Like many others, 2021 was a year that knocked me completely on my ass.
A lot of aspects in my life changed for the worse, and by the end of the year, I was in a pretty bleak spot. I ended up booking a relatively spontaneous “run away from home” trip that left on Black Friday for a bit of a…rejuvenation? Something along those lines. Something that was kind born out of a lack of international trips like Ireland or Spain.
What ended up coming out of a zoom meeting (with the same crew as the Iceland trip) was a bit of a jaunt for me in the end. But, in a good way. We would make a trip to see the Great Smoky Mountain area, including Gatlinburg, TN, and Asheville, NC. However, in order to make it more affordable, I would be adding an additional 4 days to the trip—in Minneapolis, MN.
- Minneapolis, MN: day 1
- Asheville, NC: day 2
- Gatlinburg, TN: day 3-4
- Asheville, NC: day 5-6
- Minneapolis, MN: day 7-10
But, for the views that the Smoky Mountains would provide…well, it was already going to be worth it, and it went so far beyond.
I’d say packed a lot into our time in the mountains. We started out by seeing the highest point in the range – Clingmans Dome – and would generally spend the rest of daylight hiking. Dark was much earlier than usual, with it being December and all. We still managed to squeeze quite a few in, including Andrews Bald and Alum Cave Trail.
The city of Gatlinburg itself…I will not comment much about. Our Airbnb was very scenic, and we even watched a few black bears attempt to break into the dumpsters next to our place.
Asheville is outright awesome. The brewery district was the best one I’ve ever wandered, and the arts district had way more to offer than I expected. And some of the dive bars that were referred and stumbled upon…I don’t have words for. So weird, so fun. Yacht Club and Lazy Diamond specifically, I don’t know how to explain how much fun they were.
Two other standouts that deserve their own time spent at were definitely the National Pinball Museum and the east side Sierra Nevada Taproom. If I’m being fair, though, I don’t know that we visited a single dud on any of the nights.
Coincidentally, part of what was going to make this whole trip affordable was adding more days on. Round trip from MSP to AVL was only going to be $60 round trip; so I really just had to get to one of their apartments and back.
As a cold weather fan, I was also pretty okay with being in Minnesota during the winter. And since Dubbs and Salfai both live right near downtown, I had a very personalized tour.
However, ending a hiking trip with 3 days of sleeping on a couch was not the recovery I’d previously thought it would be, so it was a welcome sight to see my bed after a more-or-less impromptu 10-day trip.