Sep 26, 2012

On the Road Again {or, vacation round 2}

So we bid farewell to Navarre Beach after Hurricane Isaac (literally) drove us away from our vacation last month (more on our woefully-short beach trip here). Since we had to evacuate by 8:00 am, we hit the road at about the worst possible time for a toddler. Max had just woken up, and then we said, "Hey, dude, how about we chill in the car for eight hours?"

Twelve hours and many stops later we made it home, spent a day regrouping and calling around for last-minute deals, and then drove another 3 hours and 45 minutes to end up here:
























The Smokey Mountains! We found a cabin in North Carolina, between the two teeny mountain towns of Maggie Valley and Waynesville. (About an hour east of Gatlinburg, for you Tennesseans.) I should go ahead and warn you, the rest of this post includes LOTS of photos of the rest of our vacation :)

It took me a good day or two to decompress from the misadventures of vacation round one, but luckily we'd booked five nights here. And there was a hot tub. And Max napped really well, giving Ben and I two to three hours each day to sit around on the balcony and watch the "smoke" roll over the mountains. We hopped into the hot tub every night after Max went to sleep, and dedicated one night to roasting s'mores in the fire pit outside the cabin :)

There was lots of porch sitting, swinging and nature-viewing.


























There was hiking and creek-stomping. I love how Max looks like such a determined little hiker in this photo!










































































One afternoon we drove into Asheville (about 40 minutes away). Ben was dying to try out Wedge Brewing Company, a funky brewery situated on the river in an industrial/up-and-coming part of the city. He was a fan. And there was a food truck, so what more do you really need?
























Then we headed into downtown Asheville and wound up at the Laughing Seed Cafe, an awesome vegetarian restaurant, for dinner. And go figure, Asheville being the super cool town it is, the cafe was connected to another brewery where Ben could get more local microbrews. And of course we couldn't leave Asheville without visiting the famous drum circle (love those hippies!). Max was totally entranced. For those who don't know, on Saturday evenings in Asheville, there is basically a free-for-all with anybody who wants to bang their drums, dance, and generally have a good time. There were glow sticks and people of all ages enjoying the scene ... it kind of felt like old times at Bonnaroo (more on our Bonnaroo adventures here).


























The next day we took a terrifying drive up a one-lane unpaved mountain road to see several herds of elk up close. Apparently they used to flourish in this area until they were over-hunted, and recently quite a few were re-released back into the mountains. Ok, so I may have a phobia about driving along cliffs and anything remotely steep, but I swear this drive was death-defying (by we, I mean Ben was driving. I was too busy cowering into my seat, holding my breath, and going into panic mode anytime we encountered another vehicle on the road.) In the end, we were rewarded with lots of elk, out for an evening graze in the mountain meadows. Max thought it was pretty amazing, and we also explored some buildings from the original settlement that was up on the mountain, so all in all it was a great way to spend an evening.

























Max also had a blast rolling his truck down the steep mountain road outside our cabin. I have to admit ... Max wasn't the only one having a blast!
























After getting thoroughly relaxed and immersed in the mellow mountain culture, it was time to head home. I never expected to go to the mountains and the beach in the span of one week-long vacation, but hey - life would be really dull of everything always went as planned!


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