Saturday, February 6, 2016


LOVE VALLEY- McCarran Trail

My Faithful Hiking Companion has been lobbying for a hike at Love Valley. Today I relented and off we went to this iconic village nestled in the Brushy Mountains between Statesville and North Wilkesboro.   Founded in 1954 by a 29 year old general contractor named Andy Barker who fulfilled his boyhood dream of living in a TV Western town which he built. 

I remember learning of Love Valley in 1970 when Andy hosted a rock concert featuring the Allman Brothers which drew 100,000 visitors.  Over the years, the village has become a horse haven and is billed as a "Cowboy Capitol of North Carolina"

On a warm day in February, the village is a ghost town.  Heck there are vacancies at Miss Kitty's but the Moonshine Gifts as well as all the other businesses are closed. 
One comment.  It would seem that folks in Love Valley have not heard that in the battle between Heritage and Hate....Hate has won and that flag might be better displayed elsewhere....just sayin.

The Main Street dead ends at the Jett Barker Memorial Garden, where I assume cowboy weddings are held.  Right next to the garden is the trail head of the McCarran Trail.

The Trail is a wide and well traveled horse trail which has been more recently used as a logging road....which means it is wet and muddy.  It begins with a heart thumpin slog up to the top of a ridge which forms a "U" embracing the a cove at the eastern end of Love Valley. Leafless trees allowed us to look down on various cabins and horse castles.

Interspersed along the trail are blue trash barrels  which serve the dual role as trail markers.  But if you can't see a blue barrel, there are empty blue beer cans to guide you as well.
At the half mile mark along the trail we found ourselves emerging into a large open space where several trails intersected.  Spotting a sign, I seriously pondered a trip down the Pinto Bean trail until I realized the Pinto Bean Trail was a muddy gully and the Ridge Trail was just a muddy logging road.
The Ridge Trail is moderately steep and we were able to bypass many of the most muddy spots.  The climb is about a half mile long and reaches the top of the ridge where we found the best views.  The area has been recently timbered and there are many logging roads one of which provided a nice view to the east.  To my surprise I saw the distinctive silhouette of the Saura Mountains in Stokes County.
Never have I seen the Saura Sisters displayed so well.  The distinctive Pilot Mountain is the typical landmark but today you could see Suaratown Mountain and Moores Knob as well.
The views were hard to come by but with a little effort we were able to get a great view of the small valleys interspersed among the Brushy Mountains.

The Ridge Trail extends another mile.  We could see clearly the extent of the logging as the hillsides were lined with red muddy logging roads.
Looking to the west we could see many house dotting the Love Valley, from the smoke coming from the chimney had nice fire warming their home. 

Along the trail we followed the tracks of many horses and even one large dog.  We also saw many deer tracks as well.  But sticking from the mud I spied a horseshoe....guess I found some good luck!   
The trail is a little over two miles long and ends rather strangely.  There is a large scary half constructed house reminiscent of a scene from the TV program "Criminal Minds".  Fortunately the muddy road kept my curiosity in check and I photographed this abode from a safe distance
We elected to take a logging road to bypass the muddy trail which resulted in some nice bushwacking and scrambling but it knocked about a quarter mile off the return trip but gave us a glimpse of the Love Valley Village.

I really am glad I relented and took this hike.  It was a 3.47 mile trail which provided a needed workout on a beautiful February afternoon.  I am sure I would have enjoyed the trail more from horseback while drinking a Bud Light but it was enjoyable nonetheless.  One of those Been There/Done That kinda hikes.

So how do I rate this hike....Access is a 9... Love Valley is off NC 115...take I-40 to exit 150 and watch for the signs.  Trail is a is a 10 rated logging trail but a 4 rated hiking trail.  Scenery is average at best....glimpsing the Suaras added to view for sure- 6;  Effort to view is about right....good work out mainly because of the traction that muddy trails provide. It is a moderately steep trail so you can get some good thumps going.  Overall a 6.5 rated trail....worth the trip but not good enough to return... at least not without a horse!

I am sure Love Valley is a great place to visit in the summer time when all the Carolina Cowboys are there with horses and fun...and from the looks of things there are not many rules!

By the way.....since it is February....and Valentine's Day is upon us....How about a Valentine from the Fat Bald White Guy?!

Friday, January 22, 2016


                                                    SALEM SNOW


"We will work simply and quietly.  Even if we never see the wonders with our own eyes or hear them with our ears, we are planting the kingdom of heaven unto the nations and will look for the fruit which grows from it"  Count Nicholas Ludwig Von Zinzendorf

In January 1766, the Moravian Brethren inhabiting Wachovia began the construction of their long awaited congregational village.  From this simple village begun 250 years ago this month, a thriving industrial town grew into Winston-Salem, North Carolina....the twin hometown.

The first fall of snow is not only an event, it is a magical event. You go to bed in one kind of world and wake up in another quite different, and if this is not enchantment, where is it  to be found." 
J. B. Priestly

The village was carefully laid out around a central square where stands a firehouse built in the 1803, housing the first community fire company organized in North Carolina.  It is in this square that many community events were held, including a brass band concert for President George Washington.  Bordering the Salem Square is Salem College, the oldest college for young women in the nation.  It opened in 1772.

"Snow provokes responses that reach right back into childhood"         
Andy Goldsworthy
Built in 1800, Home Moravian Church is the located adjacent to Salem College.  It is the place of worship chosen by William and Louisa Collins when they arrived in Salem in 1837.  On the other side of the square is the Single Brothers House.  This building housed the single men of the community where they engaged in many trades.  Even Dan'l Boone carried a gun made by the Moravian Brethren.

"The pure air and dazzling snow belong to things beyond the reach of  all personal feelings, almost beyond the reach of life." Frederick Soddy

One of the most popular places in Old Salem is the Winkler Bakery where famous Moravian Sugarcake is baked in a wood fired furnace.  If you come to Salem, this is a bucket list place to visit. Hot sugarcake fresh from the oven is the orginal "Hot and Now" delicacy.  Which by the way....Krispy Kreme Doughnuts first bakery was located on the Salem Square .

"A snow day literally and figuratively falls from the sky unbidden and seems like a thing of wonder"  Susan Orlean

Built in 1816, the current Salem Tavern was originally an annex to the original tavern.  It is located on the southern end of Salem, well away from the shops and central square.  The Moravians did not mind taking travelers' money and serving them strong drink. 

However, they did not care for their revelry, fearing that the "strangers" might 
adversely influence members of the congregation. The tavern operates today as a restaurant often times serving garden fresh food prepared with recipes  a century old or more.  Check it out at

"Silently like thoughts that come and go, the snow flakes fall, each one a gem" 
                      William Hamilton Gibson

Also on the southern end of the village is the Museum for Early Southern Decorative Arts.  Adjacent to the museum is a covered bridge which connects the Visitors Center with the village.  Built in 1998, the covered bridge contains no nails. It was built with period correct construction material and serves as the gateway to the village.

Not far from the covered bridge is original sanctuary St Phillips Moravian Church, the oldest African American church building  in North Carolina.  Moravians originally allowed African slaves and freedmen to worship with them. 
They believed that regardless of one's station in life, everyone stood equal before God.  But bowing to the sentiments of the community, the brethren eventually encouraged a separate congregation be formed. They built black Moravians a separate church building in 1861 which stands there today.

"Then come wild weather, come sleet or come snow, we will stand by each other however it blow" Simon Dach
The village has been restored circa 1800.  There are many private homes and everyone takes great pride in maintaining a living museum neighborhood. 

Walking around taking pictures the FBWG encountered many residents and students who were also taking in the snow sights.  One commented to me: "Doesn't feel like we are walking around inside a picture postcard?"  
Yes indeed!

On the northern end of the village, is God's Acre, the resting place of Brethren who are now in the more immediate presence of their Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Near the entrance is a wonderful building, name "Cedarhurst"  which houses the offices of the Southern Province of the Moravian Church.

Adjacent to God's Acre is the Archie Davis Center which houses the archives of the Moravian Church-Southern Province.  Note that graves of departed members of the congregation are marked with identical recumbent white stones which signify the unity of death.

"Are there no Moravians in the moon that not a missionary has yet visited this poor planet of ours, to civilize civilization and christianise Christendom?" 
Herman Melville

What a great evening in Old Salem.  The snow made this beautiful place absolutely enchanting.  We could have stayed  for hours and taken 100 pictures.  If you have never visited this historic village, make a point to come visit soon.
My favorite picture of the day was taken looking back at the Miksch Tobacco Shop...the scene looks like a rural farmstead...which in truth was what Salem looked like in 1800.
The Miksch homestead is the first single family dwelling constructed in Salem.  It was built in 1771.

The house was occupied by Johann Matheaus Miksch and his wife, Marie Henrietta.  There he raised and processed tobacco for sale.  Prior to the restoration of Salem, the site was occupied by Welfare Drug Store, just down the block from Krispy Kreme Doughnut

As we left, looming over the skyline of downtown Winston-Salem is the eerie outline of the white obelisk shaped skyscraper occupied by Wells Fargo.  All of which reminds me of how fortunate we are that leaders in Winston-Salem in the 1950s banded together to preserve Old Salem as a living museum.
Can't rate this as a hike....but for those who want to come visit.... access is a 10...Old Salem is just off Business 40 in downtown Winston-Salem....scenery is a 10...snow and old buildings are a perfect combination....effort to view is about right too...the walk around town was not difficult but the coldness of the falling snow numbed the hands but warmed the heart....Overall it was an exceptional evening.

                                  "We are to tell our brethren in America that
                                   the Savior wills that Salem shall be the town
                                   in Wachovia for trade and professions, and
                                   they shall be move thither from Bethabara" 
                                           Records of the Moravian Church
                                                        January 1766