Still or Thrill 20

Relax or Recharge with Asheville’s Outdoor Adventures

Men have been exploring our great outdoors for millennia. From adrenaline–pumping hunts on Appalachian mountainsides to reflective fishing in the quietude of our creeks, our ancestors have traipsed across these mountains for centuries. Today, men are offered different types of pursuits in the extensive outdoors that surround Asheville. Looking to get your blood pumping? Prefer to ponder the intricacies of nature? Whatever you’re looking to do—be still or pursue the thrill—the rolling peaks surrounding our town offer plenty of opportunities to get out there.

Brookings Anglers, Cashiers

Drive into the sleepy town of Cashiers cloaked in log cabin charm and you’ll find Brookings Anglers. Cross the creaking porch, past the gently swaying rockers and over the snoozing shop pup, and you’ll step into the fly fishing shop of your dreams. From rods to waders to high–quality clothing, you’ll find it all. The crowning glory? A fly shop the likes of which you’ve never seen; it’s fully stocked with a rainbow of threads and feathers, delicate furs and razor-sharp hooks, plus the nimble fingers of the best designers. With the charm and squeaky–floored hospitality of your hometown hangout, you’ll want to stay awhile.

Except you won’t, because Brookings’ real allure lies in their guided fly fishing trips across Western North Carolina. Brookings is ideally located at the axis of a series of rivers, all flush with our three local trout species (rainbow, brown and brook). Guides lead trips to over 30 rivers within a 70 mile radius of the outfitters, like the Chattooga, Tuckaseegee, Nantahala and Davidson, plus privately owned streams and gullies. Whichever river you (or your guide) choose, you’re assured a few certainties: softly tumbling rocks, crystalline waters, breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge and, depending on the season, lush green or vibrantly crimson foliage. Communing with the simple beauty of nature is easy; with your reel in hand, glazed eyes on the gentle roll of river before you, and the meditative flick of your line over the water—everything falls away.

Until, of course, you catch a fish. The flash of silvered rainbow, the emphatic tug of a line, and the gentle exhilaration of pulling in and scooping up a trout—nothing compares. The rivers Brookings guides are home to some of the best fly fishing this side of the Mississippi. With a dozen guides sharing over 155 years of experience on these waters, even you novice fishermen are guaranteed to catch a trout or two. Wade or float, trout or bass, options (and relaxation) abound.

Fox Mountain Guides, Pisgah Forest

Perhaps you’re not looking to commune with nature, but to conquer it. If that’s the case, Fox Mountain Guides will help you climb every mountain—literally.

Fox Mountain Guides offers a series of workshops, lessons and trips to suit climbers of every skill level. Their series are simple: 101, a two-day course on belaying and climbing movements; 201, which covers anchors and placing gear in the rock; and 301, an advanced class that teaches lead climbing and guarantees you’ll be comfortable on your own. If you’re an expert looking for a climbing companion for the day, or if you’re a novice looking to learn the basics of climbing, Fox Mountain can help you.

Owner Karsten Delap is quick to point out the incomparable qualifications of the guides and systems at Fox Mountain. They’re the only company in the region that’s both accredited and certified, meaning every guide meets international qualifications and has years of experience, plus the business itself is held to (and checked for) rigorous national standards.

Although hanging weightlessly from a sheer cliff face may seem like pure exhilaration, it also offers the same meditative completeness as other activities in nature. The physical repetition of push and pull, the mental fortitude of exceeding comfort zones, the sweeping beauty of new perspectives on our Blue Ridge—your mind stops toiling and you’re finally able to simply be.

The benefits of rock climbing stretch far beyond that stress release. It is, of course, excellent exercise, working much more than your arms as you push through with your legs and constantly engage your core. Once you’ve established your comfort as a climber, you’ll open all sorts of avenues for new trips and explorations. It also fosters a certain brand of camaraderie; whether you decide to make a boy’s weekend out of it with your buddies or take to the trail with strangers, you’re bound to develop new connections when life seems to hang in the balance.

But your life never does actually hang in the balance. It’s a common misconception that climbing is a sport for risk-takers and adrenaline-junkies; unlike other adventure sports like white water rafting, mountain climbing is safe based on its predictability (after all, rocks don’t move much). Once you understand the concepts behind climbing, everything falls into place.

Another surprise lies in the bounty of climbing Appalachia offers. Some of the highest peaks and tallest walls on the east coast are right outside our backdoors, just begging to be scaled. And unlike other climbing situations out west, all these excursions are doable in a day. “Here you don’t have to spend the night on the mountain, you can get in and get out quick,” Delap points out.

The only question that remains: what kind of man are you? Would you rather wade through the gentle gurgle of creek beds in search of trout, or dig your digits into rock faces for a bird’s-eye-view of Appalachia? With easy access to a bevy of adventures just outside Asheville, you never have to choose.