Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Gettin away and into the spirit

Headed up to the Smokies again this past weekend, our favorite getaway. It is only about a 2-1/2 hour scenic drive. There are no interstate highways between here and there, which is nice, so we get to ride through the country and small towns. We pass through Blue Ridge where I grew up. Here is the train in Blue Ridge, brought back in the last few years for the tourists - Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. It goes all the way to the next town of McCaysville, about 11 miles and 15 minutes by the road, over an hour by scenic train ride.

Then Mineral Bluff which is really just a wide place in the road, although they do have a post office. I wonder where the name for this community came from, maybe from the 'fairy crosses' which are found nearby? fairy crosses

Up highway 60 into North Carolina, past Culberson (another small community) - our niece Michelle lives up in this part of the country with her two boys.

Then on to Murphy, which has grown quite a bit over the years we have been traveling through here. I always think of Eric Rudolph living here in the mountains for years while hiding from the FBI, passing the grocery store where he would forage for food in the dumpster, the river he would have to cross to get from his mountain hideouts to town. I bet he is grateful for his warm cell and meals now. Eric Rudolph Slept Here

On northward with the Smoky Mountains ahead in the distance, through the small town of Andrews, I wonder what these people do for a living? The road narrows and goes through Topton, North Carolina, birthplace of Ronnie Milsap, country singer. He lives in Nashville now, but I learned when reading his biography that he was born here in Topton. He was blind at birth, and grew up in these mountains with a love for music. A social worker enrolled him into Morehead State School for the Blind in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he learned braille and studied music. He later went to college at Young Harris College here in the north Georgia mountains, the same school Buddy's sisters and niece went to.

From Topton, the road goes down into Nantahala Gorge, dropping in elevation to run along the bottom of the steep-sided gorge, with the river in the middle, the road on one side, and the railroad on the other. Nantahala is Cherokee for 'Land of the Noonday Sun' because noon is the only time the sun gets to the bottom of the gorge. This time of year the gorge is quiet, but most of the year it is full of brightly colored rafts and kayaks, buses running rafters back and forth, and lots of people having fun in the water. I am not much of a water person, but we did make this fun river trip with our two girls when they were younger.

Up and out of the gorge on the other side, past Bryson City and on to Cherokee, North Carolina. We pass through the Cherokee Indian Reservation, which borders on the national park. Then the 30 mile drive through the park, 15 miles uphill to Newfound Gap, then 15 miles down the other side into Gatlinburg. Beautiful views this clear cold day. Looking forward to the annual Christmas Parade tonight in downtown Gatlinburg. Lots of lights, floats, bands, and of course Santa!

We had a great getaway weekend, and accomplished my goal of trying to get into the spirit of the season. Came home and put up the tree, and attended the local middle school band Christmas concert. We are very proud of our granddaughter, Sarah, and nephews Justin and Jesse for their parts in the concert.


Judith said...

What a great getaway to get into the spirit of the season. I feel as if I tagged along. I enjoyed reading about the fairy crosses & scenery w/history. And how nice to come home to being proud of a grandaughter & nephews!

Alice said...

Thank you, Susan, for the wonderful travelogue of your weekend. Many of the names of towns you passed were familiar to me from various songs. I love to read or hear the place names in other countries, and I have to say that there is nothing like adding 'ville' to the end of a name to conjure up thoughts of American country towns. It sounded like a very scenic drive indeed, especially through the gorge.

Tracey said...

Just this past June I was *finally* blessed to be able to travel to see the mountains that I so longed to see. We entered thru the Gatlinburg side. To say that I was in awe would be an understatement. It is definitely a trip I will make again....VERY soon. Even though I live in the Appalachian mountains here in Pa, the Smokey mountains are the grand finale in a way...it just doesn't get any prettier than that. :o) Thanks for sharing the trip.

Robin said...

Hi, I just found your blog and I like it! My husband is from Georgia and his family still lives in Cumming, GA. Have you ever seen the books about Talula Gilbert Bottoms? She is my inspiration and hero in the quilt world. She and her husband were both born in Georgia in the 1860's, but eventually moved to Alabama. Thank you for the travel story!

Rachel said...

I would love to see all the lights of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge about now! I'll bet it's grand.

Motherkitty said...

My daughter's ex-boyfriend's (in high school and college) mother came from Murphy, NC. The mother's ex-husband was a bigtime lawyer who practiced in Charlotte. She came from a wealthy family and her grandfather was a one-time governor of the state. Daughter has visited there with ex-boyfriend one time and was very impressed with the grand house they lived in, and the scenery, of course. Thanks for sharing.