One day last week, winter came to Western North Carolina.
It snowed during the night and the next day icy winds kept the temperatures in the 20s. The sunlight and bright blue skies called for us to come out but the cold and the wind were arguing against it!
So James and I decided to take a drive into the mountains to see the town of Blowing Rock. The town is named after a native American legend in which two lovers from feuding tribes were to be separated by war. The warrior was so conflicted that he threw himself off the cliff to the rock below rather than fight with his lover’s tribe. She in turn pleaded with the Great Spirit to bring him back and the winds of the John’s River Gorge blew him back to her.
The town is a little less than a two hour drive from our Asheville Bed and Breakfast but since it is quite near Grandfather Mountain as well, it made a good day trip for us.
One of the very first things we came across was this plaque commemorating the Boone Trail Highway. In the 1920’s Joesph Hampton Rich placed more than 100 metal markers throughout the south marking the trail believed to be used by Daniel Boone. Notable about the markers is that Rich incorporated metal from the Battleship Maine into each tablet, thus ensuring that his markers held historic import of their own. This is one of the few remaining markers which has been moved from its original location a few miles away to the center of town
Right next to the marker is the Martin House which contains an unusual collection of shops, including the Dulcimer Shop, unique for its collection of handmade Appalachian Dulcimers. James and I continued on to explore the streets of the town which has a number of interesting stores until cold and hunger drove us into the Six Pence Pub for lunch.
We were struck by how real was their representation of an English pub. From the menu to the decor, the Six Pence Pub has a touch of authenticity seldom seen in American British-style “Pubs”. We later discovered that we were right. This pub was originated by an English couple and while they are no longer the owners the new owners are frequent travelers to the UK and have maintained the realistic touches we enjoyed so much.
Having traveled to Blowing Rock by the highway, we decided to take a slower route home so we headed out on Rte 221 towards Linville and Grandfather Mountain. The sign as we left town warned us that the next 19 miles would be on a narrow and curved road. The road climbs up one side of the mountains and then down the other side with breathtaking views along the way. We could see the Blue Ridge Parkway (closed) above us and Grandfather Mountain before us (also closed). The Mountain was privately owned until it was bought by the state in 2008 and the signage as one approaches the entrance reflects this: you would be hard pressed to miss it! Grandfather Mountain is known for record high winds on its peak and then woman in the Ranger’s Station at the base seemed to feel that we were lucky it was closed on this day. So we will have to return another time to walk the skybridge and hike the trails.
As we left the mountain behind us and descended down towards Linville we came upon the Linville River Mercantile Shop, sitting just off the road in lonely splendour. It seemed like a good place to stop for a coffee.
The shop itself has the usual collection of pseudo-antiques and knick-knacks but it also sells some wonderful homemade sour dough bread. James never saw a loaf of sour dough bread he would try and while he was initially dubious because it didn’t feel quite dense enough to be really good, he didn’t seem to have any trouble eating it up!
So the next time a guest asks where they can get a dulcimer, James and I will have an answer (and someone did once ask us this) and we will also be able to give some good information on how to get to Grandfather Mountain and what to see around there.
We had a lovely day in spite of the cold and enjoyed what may very well be our only glimpse of snow all winter as the next day the wind changed and the temperature went back into the 50’s, much to the relief of our ridiculously early blooming daffodils!