Sunday, May 9, 2010

Local Hikes: Catawba Falls Trail

Hi.  I hiked the Catawba Falls Trail today and had a great time.  The weather was cool and sunny and the sky was brilliant blue - an absolutely beautiful day for hiking this gorgeous local trail.  This beautiful 88-acre area was recently acquired by the Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina"a regional land trust, dedicated to working cooperatively with landowners and public and private conservation partners to preserve and protect important natural areas and open spaces of the Blue Ridge Foothills region, including watersheds, environmentally significant habitats, forests and farmland, for this and future generations. " The aquisition of this acreage by the Conservancy was significant in that it finally, in 2007, provided public access to the Falls, which have been part of Pisgah National Forest since 1989.  This conservation process concluded with the Conservancy's recent sale of the acreage to the US Forest Service.  Please check the links above - they provide good insight into both the trail and the conservation efforts of the Conservancy.

This trail is only a short distance east of Asheville.  The drive from Asheville to Exit 73 at Old Fort is about 24 miles and the trail head is approximtely three miles farther, down Catawba Falls Road.   The trail and area are nearly pristine, I don't recall seeing any trash or debris.  Be advised, to get to the upper falls one must be prepared for some fairly strenuous hiking up a steep trail for approximately the last 1/2 to 1/3 of the hike.  At one point, there is a short stretch so steep that a rope is provided to aid hikers in their ascent.  Although I observed some hikers with pets, I really don't think bringing a pet on this trail, especially if one plans to reach the upper falls, is a good idea.

Catawba Falls - one more natural gem now accessible to those of us Living in (and visiting) Asheville, North Carolina.  Please take time to visit this beautiful spot, you'll get a nice work-out in the process.  And please also treat it with respect - nature, and most recently the Foothills Conservancy and generous donors, have worked to create this place make it accessible to you and I.  Hopefully, countless future generations will also have the opportunity to enjoy what's been made accessible to us.  Happy Hiking!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Local Hikes: Laurel River Trail

This is a great local hike - it's not too far from Asheville, it has beautiful scenery, and it offers refreshing swimming holes.  The trail is well established and maintained, overall, and, at 7 miles, provides a moderate physical workout.  I've taken this hike twice over the past month and have really enjoyed it.  The Laurel River Trail  is about 30 miles from Asheville, in the Hot Springs area, and the trail head/parking area is conveniently located along 25N/70W (more info).  The links above provide trail specifics and directions and below I've included photos from yesterday's hike.  If you haven't yet taken this hike, I suggest you fit it into your spring/summer plans.  Have fun!!

Friday, April 30, 2010



Hurray!  The new bridge is open for business - no more detours.  Recently, a workman on the site explained to me that the new bridge is 24 feet wider than the old one - it now boasts usable sidewalks!  To commemorate the opening I have provided a chronology, in pictures, of progress over the last six months.  Enjoy it and the new bridge - opening just in time for the tourist season.   Travel along Biltmore Avenue will now be much easier for those Living in (and visiting) Asheville, North Carolina!

Ribbon Cutting   4/30/2010











Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cultural: Spring Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF)


LEAF is a non-profit organization established to build community and enrich lives through the arts, locally and globally, through festivals, events, mentoring, and educational programs.  The 2010 Spring LEAF will be held 6 -9 May at Camp Rockmount in Black Mountain, North Carolina, a short drive east of Asheville.   Tickets must be purchased in advance and information on how to purchase is provided at the link above - the site stresses tickets are going fast so please hurry if you're interested.  The link also provides an Earth-friendly brochure describing this year's event in detail.  If you miss the Spring Festival, make plans to attend the Fall LEAF, which will be held 14-17 October, 2010. 

Saturday, April 24, 2010

President Obama and First Lady Visit Asheville

The President and First Lady arrived in Asheville yesterday for a weekend of what the Asheville Citizen Times described as "eating, hiking and golfing". The video on the sidebar was taken at 2:11 pm yesterday from the Starbucks on Charlotte Street from where I viewed the President's motorcade. The motorcade had just left I-240 and was heading north on Charlotte Street to the Grove Park Inn and Spa, where the Obama's are staying.  The Obama's are apparently having an active vacation; they have already stopped by 12 Bones Smokehouse for a meal of ribs, hiked on the Parkway and golfed some. I was told by a friend at the Grove Park Inn that then candidate Obama had said, while visiting last in the Fall of 2008, that he would like to visit the Inn and Asheville again - apparently he meant it.  Welcome back Mr. President! Presidential visits - apparently just another aspect of life when Living in Asheville, North Carolina.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Restaurants: Papas & Beer (Mexican)

Since it opened about a year ago, the Papas & Beer restaurant at 17 Tunnel Road seems to have never wanted for customers.  This restaurant, the second Papas & Beer in Asheville, has been very popular.  I eat there from time to time and have always enjoyed my meals at the Tunnel Road location.  The menu offers a variety of California-style Mexican food.  Most people I know enjoy the restaurant and its menu.  The menu has a few vegetarian offerings, but only a few; a vegetarian who eats here with any regularity will likely tire of the limited offerings before long - this is my only significant criticism of the menu.  The fare is, for the most part, Mexican comfort food and the restaurant offers large portions at a reasonable price.  It's been my experience that visitors are somewhat perplexed by the "beany" dip provided as a standard accompaniment to the chips.  Be aware, the restaurant offers a salsa bar, often overlooked, where more common accompaniments for one's chips can be found.  It seems some visitors aren't aware of the existence of this salsa bar and the staff does not seem to promote it.  At dinner, be prepared for a wait for a table but, once seated, you can generally expect polite and friendly service. 

Papas & Beer has another location at 1000 Brevard Road, the original Asheville location.  Although I have never had a bad meal at the Tunnel Road location, I had been disappointed at the Brevard Road location.  Last time I visited it with a friend, neither one of us enjoyed and finished our meal.  It is my understanding, from discussion with an employee, that the two restaurants are under different ownership.  Another location, which I have not visited, is located at 1821 Asheville Highway, in Hendersonville.

Papas & Beer - a Mexican restaurant worth visiting when Living in Asheville, North Carolina.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Healthcare: Charles George VA Medical Center

In a previous article I wrote about the Mission/St. Joseph's Hospital Complex.  Asheville is also home to another significant medical center - the Charles George VA Medical Center at 1100 Tunnel Road.   Originally opened in 1922, in 2007 this facility was renamed in honor of Pfc Charles George, a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians.  Pfc George, only 20 at the time, threw himself upon a live grenade in order to protect his fellow soldiers.  Pfc George gave his life on November 30, 1952, near Songnae-dong, Korea.

Pfc Charles George

The Charles George VAMC serves approximately 100,000 veterans in a 19 county area of Western North Carolina.  In addition, this facility serves veterans from eastern Tennessee, and up-state South Carolina and Georgia.  The Veterans Administration Website provides an overview of this facility:

"The Asheville VA Medical Center is a tertiary care, 116-bed acute care facility located in western North Carolina. Asheville operates a separate 120-bed Community Living Center, serving the western North Carolina area and portions of South Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. The Center's services include extended care rehabilitation, psychogeriatric care, and general nursing home care. Comprehensive health care is provided through the spectrum of primary care, tertiary care, and long-term care in areas of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, oncology, dentistry, and geriatrics. Asheville is a teaching hospital, providing a full range of patient care services, with state-of-the-art technology and programs in education and research. Special programs include a Home Based Primary Care (HBPC) program, and a Substance Abuse Residential Rehabilitation Treatment Program (SARRTP). The medical center is located within the VA Mid-Atlantic Health Care Network (VISN 6)."

Charles George VA Medical Center

The Charles George VA Medical Center, another element of the health care system available to veterans Living in (or near) Asheville, North Carolina