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Zaloo’s Canoes (Canoeing in NC)

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Canoeing in NC

The New River is truly a treasure. It has been designated a National Scenic and Wild river and an American Heritage River. Tubing, kayaking or canoeing down the New is the best way to explore this remarkable natural treasure. The water is crystal clear (and cold) and with the exception of a small section of white water here and there, is smooth as glass. This is a great family getaway.

Strawberry Fields Forever!

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strawberries

strawberries

Strawberry Picking in Wilkes

Spring is a wonderful time filled with great weather (kinda rainy), beautiful nature and short sleeve shirts.  But each year as April arrives, the conversation at my house turns to…. Strawberries.  Yep, believe it or not, my wife and I begin to imagine the taste of locally grown, ripe to the center, red, delicious strawberries and strawberry pie.  As they say…. It is the simple things in life.

Raffaldini Vineyards

Raffaldini Vineyards

I have heard it said that life is a journey, not a destination and that is true, but in the case of Raffaldini Vineyards, the destination is worth the journey. Getting there is a little challenging, but don’t give up. There are a few lefts and rights, a few dirt and gravel roads, but the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow makes the trip seem fun.

Arriving at the vineyard, I was struck by the setting and the architecture. The Tuscan-style villa sits atop a gentle rolling hill with views in almost every direction. It was a clear day and the mountains were especially beautiful. I parked in the lot adjacent to the winery and took a stroll through the flower gardens that lead to the entrance. Being greeted by roses and seasonal flowers, put me in a great mood before I entered the tasting room. I must admit, leaving the beauty of the setting and the amazing vistas was difficult, but I tore myself away and ventured into the villa.

The winery was no disappointment. While I have not been to Italy or visited a vineyard there, I would imagine that this is a faithful reproduction. I was certainly transported to somewhere other than the foothills of North Carolina. I was greeted with a warm hello and given instruction on how the operation works. I paid my dues and stepped up to the wine bar and was given a list of available wines to taste. I am certainly no wine connoisseur, but I know that if I must taste wine… the sweeter the better. I found a few that tilted towards the sweet side, but even the dry wines were enjoyable.

The experience was excellent and the stories told by the tender filled the time with interest. My problem was focusing on the wine when the view was so incredible. I left the tasting room and found a comfortable chair on the patio outside and just soaked in the setting. I could try to communicate what I saw and how I felt, but I am telling you that you need to go and see and hear and touch the place to fully understand. Several couples purchased bottles and made their way onto the ornate patio and sat together to enjoy the wine and the day.

I was informed that the vineyard had become a wedding destination and that they were booked up nearly a year in advance. I fully understand! What a setting to make a vow to the one you love. The only thing that I can think that would rival the beauty of the setting is a glowing bride on her wedding day. So, if you are making those types of plans, call early and often to book your weekend.

My wife and daughter enjoyed the visit as well and we plan on making a return trip this year. This time, I will know to allow for an afternoon rather than an hour and a picnic basket as well. Enjoy or as they would say “salute”.

Wilkesboro Open Air Market

Wilkesboro Open Air Market

“Come for the freshness and stay for the fun.”

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Each year the Town of Wilkesboro opens its’ doors to consumers, farmers and artisans to buy and sell at the Wilkesboro Open Air Market. “Fresh from the farm” produce as well as handcrafted products will be available every Friday for some 5 months (depending on the harvest). The market is located on Main Street in downtown Wilkesboro in the parking lot adjacent to the “old Courthouse” which now houses the Wilkes Heritage Museum. Vendors start arriving early and they open for business at 4 pm and stay open until they sell out or 8pm, whichever comes first.

The Open Air Market offers a special event every third Friday…. called “Third Friday” J. During these events, the standard fare is available, but plan on some special things to be available. Additionally, local musicians will perform and there will be children’s activities available. The Heritage Museum will be open for tours during this time as well.

Parking

As with other downtown festivals, parking is somewhat limited, but thankfully is in adequate supply. Take your time and cruise the area and look for the local lots or on-street parking. The crowds are reasonable, so no worries. Enjoy the walk and do a little window shopping while you stroll. There is parking around the museum, beside Nanasan Restaurant, behind the restaurant and of course on the streets throughout the town.

Welcome to Small Town USA

Wilkesboro is the prototype small southern town filled with everything that makes small towns the place to be. The people are the nicest you will ever meet. The food is local “mom and pop” and tastes great. The service is excellent and you will be treated very well. The language is distinctly southern. Everybody will want to talk to you, if you are open to conversation. So enjoy the grits and grins and be sure to join right in. Toto, you are not in Kansas anymore.

My First Impression

I arrived early, maybe too early; many of the vendors were still setting up. The market was not crowded and no one seemed to be in a hurry. Leisurely chats were in order at every booth. I learned about each person, how they farmed or made their product and what they had to offer. I don’t remember any of this at Wal-Mart J. Great looking produce, sweet scented soaps, goat milk cheese, handmade this and that, all waiting to go home with me. I watched a local blacksmith work steel. I had a wonderful coffee from Talia Espresso and sampled several flavors of things that had never been in my mouth before. All very good!

In Closing

If it is Friday afternoon and the Wilkesboro Open Air Market is open and you are looking for a great little outing, drive downtown and enjoy the evening. No stress, no strain, just good friends with wonderful homegrown or homemade items for you to try and buy, if you wish. Wilkes is nationally known for its’ music and the Heritage Museum is home to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame (www.blueridgemusichalloffame.com). Be sure to check out those that have been enshrined in the Hall for their contributions to this regions music. “Third Friday” will feature some of the area’s finest musicians, many of which will likely one day find themselves remembered in the Hall. So, come on out and enjoy the music, food and fellowship, y’all will be glad you did.

 

 

Kerr Scott Trails (KST)

Dark Mountain

The name alone conjures up fear; but for the mountain bike enthusiast, Dark Mountain trail at Kerr Scott is the real deal. Fear, for sure, but it is so much more. This series of single track trails is considered by most to be challenging, yet doable. I must admit to carrying my bike on some sections; but as they say “if you ain’t hiking…. you ain’t biking”. J

It is hard to imagine that nearly ten years have passed since I was introduced to the idea of building trails at Kerr Scott. I was approached by a friend (Jim Horton, loving known as the Trail Boss) who was building the trails by hand and was seeking funding for a walk behind grading machine. I encouraged him to seek a grant from the local tourism authority and Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club received $10,000.00 from them and another $2500.00 from the Hampton Inn. The rest is history. Many hours of hard work by local volunteers and Dark Mountain trails were underway.  (Kudos to BMCC and all the volunteers that have made this a reality!!!)

The trails gained national attention and soon the Burn 24 Hour mountain bike race was moved to this location and has remained here ever since. This 24 hour endurance race is held annually in late May and begins at noon and ends at noon and is a crazy workout for those brave enough to tackle it. I have only watched.

Dark Mountain Trails contain 7.5 miles of ups and downs that some have called a free roller coaster ride. The trials are located at the end of Reservoir Road across the Dam. Cross the Dam, turn left and go down the hill to the parking lot, unload your bike, put on your helmet and prepare for the challenge. For your convenience, a free bike wash station is located at the end of your ride. Enjoy.

Dark Mountain Trail Map

Overmountain Victory Trail (OVT)

OVT is 9.5 miles of pure mountain biking pleasure. Generally, this series of trails is doable by most every skill of rider (at least some portions). For me, the most fun is Shiners Loop, a loop trail constructed around a peninsula of land that gives the rider great lake views and absolutely gorgeous wooded scenery. The trail is challenging, but flows like a mountain stream… the downs power the ups and the ups give way to gentle grades that wind through the wooded ridges. It is better than it sounds!

OVT is accessible from the parking lot at the Kerr Scott welcome center located on Reservoir Road. Park in front of the building and the trails are directly across the entrance drive, look for signage. Except for Shiners Loop, OVT is an out and back trail, so watch for oncoming traffic. (I have had more than a few near misses)

Overmountain Victory Trail Map

Warrior Creek

Warrior Creek is the newest of the trail segments and is located north on Hwy 268 some 4 miles from Reservoir Road at the Warrior Creek Campground. Totaling 17 miles and still growing, Warrior Creek offers a day long ride that is challenging enough for any rider. These trails are downright fun! The banks switchbacks are a thrill and the downhill runs are breathtaking.

One cautionary note, I left my left shoulder on these trails, so ride within yourself and let other folks do the same. There are certainly some areas that intermediate riders need to walk J. Rock Gardens are also a challenge on these runs, so be wise and stay safe.

6 Hours of Warrior Creek (6WC) is held here in early April and sold out in 10 hours this year. This event is nationally known and draws the best riders from across the nation. I have had a great time just picking a spot along the trail a just sitting and watching. Of course, as each rider goes by I think…. “That will be me next year”. Not!

Warrior Creek Trail Map

Anyway, with over 35 miles of excellent single track trails, KST offers the best of mountain biking to everyone. From novice to expert, it doesn’t matter; just get on that bike and ride. The trails are calling, are you listening?

Check out the web-based map at this link -

www.arcgis.com/home/webmap/viewer.html?webmap=53537d13bcb24046b2dcac790325f800