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Ancestral Trails

Day 334

You know those hotel points you accrue when you make room reservations? We had a bunch of them due to expire, so we decided to make a one night hotel reservation to save the points. But where to go for a quick one-night mini vacation?

We decided to go north to try again to find the burial place of my great-grandfather. We drove up to West Jefferson, NC and traveled a short distance on the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is so beautiful anytime, but especially lovely when the clouds are low.

In West Jefferson and Sparta we spent some time digging through old records. Not much luck, unfortunately. I was able to confirm a few things and managed to fill in a couple of gaps. But such is genealogy. You must be in it for the long haul.

We plugged in the GPS coordinates for the place where I believe my ancestor is buried. We got within a mile. Then this:

Some notes we found later on indicated the cemetery is buried until heavily overgrown brush covered in poison ivy. The notes said you would need a machete to cut through the trees and brush. There was a list of all those interred and my great-grandfather’s name was not listed. That does not mean he is not there, but there is only one way to know for sure.

There is something about this area where my ancestors settled that grabs me and makes me feel at home. It is almost like it is an integral part of my DNA. We even joked about buying some property there.

Who knows. The next trip we may be more successful.


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!

Blog, genealogy

Out and About in North Carolina

Day 201

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.

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.


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.

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Walking Familiar Territory

Day 160

This morning I went for a walk. It’s odd to be walking in a place where I lived for so long but now seems very unfamiliar. I have become accustomed to my mountain life and the sights and sounds that surround me. The first few minutes of my walk I felt unsafe. That was a new feeling for me because I’ve never felt unsafe walking by myself. After a few minutes I re-accustomed myself to my surroundings and I was OK.

I did a 2-mile walk on very flat land which is very strange compared to the hills and curves in my mountain community. I wrote once about fences in an earlier post, but here I was struck by the signs and fences to contain or keep out or to protect. The newer the community the higher and stronger the fences — brick walls and metal gates. I guess that’s what money buys.

img_8856-1I noticed the smell of pesticides and fertilizers along my walk throughout very well-crafted communities. It was a familiar smell but not something I smell often where I live. It’s very beautifully landscaped here but it’s not wild, it’s very controlled. The weeds are held back by chemicals and the flowers are all similar from yard to yard to yard. I’m not sure if they are all native or not but I’m sure some are.

I had forgotten how sandy the soil is here. Such a contrast to the red clay in North Carolina.

Some of the things I saw made me so happy to see again. They were very familiar to me from my life here. I’m a little bit late to see the yellow tab trees in full bloom. They’re a sight to see when their flowers fall — this beautiful tree sitting on a blanket of yellow flowers. One of my favorite trees from my time in Florida.

The squirrels are very different in behavior here. They aren’t so skittish of humans and will climb a tree but constantly check to see if you’re still there and if you are posing any type of threat.

I also enjoyed seeing the resurrection ferns. They look so dead when in need of moisture, but they look so alive just moments after receiving water.

I loved seeing all the crepe myrtles, but they are not blooming yet. Most of the crepe myrtles have been cut back by half. That’s normal here. I always preferred to let mine grow naturally. To each his own.

I only saw three fruit trees. One lemon, one orange, and one kumquat. I am sure this area at one time was covered in orchards. In Florida, most fruits are ripe in December or January timeframe so the fruit I saw on the trees was beginning to look old.

It is so warm and humid here. There is algae growing most anywhere protected by shade. The sidewalks, the telephone poles, and the sides and roofs of many houses are covered in algae. I remember once being written up by our home owners association because we had algae on the roof. We were required to pay someone to pressure wash our roof with bleach even though it drastically shortened the life of this shingles.

Much of Florida is much more rural than this. There is a beautiful wildness to see here. I recommend you seek it out if you have the opportunity to visit. The Spanish moss is not fiend removed from the trees, but in the wilder areas it is very prevalent.

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It was really a beautiful day. Cloudy and overcast with a cool breeze and the threat of rain. A perfect Florida day for me. I enjoyed walking in the cool breeze because in a few months that will be rare. I loved seeing the familiar things but it made me miss the wild area where I live now.

Other than my children and my granddaughter, Florida is now just a memory for me. As long as they are here, I will always return. And I will always have a fond remembrance of the many years I lived here and all the happy times I experienced. But we move on. Sometimes places don’t suit us anymore and we have to find where we fit. I think I found my place and I’m happy to be there. I only wish all the people I love were there too.

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Meanwhile, 10 Miles Up the Road

Day 101

The weather bypassed us luckily. We had rain all night and into the morning, but no snow, no sleet, and no ice. We were a little suspicious that the weather was different elsewhere because our cell tower has been out most of the day. Such is life in the mountains. You better be ready to live without all of life’s conveniences for a while.

We have been fairly homebound since Thursday so we decided to go out for a bit today. I checked the local online news channels and there were minimal power outages and a few roads closed because of downed trees so it sounded okay to travel.

Hubby’s soup is great, but two days for lunch and dinner were enough to convince us to go out for a late lunch. We tossed around several ideas and decided on Zoe’s Kitchen, a favorite Mediterranean spot. On the drive up, it became very foggy and we noticed a lot of ‘snow’ on the trees flanking the highway. We didn’t think much of it and motored on. It was a delightful lunch. Both of us had the chicken kebobs, turmeric rice, and Greek salad with pita. Of course, I am also a little obsessive over their tzatziki sauce–yum!

Afterward, we made a stop by Fresh Market and decided to take the back way home. That’s when we realized the ‘snow’ we had seen on the way up was actually ICE. It reminded me a great deal of the ice fogs we often experienced when I lived in Alaska.

On the way home, we saw a lot of trees down–snapped from the weight of the ice. We also saw quite a few bucket-trucks from the surrounding power companies. The ride home was a little precarious because as the day had warmed up, the ice was melting and falling in big chunks. We came to realize that when one dropped on the car and the windshield. We were lucky that it wasn’t a larger piece of ice. After the third chunk of ice hit the car, I was ready to get home.

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Needless to say, we were happy we made it home safely. It was nice to get out, but as Dorothy always said, “There’s no place like home”.

I forgot to mention that I received my Medicare card in the mail yesterday–Yahoo! I’ve already whined about that in a prior blog post so tomorrow, I’ll try to talk about it in a more positive way.