Archive for the ‘Outdoors’ Category

Rhythm and Brews 2014 Concert Series – Hendersonville NC – Starts May 15th

Rhythm and Brews 2014 in Hendersonville, NCThe weather is getting nice and everyone is eagerly awaiting the outdoor festival season here in western North Carolina. Last year, Rhythm & Brews was introduced as a new summer festival in Hendersonville.  Combining great music and great local beer from breweries such as Southern Appalachian and Sierra Nevada, Rhythm and Brews was a great hit.  Back by popular demand, I give you the 2nd annual Rhythm and Brews 2014.

The venue is located between 3rd and 4th Avenues one block east of Main Street and starts at 5:00 pm. A stage featuring regional rock and bluegrass music provides the free entertainment, while tickets can be purchased for some delicious craft beer and wine.  Blue Ridge Bicycle Club and Sycamore Cycles will again be offering a “bike corral”, which provides free valet parking for people who wish to ride their bicycles and not worry about leaving them unattended. Dancing is encouraged and if this year’s event is anything like last year, there will be no shortage of participants.

The current music lineup is as follows:

  • May 15 – The Broadcast
  • June 19 – Balsam Range
  • July 17 – The Fritz
  • August 21 – Sol Drive Train
  • September 18 – Blue Dogs

For more information and/or any changes, visit and


Mountain To Sea Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

The beginning of March has brought us great weather. And so, for the second weekend in a row, we have found ourselves hiking off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trees are still bare, so the views are better, looking down into the valleys.

Our intention was to hike a trail called Graveyard Fields, south of Mount Pisgah near marker 418. Unfortunately, the road was closed several miles north of the trail. We should have visited the Blue Ridge Parkway real-time road closures website for current information.

The great thing about the Parkway is there are trails everywhere. Improvising, we pulled over around mile marker 395 where a lot of cars lined the road – a certain indication of trails. We found both a forest road for hiking, biking and horse back riding; and a more challenging trail going up the mountain which we discovered is part of the Mountain to Sea trail.

Mountain to Sea is a project that will connect over 900 miles of North Carolina trails from the mountains in the western part of the state to the eastern coast. Of course the Asheville area is lucky enough to have local access to these trails!

The trail climbed up the mountain and followed a ridge which is the natural border between the National Park land and North Carolina game lands. The trail is well maintained and has views in all directions. Here are some pictures we took along the way.

Hiking Along the Blue Ridge Parkway at Craven Gap Near Asheville NC

There’s a saying in the mountains of North Carolina. If you don’t like the weather here, wait 15 minutes; it will change. We do have four distinct seasons, and sometimes two in the same month. This February lives up to that reputation. A week ago, there was several inches of snow on the ground.

Today, motorcycles and bicycles were everywhere. The sky was blue. Children and dogs roamed the trails and water flowed. The temperature was in the mid 60s. We hiked the trails near Craven Gap along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This trail has the notoriety of having been trekked by the President and the First Lady on one of their recent trips to Asheville.

By mid-week, those same trails will be slick and icicles will form once again. The only thing you can count on is rapid weather changes, sometimes without notice. Nevertheless, outdoor activities thrive even in the winter in North Carolina. Come see what makes the Asheville area such a wonderful place to live. For more information on local hiking trails, go to

Biltmore Estate – It’s not just a big house.

It’s hard to find someone who hasn’t heard of the Biltmore House.  A brief synopsis: Built around the turn of the century by George Vanderbilt, the Biltmore House is 250 rooms, 175,000 sq. feet. with magnificent grounds and impeccable gardens.  It is still owned by the family and is opened to the public as a popular tourist destination.

Wine drinkers are also familiar with Biltmore brand of wines distributed through the Southeast and beyond.  Vineyards on the estate are harvested and grapes are processed and aged in the estate’s own winery.  There is also a large wine tasting room for visitors touring the facility.

What most people don’t know, however, is how many other things there are to do without tasting wine or stepping foot into the magnificent home.  The estate has truly become a vacation destination for tourists, and a relaxing hangout for locals with season passes.

This weekend, we took advantage of a special deal and purchased season passes with the explorer package.  Basically this gives guests unlimited access to most things on the Biltmore Estate property, and discounts on the rest.  If you think the house is big, consider the property it sits on is 8,000 acres!  There are miles of hiking, biking and horse trails.  I took advantage of those trails, biking over 15 miles.  Some trails are paved, flat with little elevation change that meander through the grounds.  For mountain bike enthusiasts, single track trails can be found at both ends of the estate.

Bird watchers will appreciate the bodies of water on including a bass pond, lagoon and the French Broad river where fly fishing is permitted.  At dusk, it is common to see deer roaming the grounds.  We were lucky enough to encounter a few with a very young fawn.  There are places where you can simply park, set out a few lawn chairs and have a picnic or sit by the river and watch kayakers go by.

One appealing aspect of Biltmore Estate is that guests staying at the Inn never have to leave.  In addition to the many activities, there are several great restaurants, Cedric’s Tavern and shops at Antler Hill Village.  You can also rent bicycles, go on a Segway tour or go offroading with the Land Rover Experience.  Summer concerts draw big names

While I highly recommend touring the Biltmore House, an informed guest could spend an entire day of fun activities and never get to the house at all.

Mountain Biking – Our New Favorite Pastime

North Mills River mountain biking trails.

Taking a Break

Living in Henderson County, we are spoiled by all the great trails running through both Federal and State forest land. Hiking, biking and horse back riding is in full swing right now as the weather has been conducive to outdoor activities. Dupont State Forest is probably the best known area for such activities. Bent Creek in Buncombe County is also a haven for bike trails. But the less known North Mills River trails are our favorite.

This winter, we purchased multi-use bikes for riding paved and gravel trails in warmer places like Hilton Head. Spring came early, and we have enjoyed riding through Hendersonville and the wonderful trails provided by the parks department. Hendersonville is becoming a very bike friendly community, as is Asheville, and it’s not uncommon to see groups of bicyclist on the roads and trails.

Top of the Trace Ridge Trail

The last month has given us some great weekend weather to experience some of the more advanced trails (for us beginners). The guys at Sycamore Cycles have gently reminded us that when we purchased our bikes, we said we were going to stay on mostly paved, gentle roads.  But the mountain biking bug has bitten, so we have been pushing our bikes to their limits.

This weekend, we literally pushed our bikes a few times as we conquered the Trace Ridge Trail – or it may have conquered us.  Whatever the case, it was a lot of fun.  The vertical climbs are a real challenge, but the fast downhills are both treacherous and exhilarating.  Roots, rocks and stumps were frequent obstacles and navigation was pretty tricky at times.  One of the wonderful things about the harder trails, however, is encountering other riders is rare, and nature is only disturbed by the narrow trail.

Riding the Ridge

Riding the Ridge

If Trace Ridge sounds a little advanced, rest assured that North Mills River has many easier trails.  Many are gravel forest roads closed by gates to motor vehicles, and perfect for bikers and hikers.  We purchased the Western North Carolina Trail Guide South Pisgah Ranger District map, which is a necessity on some of these trails, and money well spent for us.

If you live in Western North Carolina and haven’t ridden the trails at North Mills River, then you need to get your bike up there!  Don’t have a bike?  The guys at Sycamore Cycles have been a great help to us in both sales and keeping our bikes tuned up.  If you are thinking about visiting, they rent bikes too, so what are you waiting for?

Brewgrass Festival 2011

Craft beer lovers were in a state of bliss this Saturday as Brewgrass Festival 2011 transformed Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Asheville, NC into a beer tasting paradise. Regional craft brewers Like Southern Appalachian Craft, Highland, and Green Man Ales teamed up with many other popular brewers such as New Belgium, Brooklyn and Lagunitas. Get the complete list here.  Food was provided by local restaurants like Barley’s and Doc Chey’s, and a talented lineup of Bands kept the crowd energized.

One of the greatest things about Brewgrass is the festival goers.  Everyone is there to have a good time and you always leave with new friends.; and the level of beer knowledge among the crowd is truly impressive.  The brewers were equally friendly, and wouldn’t hesitate to discuss their brewing techniques, private reserves and plans for expansion.  The economy may be struggling, but craft brewing continues to be a boon for Asheville, Hendersonville and other markets with a craft brew presence.

For those new to craft brew, it’s basically a dedication to making excellent beer with high quality ingredients, usually in much smaller quantities that mass produced beers.  Love for the process is a big part of the craft brewing.  Many beers adhere to the traditional Ale styles, Stouts and Belgians.  Limited quantity cask brews were a big hit this year including Green Man Ale’s coconut firken.  Southern Appalachian Brewery‘s IPA and Belgian Blonde were very popular along with the Copperhead Amber and Black Beer Stout.

Considering the 40+ brewers with an average of 4 to 6 beers per brewer, the only way to truly understand the beauty of craft beer is to be lucky enough to get a ticket to next year’s Brew Grass Festival.  Tickets go fast, so once the sale is announced, you have to move fast.  Hope to see you next year.

Bele Chere Festival 2011

Who is Bele Chere and how did she get her own festival?  Belle Cher is some chick on Facebook, but Bele Chere is an annual event in Asheville, North Carolina.  It is always held during the last weekend of July.  According to the organizers, Bele Chere means “Beautiful Living” in an ancient Scottish dialect.  I’m not ancient Scottish, so I’ll take their word for it.  It’s a fitting name, however, as the event meanders through the blocked off streets of beautiful downtown Asheville.Bele Chere 2011Free live music is a staple at Bele Chere.  Multiple stages are setup at different points throughout the festival map.  Genres of virtually every type can be heard at the 3 day event. The wide array of talent, offers something for everyone.  As one attendee said, If you don’t find fun and music you like at Bele Chere, then you don’t like fun and music.

Asheville is known for it’s diversity, and people watching is part of the fun.    A few dress in costumes and there is never a shortage of eclectic attire.  Bele Chere has sort of a Mardi Gras air about it, but with a western North Carolina flair.  Local Street musicians and performance artists display their talent as an integral part of downtown culture.

Music Stage at Bele Chere

What you can expect to experience:

  • Free Live Music
  • Art In All Forms
  • Crafts
  • Food
  • Local Craft Beer
  • Crowds
  • A Child Friendly Area
  • Diversity
  • Fun

Performance Artists

You are asked not to bring any pets to the festival.  This sounds like a real drag as a dog lover, but after watching the City of Asheville’s video explanation, I fully support the position.  The Ultimate Air Dogs attraction continues to bring enjoyment to the event, however.

A few pictures and a short write up can’t possibly describe such a wonderful event.  The sounds, motion and mood is unique to Asheville.  In short, if you have a festive spirit and don’t mind a good crowd, then the Bele Chere Festival should be your destination next July.

Click here
to see a quick slideshow.