As a subscriber to “Our State” magazine, a magazine about North Carolina, I recently received a copy of their new book “North Carolina Mountain Travel Guide”.  While only 95 pages long, it is full of interesting people and places in beautiful western North Carolina.

I would not consider this to be even close to a comprehensive travel guide to the area.  Rather it focuses on 21 places to go, see, eat, shop, and stay.  Each of the 21 articles, by several different writers, are written in such a way as to make you want to leave home right now and go explore or go eat!

The first article in the “Outside” chapter focuses on the Cherohala Skyway, which is a 43 mile road from Robbinsville, NC across the mountains to Tellico Plains, Tennessee.  While I grew up in western North Carolina, and visit the area often now, I have never heard of the Cherohala Skyway.  Maybe I have been living under a rock, but I do not know how I missed out on this unique road.  In “Our State’s” book, it says that the road took roughly 40 years to build and cost $100 million.  It did not say over what time period the road was built, but I looked it up on the Internet and found that planning for the road began in 1958 and was completed in late 1996.  Only 18 miles of the road are in North Carolina, but Josh Shaffer states that “these miles are some of the prettiest anywhere”.  In the book, Shaffer goes on to say that, “to hear the bees buzzing in the wildflowers at mile-high Santeetlah overlook, to stand on peaks so high you can almost grab a handful of clouds, to drive two hours through Smoky Mountain country with seeing a single rooftop, you’ve got to outrun civilization.”  It sounds like a great drive through a beautiful part of the country.

In an article about the Mile High Swinging Bridge at Grandfather Mountain, written by Leigh Ann Henion, there are details about the cost and the methods of constructing the bridge.  I have walked across the bridge with a little nervousness several times, but I was amazed by a photograph in the book of men in the process of building the bridge.  While one man casually holds a long ladder with one hand, another man is several rungs up on the ladder which is leaning on a cable working away.  It makes my stomach churn just seeing him on the ladder leaning high over the bridge.  Another article, also by Henion, is about the greenhouses of the Gardens of the Blue Ridge in Newland, not far from Grandfather Mountain.  According to the article, Gardens of the Blue Ridge is the oldest licensed nursery in North Carolina, having been run by at least one member of owner Rob Fletcher’s family since 1892.  Henion writes that “the nursery specializes in wildflowers and shade plants that thrive in the temperate rain forests of southern Appalachia.”  She goes on to write that “the majority of the nursery’s business is mail-order, but it has quite a few local customers.  Over the years, Rob develeped an honor system that allows people to take what they want after hours, leaving payment in a mailbox. ‘We think people who like wildflowers tend to be good people,’ Rob says.”  Sounds like a beautiful place to visit and shop.

The book contains several articles about restaurants which, of course, always draw my interest.  David Bailey writes about Jimmy Mac’s Restaurant in downtown Bryson City.  The restaurant offers 20 different burgers on their menu.  Bailey mentions the Bleu Max, with bleu cheese and bacon; the Minnesota Fats, with mushroom gravy, sour cream, and sauteed onions; and the Cheese, Cheese, Cheese Burger with mozzarella, cheddar, and swiss.  Bailey says “Jimmy Mac’s burgers are not for the timid but promise satisfaction across a spectrum of tastes.  And beef patties aren’t the only option - all 20 variations can dress up buffalo burgers, elk burgers, and even veggie burgers.”  Luella’s Bar-B-Que in Asheville sounds wonderful.  Leah Hughes writes that owner Jeff Miller has “added an item to the menu called Big Boy’s Blue Ribbon BBQ Platter.  The platter - served on old pizza pans he found in the attic of the restaurant - includes a half-pound each of pork barbecue, pulled chicken, and sliced beef brisket, and eight ribs.  With your choice of three seide and a doxen hush puppies.”  Sounds great, but maybe that is a meal for the whole family!

As a booklover, I am always glad to read about bookstores. Katie Baer writes about Highland Books in Brevard, which sounds like “the” place to get books and information on western North Carolina.  She writes that “thirty-six years after the couple purchased the store in 1976, Tim and Peggy (Hansen) see Highland Books as an opportunity to educate Brevard residents about the area around them.  They stock trail maps for the Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest, and Panthertown; guides to North Carolina waterfalls, and the Trails Illustrated map for the national forests of western North Carolina.”  And not to be missed is Asheville’s Malaprop’s Bookstore,  of which Janet Hurley writes, “In 2000, Malaprop’s received the Seal of the City Recognition for Outstanding Contributions to the City of Asheville, the same year Publishers Weekly named it Bookseller of the Year.”

Chalet Inn, between Dillsboro and Bryson City, is featured as one of the unique places to stay in the mountains.  Jeremy Markovich writes that owners George and Hanneke Ware spent “five years searching, from Pickens, South Carolina, to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, from Boone to Robbinsville, to find this place.  It was perfect.”  This place is where they built the Chalet Inn.  “It was this land that drew in George, and the area turned out to be perfect.  The hardwoods of western North Carolina remind Hanneke of the Black Forest in Germany.  A Bavarian home was meant to be here.  While in Germany, George fell in love with gasthauses - little country inns so small that you had no choice but to bump into the owners and talk and eat and learn.  George wanted one of his own.  He wanted a big mountain home but couldn’t afford it unless he opened it for guests.”  It took three years to build.  “They built balconies and rerouted the stream.  They planted grass and put in a pond.  They stocked the library with books, made some of George’s old military relics into placques, and hung them on the walls.”  The inn has been very successful and they have expanded.  Looks and sounds like a wonderful place to stay.

“North Carolina Mountain Travel Guide” contains lots of good articles.  Even if you are not planning a trip to western North Carolina anytime soon, you will enjoy reading the book and getting a great perspective on a lot of intriguing places.  It is definitely full of fun, human interest articles.

“North Carolina Mountain Travel Guide” is available from the Our State Store at (800) 948-1409 or at www.ourstatestore.com
 

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