May 22, 2009
I'll never tell.
I generally avoid talking about how cool Asheville is to anyone I don't know... having been born and somewhat raised in what used to be a peaceful and spacious beach town that in less than two decades became an endless parade of stripmalls and standstill traffic, as folks north of the Mason-Dixon line realized how dirt cheap real estate was in our oceanside paradise and cockroached it all to hell.
Now I have probably contributed to the eventual buggering of West Asheville, as Men's Journal, who interviewed me about my neighborhood, has named it one of the 30 best places to live in the U.S., and the coolest neighborhood in the Southeast. So far, for the most part, it has attracted like-minded and considerate citizens-- we'll see how long we can keep it up.
Asheville has long been supportive of the Mom & Pop business model, its downtown area has stonewalled any efforts by corporate chains from entering its domain, and in 2004 when Wal-Mart came creeping at the fringes of the city, the citizens went into an uproar. The vandalism quoted from the article in Farrell's voicemail (at the top of this post) is best described here by Green Anarchy:
Anonymous saboteurs used on-site construction equipment in the dark of night to ram into the shell of the Wal-Mart Supercenter on Swannanoa River Road, causing an estimated $900,000 damage. The vandals entered the site and hot-wired a dump truck and drove it into different areas of the building.
The demolished Wal-Mart eventually went up again, as planned. Months after BBH had moved from my basement into its current retail location, Wal-Mart tried to hit us from the West Side, a mere mile from a string of blossoming small time shops. The concerned citizens of West Asheville managed a more peaceable way of forcing them out, as described here in our local rag, the Mountain Xpress:
In a less-extreme example, West Asheville residents rallied to stop Wal-Mart from setting up shop on Patton Avenue. After months of meeting on weeknights, parading through the streets flying banners and turning out en masse at local-government meetings, an ad hoc citizens' group triumphed when the retailer withdrew its proposal.
Tourism is what makes this town thrive, and many who visit eventually come back to stay. I did. Because besides the whole community thing there is enough edenic wilderness in the immediate area that you could hike every weekend and never see it all in a lifetime. However there are those who visit and trash the place, and those who come to live here, and trash the place. The highway south of us is being widened and eventually six lanes will pass through Haywood Rd, a block away from where BBH currently resides. Stripmalls are currently being built in the same area where "progress" is taking place.
If you've ever been to Graveyard Fields, a hot hiking spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, you will have no problem seeing what I mean by inconsiderate visitors: trash everywhere, piles of poo and toilet paper on the side of the trail, throngs of people talking at the top of their lungs and cars all jammed into one tiny parking lot-- an absolute zoo.
Where I go you got to get dirty, wet, and sometimes hurt, but you will never see a budweiser can and nary a beer belly but my own, because most tourists never want to work that hard to see something this beautiful.
Time for a dive into a top secret swimming hole.
The asheville area is also an east coast mecca for kayakers, as creeks and rivers are bountiful--and when I moved to Asheville I landed into a hornets nest full of kayakers. My first hike was a creek hike, and I haven't been able to do any other kind of hike since.
The creeks here flow through beds of granite, making the waters crystal clear. Boulders abound. You climb, you slide, you leap, you land, you wade, you swim, you problem solve to get to your goal. But there is no finish line. It keeps going. Miles and miles of waterfalls.
The keen sandal--invented by a sailor, protects the toes, grips wet rock, hugs your foot tightly, and is perfect for amphibious travel.
When I take someone to these secret locations, I warn them: prepare to get your feet wet. Prepare yourself for a treacherous journey.
I generally end a creek hike with a cairn.
I think I've said enough here. I won't divulge where I get my hikely rocks off--but if you ask nicely I might take you there myself. Now then, comes the answer to why I'm even sharing an ounce of info on my best kept secret, sweet Asheville: if you are crazy enough to read this blog I guess yr alright enough to join the party.