Asheville, NC

If you follow me on social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc..) you may have come across some photos of a surprise weekend away with my husband. He planned the majority of the trip to celebrate my birthday... and he did a fantastic job.

Both of us tend to appreciate experiences over things. Meaning, a trip like this one, full of memories and adventures, will almost always trump our desire for a tangible 'present.' That is not to say that either of us would receive a present and toss it aside... of course we love and appreciate gifts... but as we've grown up, we realize that we can simply buy what we want or need as we go along in life, whereas memories and experiences can take planning.

This trip was spent about three and a half hours north of us, in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We spent the majority of our trip in little to no cell service areas, but also did some adventuring in the lovely town of Asheville, NC. We also have a tendency to find spots off-the-beaten-path and don't particularly spend a lot of time on super touristy locations. You'll see why we do this - adventure, of course!
Let me take you through our trip, and if you ever find yourself in this area, you'll have a few ideas of places or areas to see.

Day 1:

We spent the morning driving up north and slowly watched the land around us gain hills and mountains.
When we arrived in Asheville, we parked right away and I was led to a Beer Garden (and had no idea why!) where we were met by a tour guide and a group of other couples to go on a Food Tour! It was the Eating Asheville Classic Tour, to be exact. This was the perfect way to experience what Asheville had to offer, not only in the culinary aspect (which was amazing), but also in learning about the culture of the town. You'll find an incredibly 'hipster' population there, as well as 'eat local' as a focal point of their culinary scene. None of the buildings (besides one, that was truly an eyesore) were very tall which gave the city a small town feel. It's full of live music, breweries, and interesting history. Of course, the famed Biltmore estate is located nearby, but is sadly a major money pit. We highly recommend the food tour for acquainting yourself with the oh-so-charming Asheville! It seemed to attract an older crowd (we were the youngest couple by about 30 years), but Tom and I are old souls and had a blast talking to the others.
That night we stayed on a camping deck in Black Mountain. I found this listing on Airbnb (here's the listing) and it was about 25 minutes from Asheville because it was literally on a mountain. I cannot say enough good things about this deck and the entire experience we had there. The deck is large enough to fit two or three tents. It's newer (two years old?), partially covered in case of rain, very private, clean, there's electricity... up the stairs is a port-a-john (that is cleaned weekly) and not gross at ALL, and the owners have a box of cleaning materials, water, lighter, and other essentials for guest use. There is even a picnic table and several chairs. Honestly, as someone who isn't into minimal camping, I did not want to leave. The view of the mountains was breathtaking. We had stopped at a Trader Joe's on our way out of Asheville for baguette, wine, cheese, and fruit so that we could have a nice relaxing dinner while we watched the sunset over the mountains (at the urging of the deck owner). There were almost no bugs, but they provided spray. Because of the covered portion on the deck, we were able to leave the top cover off of our tent so we had a screened panoramic view.  Plus, the time of year made the weather very comfortable for sleeping, and we had an air mattress with lots of blankets which made it very cozy. Of course, the sunrise was amazing as well. So stunning!
If this is something you'd like to do, or you want to try out an Airbnb listing in general, please use this link for $20 off your first stay... which will give Tom and I a discount on our next one as well.  Win-win, right?!

Day 2:

I wasn't sure how Tom could out-do the fun we had the day before, but he managed.
After coffee on the deck, we packed up and headed towards Hot Springs, NC. There, he had reservations at Hot Springs Resort and Spa for a private one and half hour soak in natural hot spring water. After the soak we had a half hour couple's massage. Honestly, who marries such a thoughtful guy?? We had such a relaxing morning there and had great views of the surrounding mountains. The town of Hot Springs was incredibly quaint. The main 'street' was about 3 blocks in length and had only a few options for food, but we found a burger joint and took a long, slow lunch.
At this point, it was about three in the afternoon so we decided to head up to our accommodations to get settled before going to an event later for dinner.

*I should note here, that Thomas didn't want to tell me about these accommodations before we left, but he was being very vague about things like access to bathrooms or showers. Since I had booked the first night with no full bathroom, I had made it clear that the second night needed to have more amenities or I might get turned off from tent camping in the future. I knew I needed to be eased into it. However, I spoke my needs too late and he had already booked the second night. When he showed me the listing for the second night, I definitely freaked out a little, so I am very glad he showed me before we left so that I had time to mentally prepare. Haha! Oh, it was an adventure*

Thomas booked us at a yurt that was farther up in the mountains with absolutely no service, no electricity, an outhouse, and very 'primal.'
The 'driveway' was a jagged rock pathway that my SUV had a hard time getting up. The yurt itself was older and smelled moldly because the canvas was out in the elements year round. There were wasps living in it, but it did have a bed and a Culligan water jug and bowl 'sink' for rinsing hands and such. In the sunshine, it acted like an oven... and let's just say, I don't do well when I'm hot. The outhouse was also a tad moldy and the idea of doing my business and pouring sawdust over it was just too much for me to handle! They did, however, have friendly horses on the land and I was excited to spend time with them. But when we walked over to say hello, one of them was either old, or just starving because it was literally bones!!! About 10 minutes after we got there, we realized we couldn't leave for the event later because it would be very treacherous to make it back up the driveway in the dark... so we were stuck with what leftover food we had and stayed put. I only went running to the car in fear of bugs once, though, while Tom stood outside the car looking at me, feeling terrible. He knew immediately upon arrival that this was not a good place for me, and I looked at him from the car and laughed hysterically. We did debate whether we should leave or not, but I bucked up and said I'd make the best of it. Once the sun set over a nearby ridge, it cooled down, which made things better. Tom gave me props for not complaining (!) but when I made mention to how nasty I felt because of my greasy hair, the sweet man washed it in a holey-bowl we found under the yurt, just to make me a little more comfortable. We did end up enjoying the fire, but once it was dark we realized they only left us one lantern that gave off almost no light! It was dark at 8:40pm, so since we couldn't see, we just went to bed! HAHA! After laying there for about 5 minutes we heard something chewing or scratching at the tent, leaving me terrified. Thomas eventually scared whatever it was away, but he never saw anything.
In accordance with my post on camping a couple weeks ago, make sure you ease yourself into it and don't go too extreme if you aren't ready for it. Honestly though, even though it was a pretty awful stay, we made such fun memories. No regrets here.

Day 3:

Well, we packed up and high-tailed it out of the yurt as quickly as possible (also because I had been holding my pee for ages) and we meandered into another tiny mountain town looking for breakfast. Guys, everything in the regions we were in can only be described as charming-quaint. We ate at an adorable cafe called The Sweet Monkey Bakery in Marshall, NC. They weren't going to open for another half hour, but the owner offered us coffee and menus while we waited and casually chatted with us. Since we were starving like the horse at the yurt, we both ordered huge breakfasts and enjoyed the quiet of the ultra small town and perfect weather.
From there, we drove back into Asheville and got sucked into the Asheville Outlets. They have a West Elm outlet store there and we ended up with a king sized duvet cover, two shams, and a coverlet blanket for less than $100. We're lucky we didn't get MORE!
After grabbing another quick bite, we thought we'd take the Blue Ridge Parkway for one final scenic drive. It ended up being a much longer drive than we anticipated, but it was more than worth it. We stopped at so many overlooks and even hiked (in flip flops) to see some falls. The views were breathtaking and Tom was especially impressed. Having lived and traveled out West, he had no idea that there could be sights even more beautiful in the East. From there, our trip came to a close and I am so grateful for such a fun adventure. Truly, my husband knows his wife and that no amount of clothes could have been better than this. Well, maybe. I would have gladly chosen a shopping spree over the yurt.

And again, if you want to try Airbnb, please use my discount code for $20 off and enjoy :)

TravelJoy Johnson