Blog, travel, Writing

NaNoWriMo

I did it.

I signed up for the craziness that is NaNoWriMo. I also messed up my profile which makes me look like a newbie at this, but that is ok. I have been attempting NaNo almost every year since 2003.

If you are not familiar, the acronym stands for NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth. It is a time where writers all over the world attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November.

This exercise is always good for me, although, depending on your frame of mind, it can be stressful. I have eased off the pressure I traditionally put on myself because it seems every November some big thing comes up in my life that interferes greatly. So, I give it my best and every year I approach it hoping I will be successful.

My daughter and a few friends signed up to write this year, so I am excited to have a few buddies to share my pain. The people who participate make up a lovely and supportive community. Many cities also have local write-ins where you can gather with like-minded people during the challenge if that is your thing. I am more of a solitary writer.

If you are interested, you can click over to the website and read about it and perhaps sign up. It really is a very cool experience and an exercise in persistence and vulnerability.

For more information, go here: ===> NaNoWriMo.org

Blog, travel

Wanderlust

Image by Gerhard Gellinger from Pixabay

Day 338

Last night was a restless, sleepless night. I do not know why. I tossed and turned and sleep just would not come. This does not happen often, but when it does, I just succumb. There was nothing troubling me and indeed I was tired, but somewhere in the deep recesses of my mind, something was stirring.

I got up and worked on my family genealogy a bit. I found a few errors in my family tree and worked to correct those. It is so easy to go down a rabbit hole when chasing people you do not know. I found a few genealogy pages from Ireland and England (where the majority of my ancestors originated) and spent some time chasing names and dates and found nothing conclusive.

At that point I was too tired to focus so I started fantasizing about a trip I would love to take. Somewhere distant but somewhere that calls to me. I have not been to a lot of places overseas, but what little I have traveled, I enjoyed immensely.

We have been to Switzerland, Venice, and Portugal. I searched for a few blogs people had written about the places I have visited. People seemed so disappointed in places that intrigued me. I wonder if there is not a certain element of the population who cannot be pleased.

I spent some time looking at possible trips to take — nothing serious, just looking. I spent some time browsing the trips organized by the Smithsonian Institution. They have trips to some common destinations for U.S. travelers and some less frequently visited destinations. I was intrigued by several trips. I am not sure we would take an organized tour or plan something ourselves, but it was fun to peruse their catalog.

If you would like to browse, click here.

When we traveled on prior trips, we had someone organize them because there is so much that we did not know. It was a good decision.

Right now we are not planning a trip. I am just having a little wanderlust.

“I need to move around a bit.
To shuffle my surroundings.
To wake up in cities I don’t know my way around and have conversations in languages I cannot entirely comprehend.
There is always this tremendous longing in my heart to be lost, to be someplace else, to be far far away from all of this.” 

― Beau Taplin

 

Blog, Mountains, travel

In the Midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Part 2

Day 207, cont.

When we left Little Switzerland, we decided since we had nothing pressing to do at home it would be a great day to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway home. Our GPS never lists it as a route, because it is hilly and curvy and the speed limit hovers around 35 or 40 mph.

The Blue Ridge Parkway is a scenic 469-mile scenic parkway that runs between Rockfish Gap, Virginia and ends near Cherokee, North Carolina. As with any project concerning setting aside land as part of a national park, the Parkway was not without its detractors. Today I am thankful it exists. Seeing this protected land makes me wonder how the terrain could have been impacted otherwise.

This is especially meaningful to me at a time when our national parks seem to be up for grabs to the highest bidder.

We stopped at every overlook between Little Switzerland and Craggy Gardens. Just before we reached Craggy Gardens, we decided to make the side trip up to the summit of Mount Mitchell. At an elevation of 6684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

So, with no more words, I will just share the photos from our drive. Enjoy!

I look very unhappy in that last picture! It was a steep little climb in some thinner air for this tired old lady. I was not unhappy at all. It was a truly glorious day!

art, Blog, Lapidary, Mountains, travel

In the Midst of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Part 1

Day 207

Yesterday was not only a cup half-full day it was a cup-runneth-over day. We were exhausted when we got home but it was the best kind of exhaustion!

We had a fairly leisurely morning with coffee and a bagel for breakfast then we headed up toward Spruce Pine for their annual Fire On The Mountain blacksmith festival. This is the third year we have attended. It is the perfect venue if you love moving metal with fire and seeing men in kilts!

On our way, we stopped at our same little road-side vegetable stand and bought a bunch of ramps to tuck away in the cooler. Ramps are a mountain delicacy that grows in moist higher elevations. They are a cross between an onion and garlic — very pungent but delicious. Ramps were one of the early vegetables that native Americans looked forward to after a long winter. There are ramp festivals throughout the mountains this time of year.

We headed on up to Spruce Pine to check out the festival. We always enjoy the youth blacksmithing competition. I love seeing young adults interested in learning these old-school crafts. The ‘try your hand at blacksmithing’ is always popular as are the demonstrations by the master blacksmiths. Hubby found a used Peter Wright anvil he wanted.

 

We met one member of a talented husband and wife team who combines metal, class, and enamel to create some beautiful pieces of art. I fell in love with the gates they make. We were invited to attend their studio tour in early June. Now if I only had a place to install one of those gates.

After we enjoyed our picnic on the tailgate of the car and a trip to the ATM, the 109-pound anvil was loaded into the car and we were on our way.

Since we were so close to Little Switzerland, we decided to check it out. It is a small village just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It boasts Swiss mountain lodges, gift shops, and a few places to eat. There are also some hiking trails, a book store, and some shops to enjoy. We were not interested in the touristy things so we just rode through and then drove over to check out The Emerald Mine of Little Switzerland. I am a novice lapidary enthusiast, so I am always on the hunt.

We were greeted at the sluice building by the caretaker Barbara. If I were to guess her age I would guess early 70’s. She was a rough-around-the-edges kind of gal. I had to continually ask her questions because she was not forthcoming with information. I discovered she bought the mine as a retirement venture and opened it to the public in 2004. Unfortunately, according to the website, her husband passed away so it may just be her running the place now.

They, like many other gem ‘mines’ in this area, offer buckets you can buy and sluice to find the hidden gems. I asked her if the buckets were salted — a term used to describe mixing foreign materials into the buckets of minerals not found natively in the area. She gave me that incredulous look and said “Of course they are salted. You can’t find that stuff here.”

We looked through the gift shop in an old cabin above the sluicing building. I was surprised to see a sign that listed prices for faceting gems found at the mine. Looking around the place, I could not imagine where this could happen. I turned and asked our host who she gets to facet the stones. She replied, “I do.” It seems. Barbara moved here from Washington, D. C. and faceting was something she had done prior to buying the mine.

We left with the promise to come back at a later time to actually go down and do some digging around the mine (the original mine shaft was closed years ago). She just nodded with the warning to call before we came. We chuckled at our interactions and wondered how tourists ‘from away’ might react to her. Her exterior was as hard as the rocks she sold, but I sensed a sweet soul under the rough exterior.

From there we decided to take the leisurely way home via the Blue Ridge Parkway. It probably increased our drive time an hour or so, but it was well worth the time.

For photos and details of our drive, look for part 2 later today.

ancestors, Blog, genealogy, Mountains, travel

Out and About in North Carolina

Day 201

img_9635
Blowing Rock, North Carolina

Saturday, hubby and I trekked up to Boone, NC, to the Daniel Boone Native Gardens. They were having a wildflower walk and native plant sale. We had to leave early because the event ended at noon. As we crossed over the mountains into Blowing Rock, the mountains were socked in by fog. It certainly would not be a day for enjoying the mountain vistas.

Unfortunately, the gardens were a bit disappointing as was the sale. It was rainy and cold which made for a muddy garden and nurseries anxious to shut down and go home. We bought two native azaleas and went on our way.

From there we decided to have lunch at The Dan’l Boone Inn, a restaurant serving family style meals since 1959. It is one of the oldest historic buildings in Boone and has served as a residence and doctor’s office, Boone’s first hospital, and a residence hall for students of Appalachian State Teachers College.

This restaurant serves country-style meals family style. It was always a favorite of my sisters’ but I had not eaten there in years. The food is typical country, heavy in fats and calories and not our normal fare. But you know the old saying, “When in Rome…” I thought a lot about my sisters and how much this place meant to them, especially when they could get their children together to tag along.

After lunch, we decided to drive into West Jefferson. I have been anxious to go there to do some genealogical research since one branch of my family started out in Ashe County. Unfortunately, the library was closed for Easter weekend, so we went to the local museum. I enjoyed the displays very much. Especially the information on the railroad. There was even information on the wall about how the railroad crew gave food and clothing to needy families along the railroad. One conductor started the tradition of passing out lollipops on Saturdays to the children along their route. I wrote an earlier post about how I was one of those children.

img_9607
Ashe County History Museum

img_9609Since it was a rainy and dreary day, we decided to go a little further north to the area where my ancestors once lived. It’s funny. You imagine you will drive into an area that remains untouched by the passing of time, but you quickly realize time marches forward everywhere. I did find the street signs marking the creeks where I know they lived. I will do more research and go back armed with better information the next time.

On our way back home we passed many of the tourist attractions of my childhood. Tweetsie Railroad, just outside of Boone, was always a big mountain attraction and the first theme park in North Carolina. It was billed as a Wild West themed park, although I would imagine some of the shows on the train may have changed from their politically incorrect ‘cowboy and Indian’ interactions. The park has a great history if you care to read more. It is still a very popular attraction.

We also passed Mystery Hill, another local attraction I remember as a kid. Mystery Hill is billed as a natural gravitational anomaly — more frequently referred to as a gravity hill. Of course, there is a scientific explanation, but why ruin the fun. It’s a place where water flows up and balls roll uphill instead of down.

img_9634

Lastly, we drove past The Blowing Rock, another location steeped in legend. The rock is a metamorphic rock known as a gneiss. The rocky walls of the gorge below form a flume and light objects that are thrown from the rock will be returned by the flume — thus the fodder for the legends. Fun to read about and beautiful to observe, just not on a cold, windy and foggy day.

All in all, it was a pretty good day roaming the hills of North Carolina.