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

Saturday, January 2, 2016



"When we tire of well-worn ways, we seek for new. The restless craving in 
                          the souls of men spurs them to climb and  to seek the mountain view." - Ella Wheeler Wilcox

For the last three New Year's Days we have celebrated by hiking in the Linville Gorge.  In each of those years we were accompanied by my pal, Easy Jake.  Jake wanted to hike Table Rock this year and we were happy to oblige. While we have blogged this trail twice before, it is a trail that gives more each time we hike it.  It was a great day with temps in the high 30's.  Fortunately the gate to the road to Table Rock Picnic area will not close until January 4.  The normal busy parking lot was only half full.  The trail is only supposed to be one mile long but I have found it to be deceptively long and steep. Today was no exception but we broke up the hike with visits to Little Table Rock and Devil's Cellar.  You can check out our other Table Rock hikes by following these links:

The nice thing about winter hikes in the Gorge is that you get to see views that are otherwise obscured by summer vegetation. The first leg of the summit trail is a steep climb from the parking lot. 

Stopping to take in the views was a good way to let the old thumper calm down.  The view north we could see the cliffs of Little Table Rock and the western wall of the Gorge. To the south toward the chimneys with the silhouette of Mt Mitchell in the distance was a real treat.  Damage from the 2014 fire was still apparent.  It is obvious Little Table Rock was severely damaged but Mother Nature has brought the mountain back very nicely nonetheless.

photo by FHC
We decided to venture first out to Little Table Rock.  So at the first hairpin switchback we took the trail to the left which led to the spur trail to Little Table Rock.  Based on our last visit there, I knew that we needed to first visit "Billy Buck Bluff", a cliff facing the north end of the gorge that gives a mirror view of that seen at Celestial Point.  This cliff is special which is why I refer to it by the nickname of my grandson, Will Hunter.  Perhaps this name will stick!  From the Billy Buck Bluff, you can see the river as it snakes down from Babel Tower past Devil's Cliff and Hawksbill Mountain. The full length of Hurricane Wall can be clearly seen. The Roan Balds can be seen in the distance as well.  It is truly a really great spot to view the Gorge.

Photo by EasyJake
We could easily see Kistler Highway on the western ridge.  But we could not pick out Wiseman's view. But the best view was the interplay between nearby Hawksbill Mountain and distant Grandfather Mountain
Having scrambled for the best views we could get from Little Table Rock, we returned to the trail.  Next stop would be Devil's Cellar, a place I had never visited, but trail research provided by proved accurate again.  About a quarter of a mile or so up the summit trail are split rocks.  On the right just past the split rocks is a shortcut created by the old summit trail.  Ignore this and proceed on the newer switchback trail.  Right before the switchback there are two trails.  Choose correctly and you will find Devil's Cellar. Summit to the right...the Cellar to the left...Easy Jake led the way.
The Cellar is a deep crevasse separating the northern wall of Table Rock from a rocky tower.  The cliffs are several hundred feet high and provide some stunning views to the east.
photo by FHCA
The cliffs provided a several level rock scramble.  Each level providing a different view of the eastern mountains.  My Faithful Hiking Companion stayed behind to photograph some interesting rocks in the crevasse.  Easy Jake and I went to the top to get a good view.

photo by FHC

What she photographed in the Cellar was kinda creepy.  The rock on the bottom left looks like it has a face with glasses on its eyes and a nose and mouth clearly seen. It reminds me of the frozen in rock enemies of the Ice Queen in the movie Chronicle of Narnia.  The rock on the right looks like a finger....she told me a middle finger....what do you think?
photo by EasyJake

The spur trail to Devil's Cellar is a must.  I don't know why I had not visited there on previous hikes but will return soon to explore the site more.  We left there and returned to the summit trail which is steep but not very long.

At the top we stumbled to our favorite place on the northern cliff and ate our power bar lunch.  The view of Hawksbill and Grandfather there is stunning.  But just as nice is the view, we met some nice folks too.  Laura and Allison had trudged up the last leg of the trail with us.  Accompanying them was a chocolate lab named "Layla".  The dog's owner is Allison's brother who is serving overseas....prayers for his safe return!  Of course the FBWG had make them famous! 
The Summit Trail ends on the Northeastern face of the Rock and the rock plateau extends southwestwardly like a rock spine to the mountain.  Many hikers stop here. That is a big mistake.  The rocky summit is easily scrambled and everywhere you look is a different incredible view. It is one of the few places in the Gorge that provides a 360 degree vista.  From the top rock you get a great view of Shortoff Mountain and Lake James.
photo by EasyJake

photo by FHCA

My Faithful Hiking Companion took this great shot of nearby Lake James.  So did Easy Jake.  I call it the Blue Lake as every time we view from a top of a peak in the Gorge it is a different shade of blue.
photo by EasyJake
photo by FHCA

Easy Jake and I scrambled across the summit rocks seeing how far we could go leaving my Faith Hiking Companion to take pictures of our exploits. 

On the way we got to meet a nice couple, Chris and Sheri.  Sheri is from California. It was her first time in NC Mountains.  She enjoyed the sights but she complained that she was not quite dressed for the cool weather.   Chris is a real smart young man...first cause he is an NC State grad...secondly because he snagged him a really beautiful lady from California.

The full length of the Shortoff Mountain plateau tried to hide the blue lake.  From here you can see Cracker Jack Point and Chimney Gap.

The summit of Little Table Rock looks small in the foreground of the western wall of the Gorge.

photo by FHCA

At the end of the rocky spine of the Table Rock summit, it looks like you can fall off the world. In truth as the rocks end at a nice flat open space begins that allows for more views on each side of the mountain.  As we stood there taking in the sights we heard the huff and puff of a family of hikers as they emerged from the western side.  It seems that there is a very easy trail from this end of the summit down to the trail which initially we took to the summit. Easy Jake and I took this trail down, leaving my Faithful Hiking companion to scramble back the other way. 

The hike down to the parking lot is a quick and easy downhill scamper making you understand that the summit trail is not much over a mile long at best.  We had a great day returning to the mountain that inspired the Fat Bald White Guy and his Faithful Hiking Companion to begin our journey and this blog...going home is always good for the soul.

I once worried about winter hiking not providing enough color to enhance the distant scenery.  I have found by hiking New Year's Day that the color of the Gorge adapts to the season and in many ways it is just as stunning on a clear winter day than in the middle of the summer.

FBWG on Billy Buck Bluff by EasyJake

We hiked 3.5 miles. It is an hike that is easy to rate.  The access is a 10.  The Table Rock parking lot is so very accessible and the pit toilets are a nice and needed accessory.  The trails are well maintained and easily followed.  The spur trails to Little Table Rock and Devil's Cellar enhance the hike- 10;  The scenery cannot be any better. Everywhere you look is a scenic overload-10; the effort to view ratio is also near perfect as you need to exert yourself on a hike to appreciate the views earned.  Overall this is a 10 hike.  One that if you are planning a visit to the Gorge, you need to put at the top of you list.

photo by FHC

Props to Easy Jake for coming to our rescue as back up photographer. It seems I forgot to bring my camera, so Jake and my Faithful Hiking Companion supplemented my IPhone photographs.  We missed hiking with his granddaughter Madison but were happy to have him along nonetheless. The photograph below is among his best of the day.

photo by EasyJake