Category Archives: North Carolina, Western

A Mountain Railroad Experience on the Moonshine Express

Take the Moonshine Express run of the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad, and I promise you will not be disappointed.

Onthe Moonshine Express: seven shots of moonshine later.After booking our tickets online, we picked them up at 9:30 the morning of the trip and boarded the Carolina Shine car around 10 AM.  Before we even started rolling, we were served three of the seven moonshine flavors we tasted.  Starting with the basic White Lightening, we moved quickly on to Apple Pie and Cherry.  Our second flight featured Peach, Blueberry, Pina Colada, and Salted Caramel. Peach and Apple Pie were my favs . . . and I did try them all. Heartier souls can order all sorts of shots and/or moonshine-laced cocktails in addition to wine or beer from the well-stocked bar. It was a happy train car.

We rolled out of the Bryson City, NC trainyard under diesel power about half an hour into our five-hour experience, on a route along the beautiful Nantahala Gorge.  Our energetic, funny host, Steve, kept us entertained with all sorts of historic facts and trivia as we chugged along about 20 miles per hour through forests, around lakes, and over rivers.

Tasty BBQ lunch on the Moonshine Express with the Great Smoky Mountain Railroad..

A tasty BBQ lunch was served before our hour-long stop at the Nantahala Outdoor Center. At the Center, you see some beautiful (and scary-looking) class-5 rapids, as well as a kayak training course used by Olympic athletes.  There are ample restrooms, a restaurant/bar, and a shopping area focused on active outdoor clothes and accessories (think wetsuits and paddles).

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Off-road in America: The House of Mugs

The House of Mugs, located in Collettsville, NC

If you enjoy the quirky side of Americana you will love the House of Mugs (aka The Collettsville Cup House). Located in Collettsville in rural western North Carolina, near the Wilson Creek Recreation Area, about 12 miles from Lenoir. The house is a testament to something – I’m just not sure what.

The House of Mugs, located in Collettsville, NCIt’s estimated there are 25,000 mugs covering the house, fence, and arch; feel free to bring one along to add to the collection. It’s free and there is a guest book to sign. We didn’t see anyone around when we visited and it doesn’t look like anyone actually lives there. It’s a really nice country drive and we crossed at least three single-lane bridges until we reached the lovely setting along a pretty riverbank. Read the rest of this entry

At the Summit of Mount Mitchell

Top of the world, Mount Mitchell State Park, NC

Observation deck at the summit of Mount Mitchell State ParkIt’s pretty easy to get to the highest point in the eastern US; visit Mount Mitchell in western North Carolina and most can easily maneuver the 285 yards paved Summit Tower Trail to the top observation deck.  It is handicap accessible.  But be prepared for chilly weather with temps about 20 degrees cooler than lower elevations, experts say the climate is more like Canada than North Carolina.  At 6,684’ you will be rewarded with a 360-degree view for up to 85 miles of the surrounding Black Mountain Range and the On he trails, at Mount Mitchell State ParkPisgah National Forest.  There are many trails of varying levels throughout the Park and several easy trails from the summit. The informative signage about wildlife, plants, and geology make it a particularly enjoyable, educational experience for families. Read the rest of this entry

Madison County NC has Barns, Not Bridges

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A few weeks ago, I wrote about buying a painting at a fundraiser for the Appalachian Barn Alliance, a group dedicated to documenting historic barns in this part of western North Carolina.

My husband and I decided to take one of their self-driving tours and visit the barns of Walnut Township in Madison County. Once in Madison County, we followed winding country roads for about two hours to nine different barns the preservation group researched, including the one featured in our painting. There were many other old barns and farm buildings along the route, turning our drive into a sort of barn-treasure-hunt.

A few of the barns were not exactly where we thought, but the directions got us close enough to figure it out. Most of the structures were eventually used for tobacco drying of some sort, and many were originally built to house livestock. The history of each barn was as interesting as its deteriorating appearance and we could soon spot the distinctive monitor roof and gambrel roof designs. Along the way, we learned about many used as flue-cured tobacco barns and converted in the 1920s to air-cure burley tobacco (used primarily for cigarette production). Many early barn-owners sold (or bartered) their barn roofs for advertising . . . maybe our first billboards? Does anyone else remember those “See Rock City” barn ads?

The group has several self-guided tours. guided van and private tours, and other special events you can read about on their appalachianbarns.org website.

It was a wonderful way to spend a beautiful day.

 

Hummingbirds Rock & Roll

In the North Carolina High Country, I have never seen so many hummingbirds flying in and out of the trees to the feeder and nearby flowers. Dipping and diving too fast to get a good still photo. They were magical.

A Little Church in the Woods

 

St John's Episcopal Church near Valle Crucis, NC.St. John’s Episcopal Church is a little gem tucked away in the woods down a gravel road in Sugar Grove, NC.  Not far from its parent church The Church of the Holy Cross Episcopal* in Valle Crucis, St. John’s was built in 1862. It came about through the fortitude and aspirations of William West Skiles who gave his life to the church and was deaconate in Valle Crucis.  He served the people of this mountain region from 1847, often on horseback, until his death in 1862, just after the new church opened. Read the rest of this entry

The Mystery of Barns

Oil painting of Wild barn By Tebbe Davis. Located in Madison County, NC.

You can’t drive through the green, pastoral country roads of Western North Carolina without seeing barns. It’s always fun to see a barn. Barns of all types and styles.  Barns mostly in a state of disrepair. Barns that aren’t going to be in existence for the next generation to enjoy. I can’t imagine these mountain landscapes without barns.

The Appalachian Barn Alliance was created to preserve the memories of these barns and document their significant role in the history and development of this rural region. Through architectural drawings, photographs, and data collection the group has documented about 90 historic barns in Madison County, North Carolina. Read the rest of this entry

Most Amazing Mountain Gorge View in the Eastern U.S.

See unparalleled views of the Linville Gorge from Wiseman’s View, near Marion. NC.  Looking down across the deepest gorge in the eastern U.S., you can clearly see the Linville River snaking through the forest 1500’ below. The trail itself is an easy, paved, 0.4-mile, handicap accessible path that even has a permanent port-o-potty-style bathroom at the trailhead. But, oh boy, the ride there is an adventure. It’s only four miles on a gravel road, but with the washouts and potholes around most turns, it seems much longer. You will need a 4×4, high off the ground, with good wheels. A Jeep, Range Rover, or F-150 will do the trick.

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Fall Foraging

It finally looks like fall in the beautiful NC mountains. The sky is Carolina Blue, the air is crisp and clear, and temps are in the high 50s and low 60s. We celebrated with a foraging tour in Hendersonville. With the expert guidance of Jillian from No Taste Like Home, we ventured into the woods on and off the trails at Bullington Gardens in a search for edible mushrooms as well as edible plants, berries, and nuts. Read the rest of this entry

A Revolutionary History Lesson: The Overmountain Men

Just imagine. The year is 1780. The Revolutionary War is at a stalemate, no end is in sight and the fighting has moved south with the British conquest of Charleston. The King of England decreed no white men were allowed to claim land west of the Appalachian Mountains, but some had settled in the area.

This week marks the 238th anniversary of a sentinel battle of the Revolutionary War – many say the turning point. In school, we never learned about the rag-tag mountain militia who chased the British to Kings Mountain and fought for freedom. Dubbed the Overmountain Men, they also battled nature as they pursued British Major Patrick Ferguson and his well-armed forces. Ferguson had successfully recruited “loyalist” troops from colonists in the Carolinas to fight for the British crown. Read the rest of this entry