In today's overly connected 24/7 society, it can be difficult to find quality time with your spouse, kids and friends — let alone yourself. But carving out some quiet “me” time should be on everyone’s priority list, and even a few minutes flying solo can deliver big benefits. 

“Solitude is an intentional period of time set aside to reconnect with yourself,” says Rachel Astarte, psychotherapist, certified life coach and author of Celebrating Solitude: How to Discover and Honor Your Highest Self (Green Oracle Press, 2012). “Ideally, it is designed to recharge your batteries so that you can give back to the world.”

.
. Oxygen Magazine

For some people, however, solitude is uncomfortable. Maybe you have FOMO (fear of missing out) or feel guilty prioritizing yourself over others or equate being alone to being punished — e.g., being sent to your room as a kid. Regardless, Astarte recommends giving it a go. Here’s why.

You'll gain clarity. Solitude allows you to clear your mind of mental chatter and get to the root of a problem or issue without distractions from the outside world, according to Astarte.

You'll boost creativity. “In true creative mode, the only voice we need to hear is our own,” Astarte says. “It is this clarity of mind that allows us to open ourselves to the vastness of possibility.”

You'll reduce stress. “Stress causes our bodies to enter into the protective fight, flight or freeze mode, which is regulated by cortisol,” Astarte explains. Intentional solitude, wherein you practice what gives you joy, keeps you in a safe state of calm so your stress hormones are not triggered.

You'll connect with your spirituality. “Solitude allows us to rediscover the most elevated, most spiritually evolved self we can be,” Astarte says. “It gives us time to re-familiarize ourselves with the innate spark carried within us.”

You'll renew your energy. Giving to others all the time — while rewarding — also can be draining. “It’s like having a party and filling everyone’s glass with an empty pitcher — there is simply not enough to give,” Astarte says. Giving to yourself can help replenish your energy stores so you can return to life with a full tank.

How to Go It Alone

Solitude might not come naturally to you, but you can improve with practice. Start with five minutes a day and gradually work your way up to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Here are some tips from Astarte for additional guidance.

  • Go offline. Put down your phone and disconnect from social media. This severs the continual inundation of others’ energy and allows you to properly connect to your own.
  • Pick a place. Create a space for your solitude practice such as a spot outdoors where you can reconnect to nature or a quiet room in your home.
  • Find your joy. Do what you love to do most during this time with yourself, whether it’s reading, dancing, sketching, meditating, taking a bath or going on a long walk.
  • Write it out. Journaling is a powerful tool for self-connection. It holds all your thoughts and feelings and can become an extension of you.
  • Release your guilt. Take this time for you and feel good about it, knowing that ultimately it will make you a better mother, wife, friend and work colleague.

Written by Jill Schildhouse for Oxygen Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Oxygen Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello friends and supporters, it is a heavy time that calls for drastic measures in order to ensure the safety of our community and beyond. In our little mountain town we very much rely on our out of town visitors and are eternally grateful for their support year after year. The downtown businesses, events, charities, & organizations that we all love thrive on such outside support. Please stay united in these efforts to protect our local community while practicing social distancing. We are looking forward to the day when we can ALLenjoy the beauty our area has to offer, but in the meantime, we urge everyone to stay home as much as possible. Maintain social distancing, stay put, and wash your hands.
The sooner we accomplish this together, the sooner we can all get back out there.

Please read this message from our friends and partners at Friends of DuPont State Forest and feel free to reach out with any concerns or help you may need. Stay safe everyone!
-Your friends at D.D. Bullwinkel’s Outdoors

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

DuPont State Recreational Forest is temporarily closed effective March 24, 2020.

Like many other public lands in Western North Carolina, DuPont Forest got hammered with visitors over the weekend. There were too many people unwilling to follow the social distancing guidelines putting the health of our community at risk.

We want to stress that the NC Forest Service did not take this decision lightly. They explored every option to keep the Forest accessible. They know how much we rely on our public lands and understand how important getting outside in the woods can help in a time of crisis. Given the crowds (and lack of social distancing) the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus in our community was just too high. We applaud them for taking the necessary steps to protect the community, staff, and first responders.

Friends of DuPont Forest has spent the last 20 years encouraging everyone to get outside and explore DuPont Forest and other public lands. Right now we encourage everyone to stay home, explore your backyard, and stay safe.

Please see the press release for more details. We’ll keep you updated and when this is all over we can’t wait to welcome you back!

Dear friends and supportive community,

This situation is ever changing. What we considered prudent yesterday, doesn’t feel the same today. For that reason, we are implementing changes immediately in order to help keep our employees and our community safe.

After careful consideration, we are temporarily closing our retail stores, D.D. Bullwinkel’s and MooseTracks Footwear at 6:00pm today. We believe that this is the right and ethical decision to help keep one another safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We will be closed to the public until April 1st. At that time we will reassess the situation and make a decision on our next steps.

What does this mean?
Our store will have limited staffing available, on an as needed basis for picking up orders. You may make inquiries via Facebook messaging. Please give us adequate time to respond and assist you. We want to be able to help take care of your needs as much as possible, but we also want our staff and you to be safe.

This is a difficult decision for any business, and we know it’s impactful for our employees and their families. We are doing our best to stay focused with their best interests in mind.

We appreciate your trust and your business. We hope that you will remember that is a stressful time for everyone, so please be patient and take a little extra grace as you communicate and interact with your family, doctors, care providers, service clerks and all humans that you engage with during these difficult days.

We are selling gift certificates that can be used at a future time. 100% of all proceeds from gift certificate sales will go directly to support our employees and their families.
You may call Rocky’s to make this purchase, at 828-877-5375; 11am-5pm.

Our other location, Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop will continue to be open for to-go meals, curbside pick-up, and deliveries.
Rocky’s will be open 7-Days a Week, 11am to 5pm for now.
When and if this changes, we will use social media and email communication to let you know.
The state of NC has mandated strict rules for us to follow.
No one can come into the restaurant.
We ask that you call in your orders to 828-877-5375; make your payment on the phone; and when your order is ready, we will deliver it to you curbside. We have reserved spaces in front of the store for you.

We will get through this together, and we all need one another. We continue to be ever grateful that we are a part of your community family, and we want you to know that you matter to us.

The Perkins Family

Long days of sunshine are returning to Blue Ridge Mountains, and a thousand shades of green are returning to the forests, growing brighter with each day. Spring is a beautiful time to live in Asheville, as the surrounding mountains burst to life with wildflowers and roaring rivers. You might find yourself with what feels like an unending reserve of energy, wanting to sprint to the summit of Mount Mitchell and back again before you’ve even had your morning coffee. Here are five active and exhilarating ways to welcome the new season.

1. Mountain Bike to Bridal Veil Falls

Behind the Veil at
Behind the Veil at David Clarke

There are a few ways to access the impressive, 120 foot granite slide of Bridal Veil Falls, but the one we recommend is Corn Mill Shoals Trail. Because of a precarious river crossing, this trail is guaranteed to never get too crowded. You will wind through picturesque Eastern Hardwoods with some brief but trying climbs before taking a moderately steep, straight downhill to the base of the falls. The trail is rutted with roots, rocks, and patches of mud, but nothing near as technical as you would find in neighboring Pisgah.

Enjoy the quiet and solitude that you will find on this 2.75 mile trail (one way), as Bridal Veil Falls is a very popular destination. Curtaining down a steep hillside of pure rock, they are a spectacular site to behold, something you might expect to find out West instead of tucked away in Appalachia. You may recognize them from The Last of the Mohicans and, more recently, The Hunger Games.

The good news, however, is that of all the waterfalls in DuPont, this one requires the most hiking to access, saving you from the carnival-crowds of the roadside Triple Falls and High Falls.

Park your bike at the base of the falls—racks are provided and we highly recommend locking them up—and then scramble up the sun warmed slab till you've reached the ten foot drop. Here, provided the water is not too high, you can actually climb behind the veil and explore the falls from the inside out.

2. Sip a cider at Westside Fest

A sunny day cider at Urban Orchards in West Asheville.
A sunny day cider at Urban Orchards in West Asheville. Melina Coogan

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring then a good old fashion neighborhood block party? West Side Fest is the annual West Asheville craft beer and craft cider festival, held on May 24 th in the courtyard of Urban Orchards Cider Company . A ticket includes unlimited cider and beer tasters from the neighborhood breweries of Oyster House, Wedge, Altamont, and New Belgium.

Customize your brew with a mobile flavor infuser, featuring fruit, spices, and French Broad Chocolate. Heaping plates of local BBQ and ice cream from the HOP—including the brewery inspired flavors of creamy porter, sweet malty IPA, and cider sorbets—will be available as well.

3. Hunt for Wildflowers at Graveyard Fields

Asheville in bloom
Asheville in bloom Bobistraveling

When long sunny days return to Western Carolina, oceans of wildflowers bloom throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, carpeting the forest floor and painting the fields with vibrant hues. In April, white Dogwood and Painted Trillium will be in full bloom, along with the delicate pinks of Redbuds, Pinkshell Azaleas, and Pink Lady Slippers and tiny blue Phacelia. May brings Mountain Laurel, Flame Azalea, Violets, and Wild Cherry.

Graveyard Fields, located off of milepost 418.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is one of the most popular hikes in the area for wildflower hunting. This moderate, 3.4-mile loop trail cuts through open grassy meadows of a high, flat mountain valley that bloom knee deep with wildflowers. Wrap-around views of rippling Appalachian peaks and the unusual appearance of mossy, overgrown stumps create a gorgeous and unique experience for hikers in any season.

4. Take a plunge at Midnight Hole 

The icy waters along the Big Creek Trail
The icy waters along the Big Creek Trail Steven Reinhold

Hit the reset button and wash off the last remnants of winter by taking a dip at Midnight Hole on Big Creek . Named for its dark, sparkling water, this classic Southeast swimming hole is located on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, just inside the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

An easy 1.4- mile hike on an old railroad grade will lead you to the pool, fed at one end by a cascade of water tumbling through rocks. The water stays very cold even throughout the summer, but the surrounding boulders are so perfect for climbing and jumping off—you won’t be able to resist taking the first plunge of the year. Afterwards, when you’re feeling refreshed and revived, continue a half-mile up to the trail to see the spectacular, 45 foot Mouse Branch Falls.

5. Do Yoga at Max Patch

Warrior Pose on the grassy summit of Max Patch.
Warrior Pose on the grassy summit of Max Patch. David Clarke

Do a little spring cleaning of your mind and soul by taking your yoga practice to the summit of Max Patch . This grassy, flowering bald is the ideal place to lie in Savasana and recharge your battery after a dark and rainy winter. Mountain views roll out in all directions, including the Black Mountain Range and Smoky Mountain National Park.

The summit is a quick ten minute jaunt from the parking lot, so pack your yoga matt, a water bottle, and a book and stay all day. Max Patch is a popular destination especially on the weekends, but a brief sojourn on the Appalachian Trail in either direction can award you 360 degrees of sunny, green solitude.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Jeff Bartlett

It's hard to deny the lure of mountain fire towers, with their place in history as guardians of the forest, and the intrigue of the solitary, beatnik existence of the watchmen who were once posted within them. Like lighthouses, these imposing structures still hold a certain element of mystery and nostalgia, and nowhere can you find a more spectacular view of the many mountain ranges that make up the Southern Appalachians. Here, five fire towers to explore in Western Carolina.

1. Shuckstack Firetower

Western Great Smoky Mountains

Looking out Shuckstack Fire Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Looking out Shuckstack Fire Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Zachary Andrews

Standing at the top of Shuckstack Lookout Tower is easily one of the most dramatic and alluring experiences that you'll find on any mountaintop in the Southeast. Sixty feet in the air, swaying gently but perceivably in the wind, you feel as if you're standing inside a fixed mountain gondola. Through wraparound picture windows, you can spot the deep blue waters of Fontana Lake nestled inside the Smokies, as well as the full breadth of the Unicoi, Nantahala, and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Shuckstack Tower is located on a spur that juts off of the Appalachian Trail. The hike ascends a total of 2,100 feet in 3.5 miles, with the bulk of the steep terrain covered in the first 2.4 miles. After that, the trail evens out for an enjoyable mile, before turning sharply upwards again for the final scramble.

Take caution as you make your way to the top, as the tower has fallen into disrepair. A couple of broken steps and a section of missing railing are precarious illustrations of how the modern era has abandoned these dignified structures. Shuckstack is one of only three fire towers still standing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When they eventually succumb to weather and age, there will be no way for visitors to climb straight into the sky, and the views from the top will belong once again to the birds.

2. Greenknob Lookout Tower

Northern North Carolina Blue Ridge Crest 

Looking down from Green Knob Lookout Tower.
Looking down from Green Knob Lookout Tower. Michael Sprague

The Green Knob Lookout is a quick dash from milepost 350.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of Mt. Mitchell State Park . The half-mile trail is overgrown and nearly hidden, which saves it from the crowds that often gather at notable points along the Parkway. If you're looking for a more substantial hike, begin at the Black Mountain Campground. From here, the trail totals 6.6 miles out and back.

Built by the USFS in 1931, the Green Knob Lookout is included in the National Register of Historic Places. It is located along the Eastern Continental Divide, perched atop the 5,080 foot summit of Green Knob Mountain. On a clear day, the tower affords breathtaking views of the Black and Great Craggy mountain ranges and the Piedmont of North Carolina, with the distinguished profiles of Table Rock and Grandfather Mountains rising in the distance. Due to its height and convenient proximity to the parking area, Green Knob is a fantastic spot to catch a sunset.

3. Mt. Cammerer

Eastern Great Smoky Mountains

The majestic Cammerer Lodge.
The majestic Cammerer Lodge. McDowell Crrok

It's a burly 5.5 miles to reach the octagonal lookout tower on the summit of Mt. Cammerer , a mountain that straddles the state line of Tennessee and North Carolina. Your journey begins with three miles of steep switchbacks on the Low Gap Trail, ascending 2,000 feet before intersecting with the Appalachian Trail. The terrain then levels out along a scenic ridge line, with tantalizing views of the Cosby Creek and Toms Creek Valleys to keep you motivated. The final leg involves a scramble up a rocky spur as you approach Mt. Cammerer's rugged summit.

This particular tower was constructed in the Western style, meaning that instead of rising above the trees on wooden stilts, the cab sits on a sturdy foundation of massive, hand-cut stone. Until the 1960s, rangers inhabited the tower in two week shifts from October and December, and again from February till May. It must have been a peaceful existence for the watchmen, observing autumn descend and spring bloom over the Pigeon River Gorge.

You can claim a few moments of tranquility for yourself inside the glassed-in cabin, with a panoramic view that includes Snowbird Mountain, the tower-topped summit of Mt. Sterling, and the Great Smoky Mountains unfurling in the Southwest.

4. Wayah Bald

Nantahala Mountains

Dramatic views from Wayah Bald.
Dramatic views from Wayah Bald. US Forest Service – Southern Region

Until 1945, watchmen would inhabit the old stone lookout on Wayah Bald for two months at a time, sleeping in narrow, drop-down beds fixed to the wall and cooking over a wood stove. Their regiment involved walking the second-story wooden catwalk that surrounded their sparse dwelling, searching day and night for the flicker of flames or the dark halo of smoke rising above the mountains.

Of course, the human history of this area dates back long before the tower's construction in 1937. Waya is the Cherokee word for wolf. Red wolves used to roam across the mountain's bald summit, and spear points dating back longer than 11,000 years have been discovered scattered in the ground.

Today, the upper stories have been removed, and the stone structure that remains looks like something that was lifted from a mediaeval landscape and dropped in the Southern Appalachians. A wrap-around staircase descends from the top of the tower to a wide stone patio, providing panoramic mountain views that span all the way into Georgia. It's not unusual to see a bride and groom gleefully posing for photos on the patio, taking advantage of this spectacular vista.

Wayah Bald rises 5,342 feet out of the Nantahala National Forest, just outside of Franklin, NC. The tower is accessible via the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, which stretches for 115 miles between North Georgia and Cheoah Bald in North Carolina. You can park very near to the trail for a quick jaunt to the summit, or begin at Wilson Lick Ranger's Station for a lovely 3 mile hike on the AT.

5. Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

Great Balsam Mountains

At 70 feet tall, the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower holds the distinction of tallest USFS lookout in Western North Carolina. The summit of Fryingpan rises high in the Great Balsam Range, topping out at 5,340 feet. As one might imagine, the view from this combined height is unparalleled—so far reaching, in fact, that the tower was actively used for fire detection well into the 1990s!

The top tower is locked, but five flights of steel stairs will bring you just below the platform where you can savor the spectacular vista. The mountains in the distance, including Cold Mountain and Mt. Pisgah to the North, feel right up close and personal. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Shining Rock Wilderness are also visible to the North and Southwest, an incredible payoff for a quick and easy hike (1.5 mile round-trip) on a gravel road.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Andrew Piazza

Intro

DuPont State Recreational Forest is a beautiful 10,000-acre outdoor playground in the Blue Ridge Mountains. With roughly 80 miles of multi-use trails meandering through dense forests, alongside mountain lakes, and next to cascading waterfalls, DuPont is a hiker’s paradise. 

What Makes It Great

Options are something you’ll have plenty of in DuPont. The 4.5-mile trail to Cedar Rock is a wonderfully scenic route with excellent views and not too much strenuous elevation gain. Both the short and long routes to the summit of Stone Mountain- the tallest point in DuPont- are grueling hikes with steep grades, yet amazing views. And hiking alongside one of the five lakes within DuPont is always a pleasant experience, most notably the 99-acre Julia Lake. But perhaps what DuPont State Forest is most known for is its waterfall hiking. The Little River flows through the park and creates four waterfalls on its way. Hooker Falls, Triple Falls, High Falls, and Bridal Veil Falls are all worth seeing, and you can actually reach three of these in one fell swoop on an easy 3-mile route. By parking at the Hooker Falls lot, you can reach the 12-foot cascade of Hooker in a matter of minutes, followed by a 1/2 miles jaunt upstream to the impressive 120-foot cascade of Triple Falls, and finally another 1/2 walk to the grand finale of 150-foot High Falls. After you’ve had your fill, simply turn around and return from where you came. 

Who is Going to Love It

No matter what adventure you choose to have in the DuPont State Forest, it’s sure to be quite memorable for any nature lover. Oh, and movie lovers, a few scenes from “The Hunger Games”were filmed here, so that’s just the cherry on top. 

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the DuPont State Forest website: “Take I-26 east toward the Asheville Airport. Exit at the Airport (exit 40) and head south on NC-280 for about 16 miles. Turn left onto US -64 (heading east) for about 4 miles. In Penrose, turn right onto Crab Creek Road for about 4 miles to DuPont Road. Turn right on DuPont Road and continue for 3.1 miles.”

Written by Sarah Merrell for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Osajus

Skiing at Cataloochee Mountain.
Lovely evening light settles over the ski slopes. Timo Newton-Syms

Love birds by day, powder hounds by night: Hit the slopes of Cataloochee Mountain  after dark for an out-of-the-ordinary romantic excursion. The ski resort offers both Twilight Passes (1 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and Night Passes (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) so that visitors may discover the distinct pleasures of skiing and snowboarding after sundown. Although the main trails are brightly lit, the real fun begins when you and your sweetie duck into the trees and find the powder stashes that are illuminated only by starlight.

2. Plan a Picnic on the Parkway

Kissing alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway.
A romantic moment alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway. Melina Coogan

A picnic on the Blue Ridge Parkway requires very little planning, which makes it a perfect spur-of-the-moment romantic outing. Simply choose which phenomenal view you’d like to share (we recommend Looking Glass Rock Overlook at Milepost 417, which also happens to be the trailhead for Skinny Dip Falls, need we say more) or cruise the parkway and take your pick of breathtakingly beautiful overlooks.

For perfect picnic fare, stop by the West End Bakery for sandwiches, baked goods, and coffee to go, or class it up with a box of hand-selected truffles from the French Broad Chocolate Company. (Of course, if this is an evening excursion, a bottle of champagne certainly qualifies as a picnic.)

3. Camp Out at Crabtree Falls

Take a tiny vacation to the Crabtree Falls & Meadows Recreation Area, home of the gorgeous, 70-foot Crabtree Falls, one of the most  photogenic landscapes near Asheville . Spend the night in one of the small, rustic cabins at the Crabtree Falls Campground, then make the easy, 3 mile out-and-back hike to the falls first thing in the morning. Bring a thermos of coffee to share with your sweetheart, and watch as the first rays of sun penetrate the forest and illuminate the gauzy veil of water. If you’re an early riser, you may have that marvelous sight all to yourself.

4. Watch the Sunset from the Linville Gorge

Sunset at the Linville Gorge.
Sunset from Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge. JenjazzyGeek

With all the artistic allure of sunrise, but without the painful wake-up time, sunset is time of reflection, serenity, and romance. As the sun sinks and the sky erupts in colors, the world grows cold very quickly. Make sure and throw a blanket in your backpack so you can wrap it around the both of you, and pack a thermos of hot tea to share.

A dramatic spot to witness the closing of day is from the summit of Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge Wilderness. Some 2,000 feet above the canyon floor, perch at the edge of the rock outcrop, and take in the view that stretches across the gorge to Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain. Remember to pack a couple of headlamps for the 1.5 mile descent back to the car.

5. Take in the Stars at Graveyard Fields

A starry night in the mountains.
The cosmos on a clear night, putting on the most romantic performance in the universe. Anunturi Gratuite

If you’re truly looking to impress, treat your certain someone to the best stargazing in all of North Carolina. Graveyard Fields , a high valley in the heart of the Great Balsam Range, is best known for its hiking trails, which meander through mountain laurels, blueberry thickets, and rhododendrons, and provide the perfect overlook for two waterfalls that tumble down the Yellowstone Prong. In the evening, however, after most of the visitors have packed up and headed home, the settling darkness unveils a whole new realm of natural beauty above the quiet meadow.

Folded away in the Blue Ridge and far from the city lights of Asheville and Hendersonville, the sky above Graveyard Fields is one of the best places in the Southeast to view the Milky Way. And while this may be a lofty claim, that diamond-white spray of stars is arguably the most romantic spectacle in all of the visible cosmos.

6. Ride the Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail

If you want to keep it casual with a brand new love interest, take a fun and flirty ride on the Point Lookout Greenway Bike Trail. This paved greenway, surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest, makes for a pleasant 8 mile out-and-back ride (including the half mile dash from the parking area at the Pisgah National Forest Picnic Area near Old Fort.) If you choose to cruise together on a tandem bike, be warned that the trail gains 900 feet of elevation in 3.6 miles, so be ready for some teamwork.

7. Escape for the Weekend

On the front porch at a Smoky Mountain Getaways cabin.
On the front porch at a Smoky Mountain Getaways cabin. Courtesy of Smoky Mountain Getaways

Just because you’re a permanent resident of the Blue Ridge Mountains doesn’t mean you can’t play tourist from time to time. Surprise your partner by renting a cabin for the weekend  and sweeping him or her away from the ubiquitous demands real life. Hide away at a riverside cabin, hole up in an upscale yurt, or indulge in the luxuries of a fancy mountainside cottage. A weekend of fresh views, hot-tub soaks, and some new perspective on a familiar landscape will do you both a world of good. Sometimes, even the most steadfast relationships need a little change of scenery.

8. Cozy Up with a Hot Mulled Cider

Hot Mulled Cider at Urban Orchards Cider Company.
Hot Mulled Cider at Urban Orchards Cider Company, the coziest drink at the coziest cider house. Jeff Anderson

Nestled on a side street between West Asheville and the River Arts District, Urban Orchards Cider Company is one of the coziest hideouts in the city. The spacious interior, filled with warm light and polished wood, is the perfect respite from a dreary winter evening. The cider, brewed right downstairs from Carolina apples, is light, bright, and not too sweet, a perfect date-night alternative to beer.  The brewers create a seasonally shifting menu of creative infusions, from tart cranberry to the effervescent ginger champagne.

When you don’t have the time to disappear into the mountains, head over to Urban Orchards, break out the trail guides, and plan your next adventure together over a piping hot cranberry-orange mulled cider.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Caleb Ekeroth

If it seems too good to be true, than it probably is. These are wise words to live by, yet we’ve discovered the rare exception to this rule. Here in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western Carolina, if you know where to look, you can find wild, rolling meadows, exposed peaks of bare rock, and views of heart-melting beauty—and all of them reachable by trails so short you’ll barely break a sweat. This coveted combination of huge payoff and minimal effort might sound too good to be true, but the mountains never lie. Here are seven short hikes with enormous rewards.

1. Devil’s Courthouse

Devil's Courthouse sunrise
The hike to Devil's Courthouse is short, strenuous, and well worth every step.

Frank Merenda

According to Cherokee legend, the sinister, bare-rock profile of Devil’s Courthouse is the dwelling place of  Judaculla , the slant-eyed giant that dances in the caves below the summit. And while there’s no telling what sort of apparition you might see lurking in those mysterious hollows of rock, the view from the top is guaranteed to leave you breathless. Four states—Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and North Carolina—unfurl in every direction in a rippling expanse of mountains. The journey to this ominous 5,720-foot peak is a mere half-mile from the parking lot. Remain on the trail to protect the abundance of fragile, high-altitude plants that cling to the rock and ensure that the giant lurking beneath you remains undisturbed.

2. Max Patch

Purple mountains at Max Patch.
Purple mountain majesty from the summit of Max Patch on an early morning.

Marcos Gasc

The greatest reward awaiting you from the airy summit of  Max Patch  is the deepest breath you’ve been able to draw in a long, long time. The feeling of tranquility and expansiveness that this rolling Appalachian meadow will instill in you is similar to that inspired by the ocean. Layer upon layer of mountains unfold into the distance in a 360-degree panorama, and the sky above you is a perfect blue dome. The road to Max Patch is long and winding, but the hike is short and sweet: a half-mile trek to the top, where you’ll find the Appalachian Trail cutting a neat path along the ridge line.

3.Waterrock Knob

The Blue Ridge Mountains at Waterrock Knob.
From the summit of Waterrock Knob, ethereal blue layers of mountain fold into the distance.

Doug Waldron

The summit of  Waterrock Knob  is best enjoyed on the first morning after a rain, when the atmosphere is clean and polished. Waterrock Knob is located in the Plott Balsam Range, the chain of mountains that connects the Smokies to the Great Balsams. From its soaring peak 6,292 feet above sea level, the view stretches for more than 50 miles across Maggie Valley and into the Smokies beyond, including some of the tallest peaks within that range. The trail is just half a mile from the parking area (which also yields extraordinary views, and is a lovely destination if you are not ambulatory.) The trail includes many overlooks and opportunities to wander off and claim a few moments of solitude.

4. Linville Falls

A view of Linville Falls.
Linville Falls is a powerful spectacle in every season.

Stephen

The power of water—ancient, patient, and unyielding—may be the most moving and humbling force on the planet. Linville Falls, a 90-foot cascade that drops into the  Linville Gorge , is a spectacular example of such power. From the visitor center, a stair-cut, three-quarter mile trail leads to the base of the falls, where the pounding of whitewater drowns out all other sound, and the riverside boulders beg you to climb and explore. Swimming is not allowed, as the current could quickly sweep you over Lower Falls and into the canyon. The two trails that begin at the visitor center lead to five separate viewpoints, including Plunge Basin Overlook, which allows for a bird’s-eye-view of Lower Falls and The Chimneys.

5. Green Knob Fire Tower 

View from the Green Knob Fire Tower.
Quite fittingly, the summertime view from Green Knob Fire Tower is one of innumerable shades of green.

Michael Sprague

There’s a beatnik romance to fire towers , an undeniable lure to these mountain structures that have become, if not completely anachronistic, then at least an aging relic of Americana. Half a mile on an overgrown and nearly hidden trail will lead you from the Blue Ridge Parkway to the summit of Green Knob Mountain, where the fire tower is perched along the Eastern Continental Divide. Although the cab has recently been closed to visitors, the vista at the top of the staircase is worth the rickety climb. A grab-bag of Carolina’s most impressive peaks, the view includes the Black Mountain Range, Mt. Mitchell, the Great Craggy Mountains, and the distinguished profiles of Table Rock and Grandfather Mountain.

6. Black Balsam Knob

Take a stroll through the goldenrod on the summit of Black Balsam Knob.
Take a stroll through the goldenrod on the summit of Black Balsam Knob.

Melina Coogan

Black Balsam Knob is nothing short of heavenly. This grassy bald lies atop the Great Balsam Mountains, drenched in open sky, with a 360-degree panoramic view. A short, switchbacking trail leads from the parking lot to the summit, where it intersects with the 30-mile  Art Loeb Trail . For an easy overnight, settle in at an established campsite on the summit, taking care to Leave No Trace. On a clear evening, you will be treated to a water-color sunset and a dome of shooting stars. Just don’t be surprised if, in the morning, the mountains beckon and you find yourself following the Art Loeb Trail toward the Shining Rock Wilderness. The landscape of high mountain balds is utterly irresistible.

7. Rough Ridge

The view from Rough Ridge.
The boulders alongside the Rough Ridge provide easy opportunities for stunning photography.

David Clarke

Life can be exhausting. Some days, you simply need to find the edge of the world, sit with your legs dangling into the ether, and just breathe. Luckily for the explorers of Western Carolina, there is a trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway, just outside of Blowing Rock, where you can do just that. Rough Ridge is a dazzling, one-mile section of both the Tanawha and Mountains-to-Sea trail . The splendor begins only a third of a mile from the parking area, when the boardwalk trail emerges from the forest into an alpine, rock-studded landscape. Continue for another half mile to the 4,773-foot summit, a steep rock fang with views of Grandfather Mountain, Linville Gorge, and the lights of the Piedmont glimmering in the distance. Make sure and scramble to the top of boulders along the way, and savor the dizzying sensations of elevation and exposure.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Erich Burton

While subzero temperatures and dwindling daylight can really put a damper on our motivation to hit the trail, the Blue Ridge Mountains are never quite as dramatic and ethereal as they are in the depths of winter. Familiar trails are transformed as bare trees unlock long-range views, the balds sparkle under a thick feathering of frost, and visitors are few and far between. But perhaps the most powerful offering of the winter landscape are the waterfalls: sheaths of ice, rainbows suspended in frozen mist, the cascade slowed or suspended entirely. See for yourself at these four waterfalls in Western Carolina to explore this winter.

1. Trashcan Falls

Waterfalls in Asheville, Trashcan falls
Trashcan Falls is more beautiful than the name may suggest.

Justin Fincher

No outdoor enthusiast living in Western Carolina should let a winter pass them by without spending a weekend in the High Country. Between skiing, cold-weather bouldering and endless miles of pristine hiking trails, there is no shortage of frozen adventure to be found just two hours north of Asheville. Boone’s old fashioned downtown has enough breweries, college eateries, and cozy cafes to keep you warm and dry after a day out in the snow.

Located on Laurel Creek, a tributary of the Watauga River, Trashcan Falls is a beautiful place to explore. Don’t be put off by its mysterious name—this 15 foot cascade is perfectly pristine. Just a quick dash down a wooded trail from the parking area, this waterfall is quickly and easily accessible. Allow yourself plenty of daylight to explore, because the falls and the little gorge downstream is irresistibly wild and alluring in the winter. Ice swirls in the eddies, flowers in patterns on the boulders, and chokes the current where the creek narrows. Winter offers a striking new perspective on this pocket of wilderness that, during the summer, is often crowded with swimmers and sunbathers.

2. Looking Glass Falls

Waterfalls in Asheville, Looking Glass Falls.
Looking Glass Falls in winter is a dazzling landscape.

Sarah Zucca

Looking Glass Rock, the pluton dome that rises from within the Pisgah National Forest to an elevation of nearly 4,000 feet, got its name because of the way sunshine reflects off its shining granite face. In the wintertime, when a sheen of ice coats the sides of the rock, this “looking-glass effect” is sharply enhanced. A visit to Looking Glass, as it lies sparkling under the winter sun, should be on the top of every hiker’s cold-weather bucket list.

One of the few roadside waterfalls in the Blue Ridge, the 60-foot Looking Glass Falls can gather some crowds during the summer months. In the winter, however, you’ll most likely be exploring the cascade alone. The ice formations that bloom alongside the veil and the rugged landscape of whipped, frozen whitewater that lays just downstream is a spectacular site. The sounds of falling water and cracking ice ring throughout the still, bare forest.

If you’re looking to make a day of exploring the marvelous ice formations around Looking Glass, nearby waterfalls nearby include Daniel Ridge Falls, Cove Creek Falls and Sliding Rock, just to name a few.

3. Crabtree Falls

Icicle collects in a curtain beneath Crabtree Falls, one of Asheville's waterfalls.
Icicle collects in a curtain beneath Crabtree Falls.

Jdshepard

Thick with wildflowers in the spring and blazing with color in the fall, Crabtree Falls is a lovely site in any season. The diamond clear water of Big Crabtree Creek sifts 70 feet down mottled black rock, creating a gauzy veil as thin and fine as white lace. When the temperature dips below zero, ice glazes the edges of the rock and daggers of icicles cling to every surface in the dark emerald pool below. With the striking atmosphere of a leafless hardwood forest and the quiet solitude of the freezing mountains, this waterfall may be most enchanting in the winter. Just 45 minutes outside of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this moderate 3.5-mile (roundtrip) hike is the perfect remedy for a case of cabin fever.

4. Dry Falls

Waterfalls around Asheville, Dry Falls.
Ice feathers the rocks at Dry Falls.

Jenjazzygeek

Just about 80 miles outside of Asheville, the vast wilderness of Jackson County, North Carolina, makes for an epic winter day trip. The rivers become a maze of ice and rock with the current coursing beneath the surface, and the steep, cliff-studded hillsides are bright and quiet after a snowfall. Driving the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, which twists and turns past several waterfalls in Cullasaja Gorge, is a particularly dramatic experience in the winter.

One of the most famous sites in the region, 75-foot Dry Falls, can be viewed from the byway. In the summer, it’s possible to explore behind the veil without a single drop of water landing on you. This becomes a decidedly dicier mission during the winter months, as that space is slick with frozen spray and decorated with icicles that could break off at any moment. Still, it’s worth descending the staircase that leads from the viewing platform, and examining the walls of ice and frost formations up close.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Justin Fincher

If you typically put away your camping gear during the winter and leave it stowed until spring, you’re missing out on some great days in the outdoors. During the winter, the bare trees reveal mountain views you just can’t get in the warmer months, and the cold conditions drive off the masses, providing a greater sense of solitude. Plus, the dry, cool air creates ideal conditions for stunning sunsets.

But, winter camping also poses special challenges. During the winter, the temperatures can fall below freezing, even down to single digits, and you need the proper knowledge, gear, and clothing to stay warm, dry, and comfortable. If you don’t pack wisely in summer, you might be uncomfortable, but it’s usually no big deal. But, in the winter, you risk illness, injury, or a really miserable outing if you’re not prepared.

To help you fill your winter with safe, enjoyable, and memorable adventures, we’ve put together a list of 11 important camping tips.

1. Check the Weather

As with all of your outdoor adventures, you should do your homework and find out the weather conditions you’ll likely encounter while camping. You can check the forecast with local media or the National Weather Service. Remember that conditions can change quickly, so be prepared with all of the clothing and supplies you’ll need for a worst-case scenario.

Also, keep in mind that the weather can affect road conditions, and you need to make sure that you’ll be able to reach your destination and return safely. Whenever possible, check the websites of parks or other recreation areas or contact park rangers or other experts to get the latest road and trail conditions. Rangers and other official personnel can also offer suggestions on the best campsites to use in winter.

2. Choose the Right Campsite

Whether you’re backpacking or tent camping, the right campsite can be the difference between an enjoyable, cozy winter outing or one that’s miserably cold. Look for a campsite that has trees or rocks that can partially block the wind, but make sure the trees are sturdy and that they’re not dead, dying, or rotting. The same goes with branches. Don’t pitch camp under dodgy looking limbs that could come crashing down.

3. Dress in Layers

The trick to staying comfortable outdoors during winter is to remain warm and dry. To do this, you need to regulate your body temperature so that you’re never too hot and sweaty, and never so cold that you’re core body temperature drops. The most efficient way to regulate your temperature is to dress in layers so that you can quickly add or remove clothing.

Basically, there are three layers you should carry:

  • Baselayer: These clothes sit against your skin and move moisture away from your body to keep you dry. They should be made of synthetic materials or wool and include little or no cotton, which holds water and robs valuable heat from your body. Mid-weight long underwear is a good choice for moderately cold winters. When temps start heading below freezing, you might consider heavier baselayers.

  • Middle layer: This is your insulating layer that will retain your body heat, but also allow some air to circulate to prevent overheating. This could be a sweater or jacket made with synthetic and/or wool materials. (This would include most puffy jackets.)

  • Outer layer: This is also known as the shell layer and includes jackets and coats that offer some protection from wind and moisture. If there’s a chance you’ll encounter rain or heavy snow, be sure to pack a waterproof shell.

4. Dress for Sleeping Success

It’s not always comfortable to change clothes while hiking or camping in the cold of winter, but you should change into dry, clean clothes before you go to sleep. If your clothes are dry you’ll stay warmer at night, and dirty clothes typically hold dirt and oil from skin, which reduces their insulating properties.

5. Pack the Proper Tent

1sOHo8M7YoS0s2S4WUCcA0
Choose a tent that has enough room to allow you to store gear inside it.

Jordan Heinrichs

Choose either a three- or four-season tent for winter camping. A three-season tent works for most mild winter conditions, and it will allow more ventilation to reduce the amount of condensation that can form inside the tent. During the winter, be sure to open the tent’s vents and expose mesh panels to reduce condensation.

Four-season tents are designed to withstand high winds and heavy rain or snow. To reduce drafts, they typically have little mesh for ventilation and a rainfly that extends almost to the ground. Plus, the poles are very sturdy so they can stand up to the wind. The downside is that four-season tents can build up lots of condensation in the more humid areas of the US.

When you choose a tent, be sure that it has room for an extra person—if two people will be sleeping in the tent, get one designed for three people. This way you’ll have space to place gear inside the tent or the vestibule to keep it out of the elements.

6. Choose the Right Sleeping Bag

Sleeping bag temperature ratings aren’t supremely accurate, because many factors affect your body temperature at night. Some people tend to sleep hot, while others tend to be cold. Plus, your warmth is affected by the number of calories you consume before sleeping. So, it’s a good idea to choose a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating 10 degrees lower than the coldest temperature you expect. You can also use a sleeping bag liner to add five to 25 degrees of warmth.

Keep in mind that most bags filled with down will be more lightweight and efficient at keeping you warm. However, they lose their thermal effectiveness when wet. A bag with synthetic insulation might weigh more, but it will continue to keep you warm if it gets wet. Also, be aware that some bags have water-resistant down that gives you the best of both worlds.

7. Insulate Yourself from the Ground

Much of your heat loss while camping is from sleeping on the cold ground. If possible, use two pads under your sleeping bag—the bottom pad should be closed-cell foam, while the upper pad should be thin and inflatable. Remember, pads are rated by their “R” value from 1.0 to 8.0, with 8.0 being the best. A good average pad has an R-Value of 4. Also, spread a ground cloth or tarp under your tent to prevent moisture from forming inside.

8. Consume Plenty of Calories

5ctBhA5alUuyKguA0IeE6k
Pack a stove so you can prepare warm drinks.

Sage Friedman

When planning your meals, make sure they’re high in calories, which your body needs to burn to stay warm. Keep your meals simple and easy to make, preferably one-pot meals. When you arrive into a cold campsite tired and hungry, you don’t want to mess with anything that’s difficult to prepare.

Be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which can actually be more of a problem in the cold than in the heat of summer. Also, be sure to bring a stove so that you can make hot water. If someone gets hypothermic you can warm the person’s core temperature quickly with hot chocolate or another warm drink.

9. Stay Warm with the Old Hot Water Bottle Trick

An easy way to stay warm at night is to heat water, put it in a plastic bottle, and place it near your feet or between your legs inside your sleeping bag. Make sure it’s not too hot and use a plastic bottle instead of metal so that you don’t get burned.

10. Don’t Run Out of Power

Batteries have a nasty habit of dying in the cold. Alkaline batteries tend to lose power faster than lithium. If your batteries die, try warming them in your hands or in your sleeping bag. That might jumpstart them again.

11. Use These Tricks for a Better Winter Campout

Here are few other tips for winter camping:

  • When you gotta go, go! An empty bladder means your body uses less energy to stay warm.

  • If you like to use a hydration reservoir, make sure the tube has an insulated sleeve or the water in it will freeze. If the hose isn’t insulated, leave the reservoir system at home and use water bottles instead.

  • If you do use water bottles, store them standing upside down at night. Water freezes from the top down.

Written by Joe Cuhaj for Matcha in partnership with BCBS of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Julian Bialowas