Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Eclipse Option - Orchard Hills, NC

Come every Wednesday, my husband joins up with a group of his friends at their unofficial organization called Pete's Duffers. Their communal love of the sport of golf draws them out regardless of weather conditions, with the rare exceptions of torrential downpours or ice crystals on the greens. No doubt this group would love to be on the course during the eclipse, if only it were on a Wednesday.

I dabble at golf myself. Is that the correct terminology for this? Dabble? We belong to a course nearby aptly called Orchard Hills. There are few apple trees left now, but enough to remind the cart rider of its origins.

That's mine in pink heading down the fairway on the eleventh hole,
my favorite, by the way. Downhill 

Working our way to the green
The course is wide open, with enough trees surrounding the individual fairways for the birds to come roosting back home. Wonder what the over-the-top population of squirrels will do during the eclipse. They've witnessed all kinds of human emotions from their scurrying around between shots, so what's a little eclipse to them!

But it's a big deal to me. While I think a golf course would be a wonder to play during the event, dimming sunlight and all, I'm not sure in my situation. After all, I have the two grands with me and their introduction to the great game of golf wasn't all that spectacular. But the grandpa tried.

Grandpa teaching the two
The percentage of the eclipse there will be 97.7, not bad at all. But being around for two hours waiting for the sun to slowly fade away whilst searching for stray balls in the rough is not the ideal choice for these two youngsters.

For other duffers, I say go for it, even if you have to use an LED night flyer golf ball that glows in the dark. There is such a thing. Here's my husband demonstrating the see-through golf balls. A thin light is slid inside each ball, and others are placed in the cup and on the flag.

Note his collections of souvenir pencils behind
along with his three hole-in-one balls at the top
Makes me wonder if they will need to use all that on the afternoon of August 21. I'll have to ask, but as for me, I won't be there.

I'm still searching for the perfect spot for me.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eclipse Options - Mt. Mitchell, NC

In my search for the most perfect spot in North Carolina to view the eclipse, I thought I'd check out our tallest point. After all, the tallest should be the clearest, most unencumbered vista around.

Mt. Mitchell.

That would be me on the left, sitting, catching my breath from hiking up from the parking lot, thin air and all.

When I taught fourth grade, our social studies curriculum emphasized North Carolina, and Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River was one of the major topics. Dr. Mitchell's body is buried there at the peak, near this lookout point. It is now a state park, accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway mile marker #355, about thirty miles from Asheville.
Here's the view from that lookout point. Majestic, isn't it? Imagine this same view with a solar eclipse overhead. 98.1% blockage. There's plenty of parking, assuming you don't mind walking extra far in case the closer parking lots are filled to capacity. Plus only so many people can fit on the lookout platform. But, then again, well worth the trip if you don't mind close quarters. Be sure to pack a sweater. When the sun goes dark, the temperature will drop significantly up there (in my un-expert opinion).

Further in our fourth grade studies we discussed the grand argument between geologists as to if Mt. Mitchell was really the tallest, or was Clingman's Dome, a mountain straddling western North Carolina and Tennessee. Mitchell won, but the dome claims the distinction of being the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
A view of the observation tower in the fog, taken from the base of the tower.
I borrowed this picture of the viewing platform from their website.
I have walked (more like puffed) all the way to the top.
With the same percentage blocked as Mt. Mitchell, it would be an equally amazing experience come August 21. However, from what I've heard on the news, the traffic will be contained so as to keep the national park safe from the anticipated heavy load. Do I really want to go there? Yes, either place. Am I going to? I don't think so.

I'll keep searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen




Saturday, August 12, 2017

Solar Eclipse Option - Blowing Rock, NC

Every town needs a legend, especially in times when the moon comes creeping across the sun, and the ancient stories come alive.

Nature dealt Blowing Rock a legend in the making. Location, location, location. Chickasaw chief's daughter falls in love with a Cherokee brave. Courtship follows. Distraught over having to leave her, he jumps from the rock to the canyon below. Grief stricken, she prays that he be restored. She returns over and over to the rock, where one day, her prayers are answered. The wind blows him back into her arms. Now a wind blows eternally, perhaps even more so when the sun dies a slow death. 

Okay, enough of that. Blowing Rock is a mere thirty minute drive from my house, and has the making not only of a legend, but of unbelievable eclipse viewing possibilities.

The blowing rock
The view from the rock
So what if the blockage percentage is a paltry 96.5. With views like this, how could anyone complain. Besides there's Canyons, a restaurant on the next curve beyond the rock that has a variety of meal selections.


Not only that, it has an outdoor seating area overlooking the Linville Gorge, and toward another direction, the Johns River Gorge, which is near my home. 
My Florida friend, Sara capturing the view.
This is certainly a contender for spending my afternoon gazing at the sky. With my special eclipse glasses protecting me, craning my neck won't be such an issue. I'll almost be parallel with the sun!

But I'll keep on searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Eclipse Options - Price Park, NC

I don't know how much my grown children remember about growing up Griffith, but I do hope they hold a special place in their memory bank for our days at Price Park, a campground along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Being only a thirty minute drive from our home, it was the scene of many a Sunday afternoon picnic. It was the launch site for our Boone Fork hike where we learned that half way there meant we couldn't turn around. It was our pop-up camper destination with sitting by the campfire and roasting marshmallows, and smelling bacon cooking in the newness of the morning.

Price Lake
Instead of fall leaves reflecting,
there shall be a mirroring of the moon and the sun playing in the sky
My grands need to experience Price Park, so what better time than during an eclipse. So what if it's only 96.5% blockage. That's still significant. It's wide open viewing over the lake. There's a short hike that my nine year old could easily handle to hear the birds roosting in the dusk brought on by the eclipse.


A favorite spot for artists.
Imagine the picture that would come from an eclipse over Price Lake!
Or the day darkness blanketing a split rail fence
August 21 is getting closer, yet I am no closer to a decision as to where to take my grandchildren. It needs to be memorable. Price Park is a part of their father's memory. If we go there, they shall claim it, too.

Still searching. 

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, August 7, 2017

Eclipse Option - Bryson City, NC



Ding, ding, ding!!

100% solar blockage.

Now we're talking business, at least the town of Bryson City, North Carolina is talking business. The motels and hotels and inns in a hundred mile radius have been booked for months, and the town is ready. Swain County is rolling out the black and yellow carpet, well, the black and yellow t-shirts to be more exact. They are planning a four day, not-to-miss, long weekend with music and fair and festival and planetarium all rolled into one giant event culminating in the communal watching of the solar eclipse.

I borrowed this picture from the Bryson City website 
showing the location of the eclipse day viewing party.Looks like what I've been searching for, open views, trees nearby.
There's a museum there in the town that I have somewhat of a connection to, The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians.



I worked with one of the founders of the museum, Alen Baker, to publish his book about the how and the why of the museum. The museum is chocked full of fishing gear and life stories of fly fishermen who used them. Plenty of flies there, too. It would be a great place to stop and browse while the sun gets into position.

The Making of The Fly Fishing Museum of the Southern Appalachians.
As another side excursion option, there's the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, seats still available according to the website. Leaves from Bryson City. I've been on that railroad, up the Nantahala Gorge, watching the rafters and the tubers floating down the river. So peaceful. So calm. I can't imagine watching an eclipse from the train cars, though. Too much overhead obstruction.

Floating down the river is something else to do while waiting for the sun to hide, rafting the Nantahala to give the train passengers a sight. Or there's the Ocoee River rafting.
Imagine being on whitewater during a 100% blackout. Not sure about that choice, for me anyway. Make your reservations early, though, if it's not too late already. This picture I took last summer of a raft traffic jam on the Ocoee River on US Highway #64, not all that close to Bryson City, but still in the ding, ding, ding, 100% western North Carolina range.  

The Bryson City event is the real deal. Should I attempt it? Or not? It's at least a two and a half hour drive from my home to there, and with lodging filled, it's too late to plan an overnight. 

I think I'll keep searching for now, but if you are looking for a true eclipse experience, maybe this is the place for you.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Friday, August 4, 2017

Eclipse Options - Wilson Creek, NC

Will the fish in the streams be affected by the eclipse? Something to think about now that I've written a book about fly fishermen and how they study the atmosphere and the weather conditions before they set out on a fishing adventure. I've been reading about the birds coming home to roost during a total eclipse, so to me the next natural phenomena to look at would be the animals of the earth and the fish of the sea.
Wilson Creek, North Carolina
What will the deer do? The bears? The dogs in my neighborhood? The trout in the streams? The bugs and the flies they seek, will they be affected as well?

This picture of Wilson Creek is on the back cover of my book, Fly Fishermen of Caldwell County where co-author Ron Beane and I tell the life stories of twenty-eight men from our county. Nowhere in there is an eclipse mentioned, but there are many mentions of barometric pressure and best time of day and air temperature.

A trout in the stream near the Bill Crump place
Photo by Gene Swanson
Another photo by Gene Swanson
Wilson Creek has been designated a Wild and Scenic River. The process of applying for and campaigning for and succeeding is documented in Ron's chapter of the book.

With all the wilderness involved, I'm not sure if this is the time to venture here. Any other day, yes. Moon invading the sun's space overhead, this I want to see unobstructed.

I'll keep searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Eclipse Option - Little Switzerland, NC

It's got a lovely name, Little Switzerland does. Words bring images, and with those two words coupled together, oh the images conjured up in my head. Mountains. Alpine flowers. Clean air. Beauty. Yodeling. Okay, so that didn't happen, but the others did when I went there on a Thelma and Louise weekend getaway with my best friend from high school this summer. The inn is directly off the Blue Ridge Parkway, can't miss it, exit 334.
See that dot behind us? That's the full moon rising over the Appalachian mountains. Here it is again, another shot, this one from the firepit behind the Little Switzerland Inn.
I can only imagine sitting there in the Adirondack chairs, sipping some North Carolina crafted wine, watching the moon blot out the sun. Pure delight. 

According to the eclipse map locator, the view will be a 97.9% blockage in this section of the parkway. Maybe this isn't the best kept secret, though. It might get a little crowded with the eclipse seekers.

Up the road from the inn is a restaurant that has a deck with an incomparable mountain view and an appropriate name to match, Mountain View Restaurant
That would be the tubby version of me standing on the deck, taken by another Thelma and Louise friend of mine last fall. Here's my mountain view.
Looks like a perfect spot for an eclipse view to match the mountain view. But it's small, so I imagine it would fill to capacity soon. I'll save eating lunch there for another Thelma and Louise trip.

A little more wide open for parking and viewing is the Apple Orchard at Altapass on the Blue Ridge Parkway, a few miles north of the Mountain View Restaurant. 
That's me in the parking lot. If you catch it at the right time, you'll be blessed with mountain music (and maybe, just maybe, a little of that Swiss Alpine yodeling that has filtered into country music) and clogging and plenty of ice cream and all things apple. But oops. I just checked. Closed on Mondays! So forget this for eclipse watching, but put it on your bucket list for fall apples.

Just what do I consider the best possible conditions for viewing this earth/moon/sun exhibit? Here's my list: Not too far to drive with two antsy granddaughters. Not too crowded. Easy access to bathrooms, a must with those aforementioned granddaughters. Unobstructed view of the sky, but enough trees nearby for the birds to come to roost when darkness falls.

I'm still searching.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Eclipse Options - Spring Creek, North Carolina

Last week I blogged about my quest for the perfect spot for me to take my grandchildren to experience the upcoming solar eclipse. I'm still searching because option number one, Max Patch, has too many issues. Namely crowds. It really would be my first choice, and I'm sure there are hundreds, if not thousands of people out there contemplating the same option.

The next day on facebook I ran across option two, which is also a part of option one. Spring Creek.

An early spring picture of Spring Creek
This is the major artery in western Madison County, North Carolina where streams empty their silt and sand and water, including the raindrops that fall on Max Patch. I took this picture at a crossroads called Trust. Luck is the next crossroads on the road, by the way. Trust me, watching the eclipse from here is indeed an option. 

Trust me, there is a connection in all this rambling, so hang in there with me. 

Further downstream is the school I wrote about in my book, Back in the Time

The school opened in 1929 and with the consolidation of smaller schools in the seventies when the high school students were moved, it gradually shrank in population and need until it closed in the late eighties. It's been resurrected by a group of dedicated former students and teachers who joined to form the Spring Creek Community Center. It is now used for various community events. It houses a library. It houses Dave's 209 restaurant, a favorite stop for the many motorcyclists venturing along the North Carolina designated scenic highway nicknamed "The Rattler."

This group is currently working toward a new heating and air conditioning system for the center. And here it is, the connection to the eclipse!!! They are going to have an eclipse event right there. At the school. Wouldn't those teachers from all those years be thrilled.

Actually it's a fund raiser called the Solar Eclipse Supply Center. The Community Center will offer for sale picnic lunches and viewing glasses. They are inviting those who plan to make the pilgrimage up the mountain to Max Patch to stop by and support their cause.

Or just stop right there. The viewing will be perfect. Wide open.

The flats of Spring Creek
with plenty of viewing opportunities
Easy to get to. Just follow North Carolina Highway #209, exit twenty-four from I-40, going toward Hot Springs. This location can handle a crowd. There's plenty of parking spaces, and bathrooms, another drawback from going on up to Max Patch.

Bring a chair.

I checked here to see the percentage the moon will block the sun at the school. 99.1%. About as close to full as you can get.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Saturday, July 29, 2017

Experiencing the Solar Eclipse from atop Max Patch

In case you're one of the very few that hasn't gotten the memo, let me enlighten you: There's a much anticipated, "once in a lifetime" total eclipse of the sun on its way to dazzle those of us lucky enough to be in its path.

Ready or not, it's almost here. August 21, 2017. Save the date, because you don't want to miss it. No matter where you will be in the United States that day, you will see an eclipse, a path of a total eclipse from coast to coast in the midst of ever decreasing partial views.

I've ordered my eclipse glasses and they've arrived and are sitting by the back door, waiting for the day. I've arranged for this year's edition of Granny Camp to coincide with that day. After all, isn't the bonding over a stellar event what grannies are for?

Sad news. Our house is not in the direct path of the total eclipse, according to the eclipse locator I found. We're in the 96.7% range. In order to experience the total 100% at the nearest point, we'll have to drive seventy-five miles southwest into South Carolina.

About an hour and a half distance from my home, yet still in North Carolina, is a better opportunity, even though it is 26 miles away from the nearest total eclipse view. Registering at 99.1% blockage, it's one of my favorite spots on earth, Max Patch.

That's me on top of the world.
Maybe a perfect place to witness a solar eclipse.
Max Patch is a bald, one of several in the western North Carolina mountains. It's a rounded, treeless mountaintop, almost eye level with a few of those mountains in the background. Hike the Appalachian Trail and you'll be there. Or do what I do, drive up and up and up on dirt and gravel roads.


Imagine watching the intersection of the sun and the moon from this spot.

Max Patch was a part of one of my latest books, Back in the Time, a nonfiction about medicine, education and life in general in the nearby communities back in the thirties, forties and fifties. It was the scene of summertime fun for the locals, picnics, ballgames, circuses, even a landing strip for early bi-planes, also the summer pastures for sheep and cattle. The afternoon I took these photographs, it was also the scene of a marriage proposal. I only saw the staging by the friends of the hopeful groom.


I wonder if she said yes.
Max Patch on August 21 will offer a panoramic view of this heavenly event unmatched by any, I'm sure. I'm still in the deciding stage, thinking if I should go there or somewhere else. My issue with this spot, I can only imagine the hordes of equally delighted people that will walk the path to the top. Will there be room for my gang of five? On the mountain, I'm sure. For my car in the parking lot, the teensy, tiny, six or seven space parking lot? No.

So my search for the perfect spot to experience the eclipse goes on.

Enter your zip code here and you will see the percentage the moon will block the sun in your area. And then start looking for the perfect spot.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Monday, July 17, 2017

Lenoir's part in the 1943 Buy-A-Bomber Program

Researching into a project last year, I stumbled upon an article in the May 1943 local newspaper about a homefront war support campaign the students here in Lenoir had begun. They were going to buy a bomber! Ordinarily I would have filed it in my brain in the gray matter I labeled interesting, but not what I was looking for, except that my friend and fellow critique partner, Sandra Warren, had just published a book about her hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan and the South High campaign to buy a bomber for the war effort.


Of course I had to share my discovery with her. And then I had to investigate more, because that's what writers do, investigate. And then I discovered a whole story just waiting to be revealed.

So Tuesday, July 18th, we are doing just that. I say we, because Sandra and I are presenting the Buy-A-Bomber details we both uncovered to the Caldwell County Historical Society. It's a together presentation and it's open to the public. She'll tell about her discoveries (and wow are those details beyond interesting) and I'll share what I found about the 1942-43 school campaigns here in this western North Carolina county. We'll be at the Caldwell Heritage Museum  (112 Vaiden Street, Lenoir, NC 28645) starting at seven.

One important essential critical (you pick the adjective) key to the success of the United States victory in World War II was the support, both economical and morale boosting, of the citizens. Our local newspaper was full of reminders of those who were on the front fighting for our country, and why using ten percent of weekly pay checks to purchase bonds would help the war effort.

There were posters.

And


So with that as a backdrop, the local schools, with the strong suggestion (make that requirement) from the powers that be in Raleigh at the Department of Schools became washed up in the Schools At War program, of which the Buy-A-Bomber program was just one element. Also on the list was the Triple Threat Jeep Campaign to buy a jeep for $900. And more!

I can't wait to share the rest of the story with everyone. Did Lenoir actually buy a bomber??? Come and find out! 7:00, Tuesday, July 18, Caldwell Heritage Museum, Lenoir. See you then.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen



Thursday, July 6, 2017

When I am ninety-one, I shall wear rhinestones on my jeans

Happy Birthday to my mother's cousin, Jean Lorraine Frese. She is ninety-one years old today, very much alive and kicking, still driving at breakneck speed around mountain curves...and wearing rhinestones on her jeans. She has a cane now, but even that comes thrown in with a grain of salt. She gave it a name. George. "Don't forget George," she's reminded me often as we are going out the door on our latest adventure.


This is the relative of mine I featured in Called to the Mountains: The Story of Jean L. Frese. That's her picture on the cover.

There's so much more to her life story beyond the Salvation Army bonnet on the cover picture and the rhinestones on her jeans pockets picture taken a few weeks ago.

There was the fishing expedition.


The horseback mission.


The hours and years of study and preparing sermons, no easy task for her.

Her goal is to have many, many more birthdays, at least to one hundred and five, God willing. In fact, those two words have driven her life all these years. God willing. She depends on God to send her the right person at the right time, and that has never failed. She firmly believes God brought her to this spot, called her to these Smokey Mountains for a purpose. Her life is a testimony to what God can do. And. She's not finished yet. 

Ninety-one years and counting.

Catch of the day,
Gretchen

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Father's Day 2017

Just in time for Father's Day, my husband's brother gave us a flash drive of hundreds of photographs they had scanned from the albums and stuffed shoeboxes we found when we cleaned out my in-law's house. So yesterday my husband and I sat down in front of the screen and watched a remarkable life unfold, that of Wesley Newton Griffith.
That's him, on the right, 1930, with his brother and sisters

1939 in front of his school
From his early years to his teens to his war service, I became acquainted with a man I thought I knew, but didn't. He was more, much more, and the pictures introduced me to that part of him I never considered.

His life before I married his son.

1942

That's him with my mother-in-law before he went off to war

He spent his service time in Hawaii, radar, watching for enemy bombers. After Pearl Harbor. In a tunnel on a hill.



This Father's Day I honor not only the memory of my own wonderful father, but also that of my father-in-law. After all, he's the one who taught by example what it means to be a father. 

The baby that grew up to be my husband
My husband learned well.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Racing On and Off the Road in Caldwell County and Surrounding Areas

With much pleasure and anticipation, I'm here today to reveal to you the latest book I've helped become a reality. This one I was co-author to Johnny Mack Turner, the same man with whom I wrote Wheels and Moonshine. That book was about his Uncle Claude. This book is about him. Well, him and hundreds of others in our end of the state.


The cover was designed by Books That Matter, and they did an excellent, eye-catching job! The pictures featured on the cover have been toned down a bit in a later revision, but you get the idea. There Johnny is, front and center, with a racer by the name of Curtis Turner. The other four on the front are men from our county who went on to great accomplishments on the track, Don Carlton, Larry Smith, Sam Snyder and Max Prestwood. Same story about the five on the back, all from Caldwell County, Mac Martin, Johnny Price, Dick Greene, Hubert Ennis, and Raymond Wilson.


Note the words in the title, "On and Off the Road." They are important to the story because much of the early racing here in our county was on-the-road street racing, back-country road racing to be more exact. Johnny is a master story teller with plenty of action in his past to build a book around. Here's the introduction from the book's Amazon page

From its shady beginnings in the moonshine industry to the shiny glimmer under track lights, motor racing has been an unavoidable element of reality for several generations in Caldwell County, North Carolina. Local lore is overflowing with the adventures of racing both on the road and off, where if a person wasn’t involved in racing, then his neighbor was. He might have been the one spending hours in the garage perfecting his car for the next trophy chase, or he might have been the one who heard the deep rumble of the engines in the distance and hurried to the roadside to watch two drivers prove their worth. This passion to control the power of the engine unfolds in a most remarkable story captured by Johnny Mack Turner with the help of Gretchen Griffith. He opens his scrapbook to the world, revealing a personal account of motor racing in western North Carolina. From his roots in the history of the region through tales of on and off road drag races, circle tracks and motocross events, Johnny gives the reader a glimpse into a vibrant culture seldom revealed.

Special thanks to Bill Tate who restored several of the original pictures. The differences are striking.
Before
After
The book is chocked full of photographs from Johnny's personal collection and from many others throughout the area who shared with us. It is also filled with life stories of the men from Caldwell County who answered the roar of the engines in their own unique ways.

I can't wait for you to read it.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen