Sunday, January 3, 2010

Chatham County

On December 29, 2009, I took an afternoon trip down to Chatham County. I decided to bypass Fearrington, with its charming Fearrington Village, this time, and the county seat of Pittboro, a charming city in its own right, for the town of Siler City. I did this for a couple of weird reasons, really. I wanted to see if I could find Frances Bavier's grave, because I'm an "Andy Griffith Show" fan, and the Devil's Tramping Ground, because I love a good ghost story, and this location seems a little tricky to find.

It took me about an hour or so to get to Siler City, and I enjoyed the rural drive that, beyond Chapel Hill, took me past Fearrington Village with its silo and cows along the road, and only a hint of the fine shops, restaurants, and inn located there. Once I got to Siler City, I took pictures of several places around town, including a neat mural on the side of a brick building, and the the unassuming Hotel Hadley, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

After exploring downtown Siler City a bit, I decided to try to find Oakwood Cemetery, where Frances Bavier is buried. After one unsuccessrul attempt, I happened by a tombstone company, and stopped there to ask directions, figuring they'd know. The directions they gave me sounded simple, but didn't turn out to be as easy as I'd hoped. Thankfully, I was able to get the car pointed in the right direction within a few minutes, and finally found the cemetery. When I arrived at Oakwood Cemetery, I was both disappointed and relieved that there weren't any signs pointing to Frances Bavier's tombstone. I'd seen a picture of it online, and remembered that it was a little taller than usual, so I drove toward the back of the cemetery, spotting a couple of possibilities. I was glad to find it pretty quickly near the back. It was both thrilling and humbling to find Frances Bavier's grave and tombstone. Underneath her name and dates, is the quotation, "To live in the hearts of those left behind is not to die."

By then, it was getting pretty late in the afternoon, but I really wanted to try to get to the Devil's Tramping Ground. My directions took me south of Siler City, down country roads and past fields with cows. I finally found it, but was a little unimpressed. I couldn't get to the actual circle because of a big water puddle, but I could tell it was a little trashy looking. (The white dot you'll see in the picture below is a white plastic milk jug.) I was hoping it would feel spooky or something, but not so much, not this time. Maybe I'll revisit sometime, but that spot really wasn't as impressive as I'd hoped.

On my way back home, I stopped and took a picture of the Bear Creek post office, because I like the name of the town and the little post office was rather quaint. After I got home, I learned that Bear Creek is the home of Southern Supreme Gourmet Specialties, which specializes in fruitcake. Who knew?! :)

Chatham County lays claim to the geographic center (about 10 miles northwest of Sanford) of North Carolina. It was founded in 1771 and named for William Pitt, 1st Earl of Chatham.

Dare County

Back in March 2009, I decided to sign up for the Outer Banks Marathon, my first marathon, partly for the location. I'd been to the Outer Banks as a junior high school student, so needless to say, it had been a while since I'd been to Dare County, North Carolina. I trained in between injuries, and arrived on the Outer Banks with George on November 7, the day before the marathon.

We spent the night in Kitty Hawk, though we didn't get there in time to look around much. On the morning of the marathon, November 8, we drove to Manteo High School to park the car, and caught the shuttle back to the starting line in Kitty Hawk. We saw a few people from the Raleigh area in the starting area before the race, which was fun!

Although I ended up having to stop the race at the halfway point due to injury, it was great to see sections of Dare County on foot! One of the highlights for me was running around the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills! It was great! George and I commented that we'd both like to return to Dare County sometime. The whole county is full of history, and includes the Fort Raleigh National Historic Sight, which preserves the sight of the Roanoke Colony (the first English settlement in what became the United States) and is the site of the outdoor drama, "The Lost Colony."

Dare County was formed in 1870, and was named after Virginia Dare, the first child born to English parents in the Americas.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

McDowell County

George and I have visited Linville Caverns in McDowell County several times, most recently in October 2009. It's a cool (both literally and figuratively) place to visit, as George and I can attest to by our repeated visits there. (It was the first cavern we visited together, and it prompted us to enjoy visits to some "show" caverns in Virginia as well.) I always enjoy hearing about the bats in the cave, as well as the demo of the lights being turned out inside the cave for total darkness. Linville Caverns is definitely a place to visit.

McDowell County was formed in 1842, and is in the western part of North Carolina. It includes Marion, the county seat and birthplace of current UNC-Chapel Hill basketball coach Roy Williams, and Old Fort, a neat town that George and I have stopped in a couple of times on our way to Asheville. Parts of the 1992 version of "The Last of the Mohicans" were filled by Lake James, which happens to have been named for Duke University benefactor James Buchanan Duke.

Avery County

As George and I drove through Avery County in October 2009, we stopped and visited Crossnore School in the town of Crossnore. I'd been there a couple of times before, actually. The first time, I had a job interview after college, and another time, some years ago, I visited the weavers there and bought some placemats in the "Looper" weave pattern. It was nice to return and see that Crossnore School looked clean and inviting for the children there. It would have been a nice place to work, I'm sure.

George and I enjoyed spending some time in the Sloop Chapel there, and we also stopped in the campus store, where a couple of weavers were working as well. It was interesting to watch them working on their looms, though I didn't see anything in the Looper pattern this time.

After our drive through the campus and a couple of stops, we had lunch in the town of Crossnore. I've forgotten the name of the restaurant, but it was country cooking. :)

Avery County is in the western part of the state (it shares a border with Tennessee), and the tourist attraction Grandfather Mountain is split between Avery and Watauga Counties.

Avery County, formed in 1911, was the 100th (and last) county formed in North Carolina. It was named for Waightstill Avery, a colonel in the Revolutionary War, and first Attorny General of North Carolina. The town of Newland is the county seat.

Caldwell County

George and I visited Blowing Rock, North Carolina, in October, 2008, during our annual mountain trip. Blowing Rock is claimed by both Watauga and Caldwell Counties, but since I've already done a post on Watauga County, I'm giving Blowing Rock to Caldwell County for purposes of this blog! :)

The downtown area of Blowing Rock has a number of charming shops, restaurants, and churches, in its downtown blocks, and also boasts a small museum, a marker associated with the Daniel Boone Trail, the tourist attractions The Blowing Rock and Tweetsie Railroad. George and I visited The Blowing Rock, but passed on Tweetsie Railroad, which seems to cater more to families with children.

Caldwell County was formed in 1841, and the county seat is Lenoir. It was named for Joseph Caldwell, the first president of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Etta Baker, a Piedmont blues singer and guitarist, was from Caldwell County. Jan Karon was born in Lenoir, but moved to Blowing Rock to write her "Mitford" series.