Saturday, October 1, 2011

Life On Beach

Originally published in My Trip Journal on August 10, 2011

Beech Mountain, NC is a very unique type of place. We had traveled the road up (straight up, I might add!!) to the little town of Beech Mountain and the ski resort a few times in the past, but I think we both had the impression the town was limited to what one could see at the top of mountain. Our first notion that we were very wrong was discovering that our cabin was a LONG way from the town proper down the back side of the mountain. Come to find out, the town boundaries cover more than 65 miles of road with the vast majority of that being residential. I went out yesterday afternoon to do some exploring on my own and even with a map managed to get myself thoroughly turned around. But something I loved was the fact that no two houses are alike. No cookie cutter subdivisions here. Our rental house is a true log cabin while the house directly across from us is a swiss chalet and just up the street is a true a-frame. There are some huge fancy homes as well as tiny little cabins. It is all very unique and quite unlike anything I've ever seen before. I would imagine the entire atmosphere changes come winter. Most of the cars we see have Florida license plates - no surprise there. It would be my guess that come fall, the Floridians will head back to Florida and rent their homes to the skiers this winter. It's just a laid back kind of place that invites days of reading, napping, walking and quiet nights of watching movies and more reading. And the best part of all are these floor to ceiling windows wide open with a breeze so cool you stay covered up with an afghan. Total contentment!

We did not leave the mountain Monday or Tuesday. On Monday, neither of us left the cabin until very late in the afternoon when we went for a walk. I came fully loaded with library books and Bill is totally engrossed in this year's Common Book, a program begun several years ago at the Community College where he is on the faculty. Each year a book is chosen that everyone is encouraged to read and discuss. So reading, planning, talking and lots of good eating were the main activities on Monday.

I'll have to confess that there was more of the same on Tuesday. We did venture up to the town to visit
Fred's General Mercantile and the Visitor Center. Fred's is a Beech Mountain icon and it does seem to be true that if you can't find it at Fred's, you probably don't need it. I couldn't get Bill to put down his book and he wasn't much in the mood to hike, so I left him in the afternoon and went exploring on my own. Beech Mountain has two paved walking trails and I wanted to find both of them. Neither are very long, but both were quite lovely.

Two days of being pretty much sedentary were enough, so today we headed off the mountain to visit Boone & Blowing Rock.
Boone is probably best known as the home of Appalachian State University. It has a funky kind of vibe that I've always enjoyed. Unfortunately, over the past decade or so, it has grown tremendously causing all sorts of sprawl and major traffic issues. It just isn't what it used to be, but if you look hard enough, you can still find the quaint and quirky side. One thing that hasn't changed is Stick Boy Bread Company and that was where we were sitting at 9:00 am for a mid-morning snack. Stick Boy makes all their products onsite according to a schedule of certain breads on certain days. We emerged with a loaf of Country White for Bill and 100% Whole Grain for me. Both loaves were still warm.

To undo some of the damage done by the Stick Boy cinnamon buns, we went for a long walk on the Boone Greenway, one of the most beautiful greenway systems I've every seen. You feel as if you are out in the middle of nowhere walking along a creek through fields of summer wildflowers. Very relaxing and simply making me long for cooler days back home so I can enjoy my morning walks on our greenways.

On to
Blowing Rock, a small mountain city that is still just as quaint as I remember from childhood. I have so many wonderful childhood memories from this area and we've continued to build many of our own. First up was more walking. Only in recent years have we discovered Bass Lake, part of the Moses Cone Estate and Carriage Roads complex just outside of Blowing Rock and off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Moses Cone was a North Carolina textile king who founded Cone Mills which was at one time, the world's leading producer of denim. He built Flat Top Manor in the mountains of western North Carolina as a retreat for he and his wife, Bertha. Along with the manor house, he built more than 25 miles of carriage roads which are maintained today for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The trails are wide, easily graded and absolutely beautiful. One of the trails surrounds Bass Lake and is an extremely popular walking path for residents of Blowing Rock. It is flat and just outside of town. Walking around Bass Lake is one of our must-do activities whenever we are here.

After all that exercise, we spent some time sitting on one of the Old Fart's benches in the city park watching people. That's always good for some laughs! Then it was time for a late lunch and Bill had done a great job picking out a couple of choices. We ended up at
Village Cafe and enjoyed a totally delightful al fresco dining experience on their garden patio.

Soon after lunch, some more bench sitting and a quick trip to the grocery, we headed back up the mountain arriving at our cabin just in time for a delightful gentle rain. It has now been raining for almost an hour. No storms, just wonderful rain and cool breezes. I suspect it will be a very early night.

Thanks for reading!

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