Jump Off Rock

Located just outside Hendersonville in Laurel Park, Jump Off Rock is touted as a place to enjoy views of western North Carolina’s sweeping mountain vistas.

jump off rock, nc

Legend states that a mourning Native American maiden jumped from the rock to her death after her true love was killed in battle. Some believe that her ghost is visible on moonlit evenings.

Mr. McB and I took a side trip to Laurel Park during the summer. The drive from Hendersonville to Jump Off Rock is a curvy one. Mr. McB is prone to motion sickness and had close his eyes to ward off nausea.

There is ample, easily-accessible parking at the site. We walked toward the rock and were expecting to be blown away by the view. As you can see from the photo below, it is a nice view but not quite what we were expecting. The leafy trees near the rock obstructed the view. The photo below is one of the better shots I got that day.

jump off rock viewWe wanted to take a walk around the park but found that the trails were not clearly marked. They also involved uneven, rocky stairs that just seemed like an accident waiting to happen.

It wasn’t a total bust. The park did have crisp, fresh mountain air. This little fellow was enjoying the afternoon on the rocks and provided some entertainment.

lizard at jump off rock

I can’t give Jump Off Rock rave reviews but it’s free and has some positive points. If you want to visit, learn more here. 

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Mountain Magic – Hendersonville, NC

For more than a year, Hendersonville was just an exit off the interstate for us. We zoomed by on our way to Asheville without even considering a stop. I’m glad someone tipped me off to the wonders that await in this adorable little town.

Yes, I used the word “adorable” but don’t let that turn you off. Hendersonville is sweet but still manages to be genuine. It’s not the fake preciousness you get in some more touristy spots. The town went through a major revitalization in the 1990s so all this cuteness is the result of hard work. It’s also magnified by the friendly people you’ll find working and visiting here.

hendersonville, nc train stationThe 1902-1916 train station located in the Seventh Avenue Depot District.

The depot is definitely a fun stop for train enthusiasts but the real fun lies on Hendersonville’s Main Street. You’ll find a wide variety of shops and restaurants. This is a fantastic place to do window shopping or pickup unique gifts. Many stores have an international flair while others specialize in handmade items.

train shop in hendersonville, ncA scene from the window of the train shop

catamountA catamount lurks in the flowers on Main Street.
The dome of the Hendersonville County Courthouse is also visible.

hendersonville, nc bear drinking beerThis is one of the many themed bears that reside on Main Street. He’s cool and casual like most things we encountered in Hendersonville.

hippie van greatful deadHendersonville is very popular with retirees. As you might guess from this photo, it is also hippie-friendly.

what do you call a cow with no legs? ground beefThis sign was outside a shop on Main Street.

mike's on main hendersonvilleGiven the name, we had to go with Mike’s on Main for our lunch. This is an authentic soda fountain with lots of retro appeal.

mike's on mainmike's on mainWe both had sandwiches and found them to be enjoyable. Unlike Rocky’s in Brevard, Mike’s might depend a little too much on the kitsch and not quite enough on the cuisine. It was a good solid meal but nothing exceptional.

On the other hand, Kilwin’s is amazing. We first went to Kilwin’s in Boone, NC several years ago. They have handmade confections and a wonderful ice cream parlor. As soon as you enter the door, the sweet smell of chocolates and goodies fill your nose. It’s difficult to describe this pleasant aroma. It is equally difficult to stop one’s tummy from rumbling inside Kilwin’s.

kilwin's root bear floatMr. McB’s root beer float
His other favorite is the black-cherry ice cream soda.

ice cream cone kilwin'sMy coconut fudge cone. Ohhhh my goodness! This makes a belly happy!!

white chocolate popcornWhite chocolate popcorn is made fresh in the store. It’s cooling on the marble slab. The employees are always sharing free samples of some sort of delicious treat.

kilwin'sWe’re looking forward to many more trips to this little mountain town. I’m looking forward to visiting the Team ECCO aquarium and finally making a selection from McFarlan’s Bakery. This from-scratch bakery has so many options that I couldn’t make up my mind and walked out empty-handed. I look forward to telling you all about my victory over analysis-paralysis.

If you’re in Western North Carolina, make some time to check out Hendersonville. It’s also a quick, and enjoyable, trip from South Carolina’s Upstate.

Pisgah National Forest or That One Weekend When It Didn’t Rain

Our summer was frustratingly wet. It rained for weeks on end. We broke all sorts of records. I refused to give into the weather and wore knee-high rain boots and carried an umbrella whilst grilling Mr. McB’s birthday dinner on July 4.

Something happened on the first weekend of August. The sun broke through the clouds and there was nary a drop of precipitation. We jumped in the car and drove toward Brevard, North Carolina and Pisgah National Forest.

The drive was leisurely and scenic with just some minor curves.

Our first stop in the park was Looking Glass Falls. There were many cars parked along the road. For the most part, people were considerate. Those driving by went slowly and were mindful of people trying to reenter the road and pedestrians.

Pisgah National FOrest Looking Glass FallsThis was our first look at the falls from the roadway. You then start the steep staircase down to the water.

 FOrest Looking Glass Falls crowdAs I mentioned, this was the first sunny weekend in a month. The park was a bit crowded.

 FOrest Looking Glass FallsThere were a number of swimmers and waders making their way into the crisp, clear water. On a return trip, I will come prepared with a towel and sandals.

pisgahus

 FOrest waterAfter our time at the falls, we explored the park a bit more. This creek widened out and lead to a calmer swimming hole.

picnic spot at pisgah national forestThis picnic area was very popular. There were hammocks, grills, and lots of family togetherness. The smells from the grills set our tummies to rumbling but we did a little more exploring before heading out of the park.

Pisgah National ForestMr. McB and I were the only ones around on this path.

Pisgah National ForestLog bridge spanning the creek

pisgahlogsWe were famished when we left the park. Knowing my preference for local eats, we headed toward Brevard to find lunch. Finding lunch late on a Sunday afternoon is not an easy feat. Many restaurants were closing just as we arrived. Just when we were ready to declare defeat and drive back toward the chain restaurants, we spotted Rocky’s Grill and Soda. Rocky’s began its life as Varner’s Drug Store and Soda Fountain in 1942.

Stepping in, it’s easy to image that not much has changed in the last 70 years. The menu is very retro but the sandwiches have modern touches that really make this more than just a novelty restaurant.

rocky's grilled cheese with baconMr. McB’s grilled cheese was stuffed with smoky strips of real bacon.

pisgahsammy

pisgahchicken My chicken salad sandwich was delicious thanks to a hint of tarragon. The sandwiches also came with delicious green tomato pickles. There is a bit of a tomato-ey flavor and somehow it works with the bread and butter style spices.

If you want to recreate our trip, I recommend coming prepared to get in the water. I would also advise you to pack a picnic or at least some substantial snacks, especially if you plan to swim. MOST IMPORTANTLY, bring your own toilet paper. The park provides bathrooms but does not offer TP.

Upstate (and just into NC) adventure

“Let a joy keep you. Reach out your hands and take it when it runs by.”
  Carl Sandburg

Part of the reason we moved to South Carolina was to take advantage of the mild, and often sunny, winters that alluded us in Ohio. Last Saturday we were blessed with a sunny day and decided to make the most of it by visiting the Poinsett Bridge on our way to Carl Sandburg’s home in Flat Rock, NC.

To access the Poinsett Bridge, we followed 25 north and then turned off to the right where directed by the big, brown highway sign. I believe we were on old 25. If you follow those brown signs you’ll find it without any trouble. I do advise you to be cautious as the route to the bridge is quite popular with cyclists. When you reach the bridge, you will see a nice parking area to the right of the road. It’s horseshoe shape provides an adequate space for parking and makes things quite easy when you’re ready to get back on the road.

After carefully crossing the road, you will find a newer set of wooden steps that make it easy to get down onto the bridge. Getting down to Little Gap Creek, the body of water that runs beneath the bridge, may be a little tricky for those with mobility limitations or impractical footwear. The photo to the left shows the upper half of the path that leads to the creek. You can see some exposed roots and rocks along the path. I think most people could navigate it easily but it’s worth mentioning that tennis shoes or hiking boots are ideal.

When we visited the creek was low, exposing large patches of rock that allowed for good access and lovely photos.

The natural beauty is undeniable but so is the majesty of the bridge itself. Built in 1820, this treasure features a 14′ gothic arch. It is a bit boggling that this bridge was still used in the 1950s. The craftsmanship is a grade above what we are used to seeing these days. Poinsett Bridge

It is also a beautiful spot for portrait photography. The arch can soften the light or create interesting, and mysterious, shadows. McB and I chose the mossy walls of the bridge’s upper surface for our self-timer portrait.

After traipsing around in the woods, climbing about, and snapping lots of pictures, we got back in the car for the drive up to Flat Rock, NC and the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. The drive was an easy, picturesque one and once again, those nice brown signs lead the way to our destination.

Upon reaching the house, McB eagle-eyed a parking spot in the small, and very popular, parking lot. The lot, and the park itself, is popular because of the beauty and accessibility of the grounds. The property is named Connemara and features a number of hiking trails including one that will take you to the top of Glassy Mountain. I look forward to hitting those trails one day but we were going for the first-time visitor experience and that meant seeing the house.

If you are traveling with someone with mobility needs, you can use a phone in the welcome area/restrooms to call a park ranger to request transportation up to the house. It’s roughly .3/mile but it is a bit steep and could be a challenge for some. There are a number of benches along the route for any walkers who need a rest.

At the top of the hill, you will find the house. Tours are $5 and offer a good deal of information about the Sandburg’s and their relatively simple life at Connemara. During my time at the house, it was clear to me that the Sandburg’s were more interested in enjoying each other than living the life that many would expect from a famed poet/author and his wife.  The guestroom, that was used by Edward R. Murrow and other notables, is located by the kitchen. It features simple furnishings and seemed to double as a sewing/ironing space. Given what we heard about the Sandburg’s, I wouldn’t be surprised if those items were in the room when guests visited and I doubt any of those guests cared one bit.

The property also featured Mrs. Sandburg’s goat farm. She had quite a reputation for her herd and the care she took in breeding her goats. There are still goats on the property today. This area does not require admission and is a popular spot with the younger visitors. The goats are quite docile.

This chair, a frequent perch for Carl, was one of my favorite spots. I can imagine that the serenity he experienced while taking in the world helped to spur his creative genius.

Connemara is a beautiful, almost magical place. There is a bit of something for everyone and you don’t have to be a Sandburg scholar to take something away from the visit. If you’d like to learn more about the Sandburg’s click here.

It was a really wonderful day. It was meant to be my birthday celebration and really, I couldn’t have asked for a better gift than exploring, learning, and photographing with my sweet husband by my side.