Up bright (actually, it was raining) and early Thursday morning, we packed the newly repaired car and secured the motorhome (awning in, water turned off, hot water heater turned off, shades pulled, etc.). And then we drove north on state and federal highways and I40 to join the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, NC; our destination was Zionville, NC, near the NC and TN state lines. There, we met Nan and George, Kay’s sister and brother-in-law, for a two-night getaway. It rained most of the three-hour drive, with low clouds enveloping the mountains. As we arrived at the quaint cabin, Nan and George were at the porch to greet us.
After unpacking food, clothes, and other paraphernalia, the four of us loaded back into the car for a drive to the Moses H. Cone Memorial Park.Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock. The park preserves the country estate of Moses Cone, a prosperous textile entrepreneur (he and his brother cornered the market on denim), conservationist, and philanthropist of the Gilded Age. In 1901, he built Flat Top Manor, then a gleaming white 20-room mansion in the grand Colonial Revival style.
Twenty-five miles of carriage trails wind through the fields and forests of the 3,500-acre estate. Moses Cone’s interest in nature and conservation led him to plant extensive white pine forests and hemlock hedges (at the advice of friend and noted conservationist Gifford Pinchot), build several lakes stocked with bass and trout, and planted a 10,000-tree apple orchard.
Our 3.5 mile carriage road hike took us on a loop descending to an unnamed lake.
Rhododendrons lined the carriage road, and covered the forest floor—one can only imagine what it would look like in mid-June when the Rhododendrons are in full bloom. Scattered along the roadside among the Rhododendrons were beautiful wildflowers; Master Gardeners Nan and George identified them and provided some information about each species. It was like a guided tour! Even a few butterflies were observed nectaring on the blooms. Light rain accompanied us on the ascending half of the loop trail.
We returned to the cabin to enjoy happy hour after which Nan (and Kay) prepared a sumptuous dinner of salmon, broccoli, and Caesar salad (my favorite). Bedtime was early, after watching an episode of MI5 via Amazon video and a BritBox subscription.