June 13th: A few days prior, I realized that we scheduled our class 4 white water rafting day trip for June 13th, just one day after our long drive and just a couple of days after the busyness and emotion of a family wedding. I felt more in the mood for a down-day rather than a day of paddling and having enough energy to insure I wouldn't fall out of a raft. But the rafting trip did not end up being ill-timed, but rather just right. We journeyed out of Asheville about 25 miles to the poorest county in NC, Madison County, where we met the USA Raft company for our journey down the French Broad River. There were 3 rafts, 3 guides, 3 other adults (including a couple on their honeymoon), and about 16 teenagers. We were put into the "adult" raft and probably had the best experience out of all the rafts. One raft had about 7 teenage girls in it and kept getting stuck; it's still unbeknown to us how they repeatedly were stuck when no rocks were in sight. The most ironic part of the rafting trip was meeting Kevin, our guide, whom we met in Austin 2 years ago when he was working with Papa Noel Christmas Trees--he's the same guy that sold us our Christmas tree! The rafting trip was awesome! Great fun and the mountains were once again so beautiful. Oh, and I didn't fall out of the raft!
June 14th: Off to the Biltmore Estate, known as "America's Largest Home". It boasts 250 rooms, 87,000 acres, a winery, stable yards, and exquisite gardens. Ground was broken in 1889 by George Vanderbilt, grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt (known for his railroad and shipping empire). It took us nearly 7 hours to tour the gardens and the home, with a quick bite of lunch. We didn't even make it to the winery or the farmyard. The gardens were both of our favorite part, as we found a lovely bench overlooking Bass Pond that was very serene. Both of us said this would be the spot we'd want to have our time with Jesus everyday. The conservatory was remarkable with hundreds of variations of plants from all over the world. And around the azalea gardens, we stumbled upon what might be the largest magnolia tree ever! The leaves and blossoms were humongous, at least 3-4 times the size of a normal magnolia. We were wisely recommended to purchase the audio tour of the Biltmore estate, and it offered a thorough explanation of each of the rooms and the history behind it. Matt's favorite part of the house tour was seeing the indoor bowling alley and the indoor swimming pool, which was one of the first swimming pools to have electric lighting. The most intriguing part to me was the kitchen that included: several pantries, one of the first refrigerators, a smokehouse, a china room, a vegetable room, and much more! (click on photos to enlarge...and remember the voting poll opens the 23rd to vote for your favorite picture!)
June 15th: This was our much needed down-day! Sleeping, watching movies, exploring downtown Asheville, watching a hail storm from our hotel room, and ordering in Mellow Mushroom pizza.