Monday, September 14, 2009

Fun Things to See and Do in NC Privacy Policy

Google requires sites and blogs to post privacy policies now. You will see some Google Adsense on the right side here at Fun Things to See and Do in North Carolina. I do not track anything or anyone on the site. I just share information about my home state. Thanks, Cyndi

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Saturday, July 4, 2009

Photos from Faith, NC 4th of July Week 2009

Faith, North Carolina pulled out all the stops for the annual 4th of July week of fun. While most towns have some fireworks after dark on the 4th (and they do at Faith too), this town makes the 4th of July a full week of rides, fun, and games.

If you haven't heard of Faith, NC, that's probably because it's a town of 600 people. So, it's just not going to get much press most days. But, they sure do know how to put on a huge party to celebrate red, white, and blue and all this country stands for.

For more information if you plan to go tonight or next year, see the Faith 4th of July web page.

The weather in North Carolina can be pretty hinkie. But, you'd do well to carry sun screen and to wear sunglasses like the young lady above. In July, we're usually really hot, sticky and muggy here. But, we get a fair amount of rain and especially in the evenings. An umbrella is not a bad idea to have in the car or truck . . . just in case.

They have a good number of rides, and they offer specials. Today, for example, they had unlimited rides for $20 from noon through 5 p.m. I think it was. Nice deal. And, the lines weren't long in the middle of the day.

Things crank up more at night of course. They also have live entertainment each evening, and they sponsor and Idol contest.

My guys enjoyed the smoothies. It was a good day for one - that's for sure. I tried a peach and pineapple smoothie, and tht was a pretty good combo flavor. I think I still like strawberry/banana the best.

If things get a little hot for you at the Faith 4th of July festival, there are a number of tables with some under tents and quite a few under trees. People also bring lawn chairs and blankets and rest in the park area which is pretty.

All in all, this is good small town fun. People are relaxed. A lot of folks dress up with the patriotic theme. Service groups are out helping too. For instance, they did eye checks at a trailer today.

Last Call for the Faith, NC 4th of July Festival - 2009

The weather is just perfect today to wind up the Faith, North Carolina 4th of July festival. Well, it is a little hot. But, there are smoothies and sodas and water plus plenty of shade trees in this small Southern town of 600 people.

Faith, NC is right south of Salisbury, NC. If you get off I85 at a Salisbury exit, then you can ask, and someone will tell you how to get to Faith. Or, you can just put Main Street, Faith, NC in your GPS. In a town of 600, if you find Main Street, you will find the festival and all the people.

I've seen estimates that Faith swells to 30,000 across the week for the yearly Faith celebration. No. I did not stand and count, but I can tell you that they had a lot of folks over there having fun today.

There are a number of kiddie rides. I've found that some of the big amusement parks go skimpy on the rides for little ones, but Faith had several including this cute little bumble bee ride which the toddler crowd seemed to like a lot. My boys, now being teens, were not much interested in bee rides. Oh well. There will be grandkids some day huh?

The swings went over well with kids and adults. I always liked the swing rides except after eating junk food. I learned that lesson quick though, so I eat last now and not before riding especially in circles.

The little boys (and girls too) loved these cars and motorcycles. This is, after all, NASCAR country. Brrrrr. Start your engines please.

Slides just seem to get bigger every year. The big yellow slide drew a few brave souls who rode down on burlap sacks. I'm guessing that plastic got pretty got today, so I just watched the slipping and sliding.

In addition to the carnival style rides, they had loads of good food at the Faith 4th of July Festival and also entertainment each evening. Contests included the Apple Ugly chow down and Faith Idol. And, the week will end with fireworks tonight.

If you missed out this year, don't worry. This is an annual Faith tradition and very popular with locals and visitors. Just check the Faith Festival page and plan for next year if you missed it for 2009.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Faith, NC 4th of July Celebration - 2009

It's time for the annual Faith, North Carolina 4th of July throw down. There are only around 600 people who live in Faith - give or take with a birth or death. But, they sure know how to throw a patriotic party and a week long one at that. By parade day, they estimate that they get 30 thousand out and that's rain or shine.

The Faith 4th of July week is kind of like a home town carnival and street fair. You've got rides, entertainment and, or course, loads of great food. They also have an Idol contest with the winner being the Faith Idol.

The good people of Faith have been hosting this patriotic gathering since 1946, and it keeps growing. In addition to the locals, people who grew up in Faith love to come back for the big yearly event, and then the word passes and out-of-towners like to get in on the action too. That's OK though. It still have that small town flavor and is fun for all ages.

Faith is right outside Salisbury, NC, and it's not a long drive from Charlotte. I'd guess maybe a half hour or so.

Saturday is the big day, but any night is fun.

Here is the schedule for June 2009.

Happy 4th of July - Faith, NC

Saturday, June 27th, 2009
6:00 pm Food and rides
7:30 pm Band to be announced
8:30 pm Faith Idol Competition - TBA

Sunday, June 28th
5:00 pm Faith Patriotic Program at Faith Baptist Church
6:00 pm Food and rides
7:00 pm Gospel groups to be announced - Sponsored by Miller Davis

Monday, June 29th
Dollar Night - All rides $1.00
6:00 pm Food and rides
7:30 pm Sea Cruz - Sponsored by Apple Baking Company
8:30 pm Idol Competition

Tuesday, June 30th
6:00 pm Food and rides
7:30 pm The Entertainers - Sponsored by F&M Bank and Rowan Regional Medical Center
8:30 pm Idol Competition

Wednesday, July 1st
Food Lion MVP Armband Night -Show MVP card & get $5.00 off a $20 armband
6:00 pm Food and rides
7:30 pm Too Much Sylvia - Sponsored by Food Lion
8:30 pm Idol Competition

Thursday, July 2nd
6:00 pm Food and rides
7:30 pm Hip Pocket- Sponsored by Smokey Mountain Amusements and Cloninger Ford-Toyota
8:30 pm Faith Idol Competition

Friday, July 3rd
6:00 pm Food and Rides
7:30 pm The Extraordiniaires
8:30 pm Idol Competition

Saturday, July 4th
10:00 am Parade - Grand Marshal (TBA)
*Flag raising and National Anthem and crowning of Miss Rowan County Veteran
12:30 pm Apple Ugly Eating Contest - at main stage
12:00 - 5:00 pm $20.00 armband
6:30 pm Nostalgia Band - Sponsored by IFH, Neil's Paint & Body, Memories 1280 WSAT and United Beverages (Miller Lite)
7:00 pm Races, games and watermelon eating contest
7:30 pm Idol Contest
9:00 pm Nostalgia Band
10:00 pm Miller Davis Patriotic Tribute
10:30 pm FIREWORKS!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Southeast Old Threshers Reunion - Denton, NC - June 30 through July 4, 2009

This year (2009) marks the 39th year for the Denton, NC Southeast Old Threshers Reunion. It's a good festival with loads of things to see and do. My uncle came in from Virginia a couple of years ago just to attend. He loved seeing all the old farming eqiupment and cars. His wife liked the crafts and country cooked food. I thought it was all good including the entertainment.

This year, you can even see Elvis at the Old Threshers' Reunion.

Singer and entertainer Eddie Miles, considered one of the nation’s best Elvis-tribute performers, will be one of the headliners at this year’s Southeast Old Threshers Reunion when he performs two shows on July 2 at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. The Reunion will be held June 30-July 4 at the Denton FarmPark in Denton, N.C.

With Miles performing in costume, the shows will pay tribute to Elvis and his music and feature many of the late singer’s greatest hits. Shortly after the date was posted on Miles’ Website, the phone started ringing at the FarmPark with jubilant callers asking, “Is it true Eddie Miles will be there?” “Can we really see two shows for the price of one?”

“I’ve traveled far and wide, and Eddie is the closest to sound and looks of Elvis as you’ll find,” said the late Charlie Hodge, Elvis’ lifelong friend and band member.

Miles is no stranger to the stage. He has performed his show, “Eddie Miles: A Salute to Elvis & Country Legends,” since 1990, when he first took his show on the road. During the early 90s, Miles was a regular at Pigeon Forge, T.N., and later, a regular at Myrtle Beach, S.C. Today, traveling throughout the Southeast, he performs more than 100 shows yearly.

Miles began doing his tribute show part-time, but it quickly grew into a sensation when audiences began to recognize his talent.

“It was a dream of mine since I was a young boy to pursue an entertainment career because I’ve always loved music,” said Miles, a native of Bardstown, Ky. “I chased those dreams, and it seemed like the Elvis songs always got the most reaction, so the show just grew out of that,” said Miles, describing his start.

During his usual two-hour show, Miles begins with tributes to the great country legends such as Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and George Jones. His Elvis tribute is typically performed during the second hour of the show.

Because of time restraints at the Denton performances, Miles will perform only the Elvis-tribute section during his two shows. According to Miles, each show is different since he takes audience requests and gears his show around the songs the audience wants. His repertoire includes more than 200 Elvis songs.
Miles was invited to Memphis to perform his Elvis tribute during the 25th anniversary of Elvis’ death. He performed at the sold-out house with all the great acts that had appeared with Elvis during the singer’s long career.

“We’ve seen a lot of Elvis tribute shows, and Eddie’s is certainly one of the classiest ever,” said Gordon Stoker, a member of the legendary Jordonaires, one of the premier backup-vocal groups ever and a mainstay in Elvis’ recording career.

For Miles’ tour schedule, photos, sound clips and other Web links, go to his Web site. He can also be found on MySpace and Facebook.

Admission to the Southeast Old Threshers Reunion is $13 for adults, $6 for children under 12 and free for preschoolers.

There is no extra charge to see musical shows.

Hours are 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily.

Camping is available.

The Denton FarmPark is located 20 miles southeast of Lexington off NC Hwy. 49. For more information, visit the Threshers web site or call 336-859-2755.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Lake Norman State Park (near Charlotte, NC)

Lake Norman State Park sits right outside Charlotte, NC near Mooresville.

The park is relatively new, since it is on Lake Norman which is a manmade lake and the largest manmade lake in the state of NC. Duke Power put in a dam between 1959 and 1964 to create more power and created this large lake. They also set aside land for the general public (about 1000 acres), and that is how this park came about.

As you drive down I77 between Statesville and Charlotte, you'll see the lake. Take exit 42 (Harmony) and follow the signs to the park.

The big drawing cards for the lake park are lake swimming and fishing.

The lakefront area is sanded like an ocean beach. They have a bathhouse to change and shower. Visitors can swim from June through Labor Day. Lake temperatures are generally warm especially near the top of the water. The view is terrific. You can see boats out farther in the lake as you swim.

As far as fishing, Lake Norman is considered to be one of the best fishing areas in the state. Brim, crappie, and bass are the main fish in the lake. There are some catfish too. You need a license in NC. You can get a license at most any community store and even at Wal-Mart. Kids under 16 years don't need a license, but an adult with a license needs to be along to cover the younger kids.

In addition to the swimming and fishing, the park has picnic areas, walking trails, and camping.

There are two picnic areas. One is right at the swimming area, so you'll probably want to bring a cooler with food if you decide to swim. The other area is in the camping section. That area is more spread out with trees in between trees. Nice and shady.

A large picnic shelter with grills is available. It will hold up to 125 people, so it's good for group outings. You'll probably want to reserve the shelter if you're visiting with a group.

Six miles of hiking trails run along the lake and through the woods. You'll see lots of trees and usually some small animals. Hiking is pretty easy. This is the foothill area, so you don't have the slopes of the mountain areas of NC.

If you want to stay longer and relax in the outdoors, the park has camping. There are 33 spaces. All are for tent or trailer camping really. No RV hook ups or electricity etc. They do have water available in several spots and a nice bathhouse.

If you have your own boat, then you'll need to look for one of the marinas to put in. They had been renting small boats to visitors, but boat rentals and the concession stand are closed right now due to budget cuts in the state (2009).

Duke Power State Park is a nice little area off I77. If you live in the Charlotte or surrounding areas or if you're traveling on I77, then this would be a great place to check out especially during the summer.

Carolina Beach State Park (near Fayetteville, NC)

Carolina Beach State Park is really an island. In 1929, Snow’s Cut (the land connecting the thin strip of land between the sound and the Cape Fear River to the Atlantic Ocean) was dug out to provide a waterway to the ocean. Basically, this means that you get both the coastal inland experience on the backside with a boat ride out to the big ocean. Land protected is quite different from the ocean front stretches, so this is a neat spot to visit for the contrast. You’ll get a much more laid back and less touristy beach trip than at places like Myrtle.

Venus Fly Traps Growing in the Wild

The big draw at Carolina State Park are the natural growing Venus Fly Traps. If you don’t know about the Fly Traps, then those are plants that close in around “animals” (most likely small flying critters like flies) and then use the fuel from those critters for growth. You may have seen these neat plants at school or even at Lowe’s Home Store. You stick your finger in the little open space, and the plant closes up like a bear trap. With big human fingers, this is not dangerous, but flies and other flying insects do need to beware. Monsters based on these meat eating plants can be seen in TV shows like the Adam’s Family and movies like Little Shops of Horrors

The Fly Trap walking trail is set off with walkways and visitors can’t wander into the Fly Trap land and step on plants and stick fingers in the triangle trap heads though it can be very tempting. Since the Carolina Beach area is one of the few places on earth where the carnivorous plants grow in the wild, they are protected from curious people so that everyone can get a look. If you want to touch Venus Fly Traps, then get a plant from the store. If you want to see them in the wild, then take a trip to Carolina Beach State Park.


There are several hiking trails. They are all easy trails and don’t take all day—generally just an hour or so with stops to enjoy the view. These are good kid hikes, since the land is not rolling like other parts of NC. Hikers can ramble along and look at the water, sea vegetation and birds. It is a very calm kind of place to visit.


A nice picnic area is at Snow’s Cut, which is between the marina for boat launching and the campground for overnighters. This is a pretty shady area with tables and grills. Day-trippers can bring a picnic or food to cook on the grill. Grilling is the most fun, but it does take more work. I like to pack up a cooler with cook out fixings, but it is also fun to stop by Kentucky Fried Chicken and get a fast take out and totally kick back.

Educational Family Fun

Since this space is slightly inland and also government protected (since 1969), Carolina Beach State Park is more of a family and educational kind of area. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun, but if you are looking for beer on the beach while hot babes play volleyball, then you will be disappointed. This is not the party spot of the east coast. It is simply a neat spot with camping and fishing and quiet to get away for a weekend or a few days.

The Park is close to Fayetteville, so many military families do visit. If you are stationed in the area, be sure to check out the Park. They also offer programs focusing on education, so small groups of Scouts and such visit too. You can call ahead if you want a tour included in a visit to highlight the history and the ecological features of the park. These are well put together tours and interesting as well as educational. They cover the Native American background as well as the interesting Venus Fly Trap history. If you are a teacher, then you can even get free resource materials to share with your classes.


If you want a day trip and have a boat, then you can launch and go into the Atlantic from Carolina Beach State Park. They have 2 slips and 40 dock spots. This area has a small shop with snacks and restrooms. This is bare bones and not gourmet, so if you want filet mignon, then pack it.


Fishing is good in the area with spot, flounder, sheepshead and striped bass being the most common catches. You can boat out and fish in the inland areas or in the ocean though waters can be pretty choppy. If you don’t have a boat, then you can fish from the banks. They also have a handicap assessable pier for catching.


If you have more time, then you can camp at the Park. There are 83 spaces with two of those being wheelchair accessible. All sites have a picnic table and grill, but drinking water and restrooms with hot showers are at the bathhouses. This is not a full hook up spot, so if you want plush camping, then this is not the spot. You can dump out for a fee at the camp, but I don’t have a fancy camper, and I don’t really want to go all out on camping. Still, that is available.

Two group areas are available, but you have to reserve ahead. One can hold 20 people and the other 35 people. You get pit toilets in these spaces but no water and showers. This is the rough-it option for groups like Boy Scouts. I may end up having to go since Eli is in Scouts, but I really do not like primitive camping one bit.

The really nice thing about the camp areas (individual and group) is that they are shaded with trees. If you have been camping at the beach, then you know that many sites are in the full sun. Your tent or camper gets hot as blazes. Here, you get some relief with natural shade, which is most welcome. If you ever did bake in a sunny tent (which I did when younger) then you will appreciate the tree shade at Carolina Beach State Park.

Quick Tips

If you are not from NC or if you don’t rough it very often, then be sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray. The sun is hot and the mosquitoes can be vampirish. Wear cotton clothing that will breath and plan to change if you go out to town later. Make sure your shoes are comfortable—tennis shoes or sandals broken in are best.

Relax and enjoy. The slightly inland areas of NC tend to be slow paced. You won’t get 24-hour service, but you get good and friendly service when places are open. Bring a stash of necessities like food and toilet paper just in case. It is really bad to be hungry and paperless out in the boonies. If you can adjust a bit, then you will have a wonderful time and learn a lot to boot.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Pisgah National State Forest, North Carolina

Pisgah National Forest covers 157,000 miles including 40 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are 9 campground areas (5 group areas) and over 340 trail miles. You could spend years exploring the park, but you probably have a job and things to do, so I’ll tell you about my favorite portions of the park and surrounding areas.

The Davidson River Area is a good spot to start out. To get to DRA, look for Brevard, NC which is known as the land of waterfalls around NC. Where NC 280 and US 276 join, take 276 NW. The park area is about 1 ½ miles from the 280/276 intersection.

On 276 (which is a scenic highway), you see Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock. You can see these natural attractions from your car, but that is kind of defeating the purpose of visiting the “land of the falls.”

Be sure to take your swimming suit too, since Sliding Rock really is a natural slide of slick rock. You line up with a rope to help you pull up the mountain side and then slide down the rock into the stream-fed pool below. That is sure cold I can promise, but you will remember sliding on Sliding Rock. I slid as a kid, and then I took my boys back so they could slide too.

On into Brevard, take 64 if you want to see more waterfalls. Two good ones are Dry Falls and Bridal Veil Falls. You can walk behind Dry Fall and drive your car behind Veil Fall.

Those are really the big name falls I’ve mentioned. You’ll really have an “experience” if you do take the time to hike into the woods and make your own discoveries. The boys and I went in deeper and found a fall with a vine to swing out and drop into a big pool. The boulders were huge. We swung and swam, and the boys even did karate forms on top of the boulders. I would tell you where that fall is at, but I have no idea. We just followed a trail marked with a tie after parking on the side of the road.

From what I understand there are 100s of falls back in the Pisgah. You can ask around, and locals can direct to favorite spots or you can explore and just happen across really neat spots like the one the boys and I found.

With all that water, you can imagine that there are fish. This is the big trout fly fish area. That is when you stomp up and down in the cold stream dragging all your stuff with you while constantly throwing the fish line out and reeling back fast. My uncle talked me into doing this, so I know it is sure not sitting on the creek bank waiting for a fish to come or not. Anyway, some folks love trout fishing. My dad is one, and he says this is a good area. I will take his word for it.

There is the hatchery nearby, which is why the fishing is so good I guess. You can visit the hatchery. My boys thought that visit was neat. Millions of fish waiting to go into the streams and be caught. The boys got to throw fish food in to the fish on that visit. Just look for the Fish Hatchery signs, and stop. Folks working there will answer questions and let you feed the fish.

Another neat place to stop off is the Cradle of Forestry on 276 near the waterfalls. The Pisgah Forest is the first protected forest with studies for students to learn more about nature and cutting out trees while leaving some and planting new trees. You see the old school house and learn about the educational field of forestry. It may sound pretty dull, but it was a good stop. I’ve been about 10 times I think, and I always enjoy Cradle of Forestry.

When you’re ready to bunk down for the night, you can camp there at the Davidson River area. There are 161 spaces set up in loops. Some are in meadow areas and others lightly wooded. Each site has a table and grill. Each loop has a bath house with hot water. There are also some group camping spots with pit toilets and back country camping is allowed with some really gorgeous scenery.

If you’re more of a motel person, then you can stay in Brevard. They have several inns and B&Bs. There are also some new motels at the main intersection. I would check ahead and know where I would be staying rather than driving in and taking a chance.

Once I went into Brevard late at night, and the rooms were filled up in the chains. I saw a motel sign on a side road. I think I stayed in the Howard Bate’s garage motel. The man was quite sloshed and it seemed to me I stayed right in his house when the newspaper thumped up against the door the next morning. I will say the fellow was nice though a bit hung over the when I gave him his paper and checked out (handed him the key actually).

The only time I would suggest Brevard as the home base is during the summer during the Brevard Music Festival. Over 70 performers play music of all types. Some of the music is free, and some shows include a fee. If you plan to stay in the summer for the music festival, then you need to reserve several months ahead.

Since Ashville is only 30 miles away, I would say that staying in Ashville makes sense. You have the full range of sleep-over options in Asheville even if you don’t plan ahead. There are lots of restaurants and cultural activities in the Asheville area. It doesn’t take long to drive into Pisgah which is part of the land holdings owned by the Vanderbilt family (built the Biltmore House and donated the land for Pisgah to be saved for all to enjoy). Be sure to visit Biltmore House which looks like a palace and is the largest privately owned home in the US.

New River State Park, North Carolina

New River State Park near Boone, NC is really three park-ettes sprinkled along the edge of the New River. Since most of the land is family owned along the New River, these small state areas offer access to one of the oldest rivers in the world. In fact, geologists think the New River is second only to the Nile in age.

In 1965, Appalachian Power Company applied to dam up the New. The outcry from locals was so loud that 26.5 miles running from Dog Creek up to the Virginia state line were set-aside as a “State Scenic River.” Other titles added include “National Wild and Scenic River” (1976) and “American Heritage River” (1998). In other words, this section of the river is carefully protected and won’t end up damned under.

The best way to see the river is to canoe or to inner tube. This is a wide and easy flowing stream with lots of vegetation along the banks. If you’ve never been canoeing, if you’re teaching others to canoe, or if you want a lazy romantic ride down the river, then The New is just perfect. If you’re a thrill seeker, then you probably want to head for the Nantahala.

The state park areas are good places to park and put in your canoe. The Wagoner Road Access is at River Mile mark 26 (southeast of Jefferson). The US 221 Access is at River Mile 15 (northeast of Jefferson). The third area Allegheny County part of the park can only be reached by canoe, so you won’t be parking there. There are also bridges along the New River that can be used as launch spots if you have someone to drop you off.

If you don’t own a canoe, then you can rent at Zaloo’s Canoes 800-535-4427 or They help you jacket up and then launch for either a 2-hour trip or for an overnighter. The boys and I went on the 2-hour trip last time, and we are thinking about the overnighter for our next visit. We had a terrific time. The water was slow and shallow so that the kids could learn to paddle and steer without getting swept along and ramming into everything like when we went whitewater rafting this year.

You can camp at the state park areas, but these are primitive spaces. You’ll find a picnic table and grill as well at pit toilets and drinking water and that’s about it. If you want hook ups, then try River Camp USA (800-RIVERCAMP or or New River Canoe and Campground (336-372-8793). Both campgrounds have canoe rentals on site with pick up.

Fishing is good in the New. Smallmouth bass fishing is some of the best in the state. You can also catch muskellunge. Those are the largest fresh water game fish you can catch. They are stocked downriver of US 221 bridge. You probably need to wade in or fish from a flat bottom fishing boat, since the banks are very vegetated and much of the land is private. If you are over 16 years, then you need a NC fishing permit. You can get those at bait stores, community stores, or even at Wal Mart.

Be sure to visit the Frescos if you go to New River State Park. They are right near Zaloo’s and alongside the river. You’ll see the signs though they are small and you need to watch for them.

The Frescos are fabulous wall paintings in very small rural churches. Ben Long studied Fresco painting in Italy and returned to North Carolina with dreams of painting and of keeping the art of Fresno painting alive. Fresco painting is basically taking color and plaster and the wall is the painting or vice versa. Bigger churches would not take a chance on Long and his group of young painters-in-training, but these small churches decided to let Long paint on the walls.

You’ll find 3 very small Episcopal churches with huge paintings on the walls. One is of Mary pregnant and another of the Last Supper. Pregnant Mary causes a bit of a stir in North Carolina. Outside the churches are plants and flowers of all kinds. These look like storybook spaces, but they really are functioning churches.

Another neat place to stop is in downtown West Jefferson at Main and 4th Street. That is the Ashe County Cheese Company, which is the only cheese-making factory in NC. You can see cheese being made and buy fresh cheese. Call 336-246-2501 if you need for information on the cheese factory.

If you don’t get filled up on cheese, then try out the Garden Gate Café on East Main Street or Lily and the Three Bears Sandwich and Bakery in Glendale Springs. The Café has veggie dishes, soups and salads. Three Bears is known for the yeast bread with home-smoked meats, pies, sticky buns and such. If you want home style cooking, then Greenfield Restaurant is a good bet.

Just a little ways outside of Jefferson in Laurel Springs, you can go to an old fashioned barn dance. From 7pm to 11pm every Saturday, live music and dancing at Mountain Music Jamboree makes for a fun evening. You can order food and soft drinks, but they don’t have alcohol at the dance hall.

New River is a neat spot to visit and canoe or tube. You can stop by and take a short 2-hour trip and see the Frescos or you can stay over and enjoy the river and camp. There are also a few motels and B&Bs in the area as well as cabins for rent. I would say this is best for a weekend getaway trip. That gives you time to unwind and enjoy the river plus see the sites in the area.

Hanging Rock State Park - North Carolina

Hanging Rock State Park is in Danbury, NC. This is what we would call the foothills area. North Carolina is divided into the mountain, piedmont (where I live), and then beach area. The foothill area is where you shift from piedmont to mountains. So, you have the mountain look and feel but not the large size moutains like the Blue Ridge or Appalachian. Basically I would call the Hanging Rock Park area "mountain lite."

If you want a little taste of the mountains but don't want the harder drive angles or the slightly colder weather in our mountain areas, this would be a good bet for a day or overnight trip.

Hanging Rock is a rocky type small mountain area which you probably guessed from the name of the park. These are rocks in with lots of plants and trees (unlike the Rocky Mountains which are much rockier with fewer plants). The steams and the river in the area with the rocks make lots of pretty waterfalls.

The Visitor Center is nice. YOu can stop in and use the bathroom and see a video about the park before you begin your day or visit. In the summer, check to see about special hike programs with a guide.

Hanging Rock is a great area for hiking, because it is not as steep as the heavy mountain zone. You can get a hard climb with the rocks like on Moore's Trail at 4.2 miles and rated strenuous, but you can also take easy trails like Chestnut Oak Nature Trail which is less than a mile and very easy walking. Chestnut is a good trail for small children. There are 11 trails in all totaling 18 miles with a good range for almost any hiker.

Rock climbing is available at Cook's Wall and Moore's Wall (but not in other areas of the park). The height is around 400 feet with two miles for climbing. These are not beginning climb areas and, you do need to register on that and have the proper safety gear.

Hanging Rock has 2 picnic areas with around 100 tables. These are easy to get to and are clean. They have a couple of shelters in case of rain. If you want to buy food, then they have a light snack bar at the swimming area. I would suggest bringing a picnic, but it is nice to be able to get a snack during swimming hours.

Swimming is in the lake. Water temp for July and August works for me. I find the water cold early and late in the season. Lifeguards are on duty. But I would suggest a good buddy system esp with kids, since you can't see to the bottom of a lake.

You can also canoe or row boat on the lake. They have rentals. YOu can't bring your own boat here. Motor boats are not allowed at all.

Fishing is OK on the lake and in the streams. You need a license in NC. The main fish are bass and bream. My Dad loves to fish, and he says this is not a prime spot. It is fun for kids though, and my two boys enjoy it.

Camping is available (individual and also a group area). There are 73 sites--first come first serve. These are camp ground style rather than back woods type spots. You can use a camper, but you can't use hook ups. Campers use a bathhouse which is well maintained. If you like roughing it, then you won't find that here, and if you like luxury camping, then this is not the spot either.

You can also rent a cabin. They house six people. Although I have not rented a cabin, they look nice and the area is pretty for cabin visiting. Cabins have 2 bedrooms, kitchen and living room. You have to sign up beforehand. In the spring you must stay at least two days, and in the summer you have to stay for a full week to get one.

One thing I would mention is that the park is closed at night after 9pm. You can't get in or out unless you have an emergency situation. So plan to hang out in the evenings at the park if you stay at Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock does not have bike trails or playground equipment.

If you want to contact the park the address is: PO Box 278, Danbury NC 27016 and phone (336) 593-8480 or fax (336) 593-9166.

Overall I like Hanging Rock for a day trip (esp since I live close). The area is pretty esp the waterfalls. The hikes are easy (though you can take on more difficult hikes). I would say this park is best for families and particularly parents with small children.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Get a Fresh Made Bagel in Downtown Asheboro

The Bagel Shop is on Fayetteville Street in downtown Asheboro, NC.

Select from many delicious varieties and all made fresh in the Bagel Shop.

Bryan Vaughan opened and operates the Bagel Shop. Really nice guy.

I checked out The Bagel Shop in Asheboro, North Carolina this weekend. The owner, Bryan Vaughan, put together the town festival - a Chili Cook Out (April 2009). I was asked to help judge the chili, and we were home based in the shop.

My son didn't get to attend the Chili Cook Off, since he was helping with the Kennedy Hall Legion yard sale fundraiser. He loves bagels, so I thought I'd bring him home a treat.

Wow! These are some massive bagels. If you've only had bagels bagged at the grocery store, you don't know what you're missing. I like bagels in general, but Bryan's bagels are . . . WOW!

You know how bagels can be kind of rubbery tasting? Well, you don't get that texture at The Bagel Shop. Nope. These bagels are made fresh while you're watching, and they are nice and crusty outside and melt in your mouth tender inside. It's like the difference between getting a loaf of bread at the store and making your own sourdough bread. You don't know what you're missing, until you get the good stuff.

The Bagel Shop is right in downtown Asheboro. If you're on 64, then turn on South Park Street there at the school. This is also the area with the fast food joints and gas stations. Keep going on Park Street until you see Sunset. Turn right on Sunset and then hang a left on Fayetteville. The Bagel Shop is there on the left. You're just a couple of minutes off Highway 64. Very easy to get there.

The Bagel Shop is open from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. It's a great place for breakfast or lunch. And, you'll want to buy some bagels to take home too. They are really terrific.

Asheboro Chili Cook Off a Blazing Hot Success - April 2009

Residents of Asheboro, NC and visitors from all over enjoyed trying out the homemade chili at the First Annual Chili Cook Off.

This guy knows how to bring out the flavor. He has his hot chilis firing up the grill. Yum! Smells good and hot.

It takes a lot of time and stirring to make big pots of chili.

It did not take long for all this chili to disappear.

These young chili cooks were so personable that folks kept coming back just to say "hi."

The first ever (April 2009) Chili Cook Off in Asheboro, North Carolina was great fun. There were 20,000 to 30,000 people there who can attest to that as estimated by the police department.

Bryan Vaughan, the owner of the local Bagel Shop, came up with the idea to host the cook off. Forbes magazine had called Asheboro a dying town, and he decided to show them there's still plenty of life in this small Southern town which has been hit by the bad economy just like almost every other town in the state.

Residents of Asheboro got behind and excited about the festival, and several local businesses stepped up to sponsor the event.

The Chili Cook Off ran all day with the cooks setting up early in the morning and then the crowds rolling in around lunch time. The various chili chefs and groups handed out samples while live music on the stage had many dancing in the street which was closed off for the event.

I spent much of the afternoon at the Bagel Shop judging the chili entries along with the mayor of Asheboro, David Jarrell, Chris of Two Guys Named Chris from Rock 92, and "The Package" (the original Rhythm & Blues Comic) who wore his hot chili shirt.

Around 5 p.m. the winner of the contest was announced. Kevin Hill and Phillip Crawford had won us over, although we didn't have a clue who made the first rate chili. Turns out it was Kevin, the local butcher who owns Fresh Cuts there in Asheboro where residents can get meat cut to order as well as fresh seafood. Who would guess that the local butcher could make such a great bowl of chili? Perhaps he should sell chili in addition to meat.

There was also a Hot Head contest. They used high technology to image the heat on contestants. Two guys made it to the hottest level. Everyone thought the young guy who was sweating buckets was going to take it, but sweat cools the body down, so his levels dropped while the non-sweater was putting out the hot vibes. Someone cooled the Hot Heads down with buckets of water after the contest - whew - relief.

At the end of the night, one lucky lady won mortgage payments for a year on the raffle held throughout the day. Now. That's a grand prize for sure.

This was the first time Asheboro held the Chili Fun Day, and I hope that it will be an annual tradition. It was small town fun at its finest. People of all ages were out on a sunny day relaxing and enjoying good food and music. It was like a Southern family reunion instead of being organized to death. If a little kid got excited and jumped on the stage - no big deal. Someone snagged the kid, and the band members smiled and played on.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Getting Ready for the Asheboro Chili Cook Off - And I'm Going to be a Chili Judge

Eating Light Tonight. Judging a Chili Contest in Asheboro Tomorrow.

Greta Lint recruited me to be a judge at the great Asheboro Chili Cook Off tomorrow (April 18, 2009).

I'm coming up on the last week of classes and then exams, so I was not thinking on a road trip. But, I just can't pass up homemade chili. Yum!

Someone at worked asked me how I'd clean my palate with 40 chilis to try. The answer to that question is water. If the heat on one fries my taste buds, I'll break and have a soda cracker. Then, it's spoon to bowl again.

Others at the festival will be able to have beer. Asheboro has just passed a law for alcohol. That doesn't work so well for judging though, because you:

A. Get too full too fast.
B. Decide every bowl is fabulous and award everyone first place.
C. Wake up on the street in Ashboro the next morning wondering where's the nearest bathroom.

Speaking of the bathroom, I'm sure they'll have plenty of porta-potties. Unfortunately, I do not do well with those. The boys laughed and pretended they did not know me at the Lexington Barbecue festival, because I would go in one and come busting out coughing, gagging and not having gone. Then, I'd have to wait in line again and pray for a better smelling one.

I have come up with the perfect plan for that porta-potty problem. I stopped at Harris Teeter and got a pack of Immodium. This is not something I use (which is why I had to stop at the store), so the plan may backfire. Also, I suppose it will not help if I go too heavy on the water between bowls of chili. It is also possible that I may have to make a Sunday run to Harris Teeter for Ex-Lax. We shall see.

The other thing I am thinking on is - What to wear? This is girl pattern behavior. But, it could factor in. If I wear my hot low rider jeans along with taking Immodium, I may have to unbutton the button, and that would not look very professional. So, I am thinking it will be loose jeans (and do I have any after working all winter on a summer grill feature for Consumers Digest?) or elastic pants.

Given that it's supposed to be hot and sunny tomorrow and in view of the fact that the make up lady down at Belks tells me I'm a 2 (pale - for those who do not know), I suppose I will have to wear a hat. Hats do not become me, and I suffer greatly from hat head with my fine hair. Better than burned I suppose. I think I'll wear the one in the photo, so you can find me at the Asheboro Chili Cook Off. Just look for the woman in stretch pants, running out the door of the porta-potty, wearing a camoflauge hat. Once I catch my breath, tell me "hi."

I plan to go early and also plan to take my son's new TomTom GPS. Hopefully I do not end up at Bojangles, because the best I can tell that is his main program in there. Every Bojangles in every city comes up on his GPS map. Go figure. No gas stations. No hospitals. Just Bojangles.

The Asheboro Chili Cook Off is a full blown street festival, so I am also looking forward to hearing the music, checking out the kids playing in the Kid's Zone, and watching the Hot Head Contest. I'll have to buy a raffle ticket too, because the winner gets $8000 or up to $1000 a month toward mortgage payments for a year.

OK. Enough blabbing. I need to go take that Immodium (or maybe you do that in the morning - need to find reading glasses and check directions) and also must see about pants that allow room for eating 40 bowls of chili.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Yard Sale in Rowan County, NC - Kennedy Hall Legion Post 106

If you live in or close Rowan County, NC (that's in the Salisbury, NC area), make plans to visit Kennedy Hall Legion Post 106 on April 18, 2009 for a big yard sale.

The Legion members have collected items for the yard sale, and they also are renting yard sale booths at 20 x 20 feet for $15. If you rent a space, then you get to keep all your own profits. The contact for space is Randy at 704-431-4169.

The guys are making and selling breakfast as well. I've heard they are thinking about sausage biscuits. They are thinking that this will be mostly a morning project, but I don't have the exact hours yet.

If it does happen to rain, they have a nice building and also a shelter, so this is rain or shine.

This was my Dad's Legion Post, and I have so many memories of the things that Kennedy Hall Legion did for the community over the years. I always loved to go see Santa Claus at the Legion and get a treat bag, and the Easter Egg hunts were the highlight of Spring. My boys enjoyed these same activities after I moved back to the area.

The group also sponsors kids for Boys and Girls State. I had the opportunity to attend Girls State through Kennedy Hall Legion, and my son went to Boys State. They also offer yearly scholarships. All four kids in my family were awarded those and also my oldest son. The younger one is still in high school.

Kennedy Hall will always hold a real special place in my heart even though my Dad died in an accident on I77. The members and families at the Legion have always made it clear that we're still "family."

If you are close, do come out. You will find great deals, nice people, and help support good causes which are especially important during lean times.

Kennedy Hall American Legion is on Highway 801 with a Salisbury address, but most people will tell you it's basically in Woodleaf, NC. You get on Highway 70 or Statesville Blvd on the stretch between Salisbury and Statesville, NC. The turn for 801 is about half way between the two towns - around 12 miles either way. You can't turn wrong on 801, because there's only one direction to turn for that road. Drive a mile or less, and Kennedy Hall Legion is on the left. It's back off the road a bit with trees. The driveway loops, and there's plenty of parking.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Asheboro Chili Cook Off - April 2009

My friend Greta sent some more information about the Asheboro, North Carolina Chili Cook Off.

News on the April Chili Cook Off in NC

Even though the Asheboro Chili Cookoff is giving away $1,500 to the lucky winner, the money isn’t what has pulled more than 40 cooks to the event. They just want to have fun at the town’s newest street festival.

The event will be held on Saturday, April 18, 2009 from 1-10 p.m. in downtown Asheboro. The event will include musical entertainment, a Kid’s Zone, a Hot Head Contest and lots of tasting. The winner of a raffle drawing will go home with either $8,000 or up to $1,000 a month mortgage payment for a year.

The slate of cookers ranges from novices who like to cook a pot of chili for their family – to award-winning contestants – to professional chefs. The common ingredient is they all have a passion for cooking. And when any of them throw a dinner party, they never get turned down.

Most have been testing their recipes – thus sparking more fun at home. Paul Stephanacci, of Asheboro, N.C., says the contest has become a family project. His wife, Robin, his mother, Ruth, four children and their spouses have been helping out. “Our chili is going to include the kitchen sink if I can get it in there,” he chuckled. This is his first chili cook-off, but with his neighbors, family and friends, he’s already a winner. “We’ve had rave reviews on our dry runs.” With strong Italian heritage, Stephanacci joked, “Even the Pope called wanting the recipe, but I had to turn him down!”

Neal Allen, from Asheboro, explained, “I’m a scientist and an artist in the kitchen. I love creating flavors and making blends. I love experimenting.”

He’s a graduate from the Baltimore International Culinary College and works at Jugtown Café in Seagrove, N.C. Like the internationally-renowned Seagrove potters who masterfully create glazes for their pots, Allen works with starches, sugars and complex compounds in food. And old family recipes. Part of his creation is based upon a Southwestern recipe from the 1800s. His chili has won awards at other contests.

The team of Don Johnson and Ricky Jordan, from Asheboro, have won awards for their barbecue, but this is the first time they’ve entered a chili contest. Regionally, they’re known for their ‘Q at the Pinehurst Relay for Life. “But we wanted to do something different,” said Johnson. An avid gardener, his recipe will include preserved produce from his ½-acre garden. “I canned my tomatoes myself, so they have little salt and no preservatives. They’re healthy.”

“Our natural grass-fed beef will come from three local farms,” said Jordan. Their team is called “Country Cooking,” but will be serving “Caraway Fire Chili.”

Ashlee and James Edwards, owners of Off-the-Square restaurant in downtown Albemarle, are blending North Carolina and Texas tastes. “I’m from Texas,” said Ashlee. “You know, we are proud of our food and Texas beef chili. But my husband is from Asheboro, and he knows all about pork barbecue. So our chili will be a blend of both.”

With a combined 22 years of restaurant experience, the couple has learned from one another about cooking. Ashlee reflected, “He graduated from the Cordon Bleu School of Culinary Arts and taught me some technical tricks in the kitchen. But I tend to be more spontaneous. So on the chili cookoff day, he’ll be tending the meat. But when he turns away, I’ll add a little more spice to it!”

“Mine will be a creative masterpiece,” says Joel Leonard, of Asheboro. Songwriter, professional writer and host of, he just bought a new grill for the event. He’s been testing various recipes, one with beef marinated in Frangelica, a hazelnut-flavored liquor and beans soaked in Belgian beer. “Oh, the meat was absolutely delicious,” he commented. “But I’m still working on the right blend.”

Tourism writer and consultant Greta Lint says her research indicates the primary reason people attend a chili cook-off is for the chili. “It tugs at our curiosity – what will it taste like? Hot? Mild? Sweet? The anticipation is a common denominator that pulls us all together.”

For more information, log onto or call organizer Bryan Vaughan at 336-302-4968.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Outer Banks North Carolina - Rustic Beauty on the Coast of NC

You'll Find Lots of Creative Art on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

Dock on the Outer Banks of NC. You Can Rent Boats and Go Fishing If You Like.

To Hop From Island to Island - Just Take a Ferry. Be Sure to Check Schedules Though.

If You Stay a While or Get Lucky, You Can see Wild Ponies on the Outer Banks.

Cape Hatteras National Park is really a string of islands called the “outer banks”of North Carolina. The park includes land running up three islands off the coast of North Carolina. The park stretches about 70 miles with the average width for the islands being about a mile across.

These islands are called the outer banks, since they provide protection for the mainland coast of North Carolina and serve as a buffer. Since the islands are battered by the ocean and storms, the shape of the islands changes constantly. This is a good area for anyone interested in how the oceans impact our coastlines.

On the flip side, the islands have seen many ship wrecks from the ocean side. If you’re a history buff, then you’ll want to read up on the wrecks during the World War era when German U boats washed up on the shores. Divers should check out Olympus Dive Center to learn about wrecks to visit underwater.

Since the shoreline is rough and ragged with harsh weather at times, each island supports a lighthouse to warn boaters. Lighthouse models are very popular souvenir items to purchase on the islands and on the mainland. This is a fabulous spot to visit if you love lighthouses and lighthouse history.

On to the Park(s) . . .

My suggestion for a trip would be to travel the length of the islands and plan on staying at Ocracoke. You get a better feel for the area and the history by taking your time and hitting all three islands. This is a slow and easy drive with lots of places to stop off and look around.

Bodie Island

The first island starting north and moving south is Bodie. Actually it’s not really an island anymore. As the landscape has changed, Bodie has shifted and connected to mainland NC at Nags Head, NC. Be sure to visit Kitty Hawk and see where the Wright Brothers took their first flight before (or after) you visit the islands.

Most visitors hit the outer banks by way of Bodie. The Bodie Lighthouse has a visitors center and museum. This is the third lighthouse at Bodie. The government wouldn’t put money into securing the first lighthouse, so it washed out during a storm. The second one was destroyed during the Civil War. The current lighthouse built in 1872 is slim black and white striped. Visitors can’t go in the lighthouse, but it is nice for pictures.

From the lighthouse area, you can take an easy trail—Bodie Island Dike Trail. This is a marshy area with lots of water birds. There is a fresh water pond created with a dam, which is the home to many ducks. Easter Seals donated a beach wheelchair with big tires, which can be borrowed so that disabled visitors can go on the trails and down on the beach.

You can pick up a map and information about the park at the Visitor Center, which was the house for the light keeper at one point. Light keepers were no longer needed to maintain the lighthouses after electric lights were added. That’s kind of sad, since lighthouse keeping sounded like a really romantic way to make a living.

Be sure to check out the summer programs offered at all three islands. One program is crabbing where you go out and learn to catch crabs. Another is a beach campfire. Kids can also pick up a Junior Ranger brochure. By taking part in some programs and activities, kids can earn a patch during the trip.

Hatteras Island

To get to Hatteras (the second island) you drive highway 12 across the bridge from Bodie. This is the biggest island and the most touristy though none of the islands on the park line are developed like most beach areas.

Hatteras is the home of the nations tallest lighthouse (208 feet). The lighthouse was almost eaten up by the ocean, but it was moved back in 1999. This is the only lighthouse in the park that you can go inside. It has been closed due to some safety problems with the steps, but it is expected to be open again soon.

Hatteras is the largest of the islands and makes up the biggest portion of the national park. Here you will find the bulk of island visitors. Camping is popular here and also boating. The Park has four campgrounds with low prices, and you’ll also see some commercial campgrounds. Marinas are scattered up and down the shoreline.

Swimming is open on the sound side and ocean side. Water is calm and warmer on the sound side and is good for beginning swimmers. The ocean side has good surfing and wind-boarding. If you don’t have equipment, you can rent or buy on the island.

Fishing is considered some of the best on the east coast. If you fish in the ocean, then you don’t need a license (or not the last time I checked). Fishing from the sound requires a NC fishing license for ages 16 and over.

Ocracoke Island

Okracoke is the isolated and least visited of the outer banks islands, because you can’t drive over. To get to Okracoke you take a 40-minute ferry ride over from Hatteras or from the mainland at Swan Quarter or Cedar Island. The mainland trip over takes about 2 ½ hours.

To get a feel for the island and the history or this sleepy area, be sure to stop at the Visitor Center there on the harbor. You can get information about a walking tour. You cover the town and read about the great history. It takes about an hour and a half to take the self-paced tour. They also have car tour information by tuning in on the AM station.

One of the most interesting stories on the island is about Black Beard the pirate. His head was cut off on this island and sent to Bath, NC. His treasure is supposed to be somewhere buried on Ocracoke.

There are lots of quaint privately owned little shops on the island. They also have two small grocery stores that will remind you of the old time stores on the Little House on the Prairie TV show from a few years back.

When you get hungry, try The Back Porch, which is about a half mile north of town. It’s a small place with a screened in porch. The food is really good, and you can even buy a cookbook featuring the specialties.

About 5 miles outside the village off of Highway 12 you’ll see the Baker ponies. No one is sure how the ponies got to the island, but they have many interesting stories about that. The ponies ran free up until the 1950s when the area was closed in to protect the island from overgrazing and to protect the ponies from traffic. At one point the Boy Scouts cared for the ponies, but now the Park Rangers do that.

You can rent bikes for traveling around Ocracoke, and that is probably the best way to see and enjoy the island. If you drive a car, then you don’t see much water (on any of the islands), and you don’t get to stop and chat with locals and other visitors.

A Different Beach Experience

Cape Hatteras is a very different beach experience from commercial areas like Ocean City or Myrtle Beach. You’ll see natural beaches, marshes, and lots of water birds. It’s quieter and the pace is slower. If you enjoy nature, then this is the beach spot you’ll love.

During the warmer months, this area is fairly busy. During the cold weather, you’ll have the beach almost to yourself. If you visit during colder weather, you’ll need to bring food and supplies. Many shops and restaurants close down during the off-season.

A Few Extra Tips

-Be sure to use sunscreen. Although the sun may not feel as intense on the island, you can easily burn.

-There are lots of bugs on the islands. Mosquitoes and horse flies may eat you up especially if you lotion up. Take some bug spray (or eat lots of garlic).

-Keep a jacket in the trunk. When a storm comes up or when the sun goes down, the temperatures drop a lot.

-Stick a kite in. This is a great area to fly kites. Kites also make good markers if members of your group wander on down the shore.

Want To Hear the Flavor of the Outer Banks? Check out this video. You will the islanders talk about the various terms from the area. You will also hear the interesting dialect from the eastern shore of the Outer Banks. Plenty of humor thrown in too.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pilot Mountain State Park, North Carolina - Almost Mayberry

Pilot Mountain Knob - Close Up of the Unique Hump on A North Carolina Landmark

Pilot Mountain is Easy to See From the Highway

Pilot Mountain State Park is one of many parks in North Carolina. It is just off highway 52 between Mount Airy and Winston Salem. Pilot Mtn State Park is about 14 miles from Mt. Airy and about 25 miles from Winston. It's not really in a town. It's off the road as you travel. That may only make sense in NC. But, it is off the beaten track I would say.

You’ve probably seen the Andy Griffith show and remember Andy and friends talking about going up to Mount Pilot. Although Mount Pilot was a fictional town, the name came from Pilot Mountain which can be seen from Andy’s real home town, Mt. Airy.

You’ll know you’re getting near Pilot Mountain State Park when you see the big bump on the mountain as you’re driving down the highway. Actually there are two bumps, but the one you can see and the one that gave the mountain the name Pilot Mountain is the big bump. The big bump looks like the pilot hump of one of those old time airplanes. So that’s why it’s called Pilot Mountain.

There are 2 sections to the state part. One part is the mountain park and the other is the Yadkin River section. Both are primitive areas with lots of wildlife to see.

In NC, we have loads of deer, squirrels, fox, and even brown bears.

In the mountain section, you have look-out areas with beautiful views. One especially good spot to look is near the small bump. Any time of the year is worth a look, but the fall is the best when the leaves are turning all colors.

The mountain section is good for a picnic. They have tables in several spots and one shelter which you can use if it has not been reserved by a group (max number = 35). Grills are available if you want to cook out. They have canned sodas in the park office, but you probably just want to bring a cooler to this park.

The mountain section is great for hiking. There are trails for all levels. You can take an easy one mile walk on up to a 5 miler or go rock climbing. The Yadkin River section adjoins the mountain section, but it is on flatter ground and on the water. This is also a nice area for walking, and you can also ride the horse trails.

If you like to fish, you can fish in the Yadkin River. Cat fish are good catching in the area. You need a NC fishing license over age 16. Many of the community stores sell those as well as some chains like Wal-Mart.

One of the most fun things to do is to canoe and then camp in the Yadkin section. You need to bring a canoe though, as the park does not rent those out. If you can get a canoe, then you can ride in the river and go over to the island and camp there. This is very back woods camping with no water or bathroom, but it is a fun thing to do if you’re into that sort of thing.

If you are not the rough-it sort of person, then you can camp in the tent-camper section near the river. In this section, you do have a nice bathhouse. Pilot Mountain Park is good for a quick stopover from the highway or for a day trip. They are open from about sun up to sun down. Check the times before you go as the gates are locked after hours. You don’t have to pay to get in and look around either.

If you decide to visit Pilot Mountain, then be sure to visit the Horne Creek Farm which is right there on the edge of the Yadkin River park section. You can learn about old time farming. They are opened most weekends and also for group tours during the week if you call and make arrangements.

You’ll also want to stop by in Mount Airy (20 minutes or so). Although Mt. Airy is larger than Mayberry, you still get that small southern town feeling. As I mentioned, this really is Andy’s home town.

Look for the Snappy Diner which was mentioned on the TV show. You can get a pork chop sandwich there and other southern foods.

When you’re driving around in the area, stop at one of the road stands. They are all over the place in the mountains. Those are fun to visit. If you’re hungry, then some of our local products are the apples in season, apple cider, jams, jellies, honey, peanuts roasted, and fried fat back (usually called pork rinds). You can also get garden grown vegetables in the spring and fall. One of my favorites - Cherokee purple tomatoes. Those are mellow and really yummy.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

North Carolina's First State Park - Mount Mitchell

Mount Mitchell - Highest Mountain Peak East of the Mississippi River

Mount Mitchell is the first state park developed in North Carolina. It was taken over by the state in 1915 to prevent the logging of the fir trees. That saved the trees then, but now they are dead from acid rain and aphid bugs of modern times. You’ll see what looks like a tree graveyard up at the top with the evergreens striped down to just skeleton trunks with limp limbs sticking out. That may sound pretty unattractive, but it’s just an eerie kind of look up at the top of the mountain.

The mountain and park are named for Dr. Elisha Mitchell who taught at UNC-Chapel Hill. Mitchell explored the Black Mountain range and is the one who figured out how to calculate heights for the range. He was only 12 feet shy on his estimate of Mount Mitchell. He died when he fell down the waterfall and drowned. He is buried up next to the observation tower where you’ll see a market with some details about him.

When I was a kid, the elementary school used to take classes up to Mount Mitchell. We would spend the day going up and down the observation tower and hiking the trails. Actually we would park in the lower lot and climb up to the peak where the tower stands. That’s about 6 miles and strenuous climbing unless you are in elementary school. Our teachers must have been younger than we thought back then, because they always hiked up that steep incline with us. I can say that it is a work out now with my two boys.

The reason we visited Mount Mitchell with school classes was because it is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. It’s part of the Black Mountain range, which is a small range above the Smokey Mountains. Although the range is smaller than our other mountain ranges with only about 15 miles of mountains in the chain, this one has the highest peaks with Mount Mitchell being the highest of all at 6684 feet.

We also visited, because it was an easy day trip from near Charlotte, NC. Mount Mitchell is a half hour north of Asheville, NC in Burnsville. The only way to get to Mount Mitchell is from the Blue Ridge Parkway on NC 128. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a beautiful drive through the mountains across several eastern states, and it’s a nice drive except during heavy snow.

When you get off the Parkway at Mount Mitchell, you just follow the signs. You can park at a lower level and walk up or you can drive up to the top. At the top, you have a great view unless it’s foggy. You can see for miles and miles. Climb the observation tower for an even better view. Kids really love the tower.

If you’re hungry, the park has a snack bar. It is also the only state park with a full restaurant (May 1 to October 31 only). There are no restaurants on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so this is a nice stop if you want to eat. Of course, you can also take a picnic. They have 40 picnic tables on a first come basis. Two shelters are available with 2 tables each. There are some grills too if you want to cook out.

Camping is available, but there are only 9 spaces. These are tent spaces, and you don’t have bathrooms or hot water. You can also register and park at Mount Mitchell and then hike into the Pisgah National Forest which connects. This would be backpack camping and very back woods.

If you are visiting Asheville or driving the Blue Ridge Parkway, this is a great stop. The views are terrific. You can also learn about our forests and how modern life is impacting and destroying the evergreens. You can check about the educational programs, and school groups are always welcome just as they were back when I was a kid.

This would also be a good park to home base from if you want to do some deep woods camping. I prefer a real bathroom myself and some hot running water, but if I decided to really rough it, then this would be my pick for a first time.

If you want more info or want to contact the park, then call 828-675-4611.

Grand Canyon of North Carolina - Linville Gorge

Sunset Table Rock at Linville Gorge, North Carolina

Linville Falls in the Rocky Area of Linville Gorge

Linville Gorge is often called The Grand Canyon of North Carolina. It’s really a very different kind of “canyon” though. The gorge is covered with hardwoods and has lush undergrowth mixed with massive rocks. While much of the NC mountain area was logged before national and state land was set aside, this area was not. It was simply too wild for loggers to bother with.

The Linville River starts out on Grandfather Mountain then leaks over the edge in spectacular falls (Linville Falls) and cuts a twisting path through the gorge wilderness area. Native Americans called the river Eeseeoh which means river of many cliffs. That’s very fitting. The name Linville was given in memory of an explorer and his son who were scalped by Cherokees in 1766. Actually, some legends say that the son, John, did live through the experience.

This mostly “untouched” area is a favorite with backcountry travelers. In addition to primitive camping, the area is popular for hunting, fishing, and rock climbing. Although a few brave souls have attempted to ride the waters, this is not a white water space.

There are two main entrance areas to the gorge—one on the east and one on the west. Most visitors come in on the east side near Table Rock and Linville Falls. These areas are not inside the park boundaries, but a trail connects over to the wilderness area.

It’s a good idea to drop by the Linville Gorge Information Center first. If you plan to camp, you’ll have to get a permit before you hike in. Since the area is really popular, the limit is 3 nights in the gorge. Even if you don’t plan to camp, you can get maps and the park rangers will tell you great stories and give you tips for enjoying the area. Checking in is important safety wise too. Between 45 and 50 folks are injured each year and many hikers/campers get lost.

The Info Center is located off NC Hwy 183 about ½ a mile. You take Secondary State Route 1238 (also called Country Line Road or Kistler Memorial Highway).

Once you’re ready to go into the area, you’ll drive up steep mostly dirt roads to small parking areas and hike in. You really need a 4-wheel drive to get back into the gorge area especially if you try it from the west side of the park.

Once you’re in, you have some lightly blazed trails scattered with big boulders with a variety of interesting names given by past hikers. The trails are steep and difficult. You often cross over the water. There are plenty of rocks for climbing. Fishing is excellent. Some of the largest trout in the state are in the stream, and you can also catch small mouth bass. You can hunt too though I don’t hunt.

For more information on the wilderness area, call 828-257-4202.

If you just want to see this beautiful area, but you don’t want to rough it, then stop by Table Rock. It is right on the edge of the wilderness area. You can park and see the gorge area and some of the falls or take shorter hikes on trails. The Table Rock Trail is one mile and pretty strenuous, but certainly not the hard hiking in the wilderness area. They have parking, picnic tables, and a bathroom area (no running water) at Table Rock.

Another option is to visit Grandfather Mountain and just look down on the gorge area. This tourist attraction is very user friendly. You can drive right up to the top to the visitor’s center and then walk across the mile high bridge over to the rock area. From the rocks, you can look out over the gorge. They have a gift shop and a restaurant as well as a small animal exhibit. Phone 800-468-7325.

If you’re visiting the wilderness area or one of the view areas, be sure to stop by Linville Caverns located in Linville Valley in Marion, NC. This cave is small with many tunnels. A stream runs through the cave. Local trout swim in the river and are blind from living in the dark. Tour guides are excellent at this cave site. The phone number is 800-419-0540.

Linville Gorge is a beautiful area in North Carolina. If you want a real mountain adventure, then plan to visit the wilderness park. You will be sure to leave with lots of memories and stories. If you want to see this area, but you’re not sure about going totally wild, then try Table Rock. Grandfather Mountain is good if you just want to stop and view. Any option will be fun.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Common Sense Tips - Nantahala White Water River Area - North Carolina

Mountain Wild Flowers in North Carolina

The Nantahala River area in North Carolina is a beautiful and rustic area of the state. Nantahala is known most for the white water rafting, but it’s also a pretty place to rest and look at the scenery. You’ll enjoy the mountain flowers in the spring, the water in the summer, leaves in the spring, and snow in the winter.

Remember that this is small town are and rural even though you will see some tourists and tourist attractions. Locals don’t get in a hurry. You may have to wait in line to buy stuff while someone shows off pictures of grandkids or talks about the weather.

Ask about fun things to do in the area. Many of the sites are hard to find or not listed at all. One of the locals told us about the cave and another gave us directions to rent the pontoon boat. Another loaned us a phone when the phone went out in the cabin. If you are looking for small town charm and kindness, this is where you’ll find it.

Be sure to use the bathroom before you hit the road. You won’t find many rest stops or gas stations. Sure. There are places to see and stop, but you’ll find long stretches of trees and wildlife.

You’ll also want to keep the gas tank filled and carry some food. I would suggest taking soda crackers. The roads are very winding, and both my boys threw up. The crackers helped a lot. Dramamine would be a good idea for those who get motion sickness, but that can make you sleepy. I’d say to try the crackers first.

Picnic supplies are a good idea. There are lots of roadside tables or pretty spots to stop and eat. We carried a cooler with us everywhere and had cold drinks or something to eat when we got hungry. You’ll go long stretches without seeing a restaurant or drink machine in Nantahala. You’ll also save money by taking food with you.

Take warm clothing. Even in the summer, this area can get cool. It also rains pretty often. We kept a change of clothes with us in the trunk of the car . . . just in case. Since I got soaked on the white water rafting trip, I was glad to have dry things to put on. We also bought those reef runner slip on shoes at Wal-Mart. Those are a good idea, since you’ll often get wet feet and walk in mud. You can just rinse those shoes in the creek and set them on the car hood to dry off.

Relax in Murphy, North Carolina - Fishing, Boating, Hiking

Harbor Cove Marina in Bear Paw, NC - near Murphy, NC

My Youngest Son Learns to Drive at Boat on the Lake in Murphy, North Carolina

Murphy is a small town in the very tip of North Carolina, but it is central to the big North Carolina and Tennessee tourist areas. We were a couple of hours from Asheville, Chattanooga, and Knoxville. Murphy is also close to Gatlinburg, Pigeon Forge, Maggie Valley, and Cherokee (about a hour to any of those areas). If you head back down the mountain, you can also white water raft on the Nantahala or closer – cross the state line into Tennessee and test yourself on the Ocoee.

Right in Murphy off Highway 294, you’ll find a recreation area. Just look for the brown sign about 5 miles or so after you turn off 64. The area is on the lake with a fishing pier and lots of ducks. They have picnic tables and grills under a shelter. You can walk around the edge of the lake to the dam and fish off the dam or along the edge of the lake. We had the best luck fishing in brushy areas before the dam.

Howard’s Bait Shop is on the right before you get to the Park turn in off 294. You can get your fishing license and also live bait there at the shop. They also had frog legs when we were up there. Those were for eating and not for bait. We picked up a box of frog legs on the way home and really enjoyed having some fried frog legs back at home.

If you want to rent a boat to ride on the lake, then go to the end of 294. You have to turn right or left. Go right and then a few miles down you will see a marina sign. Follow the dirt road down to the edge of the lake. You can rent a canoe, fishing boat, or a pontoon. We got the pontoon which was wonderful for fishing and also for climbing in and out of the lake to swim. There is a little island a few miles toward the damn with a picnic table.

This Marina is Harbor Cove Marina. The phone number is 828-644-9310. You may need to call to check the lake water levels as it’s been dry the last few years in North Carolina. They also have a limited number of boats to send out, so a reservation is a good plan too – although we just dropped by and got a boat rental set up. The people renting the boats are very friendly. The people docking there are as well. I climbed up in the boat with some guys to try to rent, and they were just regular guys on their own boat. They just laughed and said we could come along, but I had them point us to where we were supposed to go to rent the pontoon.

There’s a second boat rental company right next to the Hiwassee Dam. The marina is inside the gated community of homes and condos there. You may want to ask someone there at the dam exactly where to turn. Once you get inside the gate, the signs are easy to follow, but we missed the turn in on the first run through. They had more boats for rent. They also have snacks and drinks. It’s more formal than Harbor Cove.

We often stay in Murphy or Bear Paw, North Carolina, because the area is very pretty, peaceful, and we’re still close to all the places the boys like to check out on vacation. We generally rent a cabin for a week and then white water raft one day, boat on the lake another, and then hit one of the big tourist towns one day. Some days or in the evenings, we just grill out and play Scrabble or watch TV. So, we come home actually feeling like we’ve had a vacation rather than like we need one.

Nantahala, North Carolina - Relaxing Area for White Water Rafting and Central to Many Vacation Spots

Relaxing (or maybe rowdy) Family Dinner at Rental Cabin - NC Mountains

If you’ve been thinking about a quiet and relaxing vacation in North Carolina, then the Nantahala River area is a good place to get away from it all.

Nantahala is an Indian word roughly translated as “land of the midday sun.” That’s pretty fitting, since the Nantahala Forest is like a big bowl with mountains cupping up around and blocking out direct sun except for the middle of the day.

The Nantahala Forest is located right below and connected to the Great Smokey Mountain National Park and the Cherokee Indian reservation. In fact, a small portion of Nantahala is reservation. The Trail of Tears (the route Native Americans were forced to walk when relocated to Oklahoma) cuts through the upper edge of Nantahala.

Nantahala is less well known than other North Carolina outdoor areas and is quieter and less touristy. The boys and I walked trails without seeing any other people and had the lake almost to ourselves when we rented a pontoon boat. The only area where we saw crowds was the whitewater rafting area which runs about 16 miles along truck route 74 between Bryson City and Murphy.

If you really need a break from it all, then the Nantahala Forest area is a wonderful place to stay. There are lots of places to camp including right along the edge of the river. If your idea of roughing it does not include sleeping in a tent, there are a few motels (of course) and also rental cabins. We rented a cabin for the week, and that was an excellent choice. The balcony hung out over the Nantahala River, so we could enjoy the water day or night.

Nantahala is also centrally located. In addition to white water rafting, we also visited Cherokee, Dollywood (in Tennessee), and went to the caves near Telico Plains (TN) and saw the ghosty white fish. Those were easy day trips from the rental cabin. So, we had the best of it all – some action and adventure but a homey place when we called it a day.

Rafting on the Nantahala.