Monday, July 1, 2019
Days 7 and 8 on the road: Brevard, NC and the Pisgah National Forest
Over the weekend, Miss D. and I indulged ourselves in doing touristy things, visiting some very lovely places, and relaxing and unwinding with "us time" - something that's been hard to schedule at home, with all the demands on our time.
On Saturday morning, after a leisurely and very tasty breakfast at our B&B, we walked the streets of Brevard for a few hours. Our first stop was the local farmers market, which didn't yield anything we really wanted. From there we visited several art galleries, looking at what was on display. I must admit, I was disappointed. It seemed to me that many relatively mediocre artists were offering work for sale on the premise that "You must support local artists!", without regard for their quality. Frankly, I don't work that way. I don't mind spending money on something that's well executed, but sloppy, slapdash work doesn't appeal to me. We didn't buy anything except for a couple of mugs that caught Miss D.'s eye.
The rest of the day was spent quietly, resting during the afternoon, then sharing a pizza for supper. There are no really good pizza outlets near our home, so we indulged in a very tasty deep-dish pizza from a local vendor, bringing it back to our B&B to eat. It was fun.
On Sunday morning, we had a great time. After another very good breakfast with our hosts, we headed for U.S. Route 276 through the Pisgah National Forest. Our first stop was the well-known Looking Glass Falls, which are visible from the roadside.
I stayed at road level, but Miss D. climbed all the way down the staircase to view the falls from their base. She panted and puffed her way back up again, and we agreed that walking at higher altitudes like this (the falls are at well over 4,000 feet) was tough!
Our next stop was the Cradle of Forestry, where the science of forest management in North America really began, with the establishment of the Biltmore Forest School in 1898 by a German expert, Carl A. Schenck, at the behest of George W. Vanderbilt. There's a visitor's center and museum, and an auditorium offering a short, interesting and informative film about Mr. Schenck's vital work, and how it influenced all US forestry work and preservation efforts from then onward. We raided the gift shop for some souvenirs, including a couple of stuffed toys to complete a set I've been making up for a family back home.
From there, we went further north on Highway 276 to where it joins the Blue Ridge Parkway. This is a delightful drive along the top of one of the highest ridges in the Appalachian Mountains, offering spectacular views that stretch for many miles. We drove to Mount Pisgah, the highest peak in the area, and stopped for lunch below it at the Pisgah Inn. The views from the Inn are wonderful, to put it mildly!
The inn has a well-stocked gift shop with some unique souvenirs and local art. We bought a glass vase that had been hot-molded (or should that be hot-blown?) to an uneven wooden base, something I'd never seen before. I also managed to find gifts for those members of the North Texas Writers, Shooters and Pilots Association that I hadn't yet been able to "fit" with the right souvenir. I think there are going to be a few giggles when we hand them over!
The restaurant at the Pisgah Inn offered what I think is the best meal we've had this whole trip. I had a smoked trout starter that was strongly flavored and very tasty, while Miss D. had a house salad with a pepper parmesan dressing that was deliciously intense. We're going to have to look for a recipe for that dressing, for sure! She followed with a whole trout, baked in its skin with butter and Old Bay seasoning, and I had a Maryland crab cake. Both were outstanding, and good-size helpings, too. We ended by sharing a creme brûlée, which was about twice as large as most I recall and properly prepared, with a blowtorched hard shell on top of the creme filling. The prices weren't at all bad, either, considering that everything had to come from towns many miles away over narrow roads. A great meal all round. I highly recommend that restaurant, if you have the chance to dine there; and if you stay at the hotel, the views from every room are mind-blowing. The only drawback is that it's at high altitude, about 5,500 feet or thereabouts, so if you have any sort of breathing difficulty, it might be a bit much for you. For a short visit, Miss D. and I were able to cope all right.
Driving back to Brevard after lunch, the traffic had built up considerably from earlier that morning. We had to keep to a much slower pace, made more difficult by tourists who insisted on driving at a snail's pace to hang out of their windows, point and exclaim at the passing scenery. This led to less patient motorists snarling and snapping at them, and trying to force their way past (usually unsuccessfully, thanks to the narrow road and its winding, tight corners). We just hung back at a relatively slow speed and let the drama play itself out ahead of us. We weren't in a hurry.
As I write these words, we're enjoying our last evening in Brevard. On Monday morning we'll head back towards Texas, hopefully getting home late on Tuesday. Please keep us in your prayers for traveling mercies. Thanks!