navigating the normal




A Wicked Weed Sour
Last summer’s Wicked Weed light pinkish beer that I couldn’t get enough of was the Berry Pi. This year, it appears to be Medora. I’m not big into sours, but I’m big into fruity, refreshing, not-overly-sweet beers. And Wicked Weed’s Medora hits all those notes.

I made the mistake of first ordering the Black Angel. I hadn’t had on in at least three years, and I had forgotten how dark and heavy it was. Medora is the exact opposite. The description on the menu gave it the exact same numbers for sourness and fruitiness, but I neglected to look at the descriptor for color. To me, color is ery important in ordering a beer.

I had a Cerise Morte at the Funktorium a few weeks ago. It was good, but a little too tart for me. And it came in a tall wine glass, which I’m not into either. The glasses beers are served in are also important to me. Because I’m a particular weirdo.

But back to the subject at hand, Medora is definitely a beer I will fight the Wicked Weed touristy crowd to drink again on a sweltering summer afternoon.



Pulled Pork Burrito
For years, I have eyed the tiny restaurant nestled in the corner of a strip mall between a laundromat and music shop. I finally seized the opportunity to eat at the tiny Mexican food place when a friend and I were headed to Heartless Bastards at Isis. Wondering what we could do dinner, we wanted something casual but would provide more excitement than the over-priced and underwhelming options along that section of Haywood Road. Bandido’s was the perfect solution!

Like so many other establishments in Asheville, the service isn’t great. There is one server who seems to attend the entire floor. But that’s alright. The place is super casual and cheap. And delicious. These things, in my humble opinion, outweigh the average sevice. My friend and I both ordered the pulled pork burrito. It’s enough food for two meals. In the subsequent two times I’ve been since, I cut the burrito in half and automatically put it to the side to take it home and eat it later. The accoutremonts are also good. The guacamole is chunky and flavorful. The chips are doused if not in actual Old Bay, an Old Bay-like seasoning. The sangria was tart but tasty.

The menu is small but has many delicious looking entrees. I just can’t help but continue ordering the pulled pork burrito. But for an $8 burrito, free chips, and even two or three outdoor tables, Bandido’s is definitely in my rotation of approved places to eat.

Rattlesnake Lodge Ruins

Just A Mountain House
Don’t let the name fool you. In my opinion, “ruins” is an overstatement. When imagining “ruins” one thinks of grandeur and importance. I did not feel either. The plaque in the middle of the surrounding fallen stones, unfortunately, does not answer any of the important questions I had about these “ruins.” Why is this place so special? Why is the National Park Service erecting a plaque for them? Why do I care?

Regardless of my unanswered questions and the underwhelming ruins, the hike was loverly. The day I went, it smelled perfumey from the blanket of tiny  flowers spread across the ground. And hiked to the consistent sound of crickets jumping through the brown leaves. I treaded (carefully) out on to a rockface to stare at the rolling mountains beyond and soak up some of the warm sun and feel the warm breeze on my face. The ruins were obviously not the point of this small hike.


Trailhead:There is no trailhead. There are multiple points along the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) that you can begin in order to reach the ruins.
Length: 3.9 miles
Type: Out & Back (with a little loop)
Where: Blue Ridge Parkway
Description: You can begin anywhere, but I used the All Trails app to find this hike. Follow the white blazes (for the MST) until you reach the ruins. Then, you can follow the blue blazes in either direction because they form a circular trail. I did not realize this at first, and I ended up continuing down the larger trail and had to back track.
Directions & Parking: The All Trails app had me park at one of the pull offs on Ox Creek Road. Take the Blue Ridge Parkway north until you turn left on Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. Then continue straight onto Ox Creek Road. I parked at the pulloff after you hit the crest of the ridge and begin descending down the mountain.


The Hawaiian

Breakfast at City Bakery
My relationship with City Bakery has a complicated past. I used to hate. Now, however, I adore it. So I guess not all that complicated. It’s one of my favorite breakfasts in town because I now know what to order: the Hawaiian sandwich and the cinnamon roll. Also, their coffee is just good (it’s roasted by Dynamite) and their baristas are some of the few in this town that understand the meaning of “dry cappucino.” Don’t bother with the random selection of cupcakes or pies in the bakery case. Stick to City Bakery for these two breakfast delights!

Let me describe to you their Hawaiian breakfast sandwich layer-by-layer. First (and my most important) is the soft, sweet Hawaiian bun. It’s followed by big chunks of avocado, thick slices of bacon, sharp swiss cheese, layers of ham, and an aoli. There are so many things about this sandwich that I’m normally not into. I don’t like superfluous bacon. I tend to find swiss cheese bland. Aoli is rarely needed on anything. But the sum of this sandwich is so much greater than its parts. This isn’t a cheap sandwich either, but it’s worth it.

Pro tip: Get an egg added to it.

I’ve gone back and fourth on City Bakery’s cinnamon roll. I used to proclaim West End Bakery’s cinnamon roll  the best in town. Not anymore. The cinnamon-sugar to bread ratio is simply not adequate. It’s too dry. The City Bakery cinnamon roll, however,  gets better with every bite. It’s made of a phillo-like dough: flakey but substantial. The more you peel off, the gooeyier (gooeier?) it gets. When you’re done eating it, you know you’ve just done something very bad, but it tasted so good.

Pro tip: Get it warmed up in the toaster.

Walker Creek Trail

The Water Is The Payoff
The drive through Barnardsville from Asheville to get to Walker Creek Trail is windy and grogeous. The road sits at the bottom of the mountains, and the landscape is dotted with old houses, barns, and wide fields. All of my pictures were taken along the creek, with moss-covered boulders and rushing water. The sound of the water could almost be deafening among the silence of the forest. There are no sweeping views at the top. I went before the leaves made their debut this spring, and I could see the outline of the mountain ridge. This hike is about enjoying that soothing creek as it follows you half way up the mountain.


I found this trail via the All Trails app. The path I took based on information I got off the app made the trail into a loop that became longer than the actual trail’s 1.8 miles. You begin the trail before you see the trailhead marker. Instead of following the path to the left (toward the trailhead sign), I followed the creek up. The creek veers off, but you keep climbing to the top of the ridge. It’s a pretty vertical and quick ascension. The trail is large and taken care of. There was hay put down all along the trail when I went out. When you get to the service road, you take a left onto it. It looks as if you cross the road and keep following the trail, but to loop back to your car, follow the road. After following the road for a bit, you will come back to the trail that looks as if it crosses the road. Take the path on the left.

Trailhead: Walker Creek Trail
Length: 4.1 miles
Type: Loop
Where: Pisgah National Forest from Barnardsville
Description: There are a few other trails that shoot off from this one. It’s not clearly marked which way you should be going. Following my pin on the All Trails app is what reassured me that I was going in the right direction. It’s a relatively easy trail. Although, I did pause a few time on the incline.
Directions & Parking: The National Park Service has perfect directions to reach the trailhead. There is little parking along the road, but it is doable. There appears to be private property at the entrance of the trailhead. There is a sign that warns you not to drive over the bridge. But it’s very tempting because there are charming, little lodges on the other side of it. NPS urges you not to drive beyond the the pull-off.


Black Hole

Urban Orchard’s Seasonal Blackberry Cider
The cider at Urban Orchard isn’t always my top pick, but the blackberry cider they currently have on tap is tart, refreshing, and drinkable. Out with a friend last week, he wanted a cider and we both wanted to head to Bold Rock’s new tasting room to check it out. Unfortunately, we had taken the embarrassing detour of trying out the trampoline park in Arden. While we quickly realized our mistake, we did not realize it quickly enough to make it to Mills River before Bold Rock closed for the evening. So forward we marched to the only other readily available cider in town.

Because I’m not crazy about Urban Orchard’s ciders, I had already made up my mind to be the weirdo getting a beer at the cidery. Then I saw they had a blackberry infused cider on tap. I’m always up for a fruit-infused cider or beer. They just scream summer! and refreshing! to me. I’m glad I did. Apparently, I enjoyed it so much that I made a stop on my back into town after a hike on the parkway two days later. Enjoying my book in one of Urban Orchard’s eno hammocks with a Black Hole going too-easily down before the rains came was the perfect way to end an active and unexpectedly pretty Saturday.

Pisgah Pale: My Favorite North Carolina Beer
What’s my biggest fear about moving away from Asheville? That Pisgah Pale isn’t readily available on tap anywhere but here. It’s refreshing and super drinkable. Pisgah Pale is probably the reason that I’m not more into IPAs and pales than wheats and belgians that I used to be. When I can get a Pisgah Pale on draft, I know I’m home.

AVL Date: Yoga, Burgers, & Beer

A $20 Date Idea!
Last night I went on a fabulous date with three people whom I love dearly. We drank beer; we ate the best burger in town; we made plans for the future. And it cost less than twenty bucks.

It started with a little exercise and ended with a lot of indulgence. My favorite yoga class in town is Michael Greenfield’s Warm Vinyasa Flow at Asheville Community Yoga. It’s a sliding scale where you can choose what you want to pay from $5 to $15. It’s the best workout in town. You leave hot, wet, and healed.

From there, head to the Bull and Beggar. Only on Monday night they offer a $6 burger with a purchase of a drink. It can be any drink a beer, wine, Coke, or even one of their homemade sodas. If there aren’t seats at the bar, put your name on the list and head to The Wedge.

An Ironrail Rail at the Wedge will only set you back $3.50 before tip. Tip people! Absolutely the cheapest, yet tastiest, IPA in town.

Then get cozied up the bar back at Bull and Beggar. People. This is absolutely the best burger in this town. It’s like if In-N-Out’s Animal-style decided to be high art instead of lowbrow fast food. There’s melty cheese and caramelized onions atop two thing and perfectly (read: medium rare) cooked hamburger patties. The bread and butter pickles shoved in are sweet and tangy. The fries that come with are perfectly crunchy and salty.

Do it all on a warm, cloudless spring evening. This is what it’s about.

PS: To all the single dudes out there…the first time I did this excursion, the bar at Bull and Beggar was brimming with ladies. Not one man in the bunch. Looked like an excellent place to pick up the fabulous women of this town–eating burgers and drinking beer.

Cataloochie Divide Trail

A Symbolic 12 Miles for National Park Week
It’s National Park Week! All National Parks have free admission this week. Of course, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is always free. Spending the first day of National Park Week in the Smokies was more symbolic than thrifty. While deciding which trail I wanted to hang out on Saturday, I found out about the Smokies Centennial Challenge–Hike 100. To honor and celebrate the 100 years of the National Park Service, Park Superintendent Cash is hiking 100 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is challeneging others to do the same. As I am one who is always up for a challenge, I’ve decided to try it. I’ve got until December to hike 100 miles in the park. For my efforts, I will receive a pin and a dinner. Two summers ago my challenge was a mere 13.1. This is seems much easier. And more fun!
The Cataloochee Divide Trail is blazed along a ridgeline with Maggie Valley (and private property) to the left and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park to the right. It skirts the border of the park, and you can clearly see it. You follow an old fence that opens up quite a bit to allow for picture-taking on the other side. The first 4.6 mile section of the the trail ends at crossroads with no payoff and nothing spectacular to see that you haven’t already. As you begin the 1.8 mile trek along the Hemphill Bald trail, you come to an outcropping of on a small bald with a hammock, adirondack chairs, and a swing. This is the beginning of the Swag House’s property. There were hikers utilizing the amenities as I passed, and on my return, I ate my lunch in one of the adirondack chairs overlooking a beautiful panorama from Maggie Valley to the presently-abandoned slopes of Cataloochee Ski Resort. There are clear demarcations in the fence that seems to allow hikers to take advantage of the area. After the output, you continue walking adjacent to the property until you hit Hemphill Bald. I turned around here as I had already hit my quota for the day in that direction (and still had 6.4 miles to go in the reverse). The path continues up Hemphill Bald along a barbedwire fence. I do love a bald!

One of the lovelier things about going on double-digit mile hikes is how different the path, vegetation, and mountains look in the changing sunlight. One of all my all-time favorite scenes from living in this area is the way the sun scatters over them to highlight all the ridges and waves that make up what most of the time looks like one mountain. On the hike up to Hemphill Bald, I saw perhaps one flower. By the time I was headed back down, the planes and trail were filled with tiny purple and white flowers that had opened from the afternoon sun. Some might escchew a long out-and-back trail thinking it could be boring seeing the same thing twice. If one stays out long enough, the trail back is much different than the one hiked in on.IMG_8479

Trailhead: Cataloochie Divide Trail
Length: 12.8 miles
Type: Out & Back
Where: Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Description: From Cove Creek Gap to Hemphill Bald. It is not technical. It’s difficulty comes from its length and uphill climbs. It is very well marked with different trailhead signs and mileage. There aren’t any colored blazes, but you don’t need them.
Directions & Parking: From Asheville, take I-40 West to Exit 20. Take the ramp until you turn right on Cove Creek Road. Follow Cove Creek Rd until you see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sign. The road starts paved but becomes dirt. It is very windy. There aren’t many parking spots, but you can park around the sign. The trailhead is clearly marked on the path across from the National Park sign.


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