Yes, it is true. I know it is hard to believe, especially since just a few short weeks ago I wrapped up a series of travel articles telling you about my adventures on a trip to Missouri and Tennessee. To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, “There I go again.”
Yes, I am “on the road again,” to quote still another well-known individual. And yes, my gas tank is full and my coffee mug is brimming, and I am raring to hit the road. So let’s go, shall we?
It was back in late September that I started out on my yearly week’s vacation. My destination was Maryland to visit with family, but, as many of you already know, I don’t always take the shortest route to my eventual destination. This time around I decided to amble up the Blue Ridge Parkway and take it as far north as I could before nightfall.
I left that Wednesday morning a little before 6:00 a.m. and was on the parkway by 7:00. I had been up the parkway as far as Blowing Rock on an earlier trip, back in 2003, and have made several shorter jaunts over the years, so I did not stop at every overlook that I have already visited on previous trips.
As I drove along the parkway north of Asheville I recalled a big black dog that I had seen on the road in the distance back in 2003. As I got closer to the dog I realized that the dog wasn’t really a dog at all. It was a bear. By the time I had reached the spot where I had seen it, ‘Smokey’ was long gone into the brush. I pulled over and got out my camera, but I was out of look. No sign of Boo Boo, either.
As I passed by the entrance to Mount Mitchell State Park, I contemplated taking a diversionary trip to the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. However, I decided to forego Mount Mitchell this time around since it would take too much time away from my travel schedule and since I had already visited it over 20 years ago. Also, I figured that the mountain is close enough to Greenville that, if I really want to visit it again, I can do so on a day trip.
So, I continued on my way north. My next stop was the hamlet of Little Switzerland, a place I had visited back in 2003. I stopped in at Emerald Village, a mining complex that sports a museum and an underground mine. Tourists may also do some gem ‘mining’ on their own for a small fee.
While browsing in the gift shop I struck up a conversation with a senior woman from Pennsylvania who was a member of a multi-day bus trip touring the mountains. She was waiting in the store while the rest of her companions were touring the facility. I asked her if she was familiar with the Green Dragon flea market in Ephrata and the Shady Maple Restaurant in Blue Ball, both of which are in the Lancaster area. She said she had been to both of them. Small world.
I drove a few more miles to the Museum of North Carolina Minerals, which I had also visited back in 2003. A museum guide was giving a lecture to a class of about 30 or so high-schoolers, most of whom were seated on the floor.
The museum is located at Gillespie Gap, which was on the route of the Overmountain Men. These soldiers came from the other side of the mountains in 1780 to help fight the battle of Kings Mountain. Each September an encampment is held here.
I stayed but a few minutes and then headed back on my way, pulling in for a brief minute to this or that overlook. I also stopped in for a few minutes at the Linville Falls visitor center, which I had also visited back in 2003. A year after that first visit, the Linville Falls area was severely damaged by the remnants of Hurricane Ivan. Linville Falls as a tourist stop was out of commission for quite a while.
Writing about Ivan brings to mind a lady who was a member of the church I attend who is now with the Lord. She used to tell of the great 1916 flood that did heavy damage to the North Carolina mountains. She was a little girl at the time living in Pisgah Forest. The great rainstorm, which, I would imagine, was probably the remains of a similar hurricane, caused a landslide that killed her mother and siblings. Shortly thereafter she and her father moved to Greenville, where she remained ever since.
I did not take the time to walk the trail to the falls this time around since there were several places along the parkway that I wanted to visit before dark that I hadn’t visited before.
Anyone wanting to take a day trip along the parkway north of Asheville could easily spend a whole day visiting the various sites just between Asheville and Linville Falls. In addition to the places that I have already mentioned are Craggy Gardens, the Folk Art Center, as well as the parkway headquarters building, which shows a first-rate 30-minute film featuring excellent aerial photography.
Next Installment – Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley