I remember when I first moved to the North Carolina mountains in my freshman year of college and my first trip to Asheville. Not only was I exposed to my first taste of true southern hospitality, but I recall coming across a sign on the local highway that simply read … Asheville, where altitude affects attitude. I couldn’t think of a better way to express what I was feeling. I had just entered a stressful time in my life – “college isn’t suppose to be easy” – quoted my mom and dad. But not only that, it was the first time I was away from home, friends and everything that I knew. I felt completely out-of-sorts.
When I arrived in North Carolina, it was at the tail-end of a terribly hot summer. It’s one of those summers where the days are muggy and the only way you know it’s night – is that it’s dark – because goodness knows the temperatures aren’t any cooler. The dorms we all lived in had NO air conditioning. Not exactly something that a NY/Florida girl wants to contemplate, but we made the best of things – especially by retreating to use the library’s “free AC” and other local hang-outs that offered a cooler setting.
It was on one of those unbearably hot weekends that my friends and I decided to set out for Asheville. The 45 minute drive wasn’t something that was going to deter us from our ultimate goal of finding cooler surroundings and the fair city (then town) of Asheville did not disappoint us. What we found was a welcoming town that had, as a panoramic backdrop, the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nothing could be finer than to be in Carolina – was running through my head. We opted to explore the downtown area first which was nothing like it is now. Just a few old shops amid a “ghost town” thanks to the local mall and shopping supercenter. But, it still had its charm. We found a pizza shop that catered to the local college students (cheap prices) and then decided to head up to Blue Ridge Parkway.
I can clearly remember that day since from that point on, I was ruined for any other place of scenic beauty. I had grown up not far from the beach – and when you fight the sand fleas, snakes, bugs and getting yelled at for tracking sand in the house for several years – it kinda looses its appeal. This new scenic landscape, however – had captured my heart. The area was just beginning to bloom with fall colors and it was at that moment in time that my love affair began. When not studying, I spent the rest of my free time on the local hiking trails – exploring all the Blue Ridge had to offer.
The “old gal” Asheville has grown up a lot since then (as have I) and has turned into a thriving and booming city, but it’s still the place I go …when my attitude needs a little adjusting and the fall colors call to me.