Cherokee National Forrest on a Whim: Haute Travel

A view from the top

Fur covered hills from the top of the mountain

From rolling hills, to vastly dense trees, to streams of rivers, these are the views one can relish on a trip to Cherokee National Forrest.  Now I made it here on a whim, while visiting Murphy, NC for a work engagement, but it was still a great trip to take, albeit short.

Let’s first start with, Murphy, NC; a small town on the TN/NC border, which is surrounded by mountains and forest as far as the eye cans see.  A stay in Murphy will get you some good (and relatively cheap) eats (at places like Mama Mia’s, Shoebooties Cafe, and Doyles-check out the Tiki bar here open in March), a slow pace, and some darn good nature. We started the week exploring Murphy’s Riverwalk, which is a truly lovely and peaceful trail along the Hiwassee River.  It starts and ends in different places, like the local ball field or the old train depot, both of which provide you with great access to the trail, and also give you insights into the Cherokee History of the area.   This is a must-do to kick of a great nature trip in this part of the country.

murphy riverwalk at leech place

murphy riverwalk at leech place

Old rail bridge in Murphy

Old rail bridge in Murphy

After settling in, we implored the locals on the best routes to get into the forest.  If you put this area into Google Maps, you will get a driving path around the forest, to the Bald River Falls area, about 1.5 hours from Murphy.  But what we learned from the locals was that there is a semi-paved mountain path which leads through the middle of the forest, and can only be found if 1. you know it or 2. you look for a bike trail into the area.  Given the time we had, we opted for the bike path route, and mapped our way to the Trout Hatchery at Telico.

The ride up the mountain was partially rough terrain (good thing we rented an F150 pickup), but otherwise paved or gravel roads.  As you ascend the mountain, you get to see just how vast and dense this forest is, with trees covering the area for hundreds of miles.  The trees were dense, but given that it was still winter, not lush green – though one can only imagine.  Seeing the dense forest reminded me of fur covering the hills, and was a different site than some of the rock hikes I have done.

trees on the mountain

trees on the mountain

Along the way we also caught sight of some great waterfalls as we followed the Tellico River through the path.  Though we didn’t make it, I would recommend a trip further in to the biggest falls in the area, Bald River Falls.

small waterfall on the path

small waterfall on the path

We stopped off for a bit of hiking on some of the trail area (you can camp out here, as they have set up lots of stops and facilities on the Tennessee side).  The trails here are natural, and in our case, leaf-covered, but still easy to navigate.

Cherokee Forest trails

Cherokee Forest trails

As the sun was setting, we decided to head back to town about half-way to Bald River Falls…still catching some nice sites along the way.  I would relish a trip back to this area in spring or summer…maybe with a kayak or two.

a river runs through it

a river runs through it

Seeing as Spring is approaching, I am looking forward to more outdoor fun and haute travel to come!


2013 in Review + Looking Ahead to 2014 (in my opinion): The Haute List

It’s that time of year again, when we look back at the year past, and forward to what the year ahead may hold. Personally, I prefer to look ahead, but the best laid plans often require a review of past practices to get them right, so off we go.

Haute Travel – Adventure in 2013 followed by peace in 2014.

2013 was a big year for travel, and some of the most coveted vacations seemed to add elements of adventure and wellness into the mix.  For me, this included hiking in Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes World Heritage Site, and doing yoga in the Riveira Maya.  But we saw an insurgence of mountain climbers in 2013, including many excursions to Machu Picchu and Kilimanjaro – perhaps some of the more accessible heights.  Stateside, Charleston was probably the “new haute” city of the year, with many a stag party heading south, along with foodies and history-buffs too.  I had an amazing few meals in Charleston (Husk and Xaio-bao biscuit), and felt the “haute spot” credit was rightly so.

Yoga in Playa del Carmen (Riviera Maya, MX)

Yoga in Playa del Carmen (Riviera Maya, MX)

2014 is looking a bit more off the beaten path, with many folks venturing to Antarctica, the hautest (or coldest), destination of the year.  You can cruise to the tip of Argentina and head down to the barren continent, and even spend the night, if you dare ( will get you there for a cool $6K).

Also haute for 2014, finding peace and meaning in your excursion, like a volunteer trip to Africa (try for example), or a meditation retreat (I want to check our Esalen in Big Sur).  As people’s work lives get busier, what better way to unwind and rewind.  Not to mention, there is always room for rest and relaxation poolside or even a good stay-cation this year…where will you go or stay in 2014?

Haute Eats – What made us full in 2013 and what makes us hungry in 2014?

From farm to table to tables at the farm, 2013 saw us venturing back to the earth for our food inspirations.  I don’t know about you, but farm-to-table is synonymous with yum for me, and not only did this come to fruition in the food we ate but the trends we so admired.

I made it to the amazing Blue Hill at Stone Barns in the Hudson River Valley this year for a multi-course meal which highlighted the best of the farm.  All around the country, farm dining is becoming a haute and hip thing to do, brining our minds back to the basics with our food.

Dining a la log @BlueHill at Stone Barns

Dining a la log @BlueHill at Stone Barns

2013 also put cake in the spotlight, or actually shaped cake as as a spotlight, as cake balls made the haute list this year.  Perhaps we like the bite size nature of the balls, or they remind us of lovely petite fours of the past.

In 2014, local foods, continuing the back to basics mindset, should make the haute list.  Not only do you have more fresh, sustainable food, but you also support local economies which makes life where you live a bit sweeter.  And hopefully, we continue to have fun with dessert – such as my new favorite treat, chocolate covered honeycomb (I like for this and other fabulous unconventional chocolates).

Haute wines of the year included Malbec (again), Zinfandel (especially some great Sonoma finds), and bubbly (all kinds though we all should know more about what makes these unique and special).

Haute Fashion – From Swinging with the 20s in 2013, to Discoing in the 70s in 2014

Fashion is a fun point for me, and I love playing with decades as much as possible.  Though this year, I heard an interesting theory which tied fashion trends to the economy; namely regarding prints and color.  The theory is that as the economy grows, so do the print sizes and the range of colors we use, and as the economy shrinks, we see large houndstooth give way to tiny checks and drab colors.  Interesting theory so I will run with it.

2013 helped us get past a few economic humps, with jobs back, shopping was back too.  Mid year, we all loved Gatsby, and the 20s came back to the scene.  From jeweled headbands, to drop waist skirts, we saw a bit of vintage wherever we turned.

Gatsby Mania in Chicago

Gatsby Mania in Chicago

Add to this, 2013 may have been the year of Mint.  Mint was everywhere – from winter jeggings to summer dresses, and a what a great color it was.

Going with the growing economy theory, it seems we could catapult to the 70s and usher in bright colors (I heard Radiant Orchid is the Pantone color of the year), bold prints, and more color to match our growing wallets.  This could be an exciting year for color, and for those trying to shed their black-obsessions (ah-hem me), it may be just the ticket.

Other Haute Stuff – the stuff we loved and look forward to loving

Haute Reads – Scrambling to finish the Hunger Games, well that is last years news (fantasy).  Big this year was a lot of Historical Fiction (like the Lowlands, by Jhumpa Lahiri) and a soft bang from Khalid Hosseini (And the Mountains Echoed).  Steve Jobs was a big NF read I gathered as well.

Haute Happenings – No political agenda implied, but this was the year to talk about Obamacare and Twerking.  Yep, I grouped them. The media and news outlets took on OC, and all my friends on social media took on Miley.  Both have merits and flaws, but both make us look inside and wonder if we can do better for ourselves…good way to start a new year.

Ok, that’s my account of the year past and predictions for the year ahead.  For me, I wish for new adventures and peace, and for you I wish for the spirit to keep wishing and moving forward.

Have a happy and haute new year!

Sleeping Giant Lodge in Belmopan, Belize is a perfect getaway in the Jungle: Haute Travel

I recently visited the Sleeping Giant lodge in Belmopan, Belize, which is situated in the middle of a stretch of rainforest/jungle.  Many travelers visit this area, known as the Cayo district, to take on nature, through jungle hikes and outdoor sports and adventures.  Many even sleep in a rainforest canopy, high in the trees. 

My friends and I picked an excursion from Living Social, which included 3 nights at the Sleeping Giant Lodge, not really knowing what to expect.  What we got was a lovely Spanish-style lodge, surrounded by smaller casitas, on a huge piece of jungle property on the Sibun River.  The property featured free kayaking, biking (through an orchard where our guide picked fresh citrus for us) and hiking.  We toured with Orlin, a young but experienced and knowledgable guide, whose attentiveness made us feel extremely welcome. 

We made it through the week on the meal plan at Sleeping Giant, which was delicious.  We loved trying fresh fruit pancakes for breakfast, and different soups and belizian specialities for lunch and dinner. We hung out at the bar (in the lodge) most evenings with the two house bartenders, Swift and Andy, who made the experience fun and entertaining.  The lodge also houses rooms, and two open-air dining areas.  We were able to eat and drink without having to worry, because everything was disinfected and clean for tourists.

We also visited the nearby Caves Branch which was a great addition to the trip, as we got to try cave river tubing and ziplining.  

Belmopan is a great adventure destination, and the Sleeping Giant Lodge is a luxurious destination in the region.  I would recommend it to anyone looking for luxury and adventure on your next trip!