Sunday we took a drive through beautiful Pisgah National Forest, in search of some leg-stretching walks and waterfalls. We were not disappointed!
We found the Moore Cove Falls trail, a 1.4 mile, round-trip hike. We tend to look for shorter hikes now, having two senior citizens with us. Honey is now 12, and Casey is 10 1/2. They are doing great for their ages, but we don't want to push them too hard.
It's still very early spring here, but we did find some flowers that were blooming.
We made it to the falls, and after waiting a while, as it was pretty busy, I managed to get a picture without any people in it. Casey also found a friend here to go swimming with, a "golden doodle" who was even taller than he is.
After a picnic lunch in the forest, we took a short walk to another waterfall, Looking Glass Waterfall. It was very busy here as well. I guess being a Sunday and a beautiful day, a lot of people were out taking a drive!
Monday, we decided to spend the day touring the fabulous Biltmore Estate. We had toured the mansions of Newport, Rhode Island, a long time ago, but even they were dwarfed by the immensity of this estate. What was even more remarkable to me was that besides the 250-room mansion and grounds, George Vanderbilt owned all the property as far as he could see in any direction. Just the drive into the mansion was incredible. I will say, though, it is not cheap to tour this mansion. Tickets are $60.00 each, and we also opted to take the hand-held audiophones for an additional $10.00 apiece because we find that we learn more from these tours using them. Plus, since we were there and it's going to be a once-in-a-lifetime thing, we added a "Legacy of the Land" tour for another $20.00. It was NOT a cheap day! It was very interesting though. This time of year, they also have special exhibits during "Biltmore Blooms," and this year the exhibit is "Fashionable Romance: Wedding Gowns in Film."
After parking the car, you take a shuttle bus to the mansion. There is never a long wait for a shuttle, they have a lot of them! We also found that, unlike the Newport mansions, it was extremely busy here. I found that a bit frustrating, as I hadn't expected such a massive crowd. It was very slow moving through the house.
Upon entering the mansion the "Winter Garden" room set the tone for the exhibit's theme, being beautifully decorated for a wedding.
A few shots of the dining rooms and lady's salon.
The outside veranda at the back of the mansion...
overlooking the Smoky Mountains.
Some shots of the Gallery and the beautiful tapestries on the walls. The Gallery is inside, along the veranda, with all the windows facing that beautiful view above.
The Library was at the far end of the Gallery. The amount of books here is staggering.
The second floor living hall hosted gowns from one of my very favorite mini-series, "Pride and Prejudice," with Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy. Mr. Darcy's and Elizabeth's wedding attire is above, and the gowns worn by Mr. Bingley's sisters is below. I must watch it again soon :-).
Mr. Vanderbilt's sleeping quarters....I think the square footage of just this room is bigger than my trailer's!
Spiral staircase and chandelier.
At this point, we had to pretty much scoot along, as we had spent a couple of hours in the mansion already, and the time for our property tour was coming up soon. This stone corridor led to the kitchen and storage areas.
Basement swimming pool. It was always filled when needed, and then immediately drained, as they had no method at the time for keeping the water suitable for swimming.
The property tour was pretty interesting, but I'm not sure if I would say it was worth spending the extra money for. The most interesting tidbit I got out of it was that the property was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963, but not for the mansion. It was granted the status for the theme of "Conservation of Natural Resources," and that was due to Gifford Pinchot demonstrating for the first time in the United States that scientific forest management could be profitable. Another first for the property was in 1898 when the first forestry school in the United States was opened, the Biltmore Forest School. Nearly 87,000 acres of the estate's forest land is now included in the Pisgah National Forest.
After our property tour, we walked around the extensive gardens for a short while.
The wisteria was just starting to bloom.
The walled garden in front of the Conservatory. It was filled with tulips, and they are now in the process of changing them out to something else.
Close-up of the tulip gardens.
Heading back up to the mansion from the gardens.
The architectural details were amazing, and a tad overwhelming. We did have a very enjoyable day exploring this beautiful estate.
Our last day in Asheville we decided to take a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stopping at the Visitor Center to get my National Park cancellation stamp, we looked at the different exhibits and plotted a destination for a short hike.
We chose the Craggy Gardens Trail, a short hike to an overlook of the Smoky Mountains.
Much of the trail winds through a rhododendron bald, which must be awesome when the rhodies are in bloom.
From here you can see why it's called both the Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Thus we came to the end of our time in Asheville. We will definitely return to the area, as there is a lot of hiking and recreation opportunities here. We didn't explore much of the town itself, and we do hear that it is quite a "foodie" town, which we always like exploring :-). Our next stop was Lexington, Kentucky, where we got into all sorts of things that no-one who knows us would ever expect! I will get that post up as quickly as I can; we are almost to Wyoming at this time, and will soon be starting work, so I better get caught up right quick! Thanks for stopping by :-).