Monday was an absolutely stunning day. The air was clear, and the temperatures were much cooler than they had been. We decided to take the convertible up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and have a picnic. We knew it would be crowded with other Labor Day travelers, but we couldn’t resist.
Initially, the drive did not disappoint. The views from the overlooks were much more spectacular with the low humidity. There was a steady stream of traffic, but it wasn’t too bad. We stopped at one overlook for our picnic lunch, then continued on up to Mount Pisgah. That’s where things went crazy.
As soon as we pulled into the parking lot for the Mount Pisgah trails, steam started billowing from under the hood. There hadn’t been any other warning. The temperature gauge looked fine. However, something wasn’t right. We opened the hood and let it cool for awhile, then decided to hike along one of the trails for a bit to give it some more time to settle down. We decided that the best thing to do would be to head back down the mountain, since continuing would take us further from civilization.
We took it easy on the ride back down, pausing at many more overlooks than we might otherwise. Still, the time passed quickly and we were back down to Asheville before we knew it. Since our ride was over quicker than we had planned, we decided to stop at the North Carolina Arboretum. We had never visited before. This was always some place that we said we should go, but just never got around to it. This seemed like the perfect opportunity.
The Arboretum is located right at the intersection of Highway 191 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, just south of Asheville. One enters the park through a lovely winding road. Admission is an $8 parking fee. A large parking area is bounded by the two main buildings of the park – visitor’s center and the education center.
In the visitor’s center there is a gift shop, and they were also hosting a display on the Cherokee and native art for an additional cost. We opted to head straight on out to the gardens.
Having recently visited Butchart Gardens, the Arboretum required a mental adjustment. Those gardens, along with the nearby Biltmore Estate, are more show gardens than anything else, with their carpets of flowers. I’m sure there are times that the Arboretum is a riot of color, and there were some late-blooming flowers still around. However, the park is designed to showcase native plantings. No matter, it was still wonderful.
The Promenade Gardens consist of three sections. There is the Heritage Garden,which was supposed to contain plants like one might find around a homestead. This is boarded by a small fountain with a collection of carnivorous pitcher plants.
The next section is the quilt garden, with plants that are supposed to be in a traditional plant pattern.
Finally there is a stream garden, with a water feature that mimicks a mountain stream.
On a level just below the education building is the Bonsai Garden. The specimens in this collection were absolutely amazing. There was quite a variety.
The entrance to the educational building was ringed with fountains and sculptures. Inside there was a display of local watercolors and quilts.
We wandered through through the exhibits and took the time to cool off. Behind the education building was the perennial garden. There was anything really blooming, but the statuary was intriguing.
We started out on the short nature trail that wound through the woods and back to the visitor’s center. It was getting quite warm, so we took a short cut through the events grounds and past the amphitheater back up to the garden promenade. By that time we were hot and tired, so it was ready to head home.
We enjoyed our visit. Although we’re not happy about the car overheating (we made it home safely, with no further problems), it did give us a chance to explore a new place. We definitely want to come back when more of the flowers are in bloom.