Despite the fact that we covered several areas of North Carolina in the first two days of
this trip, all the pictures on this page are from the North Carolina Zoo. The one exception
is the background picture of the Great Smoky Mountains at dusk. Thus the pictures and the
story won't really match up as they usually do. The image titles generally give the names
of the animals though (position the cursor over the image if you aren't sure).
We arrived in Raleigh late on Friday night and did nothing but adjourn to the hotel. The
next morning we found out that Tropical Storm Dennis (which brushed us the week before in
Florida) was turning towards the North Carolina coast. Thus we promptly visited the
North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh so that we could head west away from the storm.
The museum itself was very nice (even though half was closed for renovations). As we left
around noon it was just starting to rain.
As we headed west towards Asheboro (home of the North Carolina Zoo) we drove out of the
rain again. The zoo itself is enormous. So large in fact that there are two parking lots
on opposite ends (North America & Africa). We parked in Africa and walked back to North
America (so to speak). It takes two to three hours to walk the length of the zoo, longer
when you're enteratained by particularly active polar bears. After the obligatory purchasing
of otter merchandise, we returned to Africa via tram. As we left the zoo, the skies were darkening
again, as it turns out Dennis was still pacing us inland.
After the Zoo we continued driving west to Lexington, home of the Lexington BBQ (naturally).
Lexington, the town, is home of North Carolina's barbeque festival every year, which
was unfortunately not being held while we were in town. Carolina BBQ features smoked
pork in a vinegar-based sauce usually served with slaw and hushpuppies. Generally your
choices in a fine Carolina BBQ establishment are limited to whether you want your pork
shredded or sliced, and whether you want it on a bun or a plate. Some of the more progressive
BBQs have added chicken as a menu item however. If you're ever in the vicinity we highly
recommend it, but expect to wait a while if it's anywhere near dinner time.
After Lexington we continued on to Asheville (not to be confused with Asheboro. You
should also not confuse Greenville with Greensboro but who could blame you if you did)
finally outdistancing the storm (or so we thought). On the radio we listened to North
Carolina State's football game back in Raleigh which was described as being in 'monsoon-like
conditions'. A radio announcer in a different game used the phrase 'hands like waffle-irons'
which has no bearing whatsoever on this story, but we liked it anyway.
Sunday morning we drove across the border to Erwin, Tennessee to kayak the Nolichucky River.
It was much colder than we'd hoped for especially as we crossed back into North Carolina to
the put-in. (We actually started in NC and ended in TN). Water levels were extremely
low, so we took one-person inflatable kayaks as the only craft that could manage the river at
that level. As it turns out, Dennis was still haunting us, and came close enough to rain all
day on the Nolichucky gorge. Because of the rains, mist hung over the gorge throughout the
day and it was rare that we could even see to the top of the mountains surrounding us. At times
it was like kayaking in a tunnel as the river dropped away in front of us and the mists descended from
Becuase of the rain, we never stopped for lunch, kayaking more or less continuously for eight
hours. Because of several novice kayakers in the group and the very low water levels, we only
covered nine miles in that time. Despite that there were at least a dozen challenging class III
drops and long stretches of continuous class II-III whitewater. Melanie managed to leave her
kayak just long enough to bruise herself (which is a mandatory trip requirement for her).
There were several non-minor injuries in the group as well, which always makes the journey more exciting.
After showering (in hot water), we drove back to Asheville and the hotel. After a brief
rest we went out for a very large and well deserved meal which included the largest sweet
potato we've ever seen. We then attempted to partake of a beer or two at some of Asheville's
fine micro-breweries but they were all either closed on Sunday night, or we got hopelessly
lost trying to find them. In the end we did sample a fine local porter, but we had to buy
it at a convenience store and drink it in the hotel room while watching stupid game shows.
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