Spring in the Carolinas (April 9 – 19, 2022)

On Saturday, we drove 311 miles to Pendleton, SC (near Greenville) where we stayed a week at the US Army Corp of Engineers’ Twin Lake Campground on Hartwell Lake.  In addition to the longer-than-usual distance, we were delayed by accidents and road construction along the route.  We were both exhausted when we arrived.  However, our long drive was rewarded with a very nice pull-through site alongside the lake.

The temperature got down to 35 degrees overnight but got up to a sunny 71 degrees on Sunday afternoon.  We went for a long walk around the campground.  As we walked, we could spot Clemson University’s Memorial Stadium across the lake. Jan bought a fishing license online and broke out the poles.  She tried fishing by our site, then moved on to the dock by the boat ramp.  She had no nibbles but was inspired to try again.

Tuesday, April 12th, was our 19th wedding anniversary and we spent the day visiting Greenville, SC.  Our first stop was in the historic West End.  Finding an open parking spot was quite a challenge.  After we managed to get backed into one, we discovered that it was only good for 30 minutes.  That gave us only enough time for a quick stroll through Falls Park on the Reedy, a beautiful city park on the Reedy River. 

Like many towns that developed in the 1800’s, Greenville relied on the river for industry and the river became polluted.  When Greenville’s industry collapsed in the 1950’s, the river was largely abandoned and became overgrown with vegetation and shaded by a four-lane vehicular bridge.  In the 1990s, plans to revitalize the forgotten waterfall began to take place.  The vehicular bridge was torn down in 2003 and replaced with the Liberty Bridge, a 355-foot pedestrian-only suspension bridge that is supported by cables only on one side, giving an unobstructed view of the upper falls.  We strolled across the Liberty Bridge and then walked through the park, enjoying the many gardens with flowers in full bloom.

After spending a couple of hours at the Mazda dealer for some routine maintenance and a quick trip through Sam’s Club, we had an early dinner at The 05 Express Kitchen.  This small restaurant in the Augusta Road neighborhood offers a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes.  Jan had the vegan Brussel sprouts salad and really enjoyed the combination of flavors in the sauce.  Phil passed on the vegan options and, instead, enjoyed the gourmet Keepin It Fresh Smash Burger.

On Wednesday, we drove through the campus of Clemson University.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t find any open parking spots so we didn’t get to walk around.  We did find a local bait shop and bought some worms.  On Thursday, we headed out to our park’s fishing pier with the worms.  It was a nice day for sitting on the lake but, unfortunately, Jan still had no nibbles.

On Friday, we got on the road early and drove to Devils Ford State Park on Lake Jocassee.  One of Phil’s childhood classmates lives in SC and had recommended we visit this lake.  He claims that National Geographic included this lake in their list of “50 Places You Should Visit Before You Die” (one of only two in this hemisphere).  The lake is known for the clean and cold Appalachian mountain rivers that flow into it, keeping its waters cool and clear year-round.  Several waterfalls flow directly into the lake.  The lake was created in 1973 by the state in partnership with Duke Power.  Although most manmade structures were demolished before the lake was flooded, divers recently discovered the remains of a lodge that was left intact; now below 300 feet of water.  Mount Carmel Baptist Church Cemetery was a setting for a scene in the film Deliverance (1972), starring Burt Reynolds and Jon Voight, produced before the lake was flooded.  That site is now covered by 130 feet of lake water.

Lake Jocassee’s reputation is based on the clear waters and the many waterfalls that line the lake.  The waterfalls are only accessible by boat or by strenuous and/or dangerous hikes.  Unfortunately, the tour boats did not operate on Friday and it was our last full day in SC.  We did hike the 1.5-mile Oconee Bell Loop Trail through a hardwood forest and along a babbling stream.

Another recommendation Phil had received was to visit Duke Energy’s educational facility, World of Energy, at the Oconee Nuclear Station.  Although it is usually open on Fridays, upon our arrival we discovered that it was closed for Good Friday.  However, they did have a long fishing pier and we spent over an hour there.  Once again, Jan was unable to get any nibbles but we enjoyed the sunny day on Lake Keowee.

On Saturday, April 16th, we drove 88 miles to Fletcher, NC where we would spend three nights at Rutledge Lake RV Park.  Fletcher is a short distance from Asheville.

Sunday was Easter and the weather was beautiful.  We had originally planned to take a walking tour of downtown Asheville but, because of tours being unavailable on Easter and with rain forecast for most of Monday, we decided to explore on our own.  With help from the Internet and an app called GPSmycity, we were able to put together a self-guided tour of ten sites in historic Asheville. 

Our first stop was the Asheville city hall, completed in 1928 and designed in the Art Deco style that was popular at the time.  The city hall is located on Pack Square Park, a large green space that is open to the public for relaxing, exercise and events.

We next walked to the Thomas Wolfe House.  Thomas Wolfe was an American novelist of the early 20th century.  He wrote four lengthy novels, as well as many shorter works.  His most famous novel, Look Homeward, Angel, chronicled the childhood of a young boy who comes of age in a small mountain town in the south.  Although hailed as a commercial and literary success, the novel brought anger and resentment by many in Asheville.  Residents recognized not only locations, but friends and sometimes themselves as characters in the novel.  Today, Look Homeward, Angel is regarded as an American classic. 

The Thomas Wolfe House was built in 1883 in the Queen Anne architectural style and was operated as a boarding house, called “Old Kentucky Home.”  Wolfe’s mother bought the house in 1903 and continued to operate it as a boarding house, but eventually moved in with her son.

Our next stop was at the Lexington Glassworks, a glassware and glassblowing studio.  Although the studio was open, there was no glassblowing on Easter.

We then went to Woolworth Walk, a two-floor art gallery and crafts space, with stalls displaying the works of a large number of local artists.  The gallery is in a former Woolworths store.  The soda fountain from the original store still operates so visitors can recreate the experience of dining in a 1950s era Woolworths luncheonette.

We next walked past the Basilica of St. Lawrence, completed in 1905 in a Catalan architectural style.  Our final stop on our tour was the Grove Arcade.  Completed in 1929, it was created with the intent to serve as the base for a skyscraper but it was never completed.  It has served many purposes over the years and, at one time, was one of the world’s first indoor shopping malls.  Today, it has a combination of dining, retail and residential space.

We then returned to Pack Square Park and had lunch at Pack’s Tavern.  It was built in 1907 by a local lumber supply company and remains one of the oldest buildings in Asheville.  During Prohibition (1920-1933), a lucrative moonshine distribution business operated in the basement.  Using the lumber supply company as a front and a tunnel under the street, business boomed.

After lunch, we drove to West Asheville and toured the brewery at the New Belgium Brewing Company.  Husband, Jeff Lebesch (electrical engineer), and wife, Kim Jordan (social worker), were inspired to bring Belgian brewing tradition to their hometown of Fort Collins, CO after a bike trip through Belgium in 1988.  In 1991, they installed brewing equipment in their basement and began the business.  Kim became New Belgium’s jack-of-all-trades as the first bottler, sales rep, distributor, marketer, financial planner and long-time CEO.  In 1995, they expanded to a new production facility in Fort Collins.  In 2016, the Asheville brewery opened, bringing the New Belgium experience to the East Coast.  Fat Tire, first brewed in 1991 and still the big money-maker, was named for the many comments the founders got when they rode their mountain bikes with fat tires in Europe.  Employees are awarded a bicycle when they reach one year of employment.  Our tour took us through the brewery and we got to watch ale being brewed in the huge vats.  We were offered samples of Fat Tire and, if interested, several other brands.  To get to the lower floor of the brewery, we took a steep slide down through a spiral tube.  Although hesitant at first, we both made it.

After spending most of a rainy and cool Monday indoors, we headed out to the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in nearby Mills River for an early dinner.  Although the company has operated in Chico, CA since the 1980s, construction of the brewery in Mills River, NC was completed in 2015.  The beautiful setting for this brewery is definitely not what you would expect for an industrial business.  This campus is down a long driveway and way back into the woods.  They didn’t offer tours on Mondays so we headed straight to the Taproom.  Before having dinner, we explored the backyard, which is set up for concerts and other events.  We then returned inside for dinner.  Jan ordered tempeh bahn mi and Phil ordered crispy oyster and pear salad.  When you have to use your smartphone to look up the ingredients, you know it will be something unusual but both dishes were very flavorful.

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