There's no place like home.
Our plans to have lunch with an old friend of mine fell through, so we found ourselves with a day sans plans. Bunny suggested we just head west to see what we could find, and with that nudge, I remembered two locations west of Brevard that we could visit.
First up, The Carolina Smokehouse, a pit-BBQ restaurant in Cashiers, NC we visited a few years ago and liked. Since we were headed that way anyway, that was as good a place to have lunch as any place. If you find yourself in that neck of the woods, it's a good place to stop off for some good barbecue.
After lunch, we turned north to Judaculla Rock, a large stone with a huge number of petroglyphs carved into it—the most in a stone found anywhere east of the Mississippi.
Despite being the middle of nowhere, it was easy to find as it was well marked with signs leading to its location, although parking was nearly non-existant, as it was sitting off the side of a dead-end road leading to a private residence.
Judaculla was a Cherokee god of hunting, and one of the petroglyphs is supposedly of his hand when he jumped down from his mountain home and used the rock to steady his landing. Also, The Devil's Courthouse is also known as “Judaculla's Judgement Seat,” supposedly where he judged the courage or virtue of the Cherokee.
We then made sure to drive back before it got dark. It's thrilling enough to drive the hairpin turns to keep from slaming into or off of the cliffs (or oncoming traffic) in full daylight; night time driving would crank that up to eleven.
Tomorrow, we head back south to Chez Boca …
It's a risk driving to Asheville, given that each time we've driven in that area, Bunny and I get into shouting matches over where we are going and where we currently are located. I think I know why this is now—unlike Orlando which is a maze of roads, each of which have five different names which are never all listed, Asheville is vastly smaller than I think it is.
Back in the late 70s, when I lived in Brevard, Asheville always appeared on maps and even globes, so it became this huge metropolitan capital-C City in my mind as a kid. Something on par with New York or London or even Detroit. Mind you, I never actually saw Asheville, so I never had a chance to experience it until just a few years ago, with a badly drawn map that had absolutely no scale to it, which made navigation a “Fun Time” between Bunny and me.
In reality, Asheville is about twice the area of Boca Raton and about 6% fewer people and it still hasn't really sunk in. Namely because in this area, Asheville is huge, but where I come from, it's about average for a city.
Weird how that works.
Anyway, we had lunch at The Moose Cafe, right at the entrance to the farmers market. Food wise, it's like an organic version of The Cracker Barrel (figures—it's Asheville!) with about the same prices (given that it's practically on top of a farmers market, it's no wonder). It was quite good—can't really complain about the food or the service.
The farmers market itself wasn't terribly busy, but unlike Brevard's farmer market, it's held every day and is less hurt by inclement weather, not that today was inclement. Crystal blue sky and in the low 60s–not terrible weather given it snowed just a few days prior.
We picked up some produce (an 8 pound cabbage head! Carrots a foot long!) and made an uneventful ride back to Brevard.
just because The Red House Inn was built in 1851 does not mean it doesn't have modern amenities. Just look at the shower in our suite!
We woke up to find snow outside.
The last time I saw snow was in 1998, trudging through 20° weather in Boston, at night, ever on the lookout for the next subway station, which was inexorably “just around the corner.”
Fortunately, the snow was a light dusting over Brevard, and most of it was gone by late monring.
Unfortunately, we were not ensconced under three feet of blanket, but instead, we found ourselves trudging through 30° weather in Brevard, in the early moring, ever on the lookout for a farmers market, which was inexorably “just around the corner.”
Okay, I kid. It was several blocks from The Red House Inn, but due
to the weather and the fact that some parts of Transylvania County
experienced several inches of snow, the number of
sellers at the Transylvania Farmers
Market was severely curtailed to about ten
The rest of the day was spent under three feet of blanket.
It's not every day you get to see a life-sized teddy bear just sitting on a park bench. Unless you happen to be in Brevard, in which case, you will see a life-sized teddy bear just sitting around.
Bunny and I were still a bit sore from yesterday's small hike so we took it a bit easy today. We just walked a few blocks to downtown Brevard, had lunch, did a bit of shopping, and headed back to The Red House Inn, where I did a Nestea plunge into the bed. A few minutes later, Bunny informed me I had slept for about an hour.
We finally ate at The Square Root, which was, as always, very good.
And because a few of you asked to see the results of my recent haircut, here you go:
Taken as I rested on the never-ending half-mile mountain trail from Hell.
Located at milepost 422.4 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Devil's Courthouse has a short but strenuous trail climbing a half mile to its peak with wonderful panoramic mountain views (see photo above). The mostly paved trail starts from the overlook parking area beside the mountain.
A “strenuous trail” it says. A “half mile to its peak” it says. “Mostly paved.”
Strenuous for someone used to hiking mountain trails. Pure insanity for someone used to the flat paved parking lots of Florida.
Sure, it's mostly paved. I would say about two-thirds of the way up is paved, at an incline of 13° (I measured it with an app on my smartphone), which doesn't sound like much, but you try to walk over a quarter mile on a 13° incline. Every ten feet or so is a small bump across the paved path. I suspect it's to stop people when they stumble and start rolling downhill.
The last third or so of the path is gravel and loose rocks at the same 13° incline, making a fun game of “Break the Ankle!” And then, when you think it can't get any worse—stairs!
The day started out beautifully. Not a cloud in the sky, a bit brisk, and a leasurely drive out of Brevard, up US-276 North to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The drive along US-276 was an explosion of colors here and there—we definitely caught the tail end of Peak Leaf Season.
Once on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we stopped at the Pisgah Inn for lunch. Bunny ordered the Turkey, Brie and Apple Wrap with a side of pumpkin soup (“It's like slurping a pumpkin pie,” she said) and I ordered the char broiled whole trout, filleted tableside. It was quite delicious.
After lunch (desert—homemade blackberry cobbler), we headed south along the Blue Ridge Parkway towards the Devil's Courthouse. The drive was nerveracking. All I wanted to do was rubberneck at the passing vistas around every curve, but at the same time, I couldn't move my eyes off the road, lest I launch headlong into a cliff or worse, launch headlong off a cliff. Bunny was trying her best not to “Ohh” and “Ahh” too much.
We did stop a few times at some overlooks. At one, we caught two guys tracking a bear with hand-held radio equipment (it became clear that the bear must have been radio tagged) and a serious camera. Bunny and I never did see the bear.
Eventually, we reached our destination, The Devil's Courthouse.
Well, the base of The Devil's Courthouse. We still had that halfmile hike to contend with.
You would think that once at the top, it would be easy going down. The stairs were hard, seeing how they were broken slabs of rough hewn rock. Then the gravel portion was tricky to keep your foot from shooting out from beneath you on loose gravel. But in an ironic twist, walking down that 13° paved incline was just as bad as going up. You have to lean back to keep from tumbling down, so your feet plop down at this extended angle that's tiring. It's a different tiring than trugding up the trail, but it's tiring nonetheless. I actually found it easier to walk backwards down the trail, but as Bunny mentioned, you can't see where you are going.
Did I mention that view?