I looked up in time to see a flying fish sailing past at eye level, 15 feet above the water. Turning to Captain Harry Baum, I asked whether any had ever landed in this boat. While he was telling me that in 26 years of fishing in the Gulf Stream, that had never happened, an 11-inch-long flying fish crash-landed on the deck below. I rushed down, secured my prize, and hurried back to the bridge to ask Captain Baum if his boat had ever been struck by lightning. What I thought was the best one-liner of the day was not appreciated. The captain proceeded to recount the times his boat had been struck, how insurance companies refused to insure electrical navigational equipment, and how, when . . . well, you get the idea.
During the warm months, flying fish are commonly seen in the Gulf Stream off North Carolina. So at times when there is not much going on aboard ship, and when other creatures of the open sea are scarce, I watch fish fly.
The hotel’s ability to foster trust and nurture people who are otherwise temporarily homeless and dependent has been a long-standing feature of the modern landscape, and this functionality makes the hotel an irresistible magnet for those across the entire socioeconomic spectrum. Kay Thompson famously captured the hotel’s imaginative allure for the vulnerable wealthy in her 1955 fabulously popular Eloise stories, and the resulting marketing of these stories as a distinguishing feature of the hotel she—and her creator—called home attests to the hotel’s ability to incubate new kinds of identity and self-making even for those guests who seem to have it all. A ward of New York City’s Plaza Hotel, the six-year-old Eloise roams the hallways of one of the world’s finest hotels, her mother perennially absent. Without the protecting spaces provided by the hotel’s public and private venues, Eloise would be alone in a dangerous and unprotecting world, but in the generative habitus of the hotel she invents a world rich with play at self-making.
One of my favorite waterfall hikes in the southern Appalachians is the Rainbow Falls Trail in western North Carolina, just south of Lake Toxaway. Beginning in Gorges State Park, the 4-mile (round-trip) trail soon enters Pisgah National Forest, where it follows the Horsepasture River (a designated Wild and Scenic River) along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Four waterfalls occur along this stretch of the river, including Rainbow Falls, a near-vertical cascade about 125 feet high with a large plunge pool at the base. Few waterfalls in the southern Appalachians are as spectacular (and powerful) as this one.
Waterfalls are constantly changing. A rapid surge in stream flow following a heavy rain can turn a modest waterfall into a raging torrent of water. Dry periods can transform a waterfall into a trickle of water (much to the disappointment of waterfall enthusiasts). A slight breeze can elicit a shimmering spray, and if the light is right, a colorful rainbow. If passing clouds obscure the sun, the brightly reflective waterfall changes to softer hues, and the rainbow vanishes into thin air.
Controversy rages over fire policy in Linville Gorge, which was the first designated Federal Wilderness in the East with the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. Currently, the policy is to suppress any fires that threaten manmade structures, but to allow lower-intensity lightning-strike fires to burn. The latest management plan proposes prescribed burns in the Gorge to promote pines and rare plants and to reduce fuel loads. Homeowners in the Gingercake Acres development, perched on the eastern rim of the Gorge, understandably worry about risk to their homes. Advocacy organizations like Save the Linville Gorge Wilderness argue that fire destroys the wild character of the landscape. Skeptics scoff that the Forest Service maintains only an illusion of control over something as unpredictable and powerful as fire.
Congratulations to Fiona Ritchie and Doug Orr for their New York Times Bestseller, Wayfaring Strangers: The Musical Voyage from Scotland and Ulster to Appalachia! We’re giving away 5 signed copies to our subscribers!
To celebrate, the UNC Press is giving away six signed copies of Wayfaring Stranger when you sign up for our monthly e-newsletter in the Music, Travel, or Appalachian Studies categories. Just enter your name and email address and subscribe to the Music, Travel, and/or Appalachian Studies mailing list(s).
I think most of us are “destination-oriented”—focused on the trail’s end, the scenic vista, the waterfall. Many of our hikes have points of interest such as these, because we love them too. By using our book, you can become a “journey” person as well, someone who sees something new and exciting around each bend in the trail. We want you to start seeing the forest intimately, instead of a background of green noise.
I’m targeting the person who has dreamed of diving a sunken U-boat, or mountain biking a twisty trail in the Pisgah National Forest, or paddling his or her way down a mountain creek, but thought, “Nah. I could never do that.” My goal is to tell you that you can. All the reader needs is a spark of adventurous spirit. The book will, hopefully, ignite that spirit and push the reader into action.
As we continue to bind ourselves to the electronic universe it is more important than ever to reconnect with nature, and North Carolina’s national forests are an ideal destination to enjoy the the scenic splendor included within. So make some time to get back to nature on nature’s terms. Not only will it refresh your mind and exercise your body, it is a spiritually renewing experience to see the unimproved works of God laid out before us.
We’ve become so disconnected from the source of our food! While I was traveling through Georgia, several farmers told me that kids who visited their farms had no idea that chickens laid eggs and carrots came out of the soil. Agritourism provides a great opportunity to learn where our food comes from and meet the farmers who grow and raise it. Farmers work incredibly hard to put food on our tables; visiting farms shows that we value their dedication to growing fresh, local foods and want to support their work. If we want small farms to survive, we need to support the farmers.
Eastern North Carolina has produced some of the most transformative figures in the history of jazz, gospel and popular music. Among them are internationally renowned jazz pianists and composers Thelonious Monk from Rocky Mount and Billy Taylor from Greenville. African American Music Trails of Eastern North Carolina celebrates people, places and events in Eastern North …
Our State explains the best way to appreciate the pioneer’s of aviation: “Stand at the base of the Wright Brothers Memorial in Kitty Hawk, right where it all began.” Then, just a few miles to the south you can visit Jockey’s Ridge State Park, home to the East Coast’s tallest active sand dune, where Our State recommends, “Want to be a daredevil? Try hang-gliding. Rather keep your feet in the sand? Fly a kite.
Newly published this spring at UNC Press, Philip Gerard’s Down the Wild Cape Fear: A River Journey through the Heart of North Carolina is the perfect compliment for any trip out to the Cape Fear River.
The first essay, “Three Elephants in the Basement,” allowed me to transport the reader back to a time not very long ago—just a comma and three zeroes ago—when the land that would become North Carolina was populated by three species of elephant and a menagerie of strange animals as large as any in Africa today.
For me, every story is a journey, so the format was natural: follow the river and pause at each interesting bend to reveal its story—its natural and human history, the way it has shaped our life and politics.
Our featured North Carolina icon this week is the Appalachian Trail. There are thousands of different species of plants and animals along the Appalachian Trail, varying as the trail goes through different climates. There are 2,000 rare, threatened, endangered, and sensitive plant and animal species.
Our Holiday Sale is now underway! If you need some gift ideas for the folks on your list, our Southern Gateways catalog is a great place to start. Southern Gateways is where we collect of all our general interest books about this region we call home.
This week we’re featuring number 79 from Our State magazine’s 100 North Carolina Icons list: the Brown Mountain Lights. Unexplained lights often appear at Brown Mountain, hovering in the air when the weather is right. Our State writes, “Your best chance at catching the Brown Mountain Lights is Milepost 310 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, at the Brown Mountain Overlook along Highway 181, or from the top of Table Rock.” There have been various explanations for the lights, from scientific to legends and ghost stories. Today we have some suggested books of Carolina ghost stories.