Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Up A Dirt Road: Simple Pleasures on Beech Mountain, NC

One of my favorite things to do up on Beech Mountain is to go off on my own for a nice walk. Not only is it great exercise (You're on the side of a rather large mountain, after all.), there is so much beauty laid out all around you that a simple walk up a gravel road is a mini-vacation in itself. During our July 4th week up here, we regularly enjoy sunny days with highs in the upper 60's (Yes, that's Fahrenheit, folks. In North Carolina! In July!) With weather like this, staying inside is just silly.

For this post, I thought I would take y'all with me on my walk along Raven Road, the entrance to which is right across the street from our condo's front door. It's gravel all the way, and a short portion of this walk takes you puffing up a seriously steep switch-back (which will make you feel much more OK about that generous slice of cheesecake you enjoyed last night). So, don't bring your walker. 'Nuff said.

However, pleasure like this is worth a little work. On either side all along the road you will be treated to lovely mountain views, sun-dappled forest clearings, sparking streams, and the occasional close-encounter with wildlife. One morning, I surprised a doe and her fawn (Well, perhaps they normally look surprised. They had to have heard me coming. I doubt that, crunching along as I was, I actually managed to sneak up on them.)
But even if you scare off everything that moves, it will be worth it; because . . . let's not forget the gorgeous mountain homes tucked here and there along the way.

One of the reasons I frequently choose the Raven Road route is because of a house - namely the Mill House. It is a very old house, complete with millpond and waterwheel - and I was lucky enough on this particular day to meet the owners (a very nice couple), who told me it was originally a magistrates house in Tennessee, rumored to have been visited frequently by Daniel Boone. Around 30 years ago, the structure was moved to the top of Beech Mountain, where it sits today, looking as if it has always been here.

The walk on Raven Road, connects up with a private road (but the gates are left open and rambling vacationers are welcome to pass through) and then Spruce Hollow Road, which takes you back to N. Pinnacle Ridge. And it's largely downhill all the way home from there, whether you follow Pinnacle Ridge back to your starting point or turn around and re-trace your steps. I usually turn back, and re-enjoy my personal little discoveries, like the two little gravestones marking the final resting place for someone's beloved dogs.

And then it's home again, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to rejoin the group. I always feel intensely lucky after the simple pleasure of a walk on Beech Mountain.
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