Wifey® and I have started spending Thanksgiving week away from the usual hustle and bustle of the holiday. Both of boys are grown, and our granddaughters usually go with their other grandparents to see family in Tennessee. Plus my birthday falls right around Thanksgiving. Last year we took a cruise and were very disappointed. We’ve been on several cruises, but this one just wasn’t any fun.
So this year we took the advice of two of my co-workers and went to Maggie Valley, NC. The last time I was in Maggie Valley and surrounding areas was about 1979 or so. Not much had changed in the valley except the names of the shops. Most of them still sold the same old “made in China” tourist trap stuff, with just a few exceptions.
We arrived on Sunday and left the following Saturday. We planned on making day trips and just being tourists as well as sitting in the cabin we rented for the week and doing some reading. I’m not sure about Wifey®, but I only read about 2 chapters the entire week. I was going over all the brochures the very friendly and helpful welcome center folks gave us to come up with something to do the next day.
Here’s a map of the general area we were in so you can follow along.
One of the things we (well mostly me) wanted to do was to visit the Sierra Nevada Brewery in Mills River, which is just outside of Asheville. So we jumped on their website a scheduled a tour for Monday.
So we head out on Monday morning to the welcome center to get the most scenic way there and an approximate travel time since we had a reservation for the tour. On the first curve out of our driveway down the mountain we have a flock of turkeys on the road!
They sent us south on US 276 out of Waynesville. (You can see the thin black line that winds its way south out of Waynesville on the map). Along this very steep, winding mountain road were several photo stops. The first we came to was “Sliding Rock”. This state park usually has an entrance fee, but since we were there in the offseason, we just drove in and parked. Sliding Rock is exactly what it says. A big rock with water running over it that you can slide down. That is if you don’t mind the 36° F water temperature!
Also along this highway is Looking Glass Falls. Not a very big waterfall, but I thought the rockface was impressive.
After these two stops, we continued south until we picked up SR 280 east, just outside of Brevard. This took straight into Mills River and:
We made it to the brewery with 30 minutes to spare for our tour. Not bad for a flat lander that hasn’t driven in the mountains for over 40 years!
The brewery itself is very impressive. The company (the main brewery is in Chico, CA) is 0% waste. They capture everything from rainwater to the CO2 that fermenting produces and reuse it some way. There are too many things to write about here, but I encourage you to check them out on their website.
We had a great 90-minute tour with our guide, John:
A 30-minute tour of the actual production facility and then a tasting of eight of their brews.
One the coolest rooms (and I mean that literally, it’s 37° F inside) is the hops room. That’s what you see in the last picture above. Sierra Nevada is the only brewery in America that only uses whole cone hops. That means, the hops are not dried and then crushed into pellets. These are freshly picked hops, that are compressed into planks and then frozen. We got to pick a hop flower and crush it between our hands and the aroma was amazing!
After the tour, we had a bit to eat and drink in the taproom and headed back to the cabin.
We somehow managed to get back across to Waynesville in the dark, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, not really sure which way we were going. So many switchbacks and elevation changes my head was spinning (and not just from the beer).
So that was day one. I’ll post the rest of the trip one day at a time, so you don’t feel like you’re reading a novel!