Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Mountains (and Rivers) of Western North Carolina
This past weekend, I went with my parents and grandparents to see my brother in the far western part of the state. He's attending Western Carolina University, in Parks and Rec Management, which seems like an excellent choice for him. I got to do a lot of window tourism, since we did a lot of driving around. This is not my preferred method of seeing the sights, but fortunately the scenery was nice enough to be distracting on its own.

We drove up on Saturday morning, getting there in time for a late lunch (made somewhat later by the restaurant.) My brother, who has had a great deal of experience with food service now, had some very strong, and not very kind opinions about the service we received at the restaurant we chose to eat at. Apparently, the only other time he tried to eat there, he and his friend sat for 15 minutes without someone coming to take their order. They left. We didn't, but I can see why he doesn't want to give them any more business. The food was okay. Then he took us out to an overlook at the Nantahala River, where the rafters and kayakers get to go over the rapids. Given that he also says the water is 42F in the height of summer, I was not sad that we didn't have time to go rafting. He says he did many tours down the river over the summer. At one point, as we drove further up along the river, he pointed out a pizza place where he said the owners were "very cool, 'cuz they'll come out and pour hot water over your feet if they've gone numb."

The next day, we went on the Great Smoky Mountain Railway train from Dillsboro to Bryson City. It mostly follows the course of the Tuckaseigee River, which is a much tamer river than the Nantahala, apparently. One of the more unusual sights we passed was the area where they filmed the train wreck scene from The Fugitive. When we got back, my brother ran off to work at his current pizza restaurant, and a few hours later, we went there as well. The service was much better, and the pizza was excellent as well, although he said he wasn't involved in making ours.

On the last day we were there, we took a long drive through the Great Smoky Mountains, mostly in the Nantahala National Forest, along a very windy road that eventually led to Highlands and Cashiers, apparently where all the rich people live. Indeed, the contrast in housing was readily apparent. Gone were the prevalent trailers and older homes of the area around the university, to be replaced by homes clearly designed by architects to be enhanced by their surroundings and to capture views, or possibly even vistas. Even for houses less ostentatiously designed, you could tell these were not owned by natives by a sheer lack of, well, stuff in the yard. Such a lack is, I think, an indication that people haven't been living there very long.

The best part of the drive, though, was while we were in the national forest, because we got to stop at an overlook to see some falls, possibly even the falls on the Cullasaja River. There was a small, rocky path leading down from the side of the road to the river's edge, so I got to do a very little bit of hiking. I would have liked to do more, but since the weather was not very sunny, it didn't seem like a good idea. While I may have a growing history of hiking in the rain, (Machu Picchu, the Great Wall,) I don't really expect everyone to share this predilection, especially not my octogenarian grandparents. But I did manage to get some good pictures on my short hike, and really, this whole entry is mostly just an excuse to post them. Enjoy.

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