Thursday, October 23, 2008

Chimney Rock Park, Chimney Rock

I have been to Chimney Rock a few times. The first time my husband and I came with two friends from SC. It was shortly after the movie The Last of The Mohican's came out in theaters and much of it was filmed at Chimney Rock. My friend Emily knew all the scenes and where what was filmed so we had a first hand tour of the spots used in the movie! Years later we all now live in Asheville a short ride to Chinmney Rock. Amazing!

It is still a place to bring visitors and we took our UK friends there not long ago. Located 25 miles SE of Asheville it is easy to find right off Main Street in town. The state of NC just purchased the attraction and it is a National Heritage Site in the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area.

The main feature is the top of Chimney Rock itself, overlooking Lake Lure and the town of Chimney Rock. An a 26 story elevator ride takes you up to the top where you have incredible 75 mile views of Hickory Nut Gorge. As the story goes, a Dr. Lucius Morse came to the mountains seeking a more favorable climate. He was intrigued by the giant monolith and purchased the 64 acre parcel around it, creating a nature preserve and scenic attraction.

For hikers, the Park has five trials ranging from easy to strenuous. For families with small children the Great Woodland Adventure Trail is a easy short trail taking about 45 minutes round trip. It begins in the Meadows and winds through the woods.

The Outcroppings Tails is an alternative to using the elevator. It consists of a network of stiras and boardwalks to and from the Chimney Rock level;. If you have your pet with you, this is a good one to use. it takes 15-20 minutes.

Four Seasons Trail is nice way to head down to the Meadows from the base of the falls. We parked here so it gave us a way to hike back down and not wait for the shuttle. It warns of a steep decent but we found it fine - going up the trail would be strenuous for some. It takes about 20 minutes one way. The Cliff Trail is the most exciting - but it is not open any longer. Too bad cuz it took you along the cliff side through narrow passageways to view the top of Hickory Nut Falls. The Hickory Nut Falls Trail offers a more moderate hike and leads to the bottom of the falls. Staff are always available for assistance or to offer guidance as to what trail would be best for you and your family.

The Skyline Trail is under construction and promises to be a moderate to strenuous hike taking you to some of the Park's most popular geological formations. Look for this one to open.

Chimney Rock offers many activities all year round - rock climbing clinics, Grady the Groundhog Kids Club, Grady's Discovery Den, pet outings and much more. For hours and more information check out or call 828.625.9611. It is located on Hwy 64/74A which you can take from Asheville. Have fun!

Crossnore Weavers: A Working Museum

This attraction continues a tradition for The Crossnore School begun by founder Mary Martin Sloop in 1820. "Our aim, " Sloop wrote in an early catalog, "--to keep alive an almost forgotten art: to cherish in the young people of the mountains a reverence for this art; to provide a means of livelihood and pleasure for the women and girls; to furnish homes with beautiful and lasting material." Her efforts provides unprecedented job opportunities for women of the isolated, impoverished mountain communities as well as a tangible means of supporting and sustaining the growing school and children's, home.

Today weavers taught by early Weaving Program staff still practice their art on antique looms as they welcome visitors to The Crossnore School. This on-site museum details the history of weaving at the school and pays tribute to the weavers who helped craft it. All proceeds from the sale of handwoven goods benefit the children of The Crossnore School, a private non-profit corporation whose mission is to provide hope and healing for children from families in crises. Each year approximately 250 of North Carolina's abused, abandoned and neglected children cal the school their home.

The gift shop offers a variety of items handwoven at the school - scarves, shawls,place mats, napkins, throw pillows,baby items including breathtaking christening gowns as well as books, tapes, Cd's and pottery and other gift items.

Directions to the Crossnore School: From Hwy 221 look for sign that reads Town of Crossnore _ Home of Crossnore School Inc., turn onto E. Crossnore Drive, travel 0.3 miles. turn right on D.A.R. Drive. The Weaving Museum is behind the Blair Fraley Sales Store. For more information call828.733.4660 or check out

Loaves and Fishes, Crossnore

Nothing fancy about Loaves and fishes restaurant on Maple Street in Crossnore but the food is very well prepared and all of it homemade. Locally owned and operated they have been doing a booming business for several years.

Located just off Hwy 221, the metal building offers seating inside or in warmer months on the enclosed porch with windows open. This area is heated in the colder months and is quite comfortable. The lunch menu is available Wednesday through Friday from 11am until 8pm. The sandwiches range from burgers, chicken breast, turkey, ham, roast beef, chicken salad and the quiche of the day is always good. I usually get the fried flounder sandwich. The soups change daily. Several salads complete the menu. Prices range from $4.95 to 7.95.

Dinner is served Wed. through Sat. from 4 - 8pm. Some favorites include chicken pot pie, steak, grilled shrimp skewers, fried flounder, fried oysters, salmon cakes and a baked spaghetti. Prices range from $8.50 to 14.95 for the seafood platter.

Always save room for dessert! Their selection changes daily and they offer cakes, pies, and other pastry items. All made from scratch!

For those of you that prefer they offer take home casseroles that feed 3-4 people. Meatloaf casserole is a specialty item. Chicken and ham or jambalaya also tempt the palate. Whole desserts are available for take home by special order.

For hours and more info call 828 733-5812.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Crossnore Labyrinth

Recently the Crossnore School for children in need added a wonderful labyrinth to their grounds. For those of you who have no experience with this mode of meditation I will explain.

A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools.

The term labyrinth is often used interchangeably with maze, but modern scholars of the subject use a stricter definition. For them, a maze is a tour puzzle in the form of a complex branching passage with choices of path and direction; while a single-path labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth has an unambiguous through-route to the center and back and is not designed to be difficult to navigate.

A labyrinth has only one path. It is unicursal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.

A labyrinth is a right brain task. It involves intuition, creativity, and imagery. With a maze many choices must be made and an active mind is needed to solve the problem of finding the center. With a labyrinth there is only one choice to be made. The choice is to enter or not. A more passive, receptive mindset is needed. The choice is whether or not to walk a spiritual path.

At its most basic level the labyrinth is a metaphor for the journey to the center of your deepest self and back out into the world with a broadened understanding of who you are.

Walking the Labyrinth
There is no right way to walk a labyrinth. You only have to enter and follow the path. Your walk can be one of a specific attitude - joyous, somber, thoughtful or prayerful. Try it out different ways - play music, sing, pray out loud, walk it alone or with lots of people. Most importantly, pay attention to your experience.

Some guidelines for walking a labyrinth:
1. Focus: Pause and wait at the entrance. Become quiet and centered. Give acknowledgement through a bow, nod or other gesture and then enter.

2. Experience: Walk purposefully. Observe the process. When you reach the center, stay there and focus several moments. Leave when it seems apporpiate. Be attentive on the way out.

3. Exit: Turn and face the entrance. Give acknowledgement of the ending, such as "Amen".

4.Reflect: After walking, reflect back on your experience. Use journaling or drawing to capture your experience.

5. Walk often.

Directions to the Crossnore Labyrinth: From Hwy 221. look for sign that reads Town of Crossnore _ Home of Crossnore School Inc., turn onto E. Crossnore Drive, travel 0.3 miles. turn right on D.A.R. Drive. The labyrinth is behind the Blair Fraley Sales Store and next to the Weaving Museum.

The Louisiana Purchase, Banner Elk

Owned locally by Pat and Lori Bagbey the "Purchase" as locals call it, has been a fixture in the mountains for over 20 years.
Serving Creole and Cajun food, this upscale night spot focuses on high quality meals and their outstanding wine list.
They have a full bar located upstairs in the loft area with windows overlooking the creek and park out back. Their wine selection has been built up over 20 years and boasts to be the second largest wine list in North Carolina. They use the cuvinant bar system which replaces the wine in the bottles with nitrogen after opening.
The restaurant, rated three diamonds by AAA, makes everything from scratch from appetizers to desserts. One favorite is the BBQ Shrimp over grit cake topped with sweet potato nest garnish. I think they have the best Cesar Salad in the mountains. and don't miss out on the Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Torte.
The wait staff is excellent, personable and with gracious timing.
They serve dinner only from 5:50 on from Tuesday through Saturday year round. Dress is what I call dressy casual. During season watch for special wine dinners, entertainment on weekend evenings and Sunday Brunch. For reservations call 828.898.5656 or 866.734.4124. A very special place.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hiking Waterfalls Park in Newland

This is a hidden gem of a walk that outsiders know little about. I like to head here for a quiet walk to get away from it all and on most days you will not see anyone on the trail.
It is located on Rte 19 heading towards Tennessee across the road from Ingles Shopping center. I liked to take my elderly mother there to picnic at the tables just off the road at the base of the waterfalls with a great view of the triple falls up above.
It can be quite dramatic in rainy season but most days there is a good amount of water flowing down the falls. I believe it is maintained by the Newland Fire Department. The trail heads up the steps to the top of the falls. Most people stay in this area but the best is further up.
Once at the top, follow the trail which criss crosses back and forth over the creek into a wonderful secluded cove. Rhododendrons line the path and hardwood trees climb the ridge line. The further in you go the more the world slips away and all you hear is the wind, the babbling stream and birds. It is very sheltered in here and even on winter days, the cove is protected from winds, making it quite comfortable to hike.
The path crosses back and heads down to the top of the falls again. At this point there are some huge trees, one with a notch in the trunk big enough to fit me in a stooped position. I love to look for wildflowers especially in spring.
Be careful of your step when the ground is soft from rain or melting snow. It can get mucky and slippery then.
Enjoy this quiet hideaway!

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hiking Beacon Heights in Linville

Some days I just want to take a hike but not spend all day doing it. A great short hike just off the Parkway is Beacon Heights Trail.
Follow Rte 221 up from Linville and once you reach the Blue Ridge Parkway the trail head will be to your right on the other side of the road. Park here and follow the path up the hillside.
This trail is steeper and not for beginners or those not dressed for hiking. It is an easy trail but you will be ascending about 1000 feet from the parking area to the top.
Once at the top there are a couple of spots to catch the view. To your right on the trail is a big flat rock outcropping looking out to the east and Grandmother Mountain. From the trail, going left will take you to a larger area with views to the east and west of Grandfather Mountain behind you.
Again this is a great spot to bring a lunch and just sit a spell taking in the view and peaceful environment. The trail heads back down the same way you came up.

Hiking Flat Rock near Linville

From the Blue Ridge Parkway there are many many short hikes with great views that are easily accessible for beginners. My favorite is the Flat Rock Trail. If you access the Parkway via 221 in Linville and head south it will be on your right with a small parking lot and picnic tables.
It is a 20-30 minute loop hike through forest to a rock outcropping overlooking Grandfather Mountain and the town of Linville. On warm sunny days, I like to take a picnic lunch with me and eat it on the rocks.
Once you get to the outcroppings, look to your left and you can find a quiet place to stop off the path.
The way down is a little less obvious but just follow the arrows through the brush and it will open up to forest again meeting the trail back to the parking lot.


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