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It’s Cool to be in the NC Mountains

Linville Ridge Country Club.

Linville Ridge Country Club.

Find out why life is great in the NC High Country. Check out my recent article in South Florida’s Pinecrest Magazine:

Pinecrest Magazine: It’s Cool to be in the NC Mountains

Geocaching in Roan Mountain State Park

The Visitors Center of the Roan Mountain State Park.

The Visitors Center of the Roan Mountain State Park. An easy 0.4 mile trail from the Center will lead you to the Peg Leg Mine.

A Treasure Hunt with GPS Coordinates

The High Country of NC is located very close to the Tennessee state line.  Today we spent some time geocaching in Tennessee’s Roan Mountain State Park.  Although best known for its beautiful fields of rhododendrons, the Roan Mountain State Park has a lot more to offer.

For those uninitiated in the world of geocaching, it’s a wonderful outdoor activity for individuals and family members of all ages. It’s a treasure hunt using GPS coordinates.  The hidden “caches” vary in size from micro (think old-fashioned film container) to macro (large ammo box).  Each container will have at least a log book to record your visit and, depending on the size, room for trade-able items such as pins, coins, small toys, etc.  It’s customary if you take an item from the box, to leave another behind. “Travel Bugs” are items with serial numbers that are meant to be moved from site-to-site.  We love travel bugs, but they are rare.

Playing this world-wide game is fun, easy and free.  Go on-line to http://www.geocaching.com, create a name for yourself, family or partner and look up the area you’d like to search.  A zip code entry will help you get started.  There are literally thousands of hidden caches and they are all over the world, in both urban and very remote areas.  You simply enter the coordinates you find on-line in a handheld GPS unit, (including one from your car) or a smart phone (download the app for free).  The one downside of using a smart phone when you are out on a trail, is that if you lose reception, you will literally be clueless.  In an area with good service, a smart phone can direct you to hidden caches near your current location.

Enterprising players can also hide caches for others to find.  Today, thanks to the Trailbreaker team, we had a nice assortment to look for.  They have gotten permission from the park service to place their caches throughout the Roan Mountain State Park and have done an excellent job with their clues and with keeping their sites maintained.  It was a rare treat for us to actually meet them just after we found one of their hidden treasures.

I promise when you geocache you will find out interesting information and see things you never saw before (even if you’ve driven by dozens of times).

Happy hunting!

The entrance to the abandoned Peg Leg iron mine.

The entrance to the abandoned Peg Leg iron mine.

Entrance to The Miller Farmstead property, home to multi-generations of a hardworking mountain farming family.

Entrance to The Miller Farmstead property, home to multi-generations of a hardworking mountain farming family.

A typical hidden cache, in a camo-wrapped disguised box. We pulled this out to demonstrate, but generally, they are hidden behind rocks, under leaves, tucked in crevasses, hanging from a branch, concealed in a log, or sometimes placed in a magnetized container and stuck behind something metal.  You will have to look!

A typical hidden cache, in a camo-wrapped disguised box. We pulled this out to demonstrate, but generally, they are hidden behind rocks, under leaves, tucked in crevasses, hanging from a branch, concealed in a log, or sometimes placed in a magnetized container and stuck behind something metal. You will have to look!

The Watauga Gorge – part of the Watauga River Basin

 

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It was a beautiful day for a drive along the Watauga River. Following along Old Watauga River Road from Valle Crucis we drove on a paved and unpaved narrow road through tranquil, pastoral farmland and ended up on Hwy 301 between Tennessee and Boone. Sometimes the road took us right along the river, other times climbing high above; along the way we saw the occasional  fisherman trying his luck, a father and daughter setting out to tube and one mother with kids having a quiet picnic by the clear, calm water. Like a pristine mirror, the river reflected the dramatic gorge and blue skies.  We’ve had a fair amount of rain in the High Country this year and the landscape is as green as is can get. The only wildlife spotted today were the cows and calves grazing on the hills.  We’ll be back.

For information on the Watauga River Basin visit: www.water.ncsu.edu/watauga.html

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We’re Off to See the Wizard

Of course, the Tin Man was there.

Of course, the Tin Man was there.

This week, we went down the Yellow Brick Road and visited Oz.  Located on Beech Mountain in Western NC, the Land of Oz was a popular theme park open from 1970 – 1980.  Shuttered for years, it is now known for an annual, 2-day fall event.  But this June, they are hosting tours on Fridays at 12 and 2.

For an entertaining, kitschy peek behind the Wizard’s curtain, it’s well worth the trip and the $10 fee.  To begin with you have to get a ski lift ticket and ride to the top of Beech Mountain (also $10), which offers great views in all directions.

Dorothy was a terrific guide and you can even sing-a-long.

Dorothy was a terrific guide and you can even sing-a-long.

Once greeted by the Mayor and paying your admission, you are off to Dorothy’s farmhouse (built to a 5/8 scale); and then, off down the Yellow Brick Road.  For the June tours, guests help out by playing some of the popular parts to support Dorothy, who leads the group while performing admirably along the way.  The vast collection of movie memorabilia is interesting, even if the interior of the house is a bit musty.  Wear good, comfortable shoes, the venue is definitely NOT handicapped accessible and at one point you are walking in near darkness down a ramp to simulate getting to the basement to hide-out before the tornado hits.

It‘s all in good, campy, nostalgic fun for adults and kids.

A visiting Dorothy, is ready to set off on the Yellow Brick road.

A visiting Dorothy, is ready to set off on the Yellow Brick road.

 

Need to know:

The tours are run by a local realty group that owns the property www.emeraldmtn.com 828-387-2000.  This year’s fall event will be held October 4 & 5; if past year’s is an indicator, 7,000 are expected to attend. For info about the fall event check out www.autumnatoz.com.  The ski lift can be little scary, but is fun.  There are restrooms near the lift station and more at the top near the “bar” area where you gather prior to the tour.  You can purchase sodas and water at the bar. Tours last about 1 hour and there are no facilities along the Yellow Brick Road.

At the farmhouse (just before the tornado hit).

At the farmhouse (just before the tornado hit).

Follow the Yellow Brick Road . . . .

Follow the Yellow Brick Road . . . .

 

 

Locals who built the park had trouble with the word "gazebo" ~ so, as they called it, this is one view from the aptly-named "gaze-bo".

Locals who built the park had trouble with the word “gazebo” ~ so, as they called it, this is one view from the aptly named “gaze-bo”.

 

 

Beautiful Fall in the NC High Country

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