It's going to be a short one this week as I haven't been able to get out and do a whole lot. I'm coming to you this week from Bryson City, just outside of Great Smoky Mountain National Park, in North Carolina.
Last week was, in fact, my last in South Carolina. I did get out to Cowpens National Battlefield as mentioned last week, and it's a really interesting Revolutionary War Site. From there I took a nice slow drive down scenic Route 11, and then took the 25 straight out of the state. It's a strangely emotional feeling to move out of a state I've been in for over a month. Even though I move around quite a bit, I feel like I become a part of it and it becomes a part of me. It's like I've been living there for a while. I had a great time in South Carolina and really think it has a lot to offer. Having gone into the state with little knowledge of it beyond the coast, I was surprised at how much it had to offer. It certainly was another great month on the road in America.
Crossing the border, I headed back to Hendersonville, a town I had passed through briefly when I was travelling through North Carolina. It was where I turned back east across the south of the state. Hendersonville is a nice town, with a lot to offer. The downtown area is compact, but full of shops and bars and restaurants. It's just another small North Carolina town which seems to be doing pretty well for itself.
I got there in time to enjoy the Wednesday Mountain Music Jam Session at Sanctuary Brewing Company. It was a cool event with some great music and I managed to get some writing done while I was there, which was even better. The beer there is good, but this is a great community oriented business as well. They offer a community meal on Sundays which is free to everyone, and they have a wonderful pet adoption event on Wednesdays for which they cover half the adoption fees. Out front is a "kindness wall" which is a set of hooks for people to leave what they can spare or take what they need. It's still a little cold out here in the mountains, so there were some nice coats available when I was there. I wish more businesses were as conscientious of the communities they operate in and as kind to those less fortunate.
Thursday, Friday and Saturday were spent, in their entirety, finishing my last podcast: Shoeless Joe, Astronauts and the Godfather of Soul. If you haven't listened to my podcast yet, I would love it if you gave it a try. I'm pretty proud of it. You can find it by going to the podcast header at the top of the page, or by clicking HERE. If you have a fast internet connection, you can listen to it straight from that page, but it is usually better to download it so it doesn't buffer in the middle of a good story. If you listen to other podcasts, you should be able to find it by searching "American Anthology" in most podcast providers. If you don't find it in your preferred podcasting app, please let me know so I can try and add it. If you do listen to podcasts a lot, you'll know that at the end there is usually a long list of credits of those people who help produce that podcast. I used to be amused at how many people it seemed to take. Now, as the researcher, writer, performer, editor, producer and promoter, I understand. It is a lot of work, but I really love how it lets me get closer to the subjects and topics that really interest me. It gives me a reason to find out as much of the story as I can, and it lets me share it with you.
In this most recent episode, I started out with a pretty famous Southern Rock band who took its name from a pretty random person they had never met. I won't spoil the surprise ending here, but it's a cool story. I then get into the story of the famous baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson. Born with unusually long arms, he was an incredible ball handler and hitter. He started in the Mill Leagues in his home town of Greenville and went on to play in the big leagues in Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago. His association with the cheating scandal in the 1919 World Series is questionable, but he was banned from baseball for life. Next comes the story of Briggs vs. Elliott, a school desegregation case which went all the way to the supreme court. I then recount the amazing career of the Godfather of Soul: James Brown. The final story is about American hero and the second African American to go into space: Ronald McNair. The music for this episode comes from legendary Piedmont blues artist Dr. Mac Arnold, who I met last week and recorded at a live benefit in Greenville. It's a good episode if you have about 50 minutes to give it a listen.
After finishing this episode and getting it published, it was time to relax a little bit. I headed over to Triskelion Brewing Company for a few cold ones and some live music. The music was great, performed by the amazingly talented folk singer Hope Griffin and her cellist Jamie Leigh. I had heard them perform a few weeks ago down at Awendaw Green when I was recording Saluda Shoals for my last podcast. They are very talented and if you ever get the chance, you should definitely check them out. The beers and the company were great too, and while it was a small crowd, it was a good one. From there, I headed over to Southern Appalachian Brewery right down the street. While I was hoping to catch the end of the show there, I was a little late. I did catch a quick beer or two though and met some great guys who I enjoyed talking with late into the night. It was nice to find some people to spend some time with, and nice to have a night off for a change.
Sunday I made my way down to Brevard, a neat little town on the border of Pisgah National Forest in the amusingly named Transylvania County. It was raining to beat the band, so I spent the afternoon indoors working on a story for my next podcast. I also enjoyed a few beers at the Oskar Blues brewery located just outside of town, and a flight at tiny Ecusta Brewery a little further out. Both were good, but I was ready for an early night, so I had one.
Monday was just dumping rain and I spent the whole day trying to catch up on some work in the library in town as there was just no way I was going to go out hiking in that kind of rain. It was a shame because I had been looking forward to hiking in the area for a few weeks. I know there are some beautiful waterfalls and trails out there, but they'll have to wait until next time. I had a surprisingly good dinner at the Twin Dragons Grand Buffet. Not usually one for the Chinese buffet, this one was exceptionally good. The food was fresh and it was all very tasty. It was a really good stop.
Tuesday started out rainy as well, but I had to get moving again. I was getting cabin fever. I headed up through Pisgah National Forest to Waynesville, stopping along the way at the roadside Looking Glass Falls which was raging from all the rain. Waynesville is a very cute little town full of art and craft studios and shops. I stopped for an hour or so to wander Main Street and check out some of the stores. I ended up having a wonderful conversation with the nice lady who ran a quilt store on Main Street. We started out having the usual chit-chat and ended up jawing on for almost an hour. It was nice.
From there I headed on to my destination: Cherokee, North Carolina on the Qualla Boundary. The Qualla Boundary is the home of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation. Not a reservation per se, because the land was purchased by the tribe not set aside by the government, it is a wonderful little community. I really enjoyed visiting the Museum of the Cherokee Indian and the art center across the street and hope to write a post about them later this week. It was a brief but interesting visit.
With the weather finally clearing a little bit, I headed into Great Smoky Mountain National Park briefly, to check out the Visitor Center and historic Mingus Mill and to do a short hike up to the beautiful Mingo Falls. It was nice to be out on the trail again and getting some exercise. After that, I took some photos of some of the cool retro signs I found around Cherokee and some of the town landmarks like the bear in the cover photo for this post which was at the Cherokee Veterans Memorial. I rounded out the night with a nice Mexican meal in Sylva, where I spent the night last night. Sylva has a pretty amazing county courthouse up on the hill, one of the prettier ones I've seen in the Carolinas.
Today dawned clear and sunny which was an instant boost to my morale. I went out to see Judaculla Rock, one of the largest petroglyph (rock carving) panels on the east coast. With over 1500 inscriptions, it was very cool to see. Although much of the meaning has been lost over time, it was fascinating nonetheless. Through my work as a tour guide, I usually associate petroglyphs with the west, so it was really cool to see one here in the east.
And from there I headed on into Bryson City, where I am writing this post. I am about to head out and do some hiking in the National Park here and then start making my way further south and west. I will be starting my exploration of my next state, Tennessee, before the weekend. If you have any recommendations of places I should see or things I should do in Tennessee, please leave them in the comments below. That's it for this week, I want to get out and enjoy the sunshine - I've missed it these last few days.
Have a great week y'all and I'll catch you next time.