Yes, we take an air mattress with us when we go camping. Yes, we can walk a few feet to our car when we go camping. And yes, there is wine.
My husband and I get slack because we don’t go backcountry camping. Not hardcore enough, they say.
So I’m here to represent the middle-of-the-road campers!
We pack bug spray, play cards and grill out. We go hiking and sleep in tents (maybe even, GASP, a camper). We take in sunrises and sunsets. We meet neighborly campers and stargaze. And, we sleep soundly on that air mattress after a few glasses of wine.
Our schedules tend to be unpredictable and opposing. When we find a break, we plan a getaway. This June, we snuck in a camping trip. There wasn’t time to drive hours away. There wasn’t enough energy to hike miles into the campsite. And there wasn’t $ to invest in equipment.
Our goal? To relax and unplug.
About an hour from Asheville, we landed at the Mile High Campground. The drive was painless. We’ve driven further just for a hike. We slowly rode through the campground taking in the views. Done! Pay the man.
Sitting at our picnic table, we were a part of the Smokies. We were in them. Enveloped.
The initial draw to this area for our camping trip was actually a winding back road that my husband wanted to drive down. 28 miles of bouncing around in a Jeep, listening to NPR and looking for bears (no such luck). The road begins near Balsam Mountain and drops you off in Cherokee. We pulled over to play in the river before getting back on the BRP.
Summer in the mountains cannot be beat. Our pup agrees.
In the evening, we’re back at camp. An adult male Elk trotted down the campground road to his favorite dinner spot. We quietly followed. Signs were posted everywhere on how to handle a sighting safely. All memory of protocol was gone though. His antlers looked like they were made of velvet. We were that close to him. He took a break from eating every once in a while to peer over at us. Keep us in check.
Day 2 was filled with games, drinks and naps. We read our new books. We cleaned dishes after eating burgers (two nights in a row). We made s’mores (two nights in a row).
How quickly a 2-day getaway can go by.
So, yeah, we brought a mini speaker to play The Rolling Stones. And, yeah, we could have even showered at this campground. So, no, it wasn’t extreme camping.
The important detail that overshadows all of that? We had a blast and came home with memories of a favorite trip together. So get out there! Explore. Do it your way.
And hey, at least it’s not glamping, right?
Campground: Mile High (reservations accepted and encouraged for the sites with views)
Directions from downtown Asheville: Head to mile marker 458 on BRP. Turn onto Wolf Laurel Gap. Entrance is on your left in one mile. Staying safe around wildlife: http://www.nps.gov/grsm/learn/nature/black-bears.htm (don’t actually look for bears, folks)
Directions to the back-road drive: Follow directions to Balsam Mountain Campground (in Cherokee). Instead of turning left into the campground, keep going straight. In less than 1 mile, the road will become Balsam Mountain Road. Keep going straight for a 28 mile ride!
Chelsea, an Asheville native, left the mountains of North Carolina to live in sunny Florida as a teen with her family. A few years and three states later, Chelsea was drawn back to her hometown in 2014; this time bringing her husband Philip and pup Yeti along with her. You can find these three exploring the great outdoors and local sustainable food scene of WNC, both have become a central feature of Chelsea Lane Photography. Chelsea has spent the past ten years enjoying photography as a hobby and now works with clients and collaborates within the community.
You can find her here:
www.chelsealanephotography.com Instagram @_chelsealane_ Pinterest @chelsealanepins