The End of the Trail

Sunday, August 21, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

BLOWING ROCK, North Carolina —  After the intensity of Thursday's hike on the Tanawha Trail, everyone was in favor of taking it easy on Friday.  We spent a relaxing morning playing games before a lunchtime visit to Coyote Kitchen, a Caribbean-influenced, vegetarian-friendly Southwestern restaurant in Boone.  Generous portions of unique dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients combined with attentive, helpful service to inspire us to make a return trip for dinner Saturday evening.

Friday afternoon found us in the neighboring village of Valle Crucis (pop. 2,000).  One of the town's best-known landmarks is Mast General Store.  Built in 1882 by a local merchant, the store has been in operation at the same location for more than a century.  In the early days, the Mast family attempted to carry all the merchandise their neighbors might need, from cradles to caskets, inspiring the store's slogan, "If you can't buy it here, you don't need it."  Even today, the store carries such uncommon items as plow bolts and carriage bolts in a variety of sizes.

Mast General Store, Valle Crucis, NC  (photo from Wikipedia)
Since 1980, local residents can even pick up their mail at the main store.  After the community of Valle Crucis lost its post office in the mid 1970s, Mast General petitioned for the right to operate a substation to help keep the Valle Crucis community's name and identity alive. Postal service was restored in 1980, operating with 280 antique mailboxes located in a corner of the store.


After undergoing only two changes of ownership in more than 125 years, Mast General Store has become a legend in western North Carolina.  The current owners have expanded the business significantly, opening Mast General Stores in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

Appalachian State University campus
Before the week wrapped up, a few more letterboxes beckoned, including a series on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone.  With classes beginning next week, we arrived there just as students were checking in for the fall semester, intensifying the need for us to exercise maximum stealth as we searched.

One last hike took us to the Green Knob Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The section of trail we hiked followed Sims Creek and led us through a beautiful old-growth hemlock forest, with rhododendron tunnels along the way.


As we returned to the cabin from our hike, we found a sizable black rat snake sunning himself on the mountain road.  About four feet long, he seemed to be in a trance until we gave him a bit of a nudge to encourage him to leave the roadway in the interest of his continued survival.


With a little help from a digital camera and an iPhone app called iSwapFaces, Heather and Emma were able to try a little role reversal.  Actually quite a bit of swapping went on over the last week, but this was the final example.


More games were on the agenda Friday afternoon and evening and during Saturday's rain storm.  We tried to leave no game unplayed with sessions of Rummikub, Bananagram, dominoes, Scrabble Slam, and a new entry called Appleletters, in which each player selects 21 letter tiles for use in forming words to add to the crossword-like board.


Having so many letters allows you to make all kinds of words while awaiting your turn to play.  You can even try to read (and write) the other players' expressions.  We found the game to be challenging and enjoyable.


Relaxing on the deck was a popular activity all week, but especially these last couple of days when we were trying to wind down as we wound up our mountain vacation.


Sunday morning marked the end of our Mountain Week 2011. Though we enjoyed being together and had some great experiences, we really missed having Grandma with us. It was not the same without her there.