When I last left you in the tales of our fall adventure, we were heading to Bryson City, NC after a brief stopover in the ever-fabulous Asheville. Our goal was to make it to Deep Creek, a unit of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Now, as I detailed in the posts on Asheville, our plans going forward from Cumberland Gap were not well-orchestrated. We were very much flying by the seat of our pants going into Asheville and had only rudimentary plans heading into Deep Creek.
So when we rolled into Bryson City and started making our way up toward the National Park, we passed a string of private campgrounds and tubing outfits. We figured we should check one out just to see if it might be worth a try since we knew the National Park campground didn’t have showers. Let’s face it, showers are a nice perk if you can get them.
Much like the campground issue in Asheville though, it was a no-go in terms of cost and quality of the sites. Jester even did a quick check of campground reviews on his Android and it looked like the owners were notoriously grumpy. The beauty of technology eh? As you can imagine, we scooted ourselves on into the National Park as fast as our little granola wheels would carry us.
Heading to Bryson City, we knew that we were facing a wet night and, indeed, the skies grew increasingly tempestuous as we made our way into town. We hadn’t yet restocked our food supplies so we were still slightly up a creek. With that in mind, we hurriedly set up camp at Deep Creek and headed right back into town to get our bearings.
Given the food situation and our general state of indecision (more on that another day), we opted to snub our camping noses at the brewing storm and eat somewhere in town to avoid a soggy camp dinner. That…and we really just felt like exploring the town which is a small, laid-back, outdoors oriented kind of place. In other words, a granola mecca.
So we wandered a bit, grabbing a snack and some much-needed caffeine at the groovy Cork & Bean. That put a spring in our step and with some further wandering, we came across what was probably the highlight of our time in Bryson City, the Nantahala Brewing Company. It’s a unique place in that, because of local laws and such, they don’t serve food…only beer. That’s not really a sacrifice for someone like Jester, my budding homebrewer, but the rest of us needed a little more to go on.
That’s where Anthony’s comes in. They’re right next door to NBC and serve a hearty variety of italian dishes. When we eat at a local place, there’s nothing I dig more than personable local folks who are willing to chat. You get an insider’s view that facilitates a connection you can’t get any other way.
Just by asking a few genuine questions, we got great feel for Bryson City from the folks at Anthony’s. Forget travel books; there’s so much more valuable information in a conversation. (And here’s a hint if you’re considering a visit: Just don’t even bother going around Independence Day. Total zoo.)
A delightful place to wile away the evening…
At any rate, with food in hand and a place to stay dry and drink beer, how can you not have a good time? NBC was quiet on our late-September Monday night and we were able to really relax and play. It’s set up in a warehousy-kind-of-building with games like darts and bean-bag toss. The giant Jenga game was boatloads of fun. I suspect the joint is jumping on other nights but for us it was a peaceful hangout on rainy night. All sorts of granola happiness…and good beer of course.
After a couple of nights at Deep Creek, we returned to Bryson City on our way out of town so we could soak up the last hours of our adventure. There’s such delight in just leisurely strolling, browsing shops, chatting with shop owners, and having no agenda.
In the matter of just a couple of hours we had a fabulous chat with the shop-keeper of the used book store that helps fund the local library, the amazingly sweet owner of the Ice Cream Shoppe gave us a fabulous dog-treat recipe for Dobby, and the lovely ladies at the Whistle Stop were accommodating to our hungry selves even though we couldn’t get to the ATM right away to pay them (looong story).
The take away…
Pay attention to the friendly faces of your destination. When you take the time to be friendly in return, that’s when the magic happens. The opportunity won’t always present itself depending upon the nature and timing of your travels but keep your eyes open so you don’t miss it. That magic is what elevates a tourist experience into a true sense of place and a more meaningful vacation.