River Country

On our 2nd day at Yurtopia, we began with an awesome breakfast at The River’s End Restaurant.


This gem of a restaurant is located not 2 miles down the hill from Sky Ridge Yurts.  It’s right beside the Nantahala Outdoor Center and is the rafting headquarters in this neck of the woods.


This morning Ron and I sat out on the porch so we could listen to the river.  We had some delicious veggie omelets, grits, biscuits, and coffee.

Our waitress was so nice.  We’ve been here one other time and that time it was for lunch.  Everything about this place is perfect to me.  Absolutely my kind of place.  Click here for a peek at their menu.  I had the Veggie Sherpa last time.  We were all there together celebrating Mother’s 81st birthday and between all of us, I think we sampled about everything on the menu.  Scrumptious!

Here’s Mother and her birthday cake last year.


After a hearty breakfast, we were off to tour downtown Bryson City.



The Great Smoky Mountains Railroad is one of the highlights in Bryson City.  We haven’t ridden yet.  I’m saving that for when Mason is 4 and we can take him.  Mason is crazy about trains and I just know that this is going to be so much fun.

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Two of my favorite things I saw in and around Bryson City.  I was “this” close to buying that shirt.  So funny!



We were scoping out a place for dinner and Pasqualino’s caught our eye. It is a superb Italian eatery but since we had been there before we picked Cork and Bean on the other side of the street.


We slipped inside and Ron got a cup of coffee while I checked out the menu.


It was settled.  Cork and Bean it was.

The morning slipped away and then it was time to raft.

My niece suggested Rolling Thunder.


What a nice rafting company.  We were there on a Tuesday and things were pretty quiet.  I could tell that this place would be a busy place on the weekends in the middle of the summer.  But for us, at the end of August on a Tuesday proved to be a very low key experience.

We decided to raft with a guide.  We didn’t need to though.  The Nantahala was very calm and so relaxing.


A quick van ride to the drop in spot and then about 2.5 hours on the river and we were all done.


There was only one class 3 rapid and it was right at the end.  Next trip, I think we’ll get a funyak and try a trip on our own.

After rafting we were itching to run and tried to find a place that our raft guide had told us about.  We never could so we ended up back at the NOC and watched some kayakers for a while.



The NOC was hosting the Freestyle World Championships beginning on Labor Day and many of the kayakers were already there practicing.  It was cool walking around and hearing all the different languages being spoken.

Check out the red kayaker in the middle.  That’s what they were all doing.  Just flipping over and over again and again.


Since we couldn’t run, we decided to hike.

The AT is right there by the NOC so we hopped on the trail and hiked straight up a mountain for about a mile.


And then back down.



Ah the AT.  Love that trail!  Those white rectangles leading the way are magical to me!


We had worked up quite the appetite by then so we headed back to the yurts to shower and get ready for dinner.


For our appetizer we chose these delicious spring rolls.


And my entrée’ came with soup.

Spinach and mushroom.



Ron got tuna.


Perfection.  That green stuff was a puree of cucumbers and sweet peas.  Looks disgusting but was actually very tasty.

I chose the mountain trout.


I would take a bite of the trout and be like wow!  Nothing could taste better.  Then I’d take a bite of the rice and swear I’d never tasted rice better than this.  It was just rice but wow!  Seasoned so beautifully.  Then I’d take a bite of the asparagus and couldn’t believe how perfectly it was cooked.

And, it wasn’t because we were so hungry.  We were hungry yesterday at Plant and I didn’t react that way at all.

The dessert menu held many sinful pleasures and I really should have gotten something more interesting but I was craving chocolate.

We went with the double chocolate brownie with ice cream.


I loved Cork and Bean so much.  Our waitress was just as good as the one we had at Plant but in a much better way.  She talked to us.  That’s what I like.

She actually told us all about the Deep Creek day hike that we ended up going on the next day.  She said if we wanted to run, that was the place to go.

After dinner, we walked around Bryson City a little more and made a quick stop at Ron’s favorite micro brewery.





Their growler collection is a bit larger than Ron’s.  Smile

Next up will be our last adventure of our trip.  The Day Hike in the Smokies.


It was my favorite!  Details coming soon.

Eating Plants and Staying in Tents

And so we made our way to Plant.


Plant is an all vegan restaurant in Asheville, NC.  They are top rated so I was hoping we were in for a real treat.

We got there right at 5:00pm and they were just turning the sign in the window over from closed to open.

We were greeted and seated right away and the hostess was really sweet.  Even though we were the first ones in the restaurant on that Monday night, it still felt like the place was humming.  I liked the fact that the kitchen was right there out in the open.  I could tell the chefs were gearing up for a good night.

Ron found his way to the local micro brewed beers and I picked out this awesome appetizer for us.


It was their BLISTERED SHISHITO PEPPERS togarashi · Maldon salt with cream cheese, bacon, and focaccia toast.  Man oh man was this the bomb!  That cream cheese was so good and those peppers.  Wowzer!  They were pretty hot but manageable.  I think the “bacon” was some sort of mushrooms and they were good but I didn’t think they tasted like bacon at all.  Ron and I ate the bread pretty fast and ended up asking for more to help cool our mouths.  They charged an extra $1 for the extra bread but we didn’t mind one bit.  To be honest, I thought it was sort of silly of them to charge that when we had already ordered this appetizer, 2 entrees, and Ron was probably on his 2nd beer by this time.

Next came the main course.

Ron got RED CURRY TOFU jasmine rice & kaffir lime cakes · teriyaki broccoli & Thai basil ·  galangal-peanut curry · arugula.


And mine was JERK grilled tempeh · smashed sweet potatoes · sautéed collards · spicy serrano crudo · fried banana & Celtic salt.


I thought I liked Jerk but I had forgotten about the last time that I tried it.

Ron and I sampled each other’s dishes and we cleaned our plates but I’m sad to admit that these were really nothing special at all.  Filling.  Healthy.  Somewhat tasty.  But definitely not delicious.

Mine tasted a lot like my favorite Kashi meal and I liked it but honestly, Kashi is better.

Myan Harvest Bake

The best part about both entrées was Ron’s broccoli.  That was delicious!

I couldn’t believe it but when it was time for dessert, Ron ordered one.  He never does that!

Ron got the Cannolo handmade anise shell • candied orange ricotta • espresso puddle • mocha ice cream.


Mine was My Own Apple-Blackberry Pie flaky pastry · vanilla sugar ·  super vanilla ice cream · caramel.


Now these were great!  They really have the dessert making down.  Loved every single bite.

Plant was pretty pricey for my taste and the thing that I found the most unappealing was the atmosphere.  Our waitress was perfect.  She kept my water glass filled, kept our table clean, and was very polite.  I think that might have been it.  She was too perfect.  The whole place was too perfect for me.  I like a little wobble to my chair and I think I identify more with people who aren’t so perfect.  I like the ones that make mistakes and mess up on your order or the ones you have to flag down because they are joking with another table.    It might have been just an off night but Plant was as stuffy to me as this painting they had on display.


Plant was good and maybe some of their other entrées are better.   I don’t think I will go back though.

Fiction Kitchen here in Raleigh is 10 times better!

After dinner we headed to Yurtopia.


Sky Ridge Yurts are located at the top of Sky Ridge Drive in Bryson City, NC.  Just look at this awesome view!


This was our third visit to SRY and now we can say we have stayed in all three yurts.


The purple one on the left is called The Fontana and it has a full kitchen and a private master bedroom.

The green one on the right is the Tsali and it has 2 queen beds and an efficiency kitchen.

The green one in the back is The Nantahala and that’s the one we had this time.  It has a king bed.


SRY is owned and operated by my niece and namesake.  I might be just a bit biased but honestly these yurts are so special!

Here are some more shots of the interior of the one we stayed in this time.

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IMG_0730  Please check out her site for more beautiful pictures!

Sky Ridge provided a welcome retreat after our busy day of zip lining and travels.  The bed and pillows are so comfortable.  The bathroom!  Oh the bathroom!  That slate shower was amazing and isn’t that basin sink so adorable!?

The yurts have a great ceiling fan and are equipped with central air and heat.  We ran them both as it was a bit chilly in the mornings but the afternoons would heat up.

They also have Wi-Fi but I tried to stay unplugged as much as I could.  The satellite television was superb.  Ron and I sat in that chair made for 2 and enjoyed The Life of Pi on our 2nd night.

If you are looking for an out of the normal getaway, please give my niece a shout.  You will be so happy you did.

Next up are my reviews of the River’s End Restaurant, Cork and Bean (the best restaurant ever), Rolling Thunder Rafting, and the highlight of the trip for me, our day hike in the Smokies!

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Stay tuned….

I ran at lunch at work this week 2 times!  Woot woot!  Now on to some good long runs tomorrow and Sunday.  I might even squeeze in a 20 minute or so Cross Fit workout.  What are your exercise plans for the weekend?


Last weekend Ron and I slipped away to Yurtopia!  My niece just opened a new mountain vacation rental business and we just had to go and support her endeavors and see what all the “Sky Ridge Yurt” excitement was all about.  We met my sister Rosa and her husband, William in Asheville (they live in a yurt year round).  We played around in Asheville a little and then traveled one more hour west to Yurtopia.  William named it Yurtopia and I just love it.  That’s what I’ll call it forever!  My niece just calls it Sky Ridge Yurts as it located on Sky Ridge Drive, Bryson City, NC

Ron and I got to Asheville a little before Rosa and William so we had time to explore a bit.  We had an awesome lunch at Rosetta’s Kitchen.  Ron kept calling it Rosetta Stone and I would laugh every time.

I had “Asheville’s Best Veggie Burger” and Ron had the Tempeh Rueben.  We cut them in half so we could share.  They were both out of this world delicious!

Ron tried out some local beers but I got the vegan pineapple upside-down cake.


Next up was the LaZoom Holly Jolly Holiday tour of Asheville.  Ron and I learned about this comedy tour on Our State on PBS over a year ago and have wanted to go ever since.  Rosa and William heard about our wish and gave us tickets for our Christmas gift.  They joined us on the tour and we had a ball.  Thank you so much Rosa and William!


Our tour guide was Agusta Wind and she was so funny!  We were laughing from the very beginning.  Along the way, Agusta shared some truthful Asheville history and so not so truthful hilarious Asheville jokes.

There were other characters that we met along the tour and they were rolling on the floor funny too.

This turkey was sorta weird looking to me but what else can you expect from “HippieTown?”

Here are a few pics of Asheville.

All in all the LaZoom tours gets a 5 star rating from me.  If you ever have the chance you should try to check it out.

Next up was dinner at Pasqualino’s.

This little Italian restaurant in Bryson City was so adorable.  It reminded me so much of my late step-father, Alberto Salvador DiBenedetto.  He would have loved it.  Did you know that some Italian’s sometimes call the marinara sauce, gravy?  The couple seated next to us asked for more gravy for their spaghetti.  What they wanted was more of the sauce.  Cool huh?

Check out this neat night photo of the river right across from Pasqualino’s.

It’s the Nantahala and it looked so much more beautiful than this Evo phone photo can show.

Then it was on to Yurtopia!

After we got settled in, we played an awesome game of Racko!  It’s a card game and all you have to do is get your hand in numerical order.  Pretty easy but oh so fun!  Ron was the 2011 Racko champion.

We set off a few fireworks at the stroke of midnight.  The fireworks that William had brought up from South Carolina were really pretty good.  However, the real star of the show was the beautiful night sky.  It was so breathtaking and much more glorious than it is in the city.  The Smoky Mountain night skies were firework enough for me.

Here are some pictures of the yurts.

Aren’t they unique?

I took some video of the insides of the yurts but I’m not sure if they are usuable yet.  Like my niece’s site on FB and you can see some inside pictures.

On New Years’ morning, Ron and I ran up and down and up and down Sky Ridge Drive.  With it going straight up and down the mountain, it was quite the workout.  I think we covered about 2 miles.

Ron also brought his crazy rope exercise contraption.  I have no idea what it’s supposed to do but he sure loves it.

After our showers, we headed down to the NOC.  (Nantahala Outdoor Center)  This gem is literally only about 3 minutes from the yurts and when I got there, I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.  The river is too beautiful for words.

The NOC (which Ron likes to call the OC because he is from Southern California) had so many cool things that I wanted to buy.  Check out this hat!

And this shirt!

I wanted everything.

Ron got some toe socks and we scored big time for Mason. Rosa found two pair of Keen sandals for him for only $5.00 each.  That’s $60 worth of coolness for only 10 bucks!

We stayed and watched some of the kayakers and learned that winter is the best time for their sport.  During the summer they get run over by all the rafters.  Even though it was quite chilly for us, the kayakers said the water temps and the temps just above the water were actually warmer.  They only got cold when they got out of the water.

This bridge at the “OC” is on the Appalachian Trail.

Another cool thing to do is the Smokey Mountain Railroad.  I saw it when we were in Bryson Citythe night before and then Rosa showed me another stop here at the river.  I would LOVE to bring Mason here and ride the train with him.

The River’s End Restaurant looked so good but we skipped this time and headed on to our next adventure.

Next on the agenda was a trip to Cherokee and then over the mountain to Gatlinburg, TN.  It’s only a 35 mile trip but it takes almost an hour to drive.  I enjoyed the ride up and our stop at the top near Clingmans Dome.

Ron says next summer we are going to get someone to drop us off at Clingmans Dome and hike back to the OC.  I’ll have to research that one.  A 30 minute drive could take us weeks on the AT.

I also really enjoyed my first ever dinner at the Mellow Mushroom in Gatlinburg.  Truly delicious pizza!

Other than tasting some apple pie moonshine at the Ole Smokey Tennessee Moonshine Distillery and enjoying the pizza, you can have Gatlinburg.  I’m just not in to all the shops and crowds.  Next time I go to the yurts, I’ll travel the hour back to Asheville if I’m in need of some other form of entertainment other than just relaxing at the yurts or playing in the river.

When we got back to the yurts that evening, we played Racko again.  This time William and I were battling it out for first place.  Ron was dead last.  Dead last by a lot!  You get extra points in Racko if you get your cards lined up consecutively and Ron ended up winning the game with this last unbelievable hand.

Ron’s now the reigning 2012 Racko champ and he’s never going to let us forget it.

All in all, we had the time of our lives even though it was only a two night trip.  I have plans to book our summer whitewater rafting vacation as soon as our work vacations are approved.  One full week at Yurtopia here we come!