A Day Off: Touring Western North Carolina

Filed under: Nature, Outside Asheville, Things to Do

>Recently, one of our guests at the Carolina Bed & Breakfast told us about a great book called Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads, that contains a number of less traveled routes which one can take to explore the countryside and miss much of the October crowd. As soon as our copy arrived we took advantage of a brief lull (if you could call it that) in the rush to drive outside of Asheville ourselves and see the foliage.

The route we chose took us to the tiny village of Dillsboro, NC where we started our trip. Dillsboro takes October seriously and it’s no wonder why: the town is a lunch stop for the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad and every day the train rolls in to town for a 2 hour stop so the passengers in stretch their legs, eat and, hopefully spend money in some of the art galleries and shops. In spite of this onslaught the town has managed to maintain its charm and North Carolina atmosphere. Outside of train time, it is a quiet and relaxed hamlet.

Our first stop was the Dillsboro Smokehouse BBQ for lunch. You know that moment when you walk into a local restaurant and everybody turns to stare? I guess we were an oddity because the train wasn’t due in for another 15 minutes. In spite of the stare, our waitress was friendly and forthcoming with information (Cullowhee is pronouced “Cull-o-wheeee”) and our lunch was outstanding.

This picture of my BBQ Salad in a taco bowl doesn’t do it justice. After it came out to our table and people saw it, the orders tripled!

James’ BBQ was served in a biscuit which was light and flaky as a good Southern Biscuit should be. However we were lucky to have arrived before the train: by the time we left there was a line stretching out the door and down the sidewalk.

So, while the train crowd was lunching we took a walk through town, crossing the railroad track and a pretty stream (note the duck crossing sign) and up the hill to the Riverwood Shops.

Here we found the Oaks Gallery which showcases work from artisans in the area. The stained glass was particularly beautiful and original.
But we weren’t here to shop, we were on a mission to see some leaves!

In spite of the fact that the “Leaf Report” stated that we were only at 20% full color, the hills were still plenty colorful. Our book suggested a detour to see Judaculla Rock, a carved soapstone boulder which is reported to be one of the oldest example of petroglyphs in the mountains ( dated to 1000-200 B.C.). You have to really want to see this rock because somewhere along the line the sign for the final turn-off was removed or destroyed and it took some hunting and inquiring to find it.

But nevermind, the scenery made it worth all the wrong turns and back tracking, with James making jokes about “rude” carvings all the way.

Finally, we found it in a farmer’s field, fenced in for protection from people but not, unfortunately, from the elements. While one can still see the carvings in the soapstone, it is clear that it has heavily eroded since it was first discovered in the 1940’s.

You can just distinguish a stick figure on the left on this photo.

Going home we took a very interesting route through the Sapphire Valley. It’s a lovely area made prosperous by the many golfers who come in the summer to play the well-designed courses. I never expected to be drinking a cappucino with a lovely artistic pattern in the milk made for me by a barista in the town of Cashiers, NC!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *