First of all, thank you every who has sent along condolences for Sally. She was a very special dog, and will be missed a lot.
I should warn you that this is going to be a picture heavy post, mostly because it was a gorgeous day in Asheville and I took a gazillion pictures at the biltmore mansion.
We left Cary early and, after a small snafu involving a forgotten cell phone, made it to Asheville in plenty of time for our 3pm tickets for the Biltmore Mansion, America's largest house. It did not disappoint. We had seen the Vanderbilt's summer home when we toured the Newport mansions a summer ago, so we had expected an upgrade from that disappointing shack (ha. Ha.) It really was impressive from top to bottom.
Home sweet home
Quite the view
One of the tapestries in the aptly named "tapestry room."
George Vanderbilt's bedroom.
The bowling alley. Because there were no mechanical pinsetters, a servant had to stand at the end and reset the pins and roll the balls back. It's exactly what pete and I have to do at home and it's so tiresome.
The indoor (heated!) swimming pool.
Even the servants quarters were luxurious for the time.
Outside of the grand staircase.
As I said, we really lucked out on the weather and had a perfect day for touring the gardens after the house. The walled garden was gorgeous.
As was the rose garden.
We then head toward the conservatory, which was really amazing. So many varieties of plants I had never seen before!
There was a hothouse.
It looks fuzzy, but it was decidedly unfriendly.
And an orchid room.
I warned you this would be a picture heavy post.
We knew we had to be on our way to make it the last hour or so to the KOA near the Smokey Mountains, but we didn't want to leave town without a treat. A friend of a friend runs Frostbite Ice Cream in Asheville, and it was highly recommended that we go there. It was on our way and everything. It was good, and just what we needed to fuel us up for our final driving push.
We got to the KOA and we're instantly overwhelmed. It was _huge_ and _packed_. We were not camping by any stretch of the imagination; we were staying in a little cabin that had beds with sheets and pillows and our own bathroom. When you have a microwave, you aren't camping. It was a great little place for us. We made some dinner, had a fire & some s'mores and turned in.
Next day we went into the national park.
Easy to see why they're called the Smokey Mountains.
We picked a loop that had a few waterfalls to see. It was really pretty.
Be in a picture TOGETHER?! That's just insanity.
The water was chilly, but not freezing.
After seeing two of the three Falls, we saw tons and tons of people walking with inner tubes to tube down the small rapids on the river. We decided to give it a shot.
I have no pictures because I left my phone behind, and thank goodness; I went rear-over-teakettle almost immediately. The short version is that we found tubing "ok," a surprisingly difficult way to get down the river that involved a lot of getting up and moving around rocks.
We dried off and had lunch & head back to the campground. The kids did some swimming, and then we went fishing with jax.
A "catch and release" section of the river.
So much tubing. This group passed by us. I told jax to hook the unicorn, but no luck.
Also short version, jax had the wrong fishing rod and flies for the area that we were fishing, so we had to abandon the quest. But he was a good sport about it.
Dinner and another campfire rounded out the day.
The next day we were greeted by rain. And not just a little drizzle. Rain. We decided to take a shot going into the park and going to Clingmans Dome, the highest peak in the park. We saw wet elk
She seemed unperturbed by the downpour.
What a vista!
No dice. Fog fog everywhere.
Oh well. We went back to the campground and made the most of it. It briefly dried out enough to ride some of the "funbikes" that were fun once you got the hang of them.
Not my most flattering shot. But I finally got the hang of it after inadvertently steering myself right in front of a car.
We went into Cherokee and got some ice cream and poked around in the tchotchke shops.
We did not get these. Nor did we get any other of the "wow-we're-sure-not-in-the-northeast" stuff we saw.
We mostly packed up so we could get on the road early the next day. We got out about 8.30 and made our way back through the park, which was still rainy and foggy but afforded a little more visablity.
Still awfully foggy.
And then we were in Tennessee heading toward Nashville, from where I write this post. We've been sightseeing, and eating, and swimming, and eating, and visiting with family and well, eating. But that's for next post!