A Mid-Spring Morning’s Dream

asheville hot air balloon basket I was nervous, and that couldn’t be denied. The thought of standing in a wicker basket while a man I’ve never met before shoots fire into a flammable object doesn’t tend to be on my repertoire of relaxation exercises. I’m also not terribly good at being out of control, which is pretty laughable at 4,000 feet above sea level. asheville hot air fire I was going to do it though, if for no other reason, than to check it off my bucket list. The small community of Candler, NC has always embraced the hot air balloons. If one landed in your yard, it was an honor. The colorful aircraft have been decorating the morning skies on weather-friendly days for twenty-some-odd years. As a child I would run outside to get a glimpse, and I knew I’d have to experience it one day, just to see what the ado was about. It went to the bucket list. That’s exactly what I thought it would be too, just a flight, like being in an outdoor plane…something to say I made it through and put a check beside. I went through the motions, signed the waivers, and talked to the pilots (who were more than experts, and extremely helpful by the way), before heading out to the launch site in a Candler resident’s front yard. At this point, I was anxious, and all business. hot air balloon avl As I climbed into the basket that sported smiley faces for footholds, I felt my heartbeat quicken. I told myself to breathe, this was just for the bucket list. It would be something I would make it through…and, maybe those first thirtish seconds were. Those were the seconds before I entered the dreamland. They were the seconds when the mind races the same way it does just before rapid eye movement sets in on a Tuesday midnight. All the things in the world there are to think about get thought about. All of the things to get nervous about, were gotten nervous about. I could see the ground getting further away, and could feel the intense heat from the primitive force that began removing the basket and its cargo from the Earth. I don’t remember noting the noise though…to me, all was silent as the balloon invaded the morning mist…when everything changed.   It wasn’t a breath-taking moment. Those can sometimes be described in a realistic way. I’ve seen “amazing” before. This was something different. To fully grasp it, it must be done, but I’ll do my very best. Think back…there’s that one fairytale unlike the others…that magical one that even in adulthood still makes us feel warm and fuzzy and think maybe mermaids do live in the ocean after all. For me, it’s Peter Pan. I’m convinced I may find Neverland yet, and almost did Saturday morning in that balloon. AskAsheville Hot Air Balloon First of all, the air was perfect. I could have been comfortable in a tank top or a sweater either one, and the blinding sunrise was somehow easily to fixate upon. It was such a curious setting, and nothing like flying in a plane. It was gentle, while daring; peaceful, while exhilarating. My senses seemed different, and I secretly wondered if this balloon was the new way to Narnia. The tops of the mountains I’d grown up in, with my summertime swimming holes visible from the air, somehow seemed more regal. They were reigning over this place, and presenting their freshly grown leaves with the cockiness of the poppies from Wizard of Oz. Maybe it was the time of day, the time of year, or the altitude, but the colors I saw aren’t available below 500 feet. hot air balloon mountains sky At one point I saw everyone looking to the left, and oohing and ahhing…one of the only things I remember actively hearing. It was a shadow of our vessel in a cloud, encircled by a rainbow halo, a phenomenon the pilot says happens almost every morning. With this on one side, and a half-misted Blue Ridge dawn on the other, I realized this wasn’t something to mark off on a bucket list, but to feel more alive about forever. Forget the fears. Though our pilot, Danny Smith, told me they had a perfect safety record pre-flight, I’d still been frightened until I became part of it all. Somehow I realized the magic in it, and realized the experience gives far more than it could take. I was in another place, floating up and down to the dew-dropped tree tops and back to the clouds. I wasn’t on a ride, but a journey…a journey that has to be felt, smelled, seen, heard, and tasted. hot air balloons asheville When I got home, I crawled back under the covers to nap after my daybreak voyage. I drifted off to sleep quickly, and don’t think I dreamed. The dream already occurred, and felt somehow far away from me when I awoke, as if the balloon existed in a realm almost like Earth, but not quite. The flight was truly that remarkable, and I longed for it. It was so supernatural that I wondered for a minute if it had happened at all. Then for some reason, a quote from a Shakespeare play I read more than a decade ago came to mind, “…you have but slumbered here/while these visions did appear.”

Visit http://www.ashevillehotairballoons.com, snuggle into your basket, and get ready to dream your little dream! Or give Phyllis a call at 828-667-9943! This is a must-have on your summer bucket list!

Small Town, Big Voice: Ten Reasons to Adore Candler Town

Candler, North Carolina, or Candler Town as locals refer to it, isn’t shown on most maps, remains an unincorporated town, and provides but a fraction of the population of the greater Asheville Metro area. One highway runs down the middle of the seemingly small patch of dirt once known as Harkins, and this is a place people often think is only on the way to another. However, there are many hidden jewels starting to unearth themselves. Candler is a small package full of delicious things everyone should know about, and here are the ten reasons why:

It’s a great place to PLAY! The Buncombe County Sports Complex is nestled right in the heart of Candler Town!  This gorgeous park, with Blue Ridge Mountain views, features a host of soccer fields, a bocce ball court, a sandy beach volleyball court, a playground, and a beautiful walking and biking trail.  It’s a great place to take advantage of pristine picnic sheds and spend a day in nature with the fam!  Also don’t forget to check out the awesome community garden and orchard on site!

It’s a place of budding  new businesses! Candler is home to many small businesses, and is a “mom and pop” capitol of sorts.  The latest to crop up? A two-mama shop, owned by Brooke Rickman and Charity Grindstaff, called  Blue Ridge Chicks.  These lovely ladies with a stock full of “vintage treasures and creative beauties,” bring a whole new world of shabby chic apparel and décor to the Asheville area via their amazing trunk shows.  The ladies tell AskAsheville, “we are two soulful southern chicks, born and raised smack dab in the middle of the blue ridge mountains of WNC.  We are artists, designers, dreamers and followers of Christ.”  Make sure to visit these innovative ladies at http://www.blueridgechicks.com to become part of their journey that brings folk-art-esque designs into the 21st century.

The Blue Ridge Chicks, Charity and Brooke!

The Blue Ridge Chicks, Charity and Brooke!

 It’s a place with roots!

Candler makes new businesses, but keeps the old!  Any Candler native loves the town favorite, Miami Restaurant.  The place, like the little town itself, may not look like a whole lot at first glance, but has tons to offer!  Though the restaurant has been around for decades on end, and was once a part of the now abandoned Miami hotel, Zack and Georgia Papazahariou have owned and operated it for thirty years.  Patrons of the restaurant are guaranteed to see Georgia herself mixing up her famous potato salad whenever they pop their heads around the corner of her friendly kitchen.  Donna Brooks, a  Candler grandmother known to many simply as “Nanny,” says about Miami, “[It’s] local people, local gossip, wonderful Greek spaghetti. Never had a dull moment.”

The Miami Restaurant.  Sweet and simple.

The Miami Restaurant. Sweet and simple. Just try the  tea!

 The Farm!

The Farm, located just off Justice Ridge Road, only 10 minutes from Asheville is one of the most beautiful wedding venues in town.  Just behind a beautifully restored Victorian Farmhouse rests the “barn,”  where memories are made every weekend.  The feeling of going back to a simpler time, where entire communities gathered hovers over this place, but with an unparalleled level of elegance lingering close by.  For pictures and testimonials visit http://www.thefarmevents.com

 Biltmore Lake!

Biltmore Lake is one of the nicest and most family-friendly communities in Buncombe County.  It is an upper-scale community, but because of the arts & crafts inspired lake houses, the neighborhood maintains a certain quaintness.  The tree-lined streets, walking trails, 62 acre lake with beach areas, and recreation facilities are the cherry on top of the gorgeous houses that are perfect for porch-sitting!  Everyone who lives in the lakeside mini-community knows they are home at last.  Biltmore Lake is indeed a gem in Candler.  Visit http://www.biltmorelake.com for more info!

 Pisgah View Ranch!

This dude ranch, known as the best dude ranch this side of the Mississippi, is located serenely at the foot of Mount Pisgah.  Not only is it a great place to spend the day horseback riding up winding mountain trails, but to also spend the night.  The old farmhouse now serves as a bed and breakfast with cozy rooms and home-cooked meals.  Moreover, the tennis court, pool, and Pioneer Museum ensures something to do for all! http://www.pisgahviewranch.net

 Musicians Galore!

Everyone knows on any given night it’s possible to spot Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Artimus Pyle at the Smoky Park Applebees’s.  However, the town holds even further-reaching musical roots. Candler folks are no strangers to a little pickin’ on the porch.  On many of those porches where fingers are bloodied from six-strings  and singing voices are perfectly raspy from moonshine, dreams are born.  Bands such as blue-grass crooners, Sons of Ralph, hail from the tiny town, along with local country singer, Jody Medford.  Medford has performed on stage with names such as Dolly Parton, Don Williams, and Wayne Newton.  He was recently added to CMT’s artists, with a video produced by Lonestar’s, Keech Rainwater.  The community is anxiously awaiting the release of Medford’s new album, produced by the highly revered band, Alabama’s guitarist, Kimo Forrest, with whom he’ll be touring with this summer!  Medford says, “being an Enka- Candler native, I never dreamed these kind of doors would open musically for me; and I’m so proud to be from this area, and wouldn’t trade it for the world.”

Jody Medford in his element!

Jody Medford in his element!

Historic Enka

Enka doesn’t exist anymore, except within the arms of Candler.  No one even has a physical address of Enka, NC anymore, yet it is an enormous part of history in Candler.  Enka is an acronym for four Dutch words that the once thriving ENKA plant was named for.  Many citizens moved to this area just to work at “the plant.”  In 1929, Enka Village, an adorable collection of brick homes, still standing on the tree-decorated streets was built to provide a community for plant workers.  The neighborhood is still a playground for laughing children and backyard barbecues.  It’s a great place to live, steeped in history, and has a great view of the old Enka Plant clock tower that has become an unofficial symbol of the community.  Jack Lovingood, who grew up in Enka Village says, “the clock tower has been an icon in the community my entire life, and seeing it standing there brings a certain level of comfort and nostalgia.”

Clock Tower at about a mile distance...it's everywhere!

Clock Tower at about a mile distance…it’s everywhere!

 Access to the Blue Ridge Parkway!

The Blue Ridge Parkway is the longest single-planned road in the country, winding through 469 miles of national parks, scenic overlooks, and vacation opportunities; and guess what else?  Perfect access from Candler, NC.  Candler is the perfect little town to stop off in for a goodnight’s sleep on a Blue Ridge road trip!

 Asheville Hot Air Balloons!

Candler is the home to the only business that has the ability to fly tourists and locals alike across this portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  By stopping off in Candler, a person may just experience the thrill of a lifetime soaring overtop the trees watching the birth of a Carolina dawn.  Stay tuned with askasheville.com as we take the journey as a team next Saturday, May 10th.  We can’t wait to share our experiences, pictures, and good times with everyone on Candler’s most exciting attraction!  Also visit http://www.ashevillehotairballoons.com

Building Community in Candler-Town USA!

candler town usa enka Candler-Town USA is one of the key up and coming communities on the outskirts of Asheville. I was roaming around the other evening, stopped to get a drink and work on my mobile, and I ended up bumping into several friends. We talked, joked, laughed and had a good ole time. Now I have to be honest, when I first found out about this area, there was little to do and talk about. There was no Hooker’s Gap like our friends in Leicester had, so it was usually lights out at 9. But now, a lot of things are changing and growing. The Enka Candler area right off of I-40 is five minutes from the famed Haywood Road in West Asheville, and less than 15 minutes to the center of downtown. Pretty sweet location, if you are not looking to lodge boutique style for hundreds a night.


When you get off the highway at Enka Candler, you will see several gas stations, fast food spots, a Dairy Queen, Dunkin Donuts, and it has several great budget hotels including Sleep Inn. When it comes to food, you can find some delicious local eateries in the area. You have the Rejavanation Cafe which features amazing breakfast, lunch and baked goods. Another great spot is Artisan Deli on Sand Hill Rd. And then there is Frank’s Roman Pizza and the Asheville Sandwich Company right near Applachian Motors on Sardis Rd. A new brewery is on the way too! Oh, and El Chapala is the place to go for authentic Mexican food. If you head up to the Biltmore Square Mall area, there is also Stone Ridge Tavern and Apollo Flame Bistro. Then there is a Fatz Cafe, Applebee’s, J&S Cafeteria, and IHop right on Smoky Park Highway as well.


We have a bunch of team members and friends in Candler-Town USA, and have been meeting, having a good time and making plans for the area. Building community! Maybe you live in Enka Candler and would like to get together and involved?! Get in touch with us and lets talk.