TL; DR | We didn’t have enough time there, but western North Carolina is beautiful and there is much left to explore. Also, Nashville and The Great Smoky Mountains are in different time zones.
Due to scheduling complications, (Hurricane Matthew, Emily’s impending start date for work, and meeting friends in Nashville) we ended up with a much more crunched end of the trip than we anticipated. True, we left the last week of our itinerary mostly open, but the suddenness of its conclusion has been hard to swallow.
We ended up with only one night in Asheville and one brief night in the Smokys. Asheville, we had been told repeatedly, is a great place to eat and drink. In our 24 hours there, we did just that. We got coffee (obviously), ate Ethiopian food, and had a sumptuous southern brunch at Tupelo Honey Cafe in preparation to our Yom Kippur fast. We camped a little outside the city, enjoying some distinctly autumn weather and one of our last nights in the tent. We browsed around numerous small shops, but missed many of the great breweries and bars on this visit.
Our drive into the Smokys was beautiful, but most of our time in Cades Cove was after sunset. Our campsite was nice upon arrival, until the campers next door played German drinking songs late into the morning and another group blasted a movie at its highest volume from its RV. After the movie and songs ceased, a different group began having one of those scream-conversations, the kind where it seems impossible that someone would actually need to speak at such a volume, or want so many others to hear his/her conversation. Eventually another camper told them to shut up, which they politely did. Part of our irritation stemmed from the fact that we were fasting, as well as planning to wake up at 5:30am to drive to Nashville to pick up our friends at the airport by 9:30am. Little did we know Nashville is in a different time zone, so we ended up getting to the airport an hour and a half early. Stephen was a champ though, driving the whole way because Emily was incapacitated with sleepiness and incoherent when offering to drive. Probably a safe decision to keep her hands off the wheel.
We have to return to Asheville and the Great Smoky Mountains some day soon and do justice to these unique places.