And just like that we were back in the East. Hello Great Smoky Mountains! Ёжmobile was struggling on the big road, and the next visit to a mechanic was due – this time brake pads needed a change.
Luckily we were able to find an place that was open on the weekend. They took care of Ёжmobile comparatively quickly. I was astonished to find Jesus at a regular gas station in North Carolina.
We stopped in Asheville for a couple of hours and explored River Arts District. Surprisingly, I didn’t enjoy it that much, which is strange considering I’ve been to Asheville before and remember liking it.
This time the ‘trendiness’ felt forced, as if someone has artificially created ‘the cool block’ in the middle of a former industrial area with select qualifying artists manually plugged into the scene. The people were nice and the prices were high. Welcome to an art district with the SoHo ambition, targeted at tourists with pockets running deep.
Back to the nature.
Great Smoky Mountains
The first night in the Smokies we spent in a tent pitched next to a scenic lookout, constantly paranoid about a gang hanging out nearby. The good part of the night we would hear cars driving in and out, conversations in a lowered tone of voice, and then someone would suddenly quickly drive off, only to come back 5 minutes later, as if they were on a patrol. I’m not sure if these patterns suggested drug dealers or something else – we chose to remain ignorant.
The first hike we did was a comparatively short one to the falls, where we took a quality cold summer bath and scared a black bear on our way back.
Next day we hiked up to Mt. Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi river (6,684ft). It is possible to drive up all the way to the top, but we wanted to explore the nature of the Smokies first hand. It was a beautiful trail that kept changing from a grassy narrow path to rocky climbs through thick roots. The air was nice and dry at first but the temperatures dropped quite a bit as we went deeper into the forest. The tall trees made the day much darker than just a minute ago.
At the top the main (outdoor) viewpoint was blocked off with yellow caution tape, indicating COVID lockdown. The sun was beginning to set.
We ran back down to the bottom to witness the burning sunset. The air was full of mist, creating a surreal apocalyptic atmosphere.
That night in our best tradition we pitched a tent on the side of the road by a bubbling creek. A thousand of lightning bugs appeared as soon as the darkness settled in.
That was our last night in the wilderness.