Mo & Terry Smedley


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Smoky Mountain Rail Tour
June, 2009

Part VIII - Biltmore Estate, Craggy (?), Farewell Dinner

A very sad day, indeed.  At the Biltmore Estate.   (Look carefully at the sign on the door.) The classic view of the entrance to the Biltmore Estate.  It was interesting to compare this grand structure to the Hearst Castle.  I felt like the Biltmore, while grand, was much less ostentatious than the Hearst Castle.    Form and function followed one another here.   The living spaces looked very comfortable, and it was not difficult to imagine people actually living here. A side view of the Biltmore from one of the stone gazebos on the grounds. A closer view of the entrance showing some of the architectural details.  No photography is permitted inside the "house", so you'll only see a few exterior shots here.
The incredible view out the back of the house.  You can see the French Broad River running through the property.  You may recall that we crossed this river by train where it merged to form the Tennessee River in Knoxville. A 180 degree panorama of the view out the back of the house.  The tallest peak visible is Mt. Pisgah, where we had dinner last night.  The house was specifically aligned to look directly at the mountain. The grounds were quite impressive.  Here's a close-up of some flowers (I have no idea what kind) with some vigorous bee activity. Mo stands at the entrance to the Conservatory.  We had three hours for our visit to the Biltmore.  It took about an hour and a half to go through the interior, and I felt that was adequate.  We could have used much more time to explore the grounds.
A super-wide angle view of the Conservatory area. The house peeks out above the landscape above the Conservatory.  The grounds were designed by Frederick Olmstead, who also designed New York's Central Park. After touring the Biltmore, we enjoyed a gourmet buffet lunch at the Deerpark Restaurant, on the Biltmore grounds.  It was a very pleasant day - upper 70s with moderate humidity - and the wide open doors in the restaurant were delightful. The interior courtyard of the Deerpark Restaurant.
After lunch, we headed out in our posh Prevost bus up the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Here's one of our photo stops as we approach Craggy Gardens.  Another shot of the tree-lined Parkway, at the Craggy Gardens picnic area.  We'd really like to come back here in "non-tourist season" to explore the Parkway from one end to the other. A super-wide angle view from the Craggy Gardens Visitor Center, at 5,500 feet. We hiked about three-quarters of a mile from the Visitor Center to the picnic area.  The trail made its way through tunnels of tall rhododendron, reaching well above our heads.  Unfortunately, almost all of the rhodies had bloomed unusually early a couple of weeks ago.  This area would have been alive with color when they were in full bloom.
The trail breaks out into a "bald", a grassy area with no trees.  This view is looking back towards Asheville. There's a nice shelter at the summit. We found a very few rhodies still in bloom.  Look carefully, and you can see the moon in this picture, too. Mo on the trail as we descend to the picnic area.  Our driver dropped us off at the Visitor Center, and we made the one way trip to the picnic area, where he picked us up.
Driver Steve kept the bus immaculate.  The shiny hubcaps made a fun reflection of some of our group. We found these "motorcycle peds" at the Southern Highland Craft Guild on the Parkway. Our farewell dinner was in the  Grove Park hotel in Asheville.  The fireplace in the lobby was enormous, as you can see from Mo and me standing completely inside it.   With this string of 80 and 90 degree days, the fireplace was definitely not needed!