Monday Mountains…

We drove into the darkness on Sunday to get to Birmingham. The only observations from the drive on Sunday were we both commented on how dry Mississippi looked. It was a noticeable change right at the state line. The roadside went from green in Louisiana to brown looking in Mississippi. I think it was actually a difference in mowing patterns more than actual dryness.

The leaves were beginning to show some color toward afternoon, just not much. The change to Daylight Saving Time sure played havoc with arriving in Birmingham before dark. We probably drove two hours after sunset before we could get lost looking for the hotel.

I am in love with the GPS enabled laptop and DeLorme Topo Maps. Being able to see where you are at all times is great (especially for those in the car who can’t read a map anyway).

Waking up this morning and walking outside…Oh, my God…Is this what fall is supposed to look like. From the first mile of the drive out of Birmingham the colors just glowed in the rising sun. All the way into Tennessee the hills and then the mountains were just beautiful. We didn’t stop much as we were trying to cover miles and make Asheville before sundown.

One of the few stops was made at the Boyd Gap Overlook. We stopped there last year in July and loved the view. Here is one shot I grabbed there…

Once we checked in in Asheville we decided to go out and get our bearings. Since it was getting close to sundown I decided to run up the Parkway and see if I could catch a shot. Here is one I managed to push through this evening…

It’s been a long day and we have the Biltmore to do tomorrow, see ya.

Brinegar Cabin

On the eastern edge of the Blue Ridge way up in northwestern North Carolina there sits a cabin. Built by hand in the 1880’s it is said by one Martin Brinegar for his bride Carolyn Joines. For six score of years this cabin has watched the seasons roll around the calendar. Winters turning into spring, gardens reaching for summer skies, putting food by through the autumn so the winter would roll around again.

A cool, misty, rainy day on the Blue Ridge of North Carolina…a sturdy log cabin for shelter…a warm fire in the fireplace. There’s a garden out back, planted with the seeds we saved from last year. There is a springhouse down below with milk from the cow fresh this very morning. The cow and her calf are in the pen out by the barn. Chickens and pigs or turning and scratching the fall garden plot. there is fresh butter being churned by the door. Momma is working on grannies loom, cloth for new clothes for the comin’ winter. The dogs are resting under the porch awaiting the next hunting trip into the woods up the hollow…Life is hard here on the Blue Ridge but really…what more could a family ask for?

Life on the Blue Ridge had its blessings even at the end of the 19th century when Martin and Caroline raised their children here. The cabin Martin built stands still in the little hollow off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The view of the rolling piedmont below and the cool summers must have been one of the things that kept the Brinegars on the Blue Ridge for their life together.

The little cluster of log buildings aren’t very imposing but they were home to Martin and Caroline for going on 50 years. Good years and bad, these buildings have weathered everything nature and man have thrown there way. Inside the cabin stands the loom Caroline inherited from her mother…The loom she used to make the cloth that clothed her family. The cloth that made the blankets that kept out the cold on those winter nights when the icicles would reach the ground from the eaves.

The 1900 census records show that Martin and Caroline raised three children in this cabin. First born was Alice, then Sarah in June of 1881. A son John W. was born in September of 1888. The spacing tends to leave one to suspect other babies were lost to the hardness of the times.

The 1920 census finds Martin and Caroline still in the cabin on the Blue Ridge with their grandson Bearl at 7 keeping them company. It would not be hard to visualize the young grandson playing on the porch in the photo below. By mid decade Martin will be laid to rest in the little cemetery on a knoll above what is now the Blue Ridge Parkway. Caroline will continue to live in the cabin until the government purchases it for the new park. Not long after, she will again rest beside Martin.

The next time you are cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway and pass the sign for the Brinegar Cabin pull in and spend some time thinking about what it was like to be living on the mountain shortly after the Civil War…

Todd, North Carolina

Todd, North Carolina is one of the few places I haven’t managed to trek through in my western North Carolina mountain stomping grounds to be. I read about Todd before our first trip and it’s been on the short list of places to visit ever since. But for some reason, we just haven’t made the trip yet. A link on Fred’s Fragments From Floyd about a chance conversation with the author Lee Smith at Hindman Settlement School led to her Op-Ed at the NY Times.

WHEN we bought our mountain cabin here two decades ago, Todd was almost a ghost town. Only the General Store (established 1914) had stayed open since Todd’s heyday back in the early 1900s.

But this summer evening, I find a traffic jam when I head into town (population only 50, but 900-plus in the area) to hear some old-time music at the store’s Friday jam, and check out the dance at the old Mercantile building.

Source: Fiddling for Dollars – New York Times

A while back, Marie Freeman did a series of photos in Todd on her BlueRidge blog. You can find them here…Todd, North Carolina. I see Marie caught the latest news from New York also…

If you hurry down to Todd today, they are having their “Storytelling” at 6pm every Tuesday. This week (today, Aug 7) it’s Charlotte Ross; next week, Aug 14th has Orville Hicks on the schedule. You can check their calendar at the website Todd General Store.

On the second Saturday in October Todd hosts the New River Festival on the banks of the New River‚ which flows beside the town. Once a bustling railroad center‚ the town of Todd is now a quiet hamlet. This festival offers an old-fashioned gospel sing‚ a checkers playoff‚ a horseshoe toss‚ craft displays‚ storytelling‚ and bluegrass music all day.

In the Mountains

A year ago, My family was preparing for our first trip to the Highland Games. To say we all enjoyed them would be an understatement. From the moment we stepped through the gates until we made our way back down the mountain at the end of the day, we had a ball. From the athletics to the people watching to the music, we wandered MacRae Meadows over and over. I even picked up the one thing I have always wanted…My very own Claymore.

The two-handed claymore was a large sword used in the Medieval period. It was used in the constant clan warfare and border fights with the English from circa 1300 to 1700.[citation needed] The last known battle in which it is considered to have been used in a significant number was the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. It was somewhat smaller than other two-handed swords of the era. The two-handed claymore seems to be an offshoot of Early Scottish medieval swords which had developed a distinctive style of a cross-hilt with downsloping arms that ended in spatulate swellings. The spatulate swellings were frequently made in a quatrefoil design.

The average claymore ran about 140 cm (55″) in overall length, with a 33 cm (13″) grip, 107 cm (42″) blade, and a weight of approximately 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), the blades are most similar to the type XIIIa, using the Oakeshott typology. Fairly uniform in style, the sword was set with a wheel pommel often capped by a crescent-shaped nut and a guard with straight, down-sloping arms ending in quatrefoils and langets running down the center of the blade from the guard. Another common style of two-handed claymore (though lesser known today) was the “clamshell hilted” claymore. It had a crossguard that consisted of two downward-curving arms and two large, round, concave plates that protected the foregrip. It was so named because the round guards resembled an open clam.

Source: Wikipedia

As we made our way around I discovered a great Celtic Tribal Band. If you are in the area this weekend you have to check out Albannach.

Albannach from Glasgow, Scotland will deliver the same foot stomping, heart pounding, dance inspiring, tribal sounds that have gained so much attention for the last three years at Grandfather. With the sound of drums and pipes you will be TRIBALIZED.

I was so taken with their sound I ended up with a CD, which gets played often enough to drive my wife to distraction…

The 52th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will be held July 12-15, 2007 at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC.

Source: Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Homepage

In the Mountains

A year ago, My family was preparing for our first trip to the Highland Games. To say we all enjoyed them would be an understatement. From the moment we stepped through the gates until we made our way back down the mountain at the end of the day, we had a ball. From the athletics to the people watching to the music, we wandered MacRae Meadows over and over. I even picked up the one thing I have always wanted…My very own Claymore.

The two-handed claymore was a large sword used in the Medieval period. It was used in the constant clan warfare and border fights with the English from circa 1300 to 1700.[citation needed] The last known battle in which it is considered to have been used in a significant number was the Battle of Killiecrankie in 1689. It was somewhat smaller than other two-handed swords of the era. The two-handed claymore seems to be an offshoot of Early Scottish medieval swords which had developed a distinctive style of a cross-hilt with downsloping arms that ended in spatulate swellings. The spatulate swellings were frequently made in a quatrefoil design.

The average claymore ran about 140 cm (55″) in overall length, with a 33 cm (13″) grip, 107 cm (42″) blade, and a weight of approximately 2.5 kg (5.5 lb), the blades are most similar to the type XIIIa, using the Oakeshott typology. Fairly uniform in style, the sword was set with a wheel pommel often capped by a crescent-shaped nut and a guard with straight, down-sloping arms ending in quatrefoils and langets running down the center of the blade from the guard. Another common style of two-handed claymore (though lesser known today) was the “clamshell hilted” claymore. It had a crossguard that consisted of two downward-curving arms and two large, round, concave plates that protected the foregrip. It was so named because the round guards resembled an open clam.

Source: Wikipedia

As we made our way around I discovered a great Celtic Tribal Band. If you are in the area this weekend you have to check out Albannach.

Albannach from Glasgow, Scotland will deliver the same foot stomping, heart pounding, dance inspiring, tribal sounds that have gained so much attention for the last three years at Grandfather. With the sound of drums and pipes you will be TRIBALIZED.

I was so taken with their sound I ended up with a CD, which gets played often enough to drive my wife to distraction…

The 52th Grandfather Mountain Highland Games will be held July 12-15, 2007 at MacRae Meadows on Grandfather Mountain near Linville, NC.

Source: Grandfather Mountain Highland Games Homepage

Valle Crucis, NC

Part of the serendipity that carried us into the mountains of North Carolina can be found in the following description I discovered so long ago.

Nestled high in the mountains of North Carolina is a little known corner of the world called Valle Crucis (pronounced valley crew’ sis). First settled over 200 years ago, the Vale of the Cross is a place that historians and visitors alike have called “uncommon.”

At the time I first read those words I wasn’t aware of the personal ancestral tie I had to those early settlers. It was only a couple of years ago that I became aware that the Linville’s of Linville Creek out of Villas just down the road from Valle Crucis were the very same Linville’s I descended from. If I am correct in my map skills, one of the open green areas I can see from the top of Nettle’s Knob above Clarks Creek is the Linville Creek watershed to the north.

Visit what Charles Kuralt called “a destination,” the original Mast General Store.

Sit and play a game of checkers by the pot bellied stove or treat yourself to a bottle of the spicy ginger beer. Don’t forget to pick up a calendar for the wall back home…

Located in Watauga County near Boone, only hours from the hustle and bustle of the big city, day and weekend getaways are possible, but we are sure you’ll return eventually for a much longer stay.

And so the “Dream” began. And grows here on the web until the day it grows in the Mountains that gave it birth.

Source: Valle Crucis, North Carolina’s First Rural Historic District

First White Settlers of Watauga.– A letter from Lafayette Tucker, of Ashland, Ashe County, states that the descendants of the original Lewis who settled in that neighborhood claim that he came as early as 1730. Thomas Hodged, the first, came during the Revolutionary War and settled in what is now called Hodges Gap, two miles west of Boone, and Samuel Hix and James D. Holtsclaw, his son-in-law, settled at or near Valle Crucis at that time or before.

It is a matter of record that a family by the name of Linvil—probably an economic way of spelling Linville—were members of Three Forks Baptist Church and lived on what is now known as Dog Skin Creek, or branch, but which stream used to be called Linville Creek. The membership of that church shows that Abraham, Catharine and Margaret Linvil were members between 1790 and 1800, while the minutes show that on the second Saturday in June, 1799, when the Three Forks Church were holding a meeting at Cove Creek, just prior to giving that community a church o its own, Abraham Linvil was received by experience, and in July following, at the same place, Catharine and Margaret Linvil also were so received. Several of the older residents of Dog Skin, Brushy Fork and cove Creeks confirm the reality of the residence of the Linville family in that community. In September, 1799, Brother Vanderpool’s petition for a constitution at Cove Creek was granted, Catherine Linvil having been granted her letter of dismission the previous August.

Source: Watauga County, NC by J P Arthur

More to follow…

Random Mountain Muse – Mt. Mitchell

From the top of the highest mountain in the eastern United States the view can be breathtaking.

Already venerable when the Rockies were yet unformed, Mount Mitchell reigns as the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet.

In 1916, at a time when extensive logging threatened the region’s virgin, old- growth forests, Governor Locke Craig led an effort that resulted in the establishment of Mount Mitchell as North Carolina’s first state park. The 1,700-acre protected area that extends approximately 5 miles along the summit of the Black Mountains preserved a piece of a unique ecosystem, where alpine forests exist in the South.


Mount Mitchell’s peak is well known as a biological island, an isolated environment that the retreating glaciers of the Pleistocene left behind. At its higher elevations, the mountain receives 60 inches of annual snowfall and records average daily temperatures of 51 degrees. Certain subspecies of flora and fauna are found nowhere else, and some migrating birds, including wrens, Carolina chickadees (Parus carolinensis), and slate-colored juncos (Junco hyemalis), have only to travel up and down the mountain with the changing seasons.

Source: Sherpa Guides | North Carolina | Mountains | Mount Mitchell/Mount Mitchell State Park

As I mentioned earlier in the week, the observation deck on top of Mt Mitchell is being rebuilt this summer, so visits to the summit are probably not in the picture. But you can still hike some of the trails with detours around the construction site.