Our next stop was Bandit’s Roost, a Corps of Engineers campground on W. Kerr Scott Reservoir near Wilkesboro, NC. When I first learned of this park, I thought it was on Kerr Lake in the central part of the state on the NC/VA line. So imagine my surprise when the GPS was taking us someplace else? This is our first experience using a COE facility and if this is any example, we’ll be using a lot of them. There are two camping loops. Loop A is the most popular as it has several waterfront sites. Loop B is heavily wooded but has lots of private sites. There are two other campgrounds on the lake that we drove through marking “good” sites at Warriors Creek and Fort Hamby for future use.
Before arriving at the campground we stopped at Robert Handy Camping Center. If the old time hardware store with things piled floor to ceiling had a RV twin this would be it. Mr. Handy knows where everything is without leaving his desk. Steve bought a window mounted thermometer. It was in the mid-90s and they invited Opal and Chari to stay inside while Steve worked with the technician trying to solve our TV problems. While waiting I was treated to some entertaining stories from Mr. Handy and a peek into small town life as various people dropped in to chat much like in the old general store. Three hours later we were on our way. As we left the lot the right rear tires went over a curb and the trailer took a severe rock to the right. When we opened the door on arrival half of our dishes had been thrown out of the cabinet and lay broken all over the floor. I’d figured we’d break dishes along the way just not this soon! From then on we took extra measures to secure things. I know a lot of folks will say use plastic dishes. That’s OK for short trips but I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life eating off of plastic.
We met our new friends Kathy and Joe and overlapped our stays by a few days. On Friday evening we went to a free jazz concert held once a month in conjunction with the Farmers Market where we listened to music before having a good dinner at an Italian restaurant.
While at the market Chari picked up some brochures (She never met a brochure she didn’t like.) One was about a barn quilt trail and another about a fresco trail of art works by Ben Long. We’d seen his fresco at the Bank of America building in Charlotte. After our friends left on Sunday we headed out to find the barn quilts. This was something new to us but apparently common in the western Carolinas. It turned into a scavenger hunt. Some addresses were accurate while others were off by a mile on the GPS.
One of the addresses led us to a driveway marked Whippoorwill Academy http://www.explorewilkes.com/whippoorwill.php . We had no clue what this was. We drove in and saw a sign saying ‘museum open – no charge today’. On one building there was a barn quilt. The name Whippoorwill Academy came from the name the owners father gave to a school that was so far back in the woods that he said “not even the whipoorwills could find it.” The property is a collection of old buildings from the area: a church, an old school, some houses and the only Tom Dula museum. Who is Tom Dula you ask? Well, back in the 1860’s his last name was pronounced Tom Do-lay. Beginning to sound familiar? It’s the man immortalized by the Kingston Trio in the ballad Tom Dooley. For details on the legend please go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Dula. The Ferguson family of the owner of this property , Mrs. Edith Carter, has been in the area for many generations and this county is Ferguson county. It was her great uncle who was the sheriff Grayson that arrested Tom Dula. As the song goes “If it weren’t for Grayson I’d have been in Tennessee. Mrs. Carter is an artist and has brought the legend to life in her paintings which are displayed in the museum. So we spent several hours talking with her, learning about the legend and photographing the museum. She told us that in the 1990’s she was contacted by a representative from the Kingston Trio. They had the footstone from Tom Dula’s grave. According to them, they were given it when they visited the area. They offered to return it if she’d put it in the museum and pay $100 for shipping. Her reply was that it was illegal to remove gravestones and if it was returned she’d see it went back to the gravesite. To this day it remains in California.
W. Kerr Scott Lake is fed by the Yadkin River and offers wonderful kayaking and tubing adventures. The shoreline is maintained in a natural setting so many birds and native plants can beseen. Below the dam the Yadkin is a shallow and occasionally rocky stream. We kayaked between the put in just below the dam to the takeout at the Greenway which was seven miles and took three hours. Other days we kayaked the lake then swam at one of several beaches. Not a bad life!
One of the best known landmarks in the area is the original Mast General Store in Valle Crucis, NC www.mastgeneralstore.com/Communities/mast/index.cfm/original-mast-general-store/original-mast-general-store/ . Chari had been there about 15 yrs. ago and wanted Steve to see it. Now there is a chain of Mast Stores sprinkled throughout the Blue Ridge but this is the original store. A nice ride, sitting on the porch eating ice cream and listening to a music jam and buying original oil cloth for our picnic table was a relaxing way to spend the day.
Stone Mountain State Park was less than an hour away. We headed out with Opal for a hike one afternoon. The circuit up to the top of 600′ high Stone Mountain is 4 miles and considered strenuous. We’d gone almost halfway when we heard thunder and started back. The rain caught up with us but we were able to seek shelter with many other hikers and dogs at the Hutchison Homestead. (Finally they’re out of the trailer and I can get on the computer. Well, let me tell you I was plenty scared! You know I don’t like loud noises and the thunder was like having your head in a metal garbage can. The lightening I could feel on my wet hair. Thanks, Mom for holding me tight, petting me and telling me it would be OK.) An hour later the rain stopped and we walked down an access road to the parking lot as the trail crossed a rain swollen stream that was impassable. By then we were chilled through. Strange day, we arrived with the A/C on and left with the heater running.
We really wanted to see Stone Mountain so a few days later when it was sunny and NO chance of rain, we returned. This time Opal stayed home so we could take our time photographing. We’d just begun to climb when a teenager came bouncing down the steps and cheerfully said “Only 514 more steps to go.” “I heard my brain say ‘Make my day’.” It really is a beautiful hike from the rhododendron blooming in the woodlands to the mountain bald and waterfalls.
We really hate to leave this area so as we often say “When we come back………”