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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cone Estate and Roy

I tore myself away from The Blowing Rock to return to my room, #300, at the Mountainaire Inn to make sure I knew how to get to my destination in South Carolina. Car packed and ready to go, I decided to first drive in the opposite direction to find out why several cars were parked on the side of the road not far from town. I took the road to the right just beyond the cars and stumbled onto a beautiful lake. I see this mansion on the hill. I don’t know where I am, but it is too beautiful to pass up so I decide to walk and soon discover this is why the others have come. They have come to walk amongst this beauty. A sign tells me this is Cass Lake and a fellow walker tells me the trail I am on is 7/10 of a mile around the lake. I could not believe what I had lucked into exploring. The photo above is a picture of the mansion and the photos below will take you around the lake where you will also meet Taffy. I can never pass up a dog. By the way, my later research named the mansion for me…Moses Cone Manor. I will definitely visit the house on my return trip to see the Tiffany windows and the artwork now housed here. The Cone estate is today the Blue Ridge Parkway Craft Center. You have to get on the Parkway to get to the house. The Cones started construction in 1899 and it became a self-sufficient estate that supported 30 families. I think it sits on Flat Top Mountain. Moses Cone left the estate to Greensboro Hospital, with life rights for Mrs. Cone. After her death, the hospital could not handle the upkeep with the funds left so they donated the house and surrounding land to the federal government. The National Park Service took over in 1949. So it kind of belongs to me. And you. We all have a beautiful park and recreation area that will take your breath away on a day like this. Yet another place I have to tear myself away from.

How do you drive away from a place like this? Map Quest directions in hand, I start the engine and pop in Paul’s CD entitled Old Country. Paul Hatfield works at the hospital in Blowing Rock and helps out at the Mountainaire Inn. He actually lives across the street. He was helping out last night by the fire when he learned I had lived in Louisville, KY. He grew up in Pike County and has a deep John Anderson kind of voice. (Detour: do you know anything about Pike County, KY? Corrupt. That’s all I am saying. It is what it is. I don’t want any trouble. Paul is a Hatfield. Of the Hatfields and McCoys.) As soon as he spoke, I wondered if he could sing. While he did not perform for us by the fire, I did learn that he does often bring out the guitar and sings for the guests. That did not surprise me. What surprised me was learning he has a CD. So I listened to Paul’s CD as I drove down the road. He gave it to me. It is sold at the Inn, but he gifted it to the girl from KY. He sings all the right songs…like That’s The Way Love Goes, Killing Time, Seminole Wind, Lukenbach Texas. I laughed as I recalled his story last night about a German Shepherd he trained to sniff out drugs when he was on the drug force in KY. He brought the dog with him when he moved to Blowing Rock (the town, not the mountain). He used to take her for walks on tourist-filled Main Street. I hope I do him justice here. “Evr thang wuld be goin’ long jest fine when she done smelt something. She’d take off to some car and be all over that thang. Owner wuld come over and say, “what she doing?””. Paul would smile knowingly and say “nothin’”.

You can’t make this stuff up. It has to come to you. Next I will tell you about the third leg of my trip. Hope you enjoy the photos. They are not enhanced or corrected. This part of the world truly looked just like this during my walk through.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blowing Rock, 2nd leg of a 3 leggedd trip

The second leg of my trip took me from Boone to Blowing Rock, NC. Population 800 or so, but it jumps to 8,000 in the summer. They were all there when I drove into town in the late afternoon. Why did I pick this town to visit? It is said to be the only place where snow falls upside down. The cliff sits 4,000 feet above sea level and 3,000 feet above Johns River Gorge where it forms a flume. When the northwest winds blow through here, the wind returns light objects upward. Or, there is the tale of the Cherokee brave, torn by the conflict of duty and heart, jumped off the cliff and was returned to his Chickasaw maiden one day when the wind blew him back up to her waiting arms…and since then the wind has blown up onto the rocks. Now I did not expect to see anyone from my past returning to me, but I did expect a spectacular view of the mountains.

The town has charm written all over the quaint shops on Main Street. After I looked at some art, I bellied up to a bar for some nourishment: Cranberry Chicken Salad, a Cosmopolitan, and then for dessert, a glass of Merlot. Afterward, I rested in my room at the Mountainaire Inn. Much better. Clean, clean, clean and a very comfy bed. At 7:30 PM, I joined some of my neighbors for a couple of hours of conversation in the cool night air as we relaxed around the outdoor fire pit. Aaahhh, did I sleep well that night. Early the next morning I walked across the street for a nice breakfast at Knight’s; probably a family name. Then I was off to see the town’s namesake, The Blowing Rock.
I arrived just as the door opened for the day and had the mountain to myself for a while before others started their exploration. That was okay because it allowed me to get a couple of photographs on someone on the rock. Travelling alone, I had no one to order onto the rock. I offer some photographs for you, but believe me when I tell you that the pictures do not fully capture the beauty of those mountains. Nor can you feel the crisp fall air. It was truly wonderful and I had to tear myself away.

I will stop now and let you rest. Before I tell you about the 3rd leg of my trip, I will tell you about a place I happened upon before I left Blowing Rock (the town, not the mountain). Later.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Boone, North Carolina

I didn't mean to go to Boone or Grandfather Mountain. I meant to go to Blowing Rock. My ultimate destination was Easley, SC to visit with Billy and JoAnn. I would not arrive until Monday, so I decided to set out on Saturday to allow for a detour. I had been reading about Blowing Rock in Blue Ridge Country magazine and knew it would be a place I would enjoy. Having decided on the spur of the moment to take this journey, I started calling at 9:30 Friday night for lodging on Saturday and Sunday. It is mid-October, and I am going to the mountains...with the rest of the world. My online search and a few phone calls resulted in a room at the Mountainaire Lodge in Blowing Rock for Sunday night but nothing for Saturday. I did, however, find a room in Boone on Saturday at the High Country Inn. Now I have an address in Boone, Blowing Rock and Easley. I printed directions to each destination and back home and am ready to hit the road.

I did not time the trip, but according to MapQuest I drove 259.6 miles in 4 hours and 9 minutes. I stopped once about 40 minutes from Boone. I had to. Kohl's gives you $10 to spend for every $50 you give them. But you have only a week to spend the money back to them. Today is my last day. I did not plan on stopping at Kohl's, but I could almost reach out and touch the store when I saw it. I had $110 to spend back. 2 sweaters, a zip up hoodie and a pair of jeans came to $105. Mission accomplished and it only took about 20 minutes.

Arriving at the Inn at 4:30 PM, I was very hungry. The young man at the front desk recommended Bandana's BBQ a few doors down so I went there before I even went to my room. Everything is slow cooked on the premises. The salmon, baked sweet potatoe and green beans were delicious. At 7:30 PM, I finally make my way to room 300. Nasty. A sleepless night.

Out at 7:30 the next morning, I settled for my most recent guilty pleasure, a McGriddle and coffee from McDonald's. I drove around for quite a long time exploring the countryside, ending up at Grandfather Mountain around Noon. The brochure says it is one of the most environmentally significant mountains the world and that the UN recognizes it as an International Biosphere Reserve. It is privately owned, but someone said it was just bought by the government. You can picnic and hike here and maybe see some of the 70 rare and endangered species if you look carefully.
From the highest swinging bridge in America, over a mile above sea level, you are rewarded by views of the southern Appalachians.
Leaving Grandfather Mountian, I explored the Banner Elk area (known for its Christmas Trees)...the town of Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain, Beech Mountain (both ski resorts) and Valle Crucis, a beautiful historic town best known for the original Mast General Store. Blowing Rock is next.