Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Finally, Fall has arrived in the Blue Ridge mountains of North Carolina. Around here, it seems to be everyone's favorite time of year, including mine. We've been waiting patiently for this much-needed reprieve from the unusually hot and dry summer we’ve had in these parts. The leaves are just starting to turn, the days are warm, and the nights are down right chilly. The cool temperatures seem to wash away the summer haze and now several more layers of distant mountains appear in our views. I appreciate the beauty of the land here at any season, but there's no question that this is the High Country's "last fling," and you just don't want to miss it if you can help it. Excitement is in the air with this turning of the season. Travelers from near and far seem to descend on these mountains at peak summer levels to catch a glimpse of our brief but glorious "leaf season." There's also the 30th Annual Woolly Worm Festival this weekend in Banner Elk. Another big event is the Carolina in the Fall music festival in North Wilkesboro hosted by the Kruger Brothers, an amazing Bluegrass band from Switzerland who actually moved here a few years ago. Take a listen. Or, you can pick a pumpkin, take home some local apples, and find other Fall goodies at the Watauga County Farmers Market.
There is no better way to drink in the rainbow-colored landscape than to take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This incredible stretch of road, begun in 1938 and completed over 50 years later, is one of America's most scenic drives. The 45 mph speed limit throughout guarantees a pace that's perfect for viewing the scenery and the abundant wildlife.
It's hard for me to pick a favorite section but if you can spend a day, (or a weekend) I wouldn't want to miss the drive just to our North. From Blowing Rock, its probably a leisurely two hour drive up through Ashe and Alleghany Counties to to the Virginia line. In that stretch you'll see Cumberland Knob, where construction for the Blue Ridge Parkway began, Doughton Park with its 7000 acres to explore, the Churches of the Frescoes in Glendale Springs, and Thistle Meadow Winery near Laurel Springs. (not necessarily in that order!) I love this section as it has a great mix of both mountain and pastoral views, plus it's much less traveled than the section that heads South from here. One last thing to keep your eyes out for if you travel through Ashe County is Omni Highland Cattle Farm which backs right up to the eastern side of the Parkway. These beautiful (at least I think they are) animals can be seen grazing peacefully. Although the farm isn't open for tours, you might pull off and sneak a picture or two!
Now if you head South from Blowing Rock, you can spend a day or even a whole weekend exploring the short distance between here and Linville. Just a few minutes down the road, Moses Cone Memorial Park has fantastic hikes and trails, plus the stately mansion Flat Top Manor which now houses a rotating craft exhibit sponsored by the highly touted Southern Highland Craft Guild. No trip to the High Country is complete without a trip to Grandfather Mountain and the realized dreams of the legendary environmentalist, photographer, and naturalist Hugh Morton who passed away just last year. Too much can be written about the Mountain and the Man so a future blog is in order. Finally, the area in and around Linville , including the unique Linville Caverns, and famous Linville Falls. Although the area itself has gotten a bit touristy (folks flock for a reason), the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, sometimes called the "Grand Canyon of the East," offers some of the most remote backcountry hiking and camping in the Southeast.
There is certainly no shortage of great Fall activities spanning the entire High Country area. Now I'm scratching my head trying to figure out what I'm gonna do. My only advice is to not try and do it all, but to see what you can and savor the moment. Winter will be upon us before you know it. "And the seasons.....they go round and round.
My husband and I woke up with a burst of motivation one morning and decided to load up and drive the hour to Mt. Mitchell state park. Living in North Carolina and coming to various nooks and crannies of the mountains all my life, I just assumed that I had been there at some point. Turns out I hadn't, nor had my husband who grew up in nearby Morganton. We ended up having a wonderful day trip pretending to be tourists an hour and a half from home. We stopped at all of the overlooks on the parkway and took pictures of trees and butterflies. We set the camera to a timer so that we could have a pictures with both of us. We even bought the touristy blackberry jam at the little concession stand at the top of the mountain. It was a wonderful sunny day with the temperature at least 7 degrees cooler than when we set out at the base of the mountain.
The views were exceptional from all angles. The only downfall was that the observation deck at the top is currently closed for construction as it has been since March of 07'. Right now it's about 60% complete so it shouldn't be too much longer but I doubt they'll have it open before next spring. The good news is that you don't have to fight the crowds. The bad news is that, while you can drive up and have nice views from the main parking area and wilderness trails, you're not going to experience that huge unobstructed panoramic vista from the tip top.
All in all, definitely a worthwhile day trip even without the pinnacle. It's a pretty wild feeling to be up there, knowing that you're higher up than anyone on the eastern half of the United States. Getting there is a bit out of the way but the drive up is half the fun. Just don't pick a day where it's going to be cloudy or stormy . If you do you'll end up like the rest of my family when they decided to make the trip a day after we did!
The view really is breathtaking at the bottom but the thing that I like about this trail is that it's interesting the whole way not just at the end. There's a lot of history in this ancient trail that was used by the Indians as a hunting trail and then later for turn of the century loggers. The town of Blowing Rock restored the trail in 1989 making it the only remaining portion preserved in usable condition. The hike takes around 2 hours round trip and is definitely a worthwhile trek.
If you're hungry after the trip, you're in luck because you're only a stones throw away from some great Blowing Rock restaurants. Check out Sonny's Grill if you're in the mood for a great hot dog or hamburger. You won't feel under dressed in your scrubby hiking clothes.
In peak season there is never any parking at the trail head but it is just as easy to park close by downtown. For directions click here.
As far as what's happening in the Boone and Blowing Rock real estate markets, we've had a great summer and early fall. Much of the market has held up fairly well across the board, slower of course than in year's past. The under 300K range for homes is still quite strong, and there's a ton of inventory, making it a great time to buy. In the past month or so, prices have started to soften. I'm hopeful now that the election is behind us, the current issues with the credit market will become the focus again, and the economy will make a turn-around. Let's all think positive!
It's always surprising when the first leaves start to fall in the beginning of September. The summer isn't hot enough here in the Blue Ridge Mountains for it to be much of a reprieve but still, that first breath or cool crisp fall air brings with it a deep sense of nostalgia. A time to reflect on what's been accomplished in the past year and focus on what's left to be done before battening down the hatches for the winter ahead.
September has become my favorite month of the year. Though weather patterns are still a little unpredictable because of the tropics, the temperature is that perfect 71 degrees with a little bit of breeze and just enough chill in the air to make you want to make a cup of tea and sit outside. Another thing about September is that it's actually one of the slower months here in the High Country. After the kids go back to school, tourism hits a standstill until the leaves start turning in October.
Fall in the Boone/Blowing Rock area is bustling with things to do. First, and perhaps most notably to some is Appalachian State Football kicking off. The first game of the season is today actually. The mountaineers didn't take home the title last year, but prior to that, they were the National Champs three years in a row! Can't wait to see what this season holds.
The third weekend in October brings the annual Wooly Worm Festival in Banner Elk. Historically according to local folklore, woolly worms have been used to forecast the winter weather. In a nutshell, the length and severity of the winner depends on the coloration of the worm that wins the Wooly Worm Race. It's like our very own groundhog. In addition to worm race, there is also a 5k run and tons of great local food and craft vendors and activities for the kids. I can't wait till mine is old enough to go and enjoy the festivities.
The Boone Art Crawl is a fun event that happens year round on the first Friday of each month. It's a great opportunity to walk around down town Boone and browse local galleries and shops. Some restaurants like Vidalia on King Street offer a wine tasting and specials on bottles. The Turchin Center on ASU's campus will also be open to the public and have local art on display.
The Ghost Train at Tweetsie Railroad takes place October 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25, 31, and November 1st. Gates open each evening at 7:30 p.m. In addition to the Ghost Train and regular Tweetsie attractions, there is trick or treating for the kids, a 3D maze, a black hole and scary shows at the Tweetsie Saloon. Fun for kids of all ages.
This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as fun fall activities in the High Country. There is so much to do and see in general in this area but something about this time of year makes you want to get out there and take advantage of every day whether you're a local or just passing through. Feel free to contact me with any questions if you're in the area.
This is just an overview describing a little bit about each pocket. Let me also issue a disclaimer...this is not scientific data, just my personal take of what I know from living and working in real estate in the area. Elevations definitely vary as you could imagine. If you have any further questions please feel free to contact me directly.
Deep Gap - Referring to the area along 421 going from Boone towards Wilkesboro roughly from the light at Old 421 to the Parkway Bridge. Deep Gap I believe is mostly in the Parkway School District. Approximate elevation is 3200’.
Fleetwood - Borders Deep gap and refers to the area between Boone and Ashe County on Hwy 221. As a general rule, home prices drop some once you start going out that way but Boone is still 15-25 minutes away depending on where you are. West Jefferson is within 20-30 minutes as well. Elevation drops a little below 3000’ in most places. Primarily in the Ashe County school district.
Green Valley - Is the general area from Boone out 194 to Todd. (Meat Camp is another community about half way in between the two towns.) Pretty pastoral views and lots of open spaces. Green Valley has it's own school district. Elevation varies but is usually over 3000’.
Valle Crucis - Switching to the other side of town, Valle Crucis is the area tucked in Between 105 on the far side of Boone towards Banner Elk. Really really pretty pastoral setting, lots of creeks and rivers, sort of joins with the Vilas area as you get closer to the 421 side. Valle Crucis is definitely prime real estate and the home prices reflect that. Lower elevation than most of the areas because (as if you can't tell by the name) it's in the Valley. Valle Crucis has it's own school district. Side Note - Schools in Watauga County are K-8th Grade and then everyone goes to Watauga High School. The new school was just finished this year!
Vilas - This one is a real grey area. If your going out 421 towards Tennessee, Vilas loosely refers to the area from the edge of Boone to where 321 and 421 split off at Skateworld. It also follows 194 out and blends with Valle Crucis. School districts include Valle Crucis and Cove Creek. Elevation varies.
Sugar Grove - At the Skateworld (it's a weird landmark I know) 321 and 421 split off. Take 321 and the Sugar Grove area is the last stop before you get to Tennessee. Bethel is another community out that way. Lots of wide open spaces. Elevation is generally higher than Boone, 3500’ and above. Bethel and Cove Creek School Districts depending on where your at. 35-45 minutes from Boone.
Zionville - Take the 421 split at Skateworld to get to Zionville and it's the last stop before you get to Tennessee. Mabel is another community out there and is also the name of the School District. It is a beautiful, beautiful area, one of my favorites, and there are some great buys there because its remoteness. The same can also be said for Sugar Grove and Bethel, all 35-45 minutes from Boone and average of 3500’ in elevation.
I hope this helps demystify the "High Country" a little for those of you who are looking at buying property or just vacationing in the area.
Feel free to check out my Blowing Rock NC page on Facebook for lots of pictures and fun things to do when you come to visit!
Friday, July 23, 2010
--Save all of your veggie cast offs that you would normally throw away or compost (onion and carrot and celery stubs, herb stems, rinds of lemons/oranges, the ends of peppers etc.). Put them in a zip lock bag in the fridge and then whenever you stew a chicken throw all of it in the pot of water with it.
When you’re done cooking the chicken, take it out, put it to the side and strain everything left in the pot (in a normal colander) and you’ve got great already seasoned broth to either make soup with or add into a rue sauce for casseroles, pies etc. (I would try to cycle weekly with this though, you don’t want it to get too burly). Also if you want the broth to be lower in fat you can pop it in the fridge for a while and skim the fat off of the top with a spoon.
I know I usually stew a chicken or some split breasts at least once a week and then make an assortment of things with it. It’s one of the smartest and easiest things that you can do on a budget and with all of the great local produce that you can find in the Boone and Blowing Rock areas, you might as well have fun with the variety of vegetables knowing you’ll get double usage out of them.
Maybe my next post will be about easy and cheap ways to use stewed chicken.
As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to contact me directly if you have things you’d like to read about!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
This made me smile as I was driving my own morning commute through Blowing Rock. The people behind me weren’t so amused as referenced by their beeping car horns but I was glad I stopped to capture the moment. The little one on the end cracks me up. I can almost hear him saying “hey, wait for me!!!”. Just one more reason to live in Blowing Rock.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Well, I keep trying to think of a groundbreaking topic to start this blog off right but, if I keep going at this rate, I’ll never write anything. It’s kind of like waiting till the “perfect time” to have a baby.
Anyway, I’m all over the place with my focus for this blog and where to go with it but I think if I just let loose it will take on a life of its own. I host a few others but they’re a lot easier because they are work related and have specific purposes. I created blogs for The Whole Shebang! (wedding planning) as well as local real estate blogs for Boone and Blowing Rock and one focusing on Green Building in the area.
This blog on the other hand is more personal and will have more of a point of view on the area, things to do and general “housewifeness”. Now, clearly I’m using the term “housewife” in a tongue and cheek sense which will hopefully not offend anyone but as they say “you can’t please everyone all the time but you can sure say one thing and upset everyone at once”. I’m extremely careful in all of my other blogs to be very neutral in my opinions so this is a chance for me to put myself out there and see what comes out of it.
Ok well there it is, an extremely mediocre start to what I hope will be a great blog!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Of course there are many very notable “Fine Dining” establishments in the area that are out of this world: Louisiana Purchase, Gamekeeper, Best Cellar, and The Artisanal are a few to note but… the thing that I love about “Bistro” is that the restaurant is the perfect blend of laid back mountain chic and fine dining (so is their menu). It fits the bill no matter what you’re in the mood for.
They have wonderfully unique appetizers, burgers and wood fired pizzas that are consistently delicious. If you are looking for the full dining experience, their entrees and specials are amazing and typically feature seasonal and or local ingredients blended together into a wonderful American Bistro/Mountain fusion served up fresh in a rustic yet elegant setting.
Their wine list and drink menu are also something to write home about. Hint: Try a martini off of their very inventive new menu inspired by bar manager Matt Bailey. I sampled the Strawberry Balsamic garnished with fresh cracked peppercorns and then a Lavender Martini. Both were excellent. Their wine and beer menus are small but hand picked for quality.
Though tucked away off of the main drag, we can hardly call it one of Blowing Rock’s best kept secrets. Bistro Roca has become a favorite of both locals and visitors alike. Come see what the fuss is all about!
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
The playhouse is a creative space where you can take your kids and socialize with other families. There is an arts and crafts room that changes weekly, a music corner, play kitchen, costumes, fish tank, tree house, ball pit, climbing wall and tons more. I remember the first time I took my 18 month old son, his eyes lit up like it was Christmas and stayed that way for the next week (we were hooked after one time).
It’s really great for parents like me who work from home and don’t have their kids in daycare. I’ve seen a big change in my son’s social skills just from being around the other kids.
The cost is 5 dollars per person (under a year free) and then only 100 dollars for a year long family membership. Absolutely worth it, especially if you’re a full timer up here. For more information on activities, classes, hours and directions please visit their site.
Thanks so much to all of the staff and volunteers who help keep this wonderful place up and running!
Click Here to View Slideshow
Sunday, April 4, 2010
We managed to hit up the Broyhill Pond for the Blowing Rock Trout Derby right after the fish stopped biting. We thought we were early birds getting there at 7:45 but no such luck.
Also our 18 month old didn’t love fishing as much as we anticipated so the event was a bit of a wash for us, but better luck next year.
Everyone else looked to be having a great time though. The trout derby continues until 5 this afternoon. The pond downtown is for the kids but everywhere else is fair game. I’ll let you know the stats on the winners this year after it’s over.
Thursday, March 25, 2010
I managed to take advantage of the brief window of nice weather we had this week to have a crash course in Mountain Trout Fishing from my longtime friend and local guide Ollie Smith of Blue Ridge Anglers.
The water was up about a foot from where you would ideally want, and still a little chilly but we were able to snag one rainbow trout in the short time that we were out there.
I myself ,hailing from the coast of North Carolina, grew up fishing although not particularly well. It was a lot of fun to see the difference in the two styles.
We set out from Valle Crucis Park on the Watauga River and used a basic roll cast since there were lots of trees overhead. One thing I learned that’s a pretty important point is that the trout basically sit in one place and face with their mouths open upstream the majority of the time. Therefore, if you get a bite and pull back (like I’m used to doing) you’re just going to pull the hook out of their mouth so ideally you’re going to “set” to either side or downstream if you’re at the right angle. There is just so much to learn about different methods and other intricacies but I think it’s pretty easy to develop a base knowledge and be able to get out there and enjoy yourself.
We’re hoping to get out there again in a couple of months so I’ll have to come back with a part 2 to this post once I’ve got a little more knowledge on the subject.
Just keep in mind that fishing up here is complicated because there are about 5 different categories of streams and different rules and regs for all of them. Make sure you have your current fishing license and check the Wildlife Commission Website before you set out.
Above: Pumping the fishes stomach to see what it’s been eating that day and then throwing him back.
Above: Me catching the trout on my own (sort of)!!!
Above: The Fearless Leader
Monday, February 8, 2010
The Best Cellar - Blowing Rock
Louisiana Purchase - Banner Elk
The Bistro - Boone
The Artisanal - Banner Elk
The Gamekeeper - Between Boone and Blowing Rock
Mast Farm Inn - Valle Crucis
Twigs - Blowing Rock
Bistro Roca - Blowing Rock
Vidalia - Boone
Sorrento's - Banner Elk
Crave - Boone
Glidewell's - Blowing Rock
Galileo's - Boone
The Peddler - Boone
Laid Back Dining:
Canyon's - Blowing Rock
Reid's Cafe - Boone
The Ham Shoppe - Valle Crucis
Woodlands - Blowing Rock
Black Cat Burrito - Boone
Coyote Kitchen - Boone
Mr. Origonal Gyro's - Boone
Obviously there are tons more great restaurants in the area but these are some of my favorites and are almost always solid.. For some honest review's on these and more...