24 Hours in Valle Crucis, NC
- October 11, 2017 |
Local historian John Preston Arthur wrote, “There’s a dreamy spell that hangs over this little valley.” That spell is further magnified during the month of October. With eye-popping visuals – think brightly-colored leaves, cattle quietly grazing in pastures, orange pumpkins peering out from amongst their leafy vines – the curvy road that brings you from Boone or Banner Elk is like a portal that slows time to a more relaxing, almost lazy, pace. To take in all of the activities we’re recommending for this 24 hours, you won’t be able to tarry long.
The rural community of Valle Crucis is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also North Carolina’s first rural historic district. In addition to the Original Mast Store, there are several more properties on the register as well as barns, homes, and open spaces that contribute to the listing. We’ll be stopping by several of them on our tour.
Let’s start your day early at Rivercross Made in USA. Rivercross recently added a coffee bar featuring locally-roasted coffee from Hatchet and Wi-Fi, so stop by early (8 a.m.) to wake up and catch up on the morning news. Inside this unassuming shop next to the Original Mast Store, you’ll find gifts that are perfect for most any occasion – housewarmings, weddings, Secret Santa, and even a little treat for yourself. Everything is made in the United States, with many of the artists being just a stone’s throw from the front door – like stained glass from Beth Shuford, pottery from Steve Williams, and whimsical oil paintings by Susan Dahlin.
Early to mid-morning is a great time to take the waterfall hike at the Valle Crucis Conference Center. From Rivercross, backtrack to the Valle Crucis Elementary School and turn right on Highway 194. You’ll travel about a mile and turn into the parking area at Holy Cross Church. Take the upper gravel road – to the left – and you’ll see waterfall parking soon. The trail is ½-mile long and is steep and rocky in places, but there are several places you can stop to rest. When you get to the waterfall, it will be worth your efforts. If it’s warm enough, you can splash around in the pool, but be wary of the slippery rocks. The waterfall walk is open most any time, but please be respectful of those staying at the center and attending services at Holy Cross Church.
The Valle Crucis Conference Center is also on the National Register of Historic Places and can trace its roots back to 1842, when Valle Crucis was given its name, meaning Valle of the Cross, by Bishop Levi Silliman Ives.
By now, you might be thinking of lunch. Head on over to Over Yonder. This Appalachian Eatery takes traditional foods from the region and bumps them up a notch. On the day we dined there, we enjoyed a potato chips fried in pork lard and seasoned with salt and rosemary as an appetizer. For the main course, we had a Fried Green Tomato Sandwich with Collards as a side and the Beef Tenderloin Sub with a side of Mashed Potatoes (and yes, they were REAL potatoes).
If it’s warm enough, there is ample seating on the front porch and under the gazebo in the back to enjoy the beautiful weather. Inside, much of the character that Hardester and Vickie Taylor put into the home when it was built in the 1800s is still evident. In the early days of the Valle, the home was open to boarders and travelers as the road was a main thoroughfare from Abingdon, Virginia to Statesville, NC. Over Yonder is open six days a week, but that may change during the winter months. It is closed on Tuesdays.
After your hearty meal, take a short drive out to the Valle Crucis Community Park. Now totaling around 20 acres, this beautiful respite along the banks of the Watauga River is the very definition of community effort. In the mid-1980s, a group of concerned citizens came together to purchase 10 acres of land to preserve its rural character and to make it available to everyone in the community. Take a walk on the paved track, let the kids swing awhile, or learn a little about the wetlands from an informative sculpture by the pond. No matter what time of year you visit, you’ll always find someone walking, running, or just resting their eyes on a mountain. This is a privately-funded park, so, if you visit, please make a small donation of $2 or more to help maintain it for all.
The Alta Vista Gallery is celebrating its 27th year in 2017. It, too, is in a nationally-registered building, which was home to the Farthing family, owners of the Watauga Supply Company (now the Mast Store Annex). The gallery represents over 100 artists in many different media. From late Spring through November, on the fourth Saturday of the month, the gallery has an artist reception with their featured artist of the month. While many of the artists are locally and regionally-known, there are some that have grown to be nationally and even internationally known. Will Moses, an internationally-known folk artist, is the great grandson of Grandma Moses. You’ll enjoy personal service from Maria and Lee, the owners of the gallery.
Now it’s time for a snack. If you like jerky, then we have a destination for you! The Jerky Outpost has over 350 varieties of jerky onsite. From locally-sourced vendors to exotic options from around the region, you’ll find a selection that will suit your palate – hot, sweet, mild, made from beef, venison, and even python. But that’s not all! You’ll also find salts, hot sauces, and signature barbecue sauces. The hot sauces include the Reaper, which is hot, hot, hot, and Dave’s Insanity. Pick up a bag of your favorite jerky or subscribe to the Jerky of the Month Club.
Don’t leave the Valle yet! While all the other activities are open year ‘round, the pumpkin patch and corn maze at Harvest Farm is a classic fall activity that starts in late September and runs through late October. It’s open on Thursday through Sunday during the day, with special flashlight maze nights scheduled throughout the month. Purchase a pumpkin from the collection at the barn (which, by the way is a contributing structure on the National Register) take a hayride, and learn how pumpkins grow. It’s a fun activity for the young and the young at heart.
What a day! We hope you started early. You might enjoy reading the rest of our 24 Hours in series, which includes Asheville, Knoxville, Greenville, Waynesville, and Hendersonville. We’ll add the rest of the locations soon.