As I write this, we’ve been parked in Virginia for over three months — and 100% feeling the itch to get back on the road! Because planning is half the fun, I’ve been spending plenty of time with my nose in travel brochures, figuring out where we’re going to stay, eat, and play in September.
This trip is going to look a little different than some of our past adventures. Instead of a more traditional road trip, this one is all about whitewater! Our travels will center around Gauley Season; we’ll be spending at least three of these six weekends hitting the river. In between we’ll be roaming West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
Last time we posted an overview/planning post like this, we got some terrific suggestions from you guys here and on Instagram. So I’m counting on you to come through for us again. Comment, email, Instagram us … we’d love suggestions on camping, hiking, eating, and drinking!
On more note — it’s as yet TBD if we’ll be taking the camper or once again hitting the road with just the Tahoe and a prayer. Is it weird that after three months of all the creature comforts of our turtle house, I’m kind of longing for the simplicity of car camping? Ryan seems less convinced, but I’ll work on that 😉
Week 1 (September 5 – 11)
- Because we have a gap between the end of our Maine camping reservation (August 27) and our first day of rafting (September 10), I’m not sure exactly when we’ll head towards West Virginia. But my first planned stop is Charleston, West Virginia — the capital city priding itself on “small town charm and a progressive attitude.”
- I have my eye on camping in the Kanawha State Forest just outside the city. On the food front, I’d love to check out Moxxee, Bluegrass Kitchen, and Taylor Books Café.
- Because I love spooky stuff, I’m dying to check out the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum north of the city. Their tours look creepy and amazing.
- By the weekend, we’ll be headed to Fayetteville! We have camping and rafting reservations at Cantrell Ultimate Rafting and are ready for a weekend of crazy water! Ryan has rafted the Gauley River before, but it will be my first time; we’ll be doing the Upper Gauley one day and the Lower Gauley or the New River the next. This is the only river trip with set dates, as we’ll also be joined by Ryan’s world-travelling cousin Barry!
Week 2 (September 12 – 18)
- Since we’ll be there already, this will bet a great time to explore Fayetteville, West Virginia and the surrounding area.
- On my list: Smooth Ambler Spirits, Secret Sandwich Society, the beautiful Glade Creek Grist Mill at Babcock State Park, and the wooden walkway at Beartown State Park. I’d also love to head down to Beckley and check out Tamarack.
Week 3 (September 19- 25)
- The next planned stop is a little further — I’m still dying to get to Asheville, North Carolina. It’s about four hours from Fayetteville … unless you take the scenic route and make a stop at the Hatfield & McCoy Moonshine Distillery — which, let’s be real, sounds totally worth the extra two hours.
- I have my eye on a bunch of campgrounds in the Asheville area, from the Mount Pisgah Campground (a NPS campground off the Blue Ridge Parkway) to the Twin Falls Resort State Park to the Lake Powhatan Recreation Area.
- I’ve heard the food in Asheville is amazing, but I haven’t scoped out anything specific yet. I do know we’ll go the Biltmore and I can’t wait to visit Battery Park Book Exchange.
- Depending when Ryan’s next weekend back on the Gauley happens, we may be returning to Fayetteville from Asheville. If so, I’d love to take the scenic route, traveling up the Blue Ridge Parkway (great suggestion, Cat!).
Week 4 (September 26 – October 2)
- Our next destination is Knoxville, Tennessee. I’m excited to visit, and I’ve heard that #KNOXROCKS, but I don’t have any specifics planned out yet. Apparently they have a brand new ale trail and 4,500 acres of green and open spaces, so I’m sure we’ll manage 😉 I’ll be contacting Visit Knoxville soon to get some suggestions.
- I’m looking at camping at Panther Creek State Park and the Knoxville KOA.
Week 5 (October 3 – October 9)
- It didn’t make my 2016 National Parks Wish List, but I’m still dying to check out Great Smoky Mountains National Park — so that’s where we’re headed next, either two hours from Asheville or four hours from Fayetteville.
- I definitely want to camp in the park and I’m in desperate need of some hiking suggestions! Rainbow Falls and Charlies Bunion both look like great options — and maybe we’ll even do a little backpacking!
Week 6 (October 10 – October 16)
- The western- and southernmost point of our trip will be Chattanooga, Tennessee, another city I’ve been wanting to get to for a while. I’ve heard it’s beautiful and outdoorsy and I can’t wait to check out their 13-mile riverwalk and get in some history.
- For camping, I’m looking at Harrison Bay State Park. It’s about 25 minutes from downtown and looks super pretty.
- Before we head to New England, I’d love to finish off our trip with my first half marathon since last September: the Four Bridges Half Marathon, through downtown and across the river.
So: Where should we go? What can’t we miss in West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennesee? And if you live on our route … can we camp in your yard? 😉