It’s no secret that summer in Asheville is a special time. After all, WNC is chock full of hiking trails, swimming holes, picnic spots, and more. But with social distancing measures in full effect, summer adventures look a little different this year. Here’s how the Darby crew has been making the most of our Blue Ridge home under these unusual circumstances:
As an Asheville local, I tend to scoff at visiting the Biltmore Estate as a touristy thing to do, but this year they had a deal on annual passes that I just couldn’t pass up. Since we got our pass a month ago, we’ve gone over to the Biltmore grounds to enjoy a picnic breakfast and lunch. On our first visit, a Monday morning in early June, my daughter and I took a picnic breakfast of lemony blueberry muffins and coffee, and our books to read. We found a quiet spot down by the river on the grounds near the lagoon.
As we were walking to put down our picnic blanket, some tourists told us that there was a bear down the path and to be careful. Being locals and used to frequent black bear sightings, we didn’t think too much of it. But when we looked up, there was a mid-sized bear with nowhere to run except towards us, because the river was on one side and the lagoon on the other and a car driving very slowly behind it! The tourists started to run. My daughter and I looked at each other and were both thinking “You should never run from a bear!” but we also knew he was running fairly slowly, had nowhere to go and was coming straight towards us, so we joined the tourists and ran back to our cars and got in. The bear hung out around the cars long enough to look for a way out of the area and lumbered to another field nearby.
Not allowing the bear to deter us, we walked back to the spot on the lagoon and laid our blanket down and started to enjoy our breakfast only to be joined by two extremely friendly geese. Needless to say, I now realize that the grounds of the Biltmore Estate can be just as adventurous as our local trails if you find the right places to go, and it’s actually one spot that my 13 year old will agree to get outdoors with me without much persuasion!
As an apartment dweller without a yard or patio, I’ve been looking for any chance I can get to get outside and enjoy some fresh air. Fortunately, I live just a few minutes from the Blue Ridge Parkway—I’ve loved hopping on and picking a spot at the Visitor Center or Folk Art Center to spread out a blanket and read a book. The Parkway’s many overlooks have also been a great way to catch some sunsets and even watch some rogue 4th of July fireworks.
WNC is a world class fly fishing destination. I’ve been trying to take advantage of these long summer days, sneaking off after work to fish stunning mountains streams for the beautiful native brook trout.
With the weather warming up here in Asheville, my fiancée and I have started spending our weekends searching out the best and least-crowded swimming holes in the area. While there are plenty of well-known swimming holes around us, looking for hidden gems is half the fun. Plus, venturing into less popular territory is a great way to avoid the crowds and stay safe.
During COVID/more quarantined life, I have been:
- nurturing my first ever garden (a small bean sprout from when I first started)
- working puzzles with my housemate (and my cat Bruce Wayne)
- having socially distanced driveway cookouts with close friends and family
- hiking with close friends and family
- hammock-ing in the park to relax from COVID stress
- hiking a lot more, in general
- trying to socially distance… even at important protests
Getting out of the house during a pandemic with two little ones brings its own challenges, so we’ve been focused on finding spots that aren’t crowded to let the girls get in the woods and in the water. We’ve failed a few times but had a couple of successes—including a jaunt into Pisgah National Forest last weekend with no real destination in mind. We stumbled on a perfect swimming hole and enjoyed cold mountain water, crayfish, and each other.