EGK {Travel}: NC To-Do List

Ten things you must do in each part of North Carolina (in no particular order despite the order listed below).

MOUNTAINS

  
  1. Drive Blue Ridge Parkway – Linn Cove Viaduct in Fall
  2. Ride Great Smoky Mountain Railroad
  3. Hike Stone Mountain State Park and taste at RagApple LassieRaffaldinior Shelton Vineyards
  4. Breakfast at Early Girl, Lunch at Laughing Seed/Salsas, Dinner at Tupelo Honey
  5. Go Tubing on the New and July 4th at Tweetsie Railroad
  6. Walk the Grandfather Mountain Swinging Bridge in Spring
  7. Hike in Linville Gorge area and Wilson Creek area
  8. Camp at Price Park and walk Price Lake or Cone Manor
  9. Tour Biltmore House Christmas and Grove Park Inn Gingerbread Houses
  10. Visit Blowing Rock in the Fall and Woodlands BBQ

PIEDMONT

   

  1. Experience Merlefest
  2. Watch (and tailgate) NASCAR Bank of America 500
  3. See Franklin Street during a home game and Mama Dips
  4. Visit Southern Season at Thanksgiving and overnight at The Umstead
  5. Stroll NC Zoo
  6. Lunch at (the original) Village Tavern and tour Reynolda House and Old Salem
  7. Pick Strawberries and Tour a Farm
  8. Enjoy the NC State Fair
  9. Catch a game at Durham Bulls
  10. Ride Thunder Road and have a Cheerwine

   

COAST

  1. See Jockey’s Ridge State ParkWright Brothers MemorialHatteras Lighthouse
  2. Visit Pine Knoll Shores Aquarium and Fort Macon
  3. Spend a day in Southport with a meal in Calabash
  4. Watch The Lost Colony
  5. Kayak at Pea Island
  6. Experience Azalea Festival
  7. Go Day Boat Fishing Charter
  8. Camp at Hammocks Beach
  9. Stroll the Beaufort Boardwalk
  10. View the Shackelford Banks Ponies

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EGK {Travel}: Ashe County Cheese

Mooooooo! I seem to be hanging out with the Holsteins a lot lately. This time, though, there weren’t any live bovines in my presence, just some pretty large metal ones.


Last weekend I happened to notice that Saturday was a cheese-making day at Ashe County Cheese, since it was only about a 20 minute drive from where we were vacationing for Easter in my hometown of Boone/Deep Gap NC. If you are heading northwest from Rowan County, it is about a 2 hour drive up I77 and Hwy 421 to Deep Gap, and then Hwy 221 toward West Jefferson. First we stopped by the store to sample some goods, and see what was available.


I was first introduced the the Mountain Sharp Cheddar via our Bread Riot Winter Harvest basket, but wanted to try some other varieties.


You have no idea the varieties, shapes, and specialties that can be found in this un-assuming little cheese store. Scottie cheese anyone? I didn’t get a picture, but definitely sample the cheese curds…I can’t imagine why you would buy these, but it’s quite an experience in your mouth!


Then we headed next door to check out the actual plant. Using the local high school welding teacher and his students, artist Stephen Willingham turned the 5000 gallon milk tanks into cows last year. I think this is one of the most ingenious marketing/art/industrial applications ever! Read more about it in an article from the Winston-Salem Journal last June (fascinating…seriously, read about it).


Once inside, there were lots of historical photos and a video explaining the process (those are the curds!). 


And of course, the operation itself. You can see the milk coming into the vat right in the center. The vat behind that is where it is heated and turns to curd. The round tins in the front are assembled and pressed to make the wheels. Looked like some type of cheddar on this day!


What an odd spot for a family photo! This is the viewing room for the cheese-making floor.


If you visit, be sure to walk around the building to see the farm mural on the end by the parking lot! You’ll also want to spend a little time browsing the eclectic handful of independent shops on Main & Jefferson streets. I came home with two things I’d been looking for: a mini-spatula, a poly-cotton t-shirt…plus $28 worth of cheese!