The Blue Ridge Mountains are the crown jewels of Western North Carolina. Here stands one of the most beautiful and iconic landscapes of North America. In the Fall, the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of the most remarkable sites in the world as the leaves change colors to shades of gold, orange, and red. The foliage peak season is here and this year, I’ve decided to explore some of these stunning mountain views.
I started in the small town of Blowing Rock located 1 hour and 50 minutes north of Charlotte. Here you can find several great restaurants, charming shops, and a delightful downtown to explore. Start your day by having breakfast at The New Public House & Hotel but don’t forget to make a reservation. From the moment you walk in, this cozy restaurant will make you feel that you’re inside a small cottage in the woods and “grandma” is preparing breakfast back in the kitchen. Well-seasoned potatoes with just enough peppers; fresh farm eggs with bright green spinach leaves and healthy tomato chunks; handmade sausage patties with impressive but tasteful hints of rosemary and other herbs; and a light but enormous biscuit served with a sweet jam and butter will hit the right spot to get you started. Wash it all down with a cup of coffee and be surprised. The fresh ground coffee they serve will make you appreciate the small things in life.
Drive up to the famous cliff and relive the legend of the Blowing Rock. It is said that a Chichasaw maiden and a Cherokee brave fell in love in this location. Days passed and the couple returned to the Blowing Rock but this time to encounter a strange red sky. The Cherokee warrior knew this was sign of troubled times to come between the tribes. Torn between his duties as a Cherokee and the love for his maiden, the brave jumped off the cliff. The young maiden cried and prayed for her lover to return and one day, the bright red skies re-appeared above the cliff and a strong gust of wind brought the Cherokee warrior back to her. Ever since that day, wind has blown at the top of the Blowing Rock, rising from the valley below.
The Blue Ridge Parkway entrance can be found just outside of Blowing Rock. Don’t look back and don’t think twice. This is one of America’s favorite scenic drives. The Blue Ridge Mountains extend from Georgia to Pennsylvania but the highest peaks are found here. This is the home of rare plants, wildlife, rivers, waterfalls, and exciting hiking trails. You will find several spots to pull over to enjoy the views and take a deep breath of fresh air. What gives The Blue Ridge Mountain its namesake is the blue tinted haze you will see from a distance. This haze is the result of isoprene accumulations emitted from the flora into the atmosphere.
While you drive across the parkway, follow the signs to Marion. Once you enter McDowell County, you are officially crossing Sasquatch’s territory. Over the years, residents have claimed several Bigfoot sightings in the area, drawing researchers and enthusiasts from all over the country. On Sept. 8, this mountain community celebrated the hairy creature with the first annual “Western North Carolina Bigfoot Festival”. The festival was a huge success and the big guy was rightfully named the official animal of the town. However, Marion is more than just Bigfoot’s backyard. The vibrant Main Street will offer you great places to eat and shop while enjoying gorgeous mountain views. Pick up a copy of the McDowell News and if it happens to be a Friday edition, check out Scott Hollifield’s column. Hollifield, a local humor columnist, often writes about unusual news, his personal life, and everything in-between. It will make you laugh and end (or start) the day on a good note. Make a “pit stop” by Bruce’s Fabulous Foods on Main Street. The restaurant offers a variety of sandwiches, wraps, salads, quesadillas, and the star of the show: delicious cheesecakes. Be prepared to spend more than 10 minutes trying to decide from their lengthy list. All of the options will sound amazing and they taste even better. After you enjoyed your dessert, you will want to take them all home. Guaranteed.