Southern Nomad – Virginia Creeper Trail

Maria is a channeler, acupuncturist and contributor to our Gaia Blog.

My boo and I decided to celebrate the cooler temperatures of fall by heading to the mountains for some camping and biking.

I wanted to check out the Virginia Creeper Trail. I’m not a mountain-biking kinda gal; I like a paved or hard-packed trail, and I ride at medium speed. I’m in it more for the scenery and fun, rather then a hard-core workout. The VCT sounded like a perfect fit.

After a bit of googling I found this Cherokee National Forest tent-only campsite in Damascus, VA, and our mini-break was planned!

Our first day out was a little overcast, around 70 degrees, and breezy. Some of the  trees were just starting to change color, and the ground was covered with leaves; it was really beautiful.

The portion of the trail we biked had varied scenery. At times we were riding on people’s farms and sharing space with the chickens and cows; on other stretches we were riding alongside a river; and sometimes we were under a canopy of trees that almost made it feel like we were riding in a forest. 

The skirt I wore had enough room for me to ride comfortably and to get on and off my bike with ease. And it made it very easy to add leggings to my outfit as the day cooled off!

The VC trail is reasonably flat from it’s western-most point (in Abingdon, VA) until approximately 3 miles east of Damascus, VA (19-20 miles in total, one way). At some point east of there, it starts a pretty steep incline. So steep, in fact, that in Damascus you can hire a shuttle to take you and your bike to the top of that incline, in Whitetop, VA, so you can coast down. 

We didn’t partake in the shuttle, but it appeared to be a pretty popular activity!

On day 2 I needed to give my butt a rest from the bike seat. In the morning we walked over to Backbone Rock, a (very) short distance from our campsite.

We weren’t entirely sure what to expect, but were pleasantly surprised how pretty the area was. It was green and lush with some color in the trees, and there was almost no one else around. There are stairs up to Backbone Rock, and the setting is gorgeous.

It was one of those days where you’re warm in the sun but cold in the shade, so I was pleased I’d packed my sleeveless fleece to keep me comfortable. The skort I wore ensured my ladybits stayed covered on the stairs and in the breeze!

It was only a quarter of a mile or so to go up one side of Backbone and down the other, but worth it for the view at the top of the rock.

We wandered back to get the car, and drove up and down Hwy 133 through Cherokee National Forest, doing a series of short hikes at the recreation areas we stopped at. The afternoon culminated in a late lunch picnic, complete with wine, locally grown apples, and local-to-my-home cheese (so yum, I’m still thinking about those apples!).

We’d heard there was a brewery in Abingdon, about 15 minutes away by car, so after a campground pitstop to dress more warmly, we headed to Wolf Hills Brewing.

As we wandered around town a bit before finding the beer, I was happy to have the toasty darjeeling fleece top, because temperatures were really dropping in the evenings.

My fleece is layered over the super awesome and stretchy hooded dress. I wear this dress alone, layered over pants and gauchos, and with different Gaia jackets and fleeces, depending on the weather. This is an essential piece for me, and I rarely leave home without it when I travel.

My boo is much more into beer then I am, but I tasted a few, including their Habernero brew, which was much hotter then I expected! Wolf Hills had a great, casual vibe. We hung out, listening to their alt-country Pandora station, and people-watched the locals, their dogs and their kids all enjoying themselves.

This was our last night out, and we wanted to enjoy the campfire, so we grabbed some bbq in Abingdon, then headed back to our tent to wrap up in blankets and relax in front of the flames for the evening.

I’ll definitely ride the Creeper Trail again. Damascus is a pretty tiny town, and although Abingdon is a little bigger, I’d still suggest focusing on outdoor activities if you ever head out that way. The brewery is definitely worth a visit, though, as is Bonefire BBQ.

I hope you get to travel someplace you enjoy this fall!

Maria channels, blogs, and helps you let go of the old to make room for the new at www.mariachanneling.com

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Southern Nomad – Old Salem and The Cobblestone Market

A few weeks ago I made a trip to Winston-Salem to visit with my folks and go to one of my favorite farmers markets in the South.  The Cobblestone Farmers Market is great because it is located in Old Salem, a beautiful old Moravian settlement that is truly unique to the Carolinas.  With fresh, seasonal produce and other goods from a variety of local farms and small businesses, The Cobblestone Market seeks to restore a traditional food system that resembles the foundation on which Winston-Salem was built.  The market is open on Saturdays, 9am-noon from early May to late November. 

For this excursion I chose to wear the apron wrap short dress made with organic North Carolina cotton in the raincloud color.  I layered this flattering dress over an absolute Gaia must-have item, the boob tube made with medium stretch hemp in our newest color, cacao.  I love this dress/boob tube combination for this walk in particular, because it keeps you cool in the summer heat, but looks really put together.  Perfect for outdoor shopping and site seeing!

Right when I arrive at the market, I always like to get an iced coffee from Krankies to cool off and wake up.  Another one of my favorite vendors is Beta Verde.  This mother/daughter duo creates locally sourced jams, pickles, and syrups that are absolutely delicious.  I never pass up the chance to get a jar of the simply delectable rhubarb conserve.  It is soooooo tasty on brioche toast in the morning.  I also love their bread & butter pickles, which are an amazing addition to a pimento cheese sandwich.  And, their award winning martini maters add a unique flavor to your evening cocktail. 

After perusing the first section of the market, I made my way up a set of stairs toward the back section.  I always like to stop by and pick up a skein or two of homespun, natural wool yarn at the FarmGirl Arts booth, and see what fiber sculpture the owner, Laura C. Frazier is working on.  She has such an amazing talent!  You have to check out here website to see what I mean.  She has even made tiny sculptures of people’s pets using their real hair! 

After I finish shopping, I decided to walk a bit in the actual town of Old Salem.  There are lovely old buildings and even a few people dressed up in the traditional clothing of the original Moravian settlers.  It really feels like you have stepped back in time, a time when people really would gather in the square to purchase or trade for food and other items.  I strolled down the main road, window shopping and just taking in the general splendor of such a historic place.  The small, but modern cityscape can be seen in the distance, reminding me that I am, in fact, in the 21st century.  I looped back around to the market by way of the Single Brother’s Garden, a working garden since 1769 when the Single Brother’s Choir planted a kitchen garden in the space.  Now the garden is planted with examples of what the Brothers would have actually grown back in the day.  It is a lovely place to enjoy a last minute splurge on some refreshingly creamy gelato from Cafe’ Gelato

I hope ya’ll have a chance to visit Old Salem and the Cobblestone Farmers Market and support local farmers while taking in a bit of the historic charm of this beautiful little place right in the heart of North Carolina.  Until next time…remember to listen to your inner nomad and explore the universe one step at a time.

♥ Julie

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Southern Nomad – Mount Mitchell State Park

Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina 
Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina 
Greta & Kaya excited for a roadtrip
Greta & Kaya excited for a roadtrip

This past weekend my boo & I felt like a little getaway.  One of our “hiking with dogs in NC” books mentioned Mount Mitchell State Park as a dog-friendly hiking and camping spot.  Mount Mitchell State Park is located north of Asheville along the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I was on the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time earlier this summer while visiting Shenandoah National Park and I am totally in awe of the beauty! The parkway is a long and winding road that has breathtaking overlooks of the mountains and deep valleys.  Wildflowers grow abundantly and rock cliff formations are covered in moss and ferns.  

We left right after work on Saturday and drove 3 hours to the tent-only campground inside the park.  We read online that the park closes at 10pm and were hoping we would get there just in time.  We were totally pushing it, especially since we stopped for gas and snacks along the way! We pulled up to the gate at 10:01 pm and the gate was already closed!! In that moment we began to wonder where we were going to sleep that night.  Luckily a car pulled up behind us and happened to be a ranger who was off-duty but getting back to the park. We were very happy that she let us in!! Thankfully we arrived at that exact moment- not sooner or later, because we would have been stuck outside the gates.  

The campground has 9 walk-in campsites, a basic bathroom facility, and a potable water source, which is always nice when traveling with doggies who need to stay hydrated.  We scouted the sites (luckily there were some walk-up sites available) and chose one that was a little bit off the path.  After setting up the tent, we had a little snack and headed to bed.  

Cool NC map at the top of Mount Mitchell - you can see Mount Mitchell is marked in the NW of the state 
Cool NC map at the top of Mount Mitchell – you can see Mount Mitchell is marked in the NW of the state 

Kaya, my border collie/german shepard mutt mix, loves to get up at the crack of dawn when we are out camping. She is quite the adventure dog and is very excited to explore.   I get her excitement, but 5:30am is not my jam on a Sunday morning.  Typically if I get up with her and let her walk around a little bit and use the bathroom, then she’ll chill out for a couple more hours.  When we got up for real, we decided to go for a morning walk along the Campground Spur path that leads from the camping area to the summit.   

We learned that Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River, so it draws a good number of tourists.  We hiked up to the summit but you can also drive and do a short little walk from the parking lot to the peak.  After our hike we headed back to the campground and enjoyed a lunch of steak and corn-on-the-cob cooked over our campfire while we played cards and soaked up some sunshine and cool mountain air.  Then it was time to head back to Greensboro.  We stopped at a lot of the overlooks on the way home because the views were stunning! 

For this weekend getaway, I took with me what I was wearing at work on Saturday – Tube Top with Inner Boob Tube in Organic Stretch Cotton & dyed Bluebird and my Love Me 2 Times Simplicity Short Dress in NC Grown Organic Cotton & dyed Midnight.  I wore the Love Me 2 Times as a skirt most of the time but at night pulled the waistband up over my tube top for an extra layer of warmth around my core. 

Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
Along the Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
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Southern Nomad – Fisher Park

If verdant natural paths shaded by ivy covered ancient oaks, time-worn stone bridges that still allow you passage over a babbling stream, and stately old homes are your thing…then Fisher Park in Greensboro, NC is the spot for you to take your next excursion in the South.  Not too far from the Gaia Studio and Nomad Boutique, where I took my first walk as the Southern Nomad, is one of the most lovely old gems you can find in Greensboro.  It was a warm (but not swelteringly hot), overcast day, and I wanted to look a little posh for my walk through this upscale hood, so I chose the Love-me-2-times Wanderer Pant in Midnight, Organic Cotton Knit and layered it with the super flattering Bombay Banded Blouse in Natural, Light Hemp.  I must have looked pretty fly in it, because a guy actually slowed down in his car to check me out! 😉

Walking through this densely wooded locale reminds me of one of the reasons why I love the South so dearly…just how lush and green everything is, especially this time of year.  I can remember when flying back for a visit from graduate school out West, I would look out of the window upon descent and all that green always made me feel like I was really home again.  A friend of mine from Nebraska once told me that the South freaked her out because there were so many trees.  “Too many places for someone to hide and then jump out and get you!”  I quickly replied that I felt uncomfortable in the prairie, for the exact opposite reason…”Too exposed!  No where to hide away if someone is trying to get you!”  I’m not sure what kind of paranoia problems my friend and I are experiencing that makes us think people are out to get us…but I think it just goes to show you what is culturally comforting, and Fisher Park is full of Southern comfort and charm.

The park is split in half, East and West, by N. Elm st.  I started out on the East side with Marcel, the standard poodle/Gaia Conceptions mascot you see in the photos.  I made sure to look for mushrooms, as there are many different varieties in this area this time of year.  We were caught in a little drizzle, but it was actually quite pleasant, and my Gaia gear held up nicely in the weather.  The best way to explore this park is slowly.  Take your time and explore all of the hidden alcoves and break-away paths that lead across one of the little stone bridges, or up to the street, where you can marvel at some of the most beautiful old homes in the state.  This neighborhood really gives you a sense of what the old South might have looked like, with pretty hydrangeas, azaleas, and crape myrtles that are still in bloom.  You can cross over N. Elm st. to go to the West side of the park, which is slightly larger and offers some great little spots to sit by the stream and hope for a fairy encounter….seriously…this place looks like some fairies live here, ya’ll.

I dropped Marcel off at the house and went for a bite to eat at the Iron Hen Cafe, which is just West of the park on the corner of Parkway ave. and Wendover ave.  I love this place, because the food is great, the service is great, the signature cocktails are great, and the atmosphere is welcoming and quaint.  I ate lunch here, but they have excellent breakfast and supper menus, as well, so any time of day that you are exploring the area is a good time to drop in.  I asked my server what her favorite thing on the menu was and she promptly replied, “The Whole Grain Hash.”  I ordered a plate of it….delicious….with a glass of pinot grigio…refreshing!  Be sure to save room for cake, as they always have a few homemade varieties to choose from.  I ordered a slice of strawberry with chocolate icing to go…yum!!!!  They source much of their ingredients from local farmers and manufacturers, which is always a good thing, as well.  I hope ya’ll get a chance to explore this little-known jewel in Greensboro, NC.  Until next time…remember to listen to your inner nomad and explore the universe one step at a time.

♥ Julie

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Southern Nomad – Studio Excursion

The Creek That Runs Beside The Gaia Garden
The Creek That Runs Beside The Gaia Garden

For our first Southern Nomad post, I thought it would be a good idea to take a walk around the Gaia garden and the neighborhood where we are located, giving ya’ll an idea of what our little corner of the universe is like and featuring some places you might want to check out when you are visiting us at the Gaia Studio and Nomad Boutique.

Gaia Gear for Studio Walk
Gaia Gear for Studio Walk

It was a REALLY hot day here in Greensboro, NC when I set out for my walk, so I chose lightweight, loose fitting fabrics for the majority of my Gaia ensemble, all of which can be purchased at http://www.gaiaconceptions.com/shop/.  Here’s what I wore: light hemp/organic cotton knit kaftan shirt in chocolate, medium stretch hemp tube top in terra-cotta, and organic cotton simplicity blockprint 4″ shorts with the large, pomegranate blockprint.  I topped the whole outfit off with one of our woven necklaces in indigo, made with some of our leftover fabric scraps.  If you place an order with us online, these adorable necklaces/headbands are often included as a special free gift. I also tested out some natural deodorant that we made for a previous blog post (Nourish-Natural Deodorant, Wednesday, July 30th).  It worked brilliantly, so be sure to check out the recipe in that post.

Outside the Nomad Boutique
Outside the Nomad Boutique

I began my trek outside of the Nomad Boutique where you can try on and purchase some Gaia Gear of your very own!  Then I made my way to the Gaia Garden, which is just a few steps away from the store.  When you come and visit, the garden is a must see.  One of the plants that is used in our natural dyes here at Gaia Conceptions, indigo, can be found growing in the garden.  While we do not have the space to grow the amount of indigo we would need to actually produce our own dyes, we are currently talking with local farmers who would be able to provide that service in the future.  The garden is also just a peaceful, secluded place to relax, with whimsical lanterns hanging in native pokeweed, a plant with which the berries can also be used as a natural dye; and a babbling stream nearby bordering the train tracks that mark the site of the future Greenway connection.  

Pretty Lanterns and Pokeweed
Pretty Lanterns and Pokeweed

Just across the tracks you will see the Black Diamond Food Forest, another welcome addition to the Westerwood/Cedarwood neighborhoods where we are located.  The Food Forest is currently under construction, but when completed it will provide an educational community space, promoting a unique spin on urban, sustainable agriculture.  For more information and more great photos visit their website at http://www.blackdiamondfoodforest.com/.  I made my way past the food forest and headed up Guilford Ave., took a left on Prescott St., and a right on Bellemeade St., making my way through the shaded streets of small, but well-loved homes.  The surrounding neighborhood is an eclectic mix of cute cottages bordering the outskirts of Downtown Greensboro, opening up to a more commercial district with empty storefronts that are slowly transitioning to thriving businesses and new apartment complexes that have sprung up around those merchants.  I took a left on N. Eugene St. and noted this transition from home life to work life, passing the baseball field on my left.  NewBridge Bank Park where the Greensboro Grasshoppers play has been a draw for baseball fans since it opened in 2005.  The buildings of downtown provide a subtle city backdrop in the distance.

Deep Roots Market Co-Op and Cafe
Deep Roots Market Co-Op and Cafe

I stopped on the corner of N. Eugene and W. Smith to grab a much needed cold drink and a bite to eat for lunch at the Deep Roots Market.  Another recent addition to the neighborhood, this cooperative grocery store and cafe offers a delightful selection of food from their hot salad bar.  This is also a great place for the community, as they provide meeting space that is available to members to reserve and anyone can become a member to enjoy the benefits of the space and support fresh, local, organic food in Greensboro.  They also have a helpful website with loads of information and photos: http://www.deeprootsmarket.coop/.

Future Site of Greensboro Greenway Just Outside Our Door
Future Site of Greensboro Greenway Just Outside Our Door

After I finished lunch I headed West, back toward the studio by way of W. Smith St.  I made a left onto Prescott St. at the completed cornerstone for the Greenway that will eventually be connected to the train tracks as I mentioned earlier.  To the left I spied some graffiti on one of the older buildings that is located across the street from our studio.  This area is set to be transformed into a multi-use complex in the future that will provide both housing and businesses in one place.  I sort of like the look of the graffiti, but we are all excited here at the Gaia Studio and Nomad Boutique to watch our neighborhood grow and thrive in new and unique ways.  I hope ya’ll will take the chance to come and visit us here, and that you will get out of your car and take a walk around in your Gaia gear!  Until next time…remember to listen to your inner nomad and explore the universe one step at a time.

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