Anyways, this kind gentleman put together a video of the wedding – and I simply had to share it.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QCiZx7CpUg]

I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.

Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

Kirby and Julia, thank you for inviting me into your beautiful evening. I was delighted to be a part of the beginning of the rest of your lives, and wish you everything wonderful in the world – although you two hardly need anything more than what you already have together. Thank you for sharing your love, it was inspiring to encounter.

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.

Sampling spicy Pad Thai in the North Carolina country side

When Marlin offered to take me out for lunch in Brevard, North Carolina, I was expecting to encounter a home-style meal that involved heaps of barbecue sauce, but instead I was surprised with an Asian meal from the local joint, Pad Thai. Situated in a glorified shack on the side of the road, this eatery promised deliciousness from the minute we walked through the doors.

The menu was short and sweet. At the top of the laminated offerings, it listed options for pork, chicken, or tofu to accompany each entree. Next came two sections with different plate suggestions in either rice or noodle varieties. There were less than two dozen items to choose from, and honestly, everything seemed pretty similar save for an ingredient or two.

After much deliberation about whether I wanted broccoli or bamboo, noodles or nice, I ended up going with the most standard item one could order at Pad Thai: the pad thai. I opted for the mild heat level, while my dear, daring Marlin took a chance on the spiciest ‘Thai hot’ option. Our meals were quickly concoted in giant woks, and served with a wedge of lime and a small heap of crumbled nuts.



I couldn’t resist trying a bite of Marlin’s ‘Thai hot’ platter, and initially was disappointed by the lack of heat in my bite – and then it hit me. The sly chefs who prepared this meal tricked me into thinking I was the queen of spice until the slippery oil loaded with the heat from hell spread across my tongue, lips, and coated the entire inside of my mouth. I downed my water in a few seconds flat – and quickly gained a new respect for ‘Thai hot.’

Should I ever pass through Brevard, which I hope I shall, I would definitely stop by Pad Thai for another lunchtime visit. The meal was $6.50, and judging by the way I was clutching my full belly as we walked back to the car, it was well worth the price.

Click here to check out my Yelp review on Pad Thai.

Snapshots of mountain life with Marlin in Brevard, North Carolina

During my week spent in the mountains of eastern North Carolina, I was blessed with the opportunity to reconnect with a dear friend from Tally Rock Gym, who moved out to the Pisgah Forest to work at Eagle’s Nest Camp/Outdoor Academy. In a serendipitous twist, Marlin was living only a handful of miles up the road from the Hendersonville home in which I was staying.

The first day, I met him up at Eagle’s Nest for a tour of the grounds. It is a beautiful facility, painstakingly built in a rugged fashion that embraces the nature that surrounds each building. As we browsed the camp, I couldn’t help but notice a constant presence of little orange newts that sluggishly clamored along the pebble driveways. Naturally, I had to stop every few yards to scoop up a little buddy for a minute or two of playtime before returning him to his daily musings – whatever a newt muses. We also checked out the camp’s sprawling organic garden, which was certainly messy, but the tomatoes we picked from the vine were zesty and perfect.



On the second day I spent with Marlin, I was entertained with a wild evening at the staff house, called Riverside. Located across the street from the camp, this is where the workers get to escape from their ‘students’ for some adult time. I met some amazing people, especially Josh and Paige, who kept me captivated all night with beautiful banjo music, and a slam poetry piece by Paige that totally blew me away. Josh was kind enough to allow me to record a few of his songs on banjo and guitar, so once I get to a reliable internet connection, you’ll be able to indulge in his bluesy soul music.

Nestled up in the mountains, Marlin is truly living the life. This handful of photos from Riverside offers a meek glimpse into how great his situation is. He lives up in an off-the-beaten-track mountain neighborhood, gets paid to go on climbing excursions, and has a freshly updated rack of trad gear that would get any climber’s palms sweaty. Hats off to you, Marlin – and thank you a thousand times for your warm hospitality.




I’ll share the lunch experience I had in Brevard with Marlin, Paige, and Josh tomorrow morning – but first, it’s time to hit the sack here in Kansas City.

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.

Oh, you didn’t already know? I’m on the road again – on a solo adventure.

Forgive me readers, for I have sinned. I set off on a new journey, and hardly gave you warning before I crossed four state lines. In any event, greetings from Hendersonville, North Carolina. This morning you find me sipping on piping hot tea, and writing out on a breezy porch while hummingbirds fight over a sugary feeder – but back to the bigger picture. Where am I headed? Check it out:

The starting point was good ole Tallahassee, Florida. After botched Alabama climbing plans, one final bout of fleeting romance, and an amazing evening dancing with a local band, Catfish Alliance, I headed out on Sunday evening and forged a rainy path to Hendersonville, North Carolina. I have been blessed with amazing hospitality from Dena, who is tolerantly letting me crash in her guestroom for the week.

So what have I been up to since my arrival? A bevy of posts will dive into deeper details, but here’s the condensed plot: Tropical Storm Lee left me with a few days of rain, but my time was filled with hours of playing board games with the sweet little girls who live next door, dinners and drinks in downtown Hendersonville, touring Eagle’s Nest outdoor academy in Pisgah Forest, stuffing my face in Brevard with an old friend Marlin, banjo music and slam poetry, visiting a brewery in Asheville, meeting so many unexpected friends and storytellers, my first foray into yoga, a fifth grade talent show, and snagging Dena’s famous chicken pot pie recipe. Phew, talk about a run-on sentence.

I have absolutely fallen in love with western North Carolina, and could easily see myself spending a few years living here. It has all the outdoorsy vibes of Colorado, but it’s comfortably nestled in my beloved “South.” It unsettles me sometimes to admit it, but I love being a southern girl.

So what’s next? As smitten as I am with this area, I am itching to hit the road again. I will be arriving in Denver by the 15th, so I’ve given myself about four days of 6-8 hours worth of driving each day. From here, I’ll be making my first overnight stop in Kentucky – and then it all becomes a mystery. If you’re interested in my daily musings, check out my Twitter @themorningfresh – which you can also enjoy on the right hand side of the blog.

Trust me, you’re going to want to keep in touch as I experience my first evenings camping solo. There is simply no way that my first night pitching my tent, building a fire, and cooking a meal in the woods will go over without some ridiculous mishap – and you might as well get some entertainment from my inevitable disasters.

Until then, readers!