A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to head west and explore North Carolina and The Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee with my boyfriend, Jon. Both being avid outdoor enthusiasts with a limited budget, most of our activities were free. We packed a cooler full of food and camped every night. This was our itinerary:

The first night we hiked up Hawksbill Mountain and admired the milky way. Jon was able to capture some amazing photographs. We woke up the next morning to someone talking to a bear (which, in my denial, swore he was talking to a dog). After meeting and chatting with two friendly college students from Duke and Appalachian State, we ended up spotting the bear as we packed up camp. What a way to start the morning!

We made our way back down the mountain and drove up the road to the Table Rock parking lot. We hiked The Chimneys while scouting out some amazing rock climbing routes to do on our next trip.

The day had become quite toasty so we headed out on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway, towards Crabtree Falls. There, we were able to cool off from the heat as we listened to the thunder of an afternoon storm rolling in.

That night we camped in the Pisgah National Forest, blessed with the milky way views again as the moon was nowhere in sight.

We started the next morning with a chilly dip at Sliding Rock (unfortunately we didn’t get any pictures, but you can take a look at it here) and a stop at Looking Glass Falls before heading over to Gorges State Park. We hiked a couple miles to Rainbow Falls, one of the most stunning waterfalls I have ever seen. Just a short walk past the falls is another called Turtleback Falls. This was a step up in intensity from Sliding Rock as you have to climb a rope to get to the top and then slide down the rushing water. It was a blast!

After an afternoon spent playing in the river, we headed towards the national park and made it to our camp site in Cosby. We got to bed early and headed towards Clingmans Dome the next morning to catch sunrise. It was magnificent. Afterwards, we hiked part of the Appalachian Trail- a hike I hope to complete in entirety during my life.

We spent our last night in Asheville, one of my favorite cities in North Carolina. They were having Shindig On The Green which meant we got to listen to folk music and witness some fast-footed clogging kids. Afterwards, we walked around downtown and hung out at a dueling piano bar.

Before we drove home the next morning, we hiked to Chimney Rock. It was a picturesque ending to our weekend in the wilderness.

BONUS PICTURE: Somehow I caught a fly in perfect focus while Jon was pretending to get mad because I was taking so many pictures of him.

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