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NPS Centennial: Fun for the Whole Family at Connemara

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My first visit to Connemara was a breezy, blue-skied, late summer day last year. This unique and beautiful National Park offers an astonishing array of activities to enjoy: The opportunity to explore the home of a Pulitzer Prize-winning author, the sweet splendor of a laze-about in open fields with a herd of milking goats, and a gentle trail to Big Glassy with stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Though I’ve enjoyed a wide variety of National Parks over the years, Connemara has easily become a favorite for its diverse offerings that every member of my family will enjoy.

Connemara-Alaina-4.jpgConnemara is also known as the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. Located in Flat Rock, North Carolina, the park is 30 miles south of Asheville, NC, and 35 miles north of Greenville, SC. The stroll along the Front Lake, just below the main home, is particularly gorgeous in the fall when the still waters reflect autumn’s stunning palate of colors. You can also choose from the natural or paved trail for easy wheel-chair access.

Once you’ve circuited the lake, you’ll reach the Sandburg home. Carl Sandburg was already famous when he, his wife, Lillian, their three daughters, and two grandchildren moved to Connemara. For over 20 years, the famous American biographer, songwriter, and poet lived and worked on the 264-acre estate. Sandburg spent his life championing justice and the American people through his singing and writing. After his passing, the family sold the property and donated the contents to the National Park Service and Connemara became the first National Historic Park honoring an author. The Connemara home is like a time capsule of your grandparent’s house frozen in the 1950s. The tour is well-worth the nominal fee required. There’s more information HERE.

Connemara-Alaina-3.jpgMrs. Lillian Sandburg was an accomplished person in her own right. She owned and operated the Chikaming Goat Dairy, just a few hundred yards past the house, that was renowned for its superior breeding and high quality milk production. You can take a self-guided tour of the barns and park rangers are always on hand to answer any questions you may have.

The goats are as docile as house cats! During our first of many visits to the goat barn, my one-year-old daughter was safe to pet and interact with the goats. We usually bring a blanket, lie in the field, and pet the goats as they graze. Best yet, we got to meet a set of twin goats the day after they were born this past spring. Park rangers encourage people to hold the baby goats as a part of their domestication training. It’s a very sweet experience. [And, as you see in the photo above, the goats get their own sweaters when the weather is chilly.]

Connemara-Alaina-2.jpgIf you still have time to enjoy a hike, the Glassy Mountain Trail is a short walk from the goat barns. Pass through the estate’s gardens and into a canopy of trees leading to a dense forest of evergreen and hardwood trees as well as many wildflowers and mountain laurels. The trail is about a mile and a half and ends with gorgeous views to the northwest along a face of rock outcroppings that reveal a lovely view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Our seven-year-old daughter had no problem hiking with us, and we carried our toddler in a pack. The hike is easy to moderate at times and the tree canopy in fall is especially colorful.

Our National Parks are a treasure and a visit to Connemara is one of pure joy. I'm so grateful that these incredible places are preserved for our pleasure - what a remarkable gift! In his collection of poetry, Honey and Salt, Sandburg best expresses how I feel when spending time in this magical place:

“Come clean with a child heart
Laugh as peaches in the summer wind
Let rain on a house roof be a song
Let the writing on your face
be a smell of apple orchards on late June."

- Alaina, Mast Store Home Office

For more of our Mast Family National Park Service adventures and recommendations, click HERE