My First Camping Trip, Part I.

I SURVIVED. 

Big, bold headline to start. 

I am also VERY thankful that I had not seen Deliverance prior to this trip. Although I did immediately come home and stream it on Netflix, which was probably a poor choice for future camping trips. 

You may have read last Friday that I was striking out with Jordan, Parker (my brother) and Emily (his girlfriend) on my first-ever camping trip. So much fun, so many stories. So I'll give you a play-by-play of the weekend. 

  • We depart about two hours late because Jordan had a work emergency. 
  • As we're driving, it starts to rain. So we're late and it's raining, and because we're late, we have no idea whether or not there will actually be a campsite, since you can't reserve them in advance. 
  • Jordan is a little flustered and misses our turn, so we end up driving about 4 hours instead of what would've been 3. 
  • Off to a good start.
  • Jordan had planned to arrive around 4 so that we had plenty of daylight to "make camp," which is a thing outdoorsy people say to mean "put up a tent and build a fire." 
  • Instead, we have about 10 minutes of low-level daylight left when we get to the site at about 8 PM, so Jordan deftly assembles the tent with a little help from me, then gets to work on the fire. 
  • I start to gather firewood (small sticks, medium stick, and larger logs, as I'm instructed) and immediately discover two woodland creatures living by our campsite: a giant frog and a teeny tiny garter snake. 
  • Instead of losing it re: seeing a snake, I cover my total panic by stating, "SNAKE," in a very loud, clear voice. I knew upon seeing it that it was a garter snake, but it was still two tiny, shiny eyes staring at me from within the bowels of a dead tree stump. 
  • I pick up a log and five GIANT daddy longlegs crawl off of it. 
  • I also discover with horror that the last people to use the campsite decided to use the facilities, i.e. POOP, in the middle of the dirt road leading to where we pitched our tent. 
  • Human. Poop. 
  • Their toilet paper, which also should have been disposed of, is sitting in a crumpled pile next to the HUMAN POOP. 
  • We avoid it all weekend. 
  • Jordan grabs his headlamp and starts a fire using the few scraps of wood that I gathered (and dry, because it also rained while we were driving out there - yikes).
  • Because it is SO DARK, he also has to turn the headlights of the Jeep on in order to have something to see by. 
 Why yes, it  was  dark as hell. 

Why yes, it was dark as hell. 

  • Having never been camping before, I was trying to talk myself out of being freaked out. The dark is not my favorite thing, particularly unfamiliar dark. Add "outdoor" to the unfamiliar darkness, and it's basically my own special little horror movie. 
  • To keep myself from being scared, I nervously chatter to Jordan. "Wow. This fire is impressive. Seriously! How did you learn to do that? Well, you're good at it. I feel so protected! Also, cute shirt. Did I get you that shirt? I can't remember. Blue looks good on you, though. You should wear more blue. I love you! What are you thinking about?? Do you miss Tom Hanks?" 
  • #myhusbandisasaint
  • Eventually, we got the fire going. I remembered that I actually know how to make/stoke a fire from my childhood home's wood burning fireplace, so I help Jordan and actually do a pretty damn good job taking our fire from small to medium. 
 Look at me go! 

Look at me go! 

  • Parker and Emily were driving in from Nashville, so Jordan and I had a couple of hours to ourselves, we decided to make dinner using the MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) we bought. 
  • I had a penne with marinara, Jordan had something called Chili Mac. ...mmm. 
  • I am sad to report that Jordan's was absolutely better than mine. Like, not even close. Mine tasted like what I would imagine shards of fiberglass soaked in unseasoned water would taste like. 
  • Jordan's, though the name was MUCH grosser, tasted like what I expected - not great, but definitely not terrible. He shared with me. 
  • Emily and P rolled in at about 10:45 and we got the party ROLLING! 
 They were in color in person.

They were in color in person.

  • They'd already eaten, so we toured them around the campsite (included the HUMAN POOP), they set up their tent, and we cooked some marshmallows. 
  • After some catching up and giggles, we all headed to bed to get good rest for the day ahead. 
  • We piled into our tents. Jordan's and my tent is mesh at the top, so we could see the stars We could also see the moon, which happened to be a full one that night and VERY bright. 
  • I felt stupid complaining about it, but the moon was so bright that it was as though a giant lamp was being held over my face as I slept. While Jordan slept peacefully, I flipped around in the tent all night like a fish.
  • I started with my head in one direction, then flipped so my head was at Jordan's feet to try to find some SHADE FROM THE MOON (yep, that's a real thing). 
  • At one point in the night, we hear a gunshot in the distance. I am convinced that someone is going to come shoot us to death and that I will wake up to a crazy mountain man's face grinning wildly through the mesh ceiling before he puts me out of my misery. 
  • The murderer does not show up, though several trucks drive by around 3 AM. With each passing car, I shoot up straight in my sleeping back and prepare for battle. 
  • They keep driving. 
  • I jam up my shoulder a little bit trying to sleep on my side, but it's worth it. I finally fall into a deep sleep for three hours or so, until we were all gently awoken by the sweet sounds of the crow:
  • Jordan and I got up a little ahead of P and E and got "ready" for the day. That entailed wiping down with some baby wipes, changing clothes, and brushing our teeth over the little river flowing behind our campsite. 
  • Once I was able to see everything in the daylight, I started to really appreciate where we were. Though the night had been a little sleepless, the area we had chosen was gorgeous and secluded, and it started to be exciting that we were really fending for ourselves out here.
  • Jordan got started on coffee while I started setting things out for breakfast burritos. 
  • When Parker did wake up (last, of course), he immediately asked for a marshmallow. And so his trail name was born = MARSHMALLOW. 
  • Once the whole gang was up and moving, Emily and I started preparing the potatoes and sausage for our burritos, while Parker started what would become an hours-long odyssey to start a fire with a fire-starter he'd bought at an outdoor store.
  • For anyone going on any future group camping trips, I can't recommend our breakfast highly enough. Let me just include this recipe really quick: 

One-Skillet Breakfast Burritos - AKA Camp Food: 

1 package of Andouille sausage
Carton of eggs
1 ziplock bag of chopped peppers and onions
2 russet potatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
Cheddar cheese
Small tortillas

Crumble and cook the sausage while chopping the potatoes into consistent pieces. Add the potatoes to the sausage mixture and let them soften. Crack 6 eggs right into the pan and scramble the mixture together. When you're ready to serve, add chopped peppers and onions. Lay tortillas on a flat surface, scoop the sausage mixture in, and top with cheese which will melt upon sprinkling. PERFECT camping meal! 

  • Then we sat around, drinking coffee/tea and and hanging out for a while as Parker continued to work on starting a fire.  
  • Jordan made him what's called a "featherstick," and is supposed to be helpful. 
  • It turns out, starting a fire without a lighter is pretty challenging. 
  • I snuck off to go to the bathroom, i.e. tee tee in the woods, and was of course, immediately caught by a passing car. #classic 
  • After our breakfast pans were cleaned, we finished the coffee and started getting ready to go rafting on the Ocoee. 
  • We piled in the car and drove to Ducktown, which was about 15 minutes from our site. Ducktown is exactly as you would picture it: very small, very rural, lots of ducks.
  • (Just kidding about the ducks.) 
  • We get AMPED for rafting - I am the only one on our trip who's never been, and I am extremely excited. 
 Emily, I know you're going to kill me, but this picture is way too funny not to share. 

Emily, I know you're going to kill me, but this picture is way too funny not to share. 

  • We get geared up - vests, helmets, and paddles - and board the bus for our river adventure. 

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2! Spoiler alert: 

 

 

 

 

High Falls, Triple Falls, Hooker (...yes, really) Falls.

I asked Jordan to take me on a picnic yesterday, so he chose a hike through DuPont Forest that included three beautiful waterfalls. So we loaded up the Jeep, the dog, and swung by Fresh Market on the way out. 

Let me pause here to say that Fresh Market is one of my favorite places on earth. It's too expensive for my regular shopping trips, but every time I go in there, I feel like I'm walking into a Nora Ephron movie. Pro tip - go early in the morning, like I did yesterday. It's quiet, there's fresh coffee that's brewing, and the pastries are all right out of the oven. Um, YES PLEASE. 

Anyway, back to the hiking. 

We first stopped at High Falls, which is probably the most visited. There's something about a waterfall that causes everyone who encounters it to just kind of stand there in awe. I think it's a combination of the beauty of the natural phenomenon in front of you, but also the fact that the falls are so loud that they essentially act as a giant white noise machine. Everyone standing there is just cocooned in waterfall sound. It's pretty wonderful. 

Tom Hanks had a GREAT time here. We let him off-leash for just a few minutes so he could enjoy swimming in a less rapid part of the river. Don't worry - we were keeping a close eye on him! Pay attention to his very unique "swimming" style...

After High Falls, we hiked up the trail and got to see Triple Falls. This location was a bit more crowded because it was definitely a little easier of a hike to get there, and Jordan likes his nature with a side of "no human person for 100 square miles." So we quickly abandoned ship and found a few rocks on a part of the river where no one else was to eat our lunch. 

Lunch was delicious. And, though we brought Tom Hanks' food, he ended up convincing us to give him 5 or 6 of those Pirate's Booty corn puffs. Because he is a dang dirty rat and he gets whatever he wants. 

We never actually made it to Hooker Falls (the alleged least impressive of the three), but we were okay with that because a storm was rolling in. About halfway home, the bottom fell out - it was perfect timing! 

We had a really great time - it's an easy hike, probably under five miles, with a fairly easy level of incline. There were people there who hike all the time, and obviously also people there who have maybe never hiked before. If you're visiting Asheville, this is a beautiful way to see some waterfalls! 

5 Things: Best Restaurants in Asheville

Summer is cranking up, which means vacationing is about to start in earnest. 

I have friends text me a lot asking about great places to eat or grab drinks in Asheville, so I thought I'd publish a list here in hopes that anyone planning a trip could take advantage! 

(This list features some of Asheville's more upscale restaurants, but I'll definitely do another post later this summer that includes more casual dining - because nothing beats a greasy piece of pizza, am I right??)

1. Limone's. 

Easily my favorite restaurant in Asheville. Limone's is the best place I've ever eaten upscale Mexican food, and every person I've taken here has been gobsmacked. This cozy spot, seating no more than 75 or so people at a time, is perfect for whatever occasion - date night, dinner with family, drinks with a friend. The lobster nachos are a must-have, and if you have a sweet tooth, definitely order the pot of house-made hot chocolate, served with a side of homemade churros. I mean, come. ON. 

2. The Admiral. 

Oh-so-amazing. Your socks will be knocked clean off. During my last visit there, I got to enjoy beet tartare with smoked honey sauce and goat cheese, a course of bone marrow, and a dessert featuring house-made deconstructed s'more. ...S'MORE. Yep. You heard me. (Personal perk: I'm friends with the pastry chef. #winning.) It's fine dining in a wonderfully comfortable setting. The Admiral is another small restaurant - almost missable when driving past it - which makes it even cooler that you get more for your money here: at 11 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, the tables and chairs are cleared out of the dining room and it turns into an old-school dance party. And when I say old-school, I mean it - the DJ spins oldies tracks you've never heard. Trust me - you'll have the time of your life. 

3. Nightbell. 

Chef Katie Button owns two famous restaurants here - Nightbell and Cúrate. Cúrate gets a little more press and is much harder to get into, but I think Nightbell is every bit as good. Serving gourmet tapas, Nightbell's atmosphere is as enticing as its menu. And the tapas are some of the most creative dishes I've ever eaten. When Jordan and I went, we started with a "Deviled Egg," which was a whole egg shell containing an egg, pickled trout, and topped with a delicious corn sabayon. It blew us away, and it will blow you away, too. The cocktails are as creative as the menu, so be prepared to drink your weight. 

4. Sunset Terrace at Grove Park Inn

I know, I know. Natives of Asheville will be rolling their eyes at this addition, because there is certainly better food in this city. But if you're visiting, this is one of the best ways to experience how truly magnificent the Blue Ridge Mountains are. Book a table at sunset and watch the orange glow disappear behind the mountain range - if it doesn't take your breath away, I'll pay for your dinner. 

5. Zambra

Another incredible tapas restaurant. Like most menus in Asheville, this one is designed around what's seasonal and locally sourced. There's a menu of the items that stay year-round, and a separate menu of the seasonal and DELICIOUS options that rotates. The atmosphere here is dark, full of twinkle-lights, and super fun for a girl's night out or a date night. If it's warm and you can get a seat outside, even better - you'll feel like you're dining in an Italian alleyway somewhere. Great service and WONDERFUL food. 

Other great places: Bouchon, Posana, Cucina 24, and Table. 

Happy eatin'! 

In-Laws In Town!

My wonderful in-laws visited this weekend! 

I know the old trope is that in-laws are supposed to be scary, judgmental, blah blah blah - if that's true, then I hit the jackpot. I have the sweetest and most fantastic in-laws, and I love that I get to be a part of their family! 

We squeezed a lot in this weekend (we always do): eating at Pisgah Inn, checking out waterfalls in Brevard, brunching at Limone's, and a day on Curtis Creek fly fishing. 

Hope you enjoy these photos from our time together! 

Fly Fishing with Jordan

Most dentists take Fridays off, but Jordan takes Mondays. So this last Monday, we had an adventure. 

The three of us loaded up and drove to Curtis Creek so that Jordan could fly fish. In truth, we went there as a camping trial run, because Jord wanted to make sure I could handle 6 straight hours of no phone, computer, or other entertainment besides a book and a deck of cards. I've only been camping once: I was 12, and about halfway through the night it started POURING rain to the point that one of our tents caved in. So, you know...it was a really pleasant experience. 

I don't fancy myself a wilderness girl (unless we're talking Troop Beverly Hills Wilderness Girls, in which case I do), but Jordan has made me much more outdoorsy. Even still, I don't blame him for wanting to take me for the day before he took me camping overnight. He said, "Sweetheart, if we go for the night on our first try, I can just see you waking up the next morning with a stiff neck, having not slept very well, and saying, 'Okay. I'm bored. Time to go home.'" ...I wouldn't say that, YOU'D say that!! (I'd say that.) 

So off we went. Jordan fished Curtis Creek for about five and a half hours, and I read Girl On The Train on a pier with Tom Hanks. Despite having to constantly soothe TH's anxiety that he wasn't allowed in the water (he'd have scared the fish!), I had a fantastic time. And Jordan caught about 12 fish! I even got to cast a couple of times - didn't catch anything, but Jord let me reel in one of his catches and even hold one of the feesh. EEEEEEEEP! 

Here are some pictures from our adventure: 

This is the part where I hold a fish. I've held little fish, but I've never held a two-hander. They're strangely very soft...I was expecting them to be very bony and slick. Instead they were soft and slimy. I got two pictures with the fish before it jumped out of my hands (you can see it escaping in the third photo) and I yelped like a cartoon character. #uncool #needmorepractice Also, my thumbs are in a weird position in these pics but THAT'S HOW I WAS TOLD TO HOLD THE FISH, PEOPLE.

These next few are from up on the pier where I was sitting. Maybe it was the gloomy, overcast weather pairing perfectly with the murder mystery I was reading, but it couldn't have been more pleasant up there. I barely noticed that all that time had passed.

At one point in the afternoon, our trusty guard dog started growling (which he never does unless there are bears around). I turned and looked behind me to see two game wardens in uniform, standing with their arms crossed and watching Jordan fish. Those guys are sneaky! Of course, Jordan had a permit and everything was fine, but I wouldn't want to be on the wrong side of those fellas. They mean business. I guess a young guy fishing on a Monday afternoon looked a little peculiar. 

I should warn you before you scroll down that my husband still has that moustache. I know. I know. 

I never knew trout were so pretty! They're multi-colored and beautiful. And if you were wondering, I don't know how to debone and/or cook a fish, so Jordan's a catch and release man. You're welcome, fishies! 

He is very gentle with the "release" part of catch and release, though - apparently you have to make sure the fish is doing okay and has enough energy to swim away. In the video below, he said he didn't spend as long on re-acclimating the fish because the current was so strong and would do the work for him. #themoreyouknow

Can't wait for next time - never thought I'd want to go on a date to the creek, but here I am. Asheville Mary Catherine loves outside. Who am I?? 

Vegetable Garden

We got ants in our pants. 

You're supposed to wait until the first week of May, after the chance of frost has passed, but we just couldn't stand it! The forecast doesn't call for any freezing temperatures between now and May 1, so we're just keeping our fingers crossed. 

Because if it does frost, that will kill all my beautiful little sprouts. 

We started our GARDEN this weekend!! 

One of the great things about moving far away from anyone you know is that you get to explore what you like and don't like without anyone nearby having any expectations of you. I've learned things about myself since moving to Asheville that I don't think I would have discovered had we stayed in Birmingham - one of those things is that I really love to garden. There's something so rewarding about being outside, getting your hands a little dirty, and actually watching something you plant grow up into a vegetable! 

The idea that at some point in the next few months, I'll have a vegetable garden that I can pick and COOK FROM?? Crazy. 'Til this year, my veggies have come from the produce section at the grocery store. 

I feel like growing a garden is a slippery slope to me buying a cow and some chickens and just living off the land. 

...who am I?? 

So here are some pictures of our sweet little garden. We decided to plant squash, zucchini, snap peas, okra, bell peppers, watermelon, and we have a little plot on the edge of the bed for herbs (basil, oregano, parsley, and mint). Strangely enough, we noticed that mint was growing wild before we planted anything else -- leftover seeds from the last tenant of this house. We also found spinach doing the same thing! We tried to transplant it, but we'll see whether or not that worked.

We took full advantage of the mint, though, and have been drinking mint juleps with homemade mint-infused simple syrup all weekend! 

Here are some shots of how we spent our Saturday: 

As Ina would say, "How easy is that?" Seriously though, there is something really gratifying about picking your own little tiny crop. It's so fun! 

Hooray! Can't wait to update the blog with pictures as these little seeds become sprouts. I feel like I have a bunch of vegetable babies growing in the garden. I want to go whisper them bedtime stories and tuck them in at night.

What are you planting? What advice do you have for a first-time gardener? 

Happy Monday!