North Carolina 2022

This page is my blog about my visit to western North Carolina in 2022 with Norma and Daphne over an extended Labor Day weekend.

 Saturday, September 3, 2022

Drive to SwannanoaOpen accordion icon
We were up and out on the road bright and early before the holiday traffic picked up. It was a 7.5 hour leisure drive to our destination but it was mostly uneventful and easy. I'm guessing a lot of the travelers were heading east to the water for the last unofficial summer weekend. In contrast, we were going to the mountains.

Not in any rush, we made a stop at one of the North Carolina Welcome Centers, where, despite the sign indicating that dogs weren't allowed, they let Daphne in...probably because one of the workers had a puppy. The folks there were very helpful and friendly.

During our drive, I kept thinking of the songs Heads Carolina, Tails California and She Had Me At Heads Carolina. I guess we flipped heads.

We dropped things off at our AirBnB house. It was an inexpensive, small, half of a duplex in Swannanoa that was just the right size for the three of us. The owner lived in the other half but we never saw her.

Charles D. Owen ParkOpen accordion icon
Next, we drove into the town of Black Mountain and had dinner at Fresh Wood Fired Pizza & Pasta. For this meal and all the rest of the meals on our trip, Daphne joined us. We never had a problem finding restaurants with outdoor seating.

It was getting late but we had time for a short walk so we went to the Charles D. Owen Park and walked around the ponds and by the Swannanoa River.
Charles D. Owen Park

Near one of the ponds, I saw a couple of muscovy ducks.
Two muscovy ducks

It was a good temperature for sleeping that night. During our stay, we never turned on the air conditioner.
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 Sunday, September 4, 2022

Walker's Knob hikeOpen accordion icon
Our plan was to do an out-and-back hike to Graybeard Mountain starting in Montreat. We drove through a stone archway as we entered this immaculate little town that borders the Montreat Wilderness.

We mostly followed the route described in AllTrails - Graybeard Trail. Starting at the trailhead, we walked on Graybeard Trail following Flat Creek for awhile. Daphne was having a great time running off leash.
Norma and Daphne looking happy

We didn't see any interesting wildlife but we saw a lot of other things.
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Indian cucumber-root
Indian cucumber-root.
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Something slimey
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Orange mushrooms
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Rock tripe lichen
Rock tripe.
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Pink turtlehead flowers
Pink turtleheads.
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Another mushroom
Another shroom.
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White coral fungus
White coral fungus.
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Red Indian pipe, which is rare
Red Indian pipe.

After a couple of switchbacks, we took a break at Graybeard Falls, which was really more of a trickle.
Norma and Daphne in front of Graybeard Falls

Continuing onward, we made it to Walker's Knob Shelter just as the light rain turned into a downpour. We were soon joined by a mother and son who had a tent already set up in the shelter. They were an interesting, adventurous, and very outdoorsy pair. A little while later, another couple also sought refuge with us.

After the rain lightened, Norma, Daphne, and I continued to Walker's Knob at 4774 feet. On a clear day, I am sure we would have had a nice view but at that day and time, we were in a cloud/fog. It reminded me of our Norway hike to Pulpit Rock on August 25, 2014.
Daphne and I in a cloud at Walker's Knob

We thought about continuing onward to the 5364 foot peak of Graybeard Mountain but we were told that even if the skies were clear, we would not be able to see anything. That, plus the likely chance of more heavy rain made us decide to start heading back.

The three of us finished our hike, having covered 10.15 miles with 2179 feet of elevation gain. We were fortunate to have avoided the heaviest rain by waiting in the shelter.

Daphne got a good bath when we got back to the AirBnB house.
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Black MountainOpen accordion icon
After our hike, we had dinner at the Trailhead.

Then, we went for a walk in Black Mountain and saw the Swannanoa River again.

It started raining really hard so we ducked into WNC Outdoor Collective. They had some Hellbender Paddleboards for sale. It wasn't my style but I love the name and the logo. Like many places around there, Daphne was most welcome. We ended up purchasing some outdoor gear.

On the way back to the car, we spotted a fruiting blackberry lily.
Fruiting blackberry lily
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 Monday, September 5, 2022, Labor Day

AshevilleOpen accordion icon
The weather for our visit was not the best and today was the worst. So rather than do a hike, we decided to spend the day in Asheville. This is a very popular tourist destination and a unique place that Norma really likes. It is has a liberal arts college, attracts numerous artists, and has been called the Paris of the South. It is also a very green city.
The city of Asheville claims a clear focus on sustainability and the development of a green economy.
Asheville was the first U.S. city recognized by the Green Restaurant Association as a Green Dining Destination (significant density of green restaurants).

- from Wikipedia - Asheville, North Carolina

With a focus on the environment, it is no surprise that the city is strongly in favor of protecting its bees.
The city became the inaugural Bee City USA in 2012, officially designating the community as one of the first in the nation to champion pollinators and educate residents and businesses about the essential role of the honey bee and other pollinators in making our world bloom and fruit.
In addition, the University of North Carolina at Asheville received dual recognition in 2018 as both Bee Campus USA and Tree Campus USA.

- from Asheville, N.C. is Bee City USA

The place has a bit of a hippie atmosphere. I sensed a lot of the people were tolerant of recreational drug use...not saying that's good or bad.
Bee Hempy sticker

I saw quite a few homeless people.

We picked up lunch at Chai Pani which won the prestigious James Beard Outstanding Restaurant Award in 2022. I'm guessing word got around about this because folks were lined up just to place an order, despite all the rain. I, however, was not so impressed by their food.

The thing that I like most about Asheville was how dog-friendly it is. They even have their own Dog Welcome Center which we visited. Any place that is so welcoming of dogs can't be a bad place.

The three of us dropped in at the WNC Farmers Market which wasn't quite what we expected and not so dog-friendly. It was big but had more of an industrial feel than the local farmers markets we've visited.

The rain let up a bit so on the way back to our AirBnB house, we did a 2.35 mile hike on the Warren Wilson Berea Trail System near Bull Creek.
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Norma and Daphne by a creek
Norma and Daphne.
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Milliped of the Xystodesmidae Family
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The White HorseOpen accordion icon
We went back to the town of Black Mountain. It was Labor Day, yet a lot of restaurants and places with evening activities were closed. Fortunately, we found the White Horse where we heard live music. Best of all, Daphne could join us! Norma had a great time.
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 Tuesday, September 6, 2022

MarionOpen accordion icon
The weather cleared up a bit on our final day. As we drove out of the area, we could see low fog in the valley below with sunlight above.

Norma, Daphne, and I stopped in the town of Marion and walked a short distance on the Peavine Trail. To our southwest, we could see the Oak Grove Cemetery.

Oak Grove Cemetery view from Peavine Trail

Our main reason for stopping in Marion was to see the Marion Manufacturing Company, a textile mill started in 1909.
Brick smokestack of the Marion Manufacturing Company

Across from the mill once stood the Carroll Baldwin Hall. Residing on Baldwin Avenue, it was constructed in 1928 and remodeled in 1949. Recreational facilities included an indoor pool, gymnasium, bowling alley, and dining room along with meeting rooms. For more information, see Facebook - Marion History - East Marion.

The hall is now a vacant lot. But Norma went next door to the NCWorks Career Center and spoke to a woman who let us see historic photos of the town. One of the photos pictured Carroll Baldwin, the founder of the Marion mill. This is the same Carroll Baldwin that was the former president of the Savage Manufacturing Company which resides in our town. A caption under the photo read
At the dawn of the 20th century, Baldwin was a partner in a Baltimore company that specialized in bringing up cotton from the south and shipping it to New England mills. When he decided to build his own mill in 1909, Baldwin chose Marion because of its location at the intersection of the Clinchfield Railroad and the Southern Railroad. The Clinchfield would bring in coal for power, and the Southern would haul the finished cotton northward.
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Grandfather MountainOpen accordion icon
Our final big stop before heading home was Grandfather Mountain
...a place of amazing biodiversity and scenic beauty that towers 5,946 feet above northwest North Carolina. A part of the United Nations' Southern Appalachian Biosphere Reserve, the mountain is estimated to be 300 million years old - with certain rock formations dating back 1.2 billion years.
- from Grandfather Mountain

This area is operated jointly by the Grandfather Mountain Stewardship Foundation and the state of North Carolina.

We pulled over to see two distinctive landmarks.
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A big rock split in half called Split Rock
Split Rock.
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Norma and Daphne in front of the 640 million year old Sphinx Rock
Sphinx Rock.

I walked through what they call an Animal Habitats area. It is sort of a small zoo.
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North American elk feeding
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North American river otters
River otters.
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American black bear sticking its tongue out
Black bear.

We drove a little further uphill, parked, and then walked a scenic and short distance to the Top Shop.
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Mountain skyline
Mountain skyline.
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Norma and Daphne on rock stairs.
On the rocks.
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Plant likely of the Angelica genus
Angelica plant.
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Me holding Daphne in front of big rocks
By the rocks.

Near the Top Shop was perhaps the most recognizable structure at Granfather Mountain, the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Here, we crossed the wind-swept bridge and walked a short distance to Linville Peak (5303 feet), where Daphne and I posed for the photo at appears at the top of this page. Linville is one of the four named peaks that is featured on Grandfather Mountain. The others are Calloway Peak (5,964 feet), Attic Window Peak (5,949 feet), and MacRae Peak (5,844 feet). The area near the bridge was very scenic with rugged boulders and vegetation that reminded me a bit of Dolly Sods.
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Scrub vegetation with rocks
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Norma and Daphne on the Swinging Bridge
Swinging bridge.
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People standing on Linville Peak, on the left
Linville Peak.
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Swinging Bridge with MacRae Peak in the background
MacRae Peak in background.

Next, we walked 0.3 mile up Grandfather Trail. It was quite rocky. It would have been nice to go 0.9 mile up to MacRae Peak but we still had seven hours of driving ahead of us. But even if we had the time, I don't think we would have done that hike since I think it would have been too steep for Daphne. Rather than do an out and back walk, we took the Grandfather Extension Trail back to the car. I don't recall seeing anyone on that trail.
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Daphe and I on a rocky trail in the woods, standing near ferns
Woods and ferns.
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Norma and Daphne next to a big rock with a tree growing on it
Tree on rock.
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Orange mushroom

Traffic wasn't too bad for the drive home. We ended up pulling into our driveway around 11pm.
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Looking down on the Mile High Swinging Bridge from rock formation at Grandfather Mountain
The Mile High Swinging Bridge with MacRae Peak in the background