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Reaches of North Carolina
February 8, 2005
Many folks on their way to Tennessee drive U.S. Route #19 which winds west from Asheville into Haywood County then through a long, impressive valley which, some say, is one of the prettiest and most fertile in the U.S.A. The Setzer family must have thought so when they settled the area in 1860. Of the family, one son John Sidney Setzer continued to live on the homestead and to raise his family among the gentle hills and mountain reaches. After John established the need for a post office, he had to come up with a name for the fledgling community. Four suggestions were sent to Washington, three of them the nomclatures of his daughters - Cora, Mettie and Maggie. In time the name “Maggie” was chosen. The word “Valley” was added around 1947. Ever thereafter the settlement was known as “Maggie Valley”.
The Maggie Valley area of western North Carolina, at 3,200 feet above sea level, nestles between the Appalachian Blue Ridge Parkway to the east, and the Great Smoky Mountain National Park to the west. The lush valley, homesteaded by hardy Scots-Irish people, is surrounded by some of the oldest and most geologically significant mountains in the world. It’s because of these ancient, “gentle” mountains that folks looking an upcountry adventure, a relaxing holiday or a quiet lifestyle are attracted to the area. The Valley markets itself, and rightly so, as the “Playground of the Great Smokies” with activities that appeal to both young and old.
Visitors flock to Wheels Through Time All American Transportation Museum with its great display of cars and outstanding collection of motorcycles. All are displayed in realistic-to-time-period settings featuring displays of vintage artifacts that compliment the motorized vehicles. At least 220 motorcycles are on display, a large number of Harley-Davidson’s but also some great Indian and Henderson models. One of the most interesting is a “Traub” - a one-of-a kind bike found behind a brick wall in Chicago. Try to get a wheels afficionado out of this museum! A mountain community must have music! The Carolina Nights Dinner Show, The Stompin’ Ground and Maggies Valley Opry House fill the need for both musical entertainment and clog dancing at its best.
The most endearing memory of the valley community since 1980 is that of “Miss Maggie” a live woman character-figure, dressed in green, red and yellow who waves at cars that travel through the community. The image is used extensively to advertise the area. Maggie Valley still has a quaintness to it even though Soco Road, better known as Route #19, is lined with motels, shops and restaurants. Travelers know that after awhile on the road, one gift shop begins to look like another. The Cabbage Rose Gift Shop, Maggie Mountaineer Crafts and Maggie’s Country Store are some of the area’s best and deserve a look-see.
Looking for a tasty meal in Maggie Valley? Try Country Vittles and Maggies Kountry Kitchen which serve good food, cheap. Maggie Valley Pizzeria & Italian Restaurant has the best spaghetti sauce I’ve ever tasted. The Salty Dog makes great fish & chips. I got hooked on biscuits in Maggie Valley - county ham biscuits - steak biscuits - sausage & egg biscuits - biscuits dripping with butter and honey and jam; unbelievably light, flaky buttery southern biscuits. Lead me to them!
The Valley also is home to some of the kindest, most generous people in the U.S.A. During our visit, on several occasions, in several restaurants, the meals ordered by members of the armed forces and their new brides were covered by other restaurant patrons - a little surprise for the newlyweds when they went to pay their bill.
As Route #19 climbs out of the valley toward Cherokee it clings to the lip of the mountain as does a row of mountain craft shacks, and boiled peanut shanties, “hillbilly holes” as one local calls them. These stands seem to perpetuate a perception so prevalent during the 1920's through 1950's. Rest assured that there are some bargains and beauties to be found in these outposts. It’s a fun area to explore and to photograph. Several of the shops lure visitors in with look-out platforms where views back toward Maggie Valley are excellent. If you collect quality southern Appalachian handcrafts, plan your visit to coincide with one of at least three Valley arts and crafts festivals held between June and November.
When leaving Maggie Valley heading east toward Waynesville, watch on your left for the most eccentric antique shop you’ll ever see. You’ll know the place by the number of antique cars and trucks on the property. Do stop and be sure to ask permission of the owner if you want to take pictures.
Locals say that the area around Waynesville is “God’s country” and I’m sure that you’ll agree with their assessment. The town settled during the late 1700's, after the Revolutionary War, has a certain mountain sophistication about it. The community really hit its stride during the late 1800's and early 1900's when “flatlanders” built summer homes in the area to avoid the summer heat of the eastern Carolinas. Many of the homes, beautifully restored, still grace tree-lined streets.
Waynesville lies on Highway #276 a few miles south of the Maggie Valley area. Waynesville’s vibrant quanti-essential c1890 - 1920's, architecturally significant, downtown boasts brick-lined sidewalks, restored red brick & stone buildings and gorgeous flower beds. Ever-changing outdoor sculpture art is prominently displayed, sharing space with well tended flower beds. We fell in love with “Allosaurous” a huge metal critter made of auto parts and “Afloat” a delicate creation featuring metal jelly fish.
North Main Street and historic Frog Level have some of the finest artisan shops in western North Carolina. In particular, Twigs & Leaves Craft Gallery & Pottery Studio deserves mention. As the name suggests, the products sold in this classy shop are all connected in some way to nature - rocks, leaves, twigs used as medium. Deja View Gallery is housed in a former green grocer’s shop whose huge doors open the entire front of the building. Vestiges of the soda bar and former “upper room” where quick lunches were served can still be seen. Timothy’s is a wonderful mix of café, antique and collectibles. The store is huge with lots of room for big pieces of antique furniture with appropriate accessories. The front section is dominated by a free-standing fireplace and the neatest “mountain” inspired tables and chairs I ever seen. Timothy’s pastries are sumptuous. His coffee is ambrosial! Lunch at Sunset on Main is an experience. This Bistro is on two levels and shares space with a number of open-style boutiques. As a matter of fact, there are three floors of great bowsing. Twin staircases are a visual treat as is a fireplace and original floors on the upper bistro level.
If you plan a mid-June visit to Waynesville you’ll have
the opportunity to take in their annual Art Studio and Galley Tour. The best
part of the day’s celebration of the arts is the many guest artists
who set up along main street and in local park areas. Acrylic, oil, pencil
and watercolour art, jewellery, metal art, musical instruments, pottery, stained
glass and woodworking are highlighted through hands-on exhibits.
Haywood County which includes Waynesville and Maggie Valley has accommodation choices to suit all budgets. I love mountains but don’t live near any significant “bumps”. When in the mountains, my personal choice for accommodation is locations that give spectacular views over vast reaches of mountains and valleys.
For those of a discerning nature, The Swag Inn, located at the top of a 5,000 foot ridge, is the epitome of a romantic, elegant country guest house inn. The word “Swag” is interesting as it means in colloquial terms “a dip between two mountains”. The drive to the Inn, up Hemphill Road, off #276 is a true adventure and real rural experience. The road passes through several tiny former crossroads settlements whose general stores are still standing, although abandoned. It passes homesteads settled generations ago. It’s a wonderful drive “back to the past” or should I say “up to the future”. Turn onto the Inn’s private road to climb past slicks of rhodendrons, lilies and other native plant species and waterfalls. Steep curves carved from the edge of the ascending ridge make the drive interesting for the uninitiated. The Swag road climbs at a rate of 1,000 feet in two and one-half miles. This is not a drive that you want to do several times a day - or after dark.
The log and stone buildings that comprise “The Swag” which straddles the Cataloochee Divide, present themselves in a most pristine and beautiful mountain setting. Constructed of hewn logs salvaged from century old buildings and anchored to the ridge with massive granite fireplaces, the Swag is a visual treat that appears to have always been part of the mountains. Four of six of North Carolina’s mountain ranges can be seen from the Swag’s porches. - the Great Smokies, the Plott Balsams, the Richland Balsams and the Black Mountains. With its unparalleled views, the first impression is that you never want to leave the place. That impression is further enhances after a peek at the Inn’s amenities.
At check-in you are invited to choose a hiking stick and given a name tag to personalize it. This is your stick and leaves with you, if you so desire. The Inn boasts an extensive library, several cozy gathering rooms, each with its own massive fireplace and a TV room tucked well out of sight. Open porches replete with rocking chairs and rustic benches afford wonderful view of the mountains.
The Swag is on the mountain and of the mountain. The use of natural materials is both creative and functional. Rooms are furnished with rustic “tree trunk” beds and embellished with door handles made from branches, mirrors surrounded by bark, antler & hide light fixtures and operational fireplaces. Bath robes, herbal soaps, Jacuzzi tub, steam bath, private terraces, fridge and snacks complete the scene. You’re well fed at The Swag. Breakfast is buffet. Lunch can be paper bag or picnic hamper. Dinner is served at “Long Tables” in the dining room. The lounge area is utilized for those who want to dine in a more private setting.
Wide porches are just the place to enjoy a good book an evening of claw-hammer banjo music, birdsong. Bird-watching opportunities abound. Scores of humming birds hover around feeders. Finches twitter in the eaves. Cardinals flit from tree to tree. Although people are encouraged to do nothing but relax there are a number of activities can be undertaken. The property is tucked up against the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At least seventeen trails are accessible and range from easy to very difficult. The deciduous forest of the Smoky Mountains has one of the broadest range of plant material in the world. The diversity of plant life is equal only to that found in Asia and the Ozark Mountains in Arkansas which have similar environments.
For those studying wild flowers, Quaker Ladies commonly known as Bluets bloom on smooth creek stones and moist rocks. The summer landscape bursts with perennial Sweet Pea, rhodies, Azalea, wild sweet William, Butterfly Weed, Black-eyed Susan, Ox-eye Daisies, Rambling Roses, Turks Cap Lilies. Autumn colouring is spectacular.
If “settin’ and rockin’” on a porch is your style, views are great. Breezes are soft and cool. The sun plays across the valley floor and mountain reaches. Clouds move across the sky in endless patterns. Hawks soar on the updraughts. A fast moving thunder storm rolls over nearby mountain ridges, big black clouds thundering and boiling as the rain beats down. On a clear day, Mount Pisgah, at 5,721 feet, 30 miles away and Cold Mountain at 6,030 feet can clearly be seen. Maggie Valley Resort also comes highly recommended. Away from the hustle and bustle on Route #19, yet close enough to quickly access all the amenities and entertainments along the Route, Maggie Valley Resort has lovely rooms which overlook gentle rolling hills. It’s the quietude that appeals to visitors, and the deer in the early morning mists on the golf course. A breakfast buffet is served in the Grand Lodge dining room while casual meals can be taken on the Clubhouse Terrace, overlooking the mountains.
IF YOU GO:
P.O. Box 87
2487 Soco Road
Maggie Valley, NC
Waynesville, NC 28786
19 S. Main Street
Waynesville, NC 28786
Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Maggie Valley, NC 28751
Waynesville, NC 28786
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