With intermittent rain in the area, yesterday became a shopping day. Mast General Store has been in business since around 1851 when Henry Taylor opened the first store in Valle Crucis, North Carolina. General stores provided a vital service to the small communities of yesteryear. Often times they where center of the community they served. The Mast General Store was operated by members of the Mast family until the early 1970’s. At that time it was sold and passed through several hands until a Florida couple with roots to North Carolina and Virginia purchased the store in 1979. Eventually the Mast General Store expanded to 8 stores in total in the Carolinas and Tennessee. The original store is still in operation and is listed on The National Register of Historic Places. One of the expansion stores is in the old downtown area of Asheville. Housed in an Art Deco styled 1940’s building, it opened its doors in 1999.
I had read about the Mast Store in an old travel magazine and thought it might be fun to browse through the items from yesteryear that it still sells today. Mast categorizes its collections as follows, candy, clothing, food, pottery, mugs and whatnots. Don and I spent an enjoyable hour or so looking over the merchandise. I bought a couple of items to give as gifts and Don hit the candy section pretty hard. Mast sells many of the old penny candies that delighted us as kids. To be honest, Don wasn’t the only one with a sweet tooth, I bought a maple sugar leaf for myself. They’ve been a favorite of mine since I was a little girl and I seldom find them anymore.
Next stop on our shopping excursion was the WNC Farmers Market. Nothing like fresh produce from farm to you. The market place consists of a handful of buildings specializing in fresh fruits and vegetables, meats, jams, cheese and fresh eggs, honey, arts and crafts, a deli, a restaurant, a garden center and bakery goods. Although I had recently done our grocery shopping, I wanted to see what fresh produce was in and plan my next menu and grocery purchases accordingly. Don has discovered McCutcheon’s jams since we’ve been in the south and the market had a huge selection. He also found some natural made Amish peanut butter. I had a hankering for home grown tomatoes and a salt shaker and then there was the boiled peanuts stand. I couldn’t leave the market without getting some. I remember the first time I tried this southern delicacy 34 years ago while on a family vacation. I seek them out every time I’m south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Today we revisited the quaint Blue Ridge Mountain town of Chimney Rock. It’s been 8 years since our first visit. Back then we had our oldest daughter, son-in-law and two of the grandchildren, my mom, my dad and stepmom with us. With the older generation in tow we rode the elevator up, then scaled the few steps to the top of Chimney Rock. We left the oldsters at the cafe and hiked the Skyline Trail to the Opera Box and Devil’s Head.
On this visit, the elevator was out of commission. Chimney Rock rises to an elevation of 2280 feet. There are 491 steps to climb to reach the summit and climb we did. We took our time, stopping to rest occasionally on the landings. Of course, the higher we climbed, the slower our progress, but we made it. We conquered the rock! Maybe I should say we conquered the 491 steps to the top. The view was worth it even though the day was overcast and the mountaintops were shrouded in the blue haze they are famous for.
The going down was a lot less strenuous. After that workout we were ready for some lunch. The Old Rock Cafe sits at the base of Chimney Rock, just outside the main entry gate. The cafe has been feeding locals and tourists alike since the 1950’s. Its most notable for its burgers and local craft beers but they serve up pretty tasty sandwiches too. The sandwiches are huge, one would have fed both of us. The images of the granite monolith and the charming village of Chimney Rock that span the last 100 years displayed on the walls are worth checking out too. I walked down to the cool mountain stream that flows behind the diner. It would have been refreshing to sit idly atop one of the many massive boulders and dip my toes in the cold, clear water but Don wasn’t with me and I didn’t want to keep him waiting. We did pull off the road on the edge of town to take a photo of Hickory Nut Falls.
The falls and some other sections of the park served as the backdrop to the film The Last of the Mohicans, starring Daniel Day Lewis. If you recall the movie, then you know just how beautiful this portion of the Blue Ridge Mountains really is.
Here’s lookin’ at you kid………………