For me there has always been something magical and almost restorative about a trip to the Southern Applachian mountains in the fall. This past weekend we decided that a short trip to Brevard, North Carolina, was in order. For me it is as much about the scents of the season as it is the sights. There is just something special about the aroma of woodsmoke, spruce trees, and crisp mountain air.
Our drive took us through the Piedmont of region of South Carolina covered with farmland and cattle farms. The word piedmont means ‘foot of the mountain’ and this region is at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Some of the rocks that are located in these hills are more than 300 million years old.
As we headed north, we drove through small towns with names like Ivy, Starr, and Pumpkintown, whose name comes from the wild pumpkins which grew in the valley when it was settled in 1745. In this part of the state there are still trees displaying the whole spectrum of fall colors from fiery reds to rich golds. It was not long before we spotted the tip tops of the closest mountains. The Cherokee referred to their mountain homeland as Shaconage (shah-CON-uh-gee), or land of the blue smoke. I always feel a little thrill when the Blue Ridge Mountains first come into view.
Unfortunately, even though the weather was beautiful when we set out, by the time we arrived in Brevard, the low hanging misty blue clouds had moved in. Brevard is a wonderful little mountain town in Transylvania County, North Carolina, and is located near the entrance of the 500,000 acre Pisgah National Forest and close by to DuPont State Forest, Gorges State Park, and the Bracken Mountain Nature Reserve. Brevard is also home to Brevard College and the Annual Brevard Music Festival. It is a hiker’s and cyclist’s paradise with its close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and over 200 miles of mountain biking trails. Hundreds of miles of hiking trails, which range from easy strolls along creek beds to strenuous climbs that will leave you panting for breath, offer a diverse range of hiking and backpacking choices. The forest also contains four long-distance trails, including portions of the Appalachian Trail and the Mountains to Sea Trail.
We spent the afternoon in Brevard wandering through the shops filled with local pottery and mountain crafts. One of my favorite little shops is Local Color, with its delightfully eclectic mix of local art, pottery, and clothing.
After a brief stop in Celestial Mountain Music for a look at some vintage banjos and vintage vinyl, we settled in at Mayberry’s Soups and Sandwiches for a cup of soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. To quote the Owners “ Mayberry’s is a place where nothing is fancy; a place where warmth and people are important.” We found it to be just that… warm, cozy, and just what we needed on a cool, misty afternoon.
We ended the day with drive up Highway 276 through Pisgah, a short way along the Blue Ridge Parkway.,and dinner at Hawg Wild Bar-B-Que located at the entrance to the Park. Hawg Wild serves Eastern North Carolina style barbecue as well as Piedmont style (western). The Eastern NC Style BBQ uses chopped pork and a vinegar- and pepper-based sauce, with no tomato whatsoever. Believe me, Hawg Wild gets this one right! We ordered the triple meat dish which came with both Eastern and Western BBQ and barbecued ribs, to share. What a deal! it was more than enough for the two of us, with a little left over for the dog!
The county’s unique geography creates the perfect home for over 250 magnificent cascades within a few miles of each other. From the most visited Looking Glass Falls on the side of Highway 276 to the awesome 400 foot drop of Whitewater Falls, the highest falls east of the Rocky Mountain, the waterfalls in Transylvania County are worth a hike… long or short! We discovered Eastatoe Falls, which is actually located on private property (with the public invited), in Rosman for the first time…. and what an incredibly beautiful waterfall it is!
The Appalachian mountains of Western North Carolina hold a special place place in my heart. No matter how many times I visit, whether it has been on a day trip or camping or backpacking, I always find something new and wonderful to experience.
How about you? Is there a place close to home that never loses its appeal for you?