High Color in the High Country
- September 20, 2021 |
The fall season officially arrives this week. While it is often bittersweet – summer is so hard to say goodbye to - autumn so is packed with beauty, activities, and seasonal flavors that our reluctance is soon overcome with excitement. The High Country is where our heart – the Original Mast Store - is, along with the Annex, Boone location, Rivercross Made in USA (our sister store), and our home office. It is also neck of the woods where a fall itinerary can be filled as quick as a blink.
One of the most popular questions asked this time of year is, “Can you tell me when the peak of the leaf color will take place?” We are lucky enough to experience at least three peak color times. Permit us to explain. Higher elevations will peak first. So, in “normal” years, the peaks at Grandfather Mountain (elevation 5,945 feet) will peak around the first part of October. Middle elevations – like around Boone (elevation 3,333 feet) should see their peak around mid-October. For lower elevations, we’ll call those “under the mountain,” you can see the later color parade from above by stopping at the overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Highway 221, or many of the hiking trails that have long-range valley views around the end of October and first part of November.
Of course, the fall color show is all predicated on weather – lots of rain and wind can affect the longevity and intensity of the color, so let’s all hope for perfect conditions. Here’s a great resource to follow the leaves that is put together by a biology professor at Appalachian State University.
No matter when you come or what the colors are like, we want you to “branch out” and enjoy all the High Country has to offer.
Fall is a wonderful time to head out to the Blue Ridge Parkway for a scenic drive. Weekdays are a little less crowded than weekends if you can make it. Fill a Hydro Flask with your favorite cup o’ Joe, grab a biscuit, and catch a sunrise (Thunder Hill Overlook – Milepost 290.4 is a great spot). Drive across the Linn Cove Viaduct, which skirts the slopes of Grandfather Mountain. This section is often referred to as “the missing link” as it was the last section of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be completed 50 years after the first spade of earth was turned at Cumberland Knob in 1937. Of course, there are numerous overlooks to stop at and miles of hiking trails to stretch your legs along its length.
Speaking of Grandfather Mountain, it’s a great place to go to hike and to learn more about the Blue Ridge Mountains. The wildlife habitats, located near the Nature Museum, provide a wonderful opportunity to practice your animal photography skills and to just enjoy the antics of the otters. Be sure to head up to the top and walk across the Mile High Swinging Bridge. Tickets MUST be purchased online right now, which helps them better manage the number of people in the park. Wednesday is the least crowded time.
The roar of the crowd echoes through the hills on Saturday afternoons and some weeknights this season as the Mountaineers take to the gridiron to grapple with foes from far and near. The Appalachian State University game day experience is one of the best among mid-sized universities. Get your tickets and head to your parking spots early for tailgating, the Mountaineer Walk up Stadium Drive, and the stadium competition chant of App >>> State! You’ll find that you may be a little out of place if you don’t have on black, so come prepared. Since moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision, the Mountaineers have played in six bowls and emerged victorious in all of them.
We like to say that fall has really arrived when the “frost is on the pumpkin.” You can find many pumpkins to base your own saying on at the New River Corn Maze and Pumpkin Patch, located just outside of Boone, or the Harvest Farm Corn Maze, which is just down the road from the Original Store in Valle Crucis. They are also places you’ll enjoy visiting to get lost in the corn maze. Get your Jack ‘o Lantern or pumpkins for pies, chili, or soups. Check their Facebook pages for open days and times.
Of course, we can’t send you off on an empty stomach. That certainly wouldn’t be good hospitality. For breakfast or lunch, we’ll suggest heading over to our favorite diner – Troy’s Diner, to be exact. It’s located on Highway 105 and is just as neon and shiny as you would expect a traditional diner to be. You can’t go wrong with the biscuits and gravy here, and for lunch, we highly recommend the meatloaf – it’s very light and flavorful – with a side of fried okra. For supper, we’ll send you to the Dan’l Boone Inn. As granny would say, “It’s your own fault if you leave hungry.” The meal is served family-style and includes country ham biscuits, fried chicken, corn, green beans, stewed apples, mashed potatoes, coleslaw, black cherry preserves, and homemade desserts. Seriously, if you have a plastic container or two to take with you, the leftovers make a good lunch the next day. This is a VERY popular stop every day but even more so on the weekends, so keep that in mind. *Photos borrowed from Troy's Diner & Dan'l Boone Inn Facebook pages.
Fall is a fleeting season. It seems like it is so much shorter than the other three. Make a plan – write it down and put it on your calendar – to take advantage of the cooler temperatures for a hike, a picnic, a drive, a visit to the farmer’s market, or whatever helps you get in a fall mood. If you blink twice, you’ll miss it.