by Amber Deen
--Arthur Stupka, “The Great Smokies and the Blue Ridge” (1943)
Newspaper clippings and postcard announcements of fall events, and their sponsors’ printed website pages that provide details and photos about them, are strewn over every surface, hard or soft, of my tiny office/guest room. Articles and brochures about all the major destinations in and around Yancey County, are also here, only in somewhat neater piles. It all represents a great many things to see and do and places to visit in our beautiful mountain region. And this is the best time of the whole year to see and do and visit them.
So I practiced what I preached, and a couple of Sundays ago I went with a group of 20 people and 10 dogs for a leisurely stroll on a well-maintained trail through the 100 year old apple trees at The Historic Orchard at Altapass. I had just written about it in the blog, “Fall, Foliage and Fun,” but had not been there in a few years.
Well I had forgotten just how incredible is the panoramic view. It personifies the word “vista.” The mountain layers were just beginning to show the yellows and reds of autumn, a prelude to the colorful show to come.
The weather was perfect, about 68, probably a little cooler up there on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Without my jacket, the temperature in the sun was ideal. It never got too warm, not even after twenty minutes or more of walking. The sky was a perfectly clear, intense, cobalt blue. There was a slight breeze. We walked at our own pace, chatting with other walkers and their dogs as we meandered along. Someone heard the old freight train coming on the tracks just below us. In the blog just mentioned, I said the orchard had been created by the Clintchfield Railroad in 1908 on the land above the tracks, when passenger trains had stopped running. The barn-red building that houses The Orchard’s gift shop, butterfly exhibit, home-made ice cream and fudge counter, and is the music venue, was the station where apples were loaded on the freight cars. So there we were watching the train moving ever so slowly from west to east, with that magnificent panoramic vista in the background. Someone said the train goes through 19 tunnels on that mountain route.
As we watched, chatting, and so comfortable in the moment, I remembered how much more gratifying such an event is when shared with others. I had hiked a number of times alone, and always missed having someone to “Oooh” and “Aahh” with over discoveries large and small.
So I’d like to share a few more of my autumn favorites with you.
Our own Scenic Byway
The writer, Karen Chavez, calls the route, “52 miles of Western North Carolina driving perfection in the fall.” She added, “It not only passes through layers of colorfully changing leaves, it winds through a smorgasbord of artistic, outdoors, cultural, historic and scenic attractions, meeting all the criteria for the state’s Scenic Byway program.”
Coming northwest from Asheville on Interstate 26, the route begins at the Burnsville/Mount Mitchell exit 9. It follows US19 east through downtown Burnsville, and winds its way through my favorite local valley scenery in the Toe River Valley, Toe being short for Toecane, an Indian word I’m told. It meets Blue Ridge Parkway, then heads southwest to the road that takes you the final 3 miles to Mount Mitchell State Park. (If you wanted, you could continue on the Parkway to Asheville, making a complete circle.)
Our 52 mile route is the only Scenic Byway that has a state park, a national park, and a national forest – Pisgah. For more NC scenic byways information, go to www.ncdot.gov/travel/scenic.
The Cove at Celo Mountain
It’s not surprising that another of my favorite places, especially in autumn, is just off the Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway. The Cove at Celo Mountain is stunning this time of year, and well worth a visit.
Come meander by the creek on well-maintained paths. Stop at our Greeters Park and Outdoor Library areas and listen to the view.
See the wooded lots where you might want to build your own “tree house,” and the spacious move-in-ready cabin, The Foxwood, rustic yet with all the amenities.
See it at The Cove at Celo Mountain. You’ll love the possibilities. Then phone us at 866 378-4769 and ask about our Mountain Renewal Weekend. Fall is best when shared, and we want to share it with you.
Two of my Halloween favorite treats are coming up: Trick ‘r’ Treating in downtown Burnsville, a Halloween night like no other, and our 2nd Annual Halloween Costume Ball with the nationally popular jazz singer Kat Williams, a huge favorite in Western NC.
You see, kids in the country, where farms are far apart, have to be driven to the suburbs. One shop owner started a Trick ‘r’ Treat night in our little town about 4 years ago. Four hundred costumed kids showed up at the shops. It was a huge success, and each Halloween the numbers have grown. I swear, I think the entire population of Yancey County – all 18,000 of us – showed up last Halloween. It’s become a giant, fun block party with parents escorting every kind of princess, bunny, super hero, ghoul and goblin through the town. I love it. It’s uplifting. Everyone smiles, laughs, and has such a good time. It’s way more fun, and safer, than the traditional Halloween nights of Anywhere, USA Suburbia.
So bring the Grands for your visit to our special place, and join the fun downtown from 4 to 6pm. I guarantee it’ll be a Halloween they’ll always remember. And I bet you will too. For details visit Yancey Chamber of Commerce or phone them at 828 682-7413.
Now Kat Williams came from humble beginnings, grew up in foster homes, spent her teen years caring for her last foster mother, and ended up homeless on the streets of New York City. Her lust for life, passion for music, talent and exuberant personality helped her become the incredibly successful performer she is today.
So after the kids have tuckered out Trick ‘r’ Treating, it’s grownups’ time to party at Town Center. Get details from Burnsville Town Center, or call 828 682-7209.