Longstreet Highroad Guide to the North Carolina Mountains
By Lynda McDaniel
[Fig. 4(4)] [Fig. 8(6)] A small recreational area off the Blue Ridge Parkway, E. B. Jeffress Park serves to honor a man who played a big role in the development of the Parkway. Chairman of the North Carolina Highway Commission in 1934, Jeffress was not only a supporter of the Parkway but an outspokenand successfuladvocate against making the Parkway a toll road.
Set along the edge of the Blue Ridge Plateau, the park features two short hikes leading to interesting natural and man-made destinations. The Cascade Trail [Fig. 8(7)] follows Falls Creek to where the creek plunges over a bare-rock cliff face on its way to the Piedmont 2,000 feet below. The trail courses through forests of yellow-poplar, hickory, black cherry (Prunus serotina), witch-hazel, basswood, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia), and Fraser magnolia. Benches, rustic footbridges, and two overlooks, one at the top of the rushing water, the other at a lower perspective, add to the trail experience. The Cascades Trail also features signs identifying plant life evident here and throughout the region.
The understory is thick with legendary dog-hobble, said to grow so intertwined that it traps bear-hunting dogs more intent on sniffing than watching where they are going; once caught, or "hobbled," they fall easy prey to waiting bears. Other understory vegetation includes solomon's seal, flame azalea, mountain laurel, and rhododendron.
The park attracts a number of birds, especially the late-spring and summer eastern wood peewee, wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina), hooded warbler, ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), and rufous-sided towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus).
Tompkins Knob Trail [Fig. 8(8)] travels through the forest to a clearing for two old log structures: Cool Spring Baptist Church, where itinerant preachers rallied people from miles around, and Jesse Brown's Cabin, the home where the preachers often stayed the night.
[Fig. 8(21)] Winter/spring. Sow/reap. Wax/wane. Cycles lived and relived, season after season in the mountains. These patterns affect not just the land but also those making their way on its rugged terrain. Such was the case for a languishing Episcopal parish and a talented artist, who together turned their hardships into renewal.
The rector of the remote mountain parish, the story goes, was introduced at a party to artist Ben Long, who had returned from years of studying fresco painting in Florence, Italy. Eager to practice his skills in his home state, Long spent several months unsuccessfully searching for a North Carolina church that would accept his donation of a religious fresco. Long repeated his offer to the rector, who is said to have exclaimed, "We'll take it," followed by, "What is a fresco?" Long and his students eventually painted five frescoes in the parish's two churches, Holy Trinity at Glendale Springs and St. Mary's in West Jefferson, both in Ashe County.
The powerful frescoes have attracted thousands of visitors from across the country. In turn, they have inspired another kind of transformation. The parish is thriving once again, and nearby villages are enjoying an economic revitalization as old homes are converted to well-appointed bed and breakfast inns and interesting shops and restaurants are established in the region.
Both churches are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for prayer and meditation. The parish asks only for donations for the privilege of seeing these inspired works of art. Such is the mountain spirit.
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