To celebrate my 32nd birthday several weeks ago, *A* and I headed to our favorite part of North Carolina – the western-most mountains around Asheville. We went apple-picking at our favorite orchard and got to spend some quality time with a very special friend of ours – someone I’ve been friends with – geez, longer than anyone else.
The day before my birthday, we headed to Stepp’s Orchard (officially called Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard) to pick apples.
We love this place. We first stumbled across it when we were on our honeymoon in 2005 and though we’ve always lived at least two hours away, we’ve managed to make it there at least once every fall. It’s a pretty big orchard, and you can pick your own apples. They have all kinds of varieties – this time we picked Galas (*A*’s favorite). My favorite, Pink Lady apples, don’t come in until mid-October, I think. The best part is being able to pick your own apples. We grab a wagon to make things a little easier.
Tucker came with us on this trip and while he was a great hiking buddy, he was no help apple-picking! This was actually a pretty brief photo opportunity. We can now add noisy, creaky wagons to the list of things that make poor ol’ Tucker’s nervous (it’s an ever-lengthening list). Luckily, out of the wagon, he was pretty chill while we
scaled to the tops of several rather-iffy-near-the-top trees and carefully selected the tip-top most apples within reach.
We hung out that evening with our good friend and went to dinner at a great little place in downtown Asheville called Farm Burger that we’d actually tried in Decatur, Georgia once before. Super-good grass-fed beef. We don’t eat a lot of beef these days, but this was, well, super-good! We also trotted right around the corner to the French Broad Chocolate Shop where I tried my first ever creme brulee (chocolate). Top notch fo’ sho’.
For years and years (at least four), I’ve been wanting to go to the Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest, so we decided this was the trip for it. It’s a pretty cool place that feeds our nerdy history sides – we learned all about sustainable forestry as it began in the late 1800s – early 1900s, thanks to George Vanderbilt. This was the first school of forestry in the United States. There are some exhibits that are grown-up focused, but the kid-oriented ones were pretty cool: one featured this huge (fake) tree that had a tunnel underneath. Crawling through the tunnel, you could see the dens of all the little critters that might live under such a tree in the woods.
The best part of the Cradle of Forestry was exploring the trails. There are two short trails leading in separate directions on the property. It’s a super kid-friendly place. At quite a few points along each trail there were activities for kids. One of them was putting on a pair of bug specs that helped you see as a dragonfly might. I think they made *A* look a little like Janis Joplin:
On both of the trails, you pass by reconstructed buildings, the originals of which served as the housing for forestry students and as their “schoolhouse.” There was also an old logging train that just invited climbing up to ring the bell:
It was interesting to learn how logging was accomplished 100 years ago – prior to power-anything. I’m thankful that people like this existed and we now have national forests to visit – it’s hard to imagine these beautiful woods being logged-off and bare 100 years ago. Imagine what they looked like before that. Which reminds me, another western-most NC bucket list location: Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, which I’ve reportedly been to, but I must’ve been a wee one myself because I don’t remember it. This 3,800 acre forest is one of the only old-growth forests left (in the East, anyway). There are trees here over 200 feet around and 100 feet tall, well over 400 years old.
What a great way to spend a birthday! Lots of chances to be nerdy, to be outside, and to spend time with a friend. I hope next time we’re there we have a little explorer with us (and not just Tucker!)
Maybe when we have that little explorer we’ll be brave enough to try the 60-foot natural waterslide at Sliding Rock, just a few miles down the road in Pisgah National Forest near Brevard. Maybe. Never heard of Sliding Rock? Here’s a video of it in action.
Stepp’s Hillcrest Orchard photo courtesy http://www.steppapples.com/
Sliding Rock photo courtesy http://shutterdo.com/2012/11/02/sliding-rock-north-carolina/