My brother tells the story of when he was on a US Navy ship stationed in the Phillipines. On a very hot day in Manila Bay, the sun was turning the ship’s steel hull into an oven. A little breeze came up, and a young sailor from south Alabama climbed topside to get some air and observed, “It’s a little cool up here in the mountains, isn’t it?”. Everything is relative.
This weekend I am at this same brother’s house in the East Tennessee mountains, and I can attest that it is a little cool up here in the mountains. It is also beautiful.
Our little trip this week started with a couple of days in the Asheville, NC area. If you haven’t been there, you need to go. Asheville is the artsy capital of western North Carolina, and is most famous for the Biltmore House, a 175,000 square foot, 250 room mansion built by George Washington Vanderbilt in the nineteenth century. The estate is on about 8,000 acres. Today’s rich people have trouble imagining such opulence.
On any night downtown Asheville is hopping with live bands, street corner entertainers, and just plain interesting stuff. It is an island of cultural insanity in a beautiful setting, coexisting with back country mountain traditions. If you have been to New Orleans, this is Asheville on a weekend night.
In stark contrast to the liberal, and loose society that Asheville has become is the religious community. In the Asheville vicinity are some major religious mountain retreats. Ridgecrest, Lake Junalaska, and others are nearby as is the town of Montreat, North Carolina, home of world-famous evangelist Billy Graham and Montreat College, a Christian liberal arts institution.
Next to Montreat is the town of Black Mountain. It is a town of about six thousand people. It has more good restaurants than it has gas stations. Art boutiques and antique stores abound. It us one of those places that is a pleasure to explore. We stayed with some friends in Black Mountain, and recommend its inclusion on everybody’s itinerary.
If you like beer you will love this part of North Carolina. The Asheville area has some great micro-breweries and some really good barbecue like that found at The Twelve Bones Smokehouse in Asheville. One of the best breweries is the Pisgah brewery in Black M0untain. I am adicted to the Blueberry Lager they make there. Not only do chicks love it, but men love it, too.
The sailor from Alabama was right. It is way cool up here in the mountains.