Surprise, Surprise, Surprise

I have been tagged…You have probably seen this logo floating around, I know I have.


Eric Drummond Smith over at Hillbilly Savants tagged me. It makes my day to think someone else out there enjoys the meanders of my mind. Thanks Eric your tag means a lot.


I have been seeing these awards pop up on a number of my daily reads. I didn’t really think I would be getting one. I would say I probably have one of the least read blogs of those I have seen receiving the tag. I really appreciate that someone thinks my musings rate a mention. Looks like I have something to live up to now…

I have spent the days since I caught the tag trying to figure out who on my regular reading list I should tag. It is not a question I approached lightly. Most of the blogs I read I read just because they make me think. Without further ado, and ’cause I don’t need another procrastination around this blog, here are my five.

  1. Fragments From Floyd – Yes, I know, Fred has already been tagged. But it was reading Fred’s daily posts (and his book) that started me on this crazy journey of publishing on the web. So, if ya don’t care for my muses…Blame ’em on Fred.
  2. Beyond The Fields We Know – Daily writings from the little blue house on the edge of the Lanark Highlands. KerrdeLune (Cate) posts her observations, verse, and photographs of life in the far North (to me anyway).
  3. EarthSky Blogs – Beverly Spicer – This is a new discovery for me. I have listened to the podcasts and radio spots forever it seems but I just discovered the blogs.
  4. Appalachian Voice Front Porch Blog – News from Appalachian Voices.
  5. Cider Press Hill – One woman’s try at being ecologically responsible. Kate’s writings have had me thinking since I first stumbled upon her blog quite a while back…

So there you have my five. This post has taken longer than practically any other I have done to date.

Here’s the official rules to keep it rolling…

The participation rules are simple:

  1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
  2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
  3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).

That was that! Please, remember to tag blogs with real merits, i.e. relative content, and above all – blogs that really get you thinking! It is the first time I am starting something with my blog so I hope it doesn’t come back to haunt me.

Friends in the Mountains

I think it was Marie at Blue Ridge Blog that first pointed me to the Hillbilly Savants Blog. Since her tag line is…”All I need is an outhouse and a dream….” I thought this link back would be appropriate.

The shack out back

Tennesseans called it the “la-la.” Elsewhere known as the john, the shanty, the shack, the throne, the shed, the relief office—it was the humble outhouse. The little buildings “out back” were as important as any building built before indoor plumbing. This was the building you located as soon as possible when you came to visit, and if your guest was the preacher, you invited him outside on some pretext so he could spot “the necessary room” without asking.

Take a minute and wander over and sit a spell…They serve up some interesting storytelling.

Source: Hillbilly Savants: The shack out back

I want to apologize for the fact I seem to be letting this blog slide a little as I post my daily muses at Coffee Muses these mornings. I’ll try and figure out a better method of keeping track of where I need to be spending some time soonest…

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…

Story of Place – Mountain Dreams

I find that most of the places I have come to love in my search for my “North Carolina Mountain Dream” revolve around stories. Not just stories of the past, either. Many of the stories are being written by others who love these places. Each of the stories that have touched my life and heart are by special people who have a dream, a vision they wish to share, a myth they wish to live.

What originally brought me to Valle Crucis was just such a story. It was the story of the renewed life of an old time staple of this mountain village, The Mast General Store. I was intrigued by the history and the revival following the purchase of this once vital center village life by the Coopers. I no longer remember exactly how I serendipitously stumbled upon their website back then because I had no knowledge of the area what so ever.


My one and only trip into these eastern mountains had occurred a few years earlier during a business trip to Charlotte. I had only driven a couple of hours down the Blue Ridge Parkway on a day off during that stay. I had started my drive in Little Switzerland and headed south until the road was closed (this was early March) then turned around and drove north to Blowing Rock. So as I planned that first family trip for August of 2003 I surfed the internet for anything I could find out about North Carolina and the Blue Ridge Parkway.

There were three websites that I stumbled upon then and have been bookmarked ever since that first virtual exploration. They are (in the order I discovered them, I think):

  1. The Mast General Store
  2. Grandfather Mountain
  3. The Orchard at Altapass

Each of those places have a story to tell…A story of the past and the people who lived there…A story full of people who love the place and are willing to fight for it…A story that will carry on into the future as new people discover and love these places. It was the story of Valle Crucis that led me to book a cabin up on the side of a mountain that first year. It was all of these stories and more that keep me coming back. Sitting out on the porch each morning with that first cup of coffee is where my mountain dream was born.


And it was the “News from Valle Crucis” newsletter published by the Mast General Store I subscribed to back in 2002 that made me feel like I could learn to love this mountain village and the daily life they lead there.

In the coming weeks I will try to tell some of the stories I have learned about these places, and others, that have come to be encompassed by my “North Carolina Mountain Dreams”. I am going to start a new category for these posts, they will all be tagged as “story of place”. I hope to build something here that will be usable as a reference and inspiration for others so…”bear” with me as I map out the path I will follow.

For anyone looking for the meandering muses I posted here in the past…I am now serving them up over at Coffee Muses. Stop on by and sit a spell…

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.

June in the mountains – Twenty O'Four


It’s been three years now since this picture was taken up on the top of Roan Mountain. We were a bit early for the full bloom but even what we were in time for was impressive. Every time we go back to North Carolina I try to take the time to run up to the AT and the Garden’s. Even an old fart like me can walk a bit of the AT on the Roan. And the views go on and on and on, even when the ceiling is hanging low and the mists are brushing your hair as you walk.

Roan Mountain is actually a massif, or mountain mass, with two summits. It is part of a ridge known as the Roan Highlands, and is the highest peak in the Unaka Mountain Range. At its lower elevations, vegetation as southern as subtropical orchids can be found. But at the mountain’s height, vestiges from the ice age remain, including wood sorrel (Oxalis montana), witch hobble (Viburnum alnifolium), and green alder (Alnus crispa), a species usually found in New England.

In June, Roan’s open balds burst with the magenta-colored blooms of Catawba rhododendron, which John Fraser designated Rhododendron catawbiense on this mountain during his 1799 expedition. Each plant in the 600-acre spread of natural rhododendron “gardens” might produce as many as 100 flowers.

The combination of heath balds, Canadian-zone spruce-fir forests, and, at lower elevations, hardwood coves, supports more than 1,500 species of native plants, flowers, herbs, trees, shrubs, ferns, club mosses, lichens, and mushrooms. Bird scholar Fred W. Behrend named the snow bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis) when he discovered it wintering on the balds. The area is also home to one of southern Appalachia’s greatest concentrations of threatened, endangered, or sensitive plant and wildlife species, with nearly 30 identified, including Gray’s lily, saxifrages, sedges, the saw-whet owl, and the northern flying squirrel. In 1941, 7,000 acres of this naturally significant area were incorporated into the Pisgah National Forest and Cherokee National Forest.

We have spent a number of hours walking through the Gardens on the Roan. Considering the actual number of hours we have spent exploring North Carolina, there are just a few places that have monopolized our time more. I look forward to eventually sitting on top of the Roan in the winter with the balds covered in snow…Probably wont happen this year, but soon, my friends, soon I’ll be North Carolina Mountain Dreaming for good.

Sherpa Guides are one of my favorite websites when it comes to checking out the natural world of the Appalachians. I spent so much time reading them on-line I finally chased down my own copies through Amazon. Check out the website, they have the full text of the books online. Then go pick up your own copy through the links below…The copies I have were all bought used through Amazon. I saved a few bucks and added some great guides to my bookshelf.

Source: Sherpa Guides | North Carolina | Mountains | Roan Mountain and Roan Mountain State Park

Don’t forget to check out my new blog at Coffee Muses

Serendipity in the Mountains

When I first started blogging I posted some photos from my North Carolina trips over my Photo Blog. One of the photos has consistently pulled in search engine hits. This is that photo..

Brinegar Cabin on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Built circa 1875 by Martin Brinegar. He and his wife, Caroline, raised 3 children, hogs and cows and chickens, bees for honey, corn and flax, and a vegetable garden for 50 years. Caroline sold out to the government in 1935, ten years after Martin died of pneumonia.

Martin and I share kin with some kin. Martin’s grandfather was Jacob Brinegar. Jacob’s brother, John Brinegar, married Lucretia Linville. Lucretia was the daughter of William Linville and Eleanor Bryan. William, for whom the Linville River was named, was the brother of my 5th great-grandfather Thomas Linville…Small world isn’t it.

The serendipity of another connection to the Blue Ridge Mountains…

This time of year, beauty is in mountains

I can see that I am not the only person in America looking for a “mountain fix” this summer. Some people though, have the good luck of being within driving distance for a day trip.

This time of year, beauty is in mountains – by Linda Durrett
Carolina rhododendron peaks in June, among other spectacular sights

“Grandpa, tell me ’bout the good old days; “Sometimes it feels like “This world’s gone crazy “Grandpa, take me back to yesterday “When the line between right and wrong Didn’t seem so hazy.”

So goes a wistful song sung by Wynonna Judd yearning for the sweet times lingering only in a country memory.

My Grandpa Ralph could have been the inspiration for this song. Missing him and feeling an urge to get my “mountain fix,” I headed for the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville recently. My son and my grandson joined me. It was a journey that made new memories and conjured up long-lost ones.

One of the first places Linda speaks of is Craggy Gardens between Asheville and Mt. Mitchell on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Each of my trips through the “Gardens” have missed the peak bloom. Either we were to early or too late, maybe one day we will hit the spot just at the right time for the bloom. The one thing that always seems the same though is the fireplace in the visitors center almost always has a fire burning. So stop a while and enjoy the view before you head on down the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Source: Charlotte Observer | 06/03/2007 | This time of year, beauty is in mountains

I always enjoy the trip up to the top of Mt. Mitchell. The winds and the cooler temperatures make the coffee from the snack bar a real treat. For some reason we never dress for the summit. As we leave Asheville each year heading north we are always dressed for the heat of the valley.

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This shot was taken from the top of Mt. Mitchell in early June of 2004…It has always been one of my favorite shots showing the rolling mountains into the haze. If the image looks familiar it’s because I used a portion of it as my header for a long while and it now resides at the bottom of the page.

I see from the Park’s website that the summit is closed this summer for construction of a new observation tower. If you plan on making a trip in tht direction, check out the website for up to date construction info.

A word of warning…Since I wont be getting into the mountains this summer, I’ll be pulling out my old photos and doing a virtual visit. I hope some of you will tag along.

See ya down the Parkway…

It's Sunday Morning – June 10, 20 O'Seven

I hope Charles Osgood doesn’t get upset with me for borrowing his date format. I have liked the way it sounds ever since he started using in, I think it was Twenty O’One…Sorry for the sparsity of posts. I have been playing with WordPress for a few days now, first on WordPress.Com and then with setting up a hosted site.

Just as a test blog I set up Coffee Muses on WordPress.Com with a play on the way so many of my posts here are titled. I liked the way the interface worked and the program seemed quite robust so I was posting mirror posts from North Carolina Mountain Dreams to try out WP. In the process I got to thinking about all of the posts I was doing at NCMD that had absolutely nothing to do with the NC mountains and everything to do with world news and Texas in general. It kinda made me think this might be a good time to rethink my blogs directions. I already had a hosting contract with GoDaddy from when I bought the name for NCMD, so I started thinking about setting up a WP blog on the hosted account. Which led me to running a search on the coffeemuses.com domain name. Since nobody was setting on it I decided to buy it and setup shop under that name for my daily “Coffee Muses” and go back to posting just “Mountain Dreams” at NCMD.

Needless to say, Saturday was taken up with installs and tweaks and more tweaks and edits till my wife was wondering what the hell I was doing here. She doesn’t understand the hold computers have on some people, especially me even though I have been buying and working and playing on them since the early 80’s. As a mater of fact, her biggest threat around here is to pull the plug on the internet ’cause she doesn’t see any benefit from using it. Anywho, I think I have the new site up and going well enough to start using it. I will be rolling over to it for my morning posts this next week. I’ll probably mirror both sites for a week or so till my brain can handle the new work process. NC Mountain Dreams will continue to be used, just more focused, and I’ll try to get in the habit of posting here (there) in the evenings. So if you have stuck with me this far, hang around through the transition, I hope to make it better…

On another note, my health is going to be intruding on my life more in the short term…Last week I had a lesion cut out and biopsied off my vocal cords. Turned out it was cancerous…It looks like we caught it early ( just not early enough for the person in my life that kept telling me for the past few months to go to the Dr.). I will be starting radiation treatments this coming week. Every weekday for six or seven weeks I’ll get to trek across town and put on a (looks kinda like a hockey) mask while they strap me down and zap my throat with atomic rays…The SciFi fan in me just had to say that…At some point there may come some days where I wont feel like putting my thoughts out here, and when I end up on leave, I may be posting a lot, so there could be days you want to tell me to shut up…Feel free. Everyone is very optimistic at this time that this will come out well, so I’m just going to continue to muddle through my life in the same fashion I have been and pray for the best…

Needless to say, our two weeks in the mountains above Valle Crucis just got canceled. I will miss the summer trek to the high altitudes and the cool nights. If you are looking for a great place to stay, we just released our cabin reservation. Go talk to the folks at Valle Crucis Log Cabin Rentals, they have been taking good care of us each year and I’m gonna miss ’em. If everything works out well this summer…We plan on trying to get out that way this fall. Neither Sherry nor I have ever really seen fall color. You just don’t get that down here in SE Texas…

Later all.

Muses from the middle of the day

My email brought me the latest “News From Vermont” a regular newsletter put out by Burr Morse from the Morse Farm Sugarworks. I stumbled upon a copy of one of his email missives a while back and I enjoyed it so much I was moved to subscribe. I have been glad I did ever since.

Burr has a particular way of seeing the world and then writing about it…
Hello again Maple People,

We have two spring seasons here in Vermont. The first is, of course, our sweet and famous maple sugarin’. Sugarin’s part of my genetic makeup so, you see, it’s not income or livelihood that leads me to the woods every spring but something instinctive and unforgiving. Just as a squirrel gathers nuts or a dog waters hydrants, when spring comes I’ve gotta sugar rain or shine, feast or famine, or more appropriately, snow or snow. Speaking of snow, this year Saint Valentine greeted us with 36 inches of the stuff, three dozen ways to say “I love you”! The day after that
holiday dumping, I would rather have skipped sugarin’ altogether but I proceeded with deep, snowshoe-trudging steps toward the season ahead. This may come as a surprise, since on the outside I look like a happy-go-lucky sugarmaker, but the rigidness of “having to do it” sometimes creates negatives in my sugarmaking life; no drop in the bucket for a “happy-go-lucky sugarmaker”.

Do yourself a favor and go sign up for your own subscription. Or if you just want a copy of this issue send me an email and I’ll forward a copy of this issue…