Blowing Rock is full of history and folklore celebrating its mountain heritage.
by Vanessa Infanzon
I left Charlotte early on a Friday morning for the two-hour drive to Blowing Rock. Three days alone is rare for me, and I wanted to take advantage of every moment. I’ve breezed through the small mountain town in previous years, but a chance to spend an entire weekend perusing shops and wandering trails was a treat.
Chetola Resort, a 78-acre campus with a lake, restaurant, spa, a lodge, small inn and condominiums, is just northeast of and within walking distance of downtown Blowing Rock. It served as my home base for the weekend.
On a walk around the resort, I was intrigued by the bridge above the Chetola Lake dam. I rubbed my hands across the patches of moss growing on the worn rock walls and sat on a rocking chair overlooking the lake, wondering what this place looked like when it was first built in 1846.
I asked a nearby employee about the history of the bridge, and he surprised me by calling the resort’s owner, Kent Tarbutton, on the spot and handing me the phone. Tarbutton, whose family has owned Chetola since 1997, happily recounted the history of the bridge: The road was once the original entrance into Chetola Estate — it was the perfect width for a horse and carriage. When the estate’s fourth owner, J. Luther Snyder, known as the “Coca-Cola King of the Carolinas,” purchased it in 1926, he needed a wider path for his Ford Model T. Snyder arranged for stonemasons to replace the wooden bridge.
But Chetola isn’t the only place in Blowing Rock with stories. The town is full of history and folklore celebrating its heritage and location within the Blue Ridge Mountains with local art, music and outdoor adventure.
The estate of Moses Cone, a textile entrepreneur, conservationist and philanthropist who died in 1908, was donated to the federal government in 1947 and is preserved for public use. Wide gravel and dirt trails in Moses H. Cone Memorial Park are easily accessible from Chetola Resort, from the Blue Ridge Parkway via U.S. 221. The 1-mile trail around Bass Lake or the 3-mile loop on the Maze trail offer places for quiet, easy hikes through white pine forests. Flat Top Manor, Cone’s 20-room country home, is a 5-mile round-trip hike from Chetola, or accessed at mile marker 294 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Southern Highland Craft Guild’s retail shop with regionally handmade crafts is inside the manor, where craft demonstrations are held at certain times of the year.
The Blowing Rock claims to be the oldest attraction in the state. Its legend about forlorn lovers from two different tribes — separated, then brought together by a mysterious wind — continues to fascinate visitors. Views of Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock are visible from the 4,000-foot elevation.
Downtown, locally owned shops like Final Touches, which sells chimineas and other Mexican imports, and The Last Straw, offering women’s clothing and home decor, line the streets. Pick up specialty teas and accoutrements from The Spice and Tea Exchange on Main Street. Grab maps for local trails and protein bars from Footsloggers, an outdoor provisions store.
The trailhead to the Glen Burney Trail and Falls is a block from Blowing Rock’s Main Street, off Laurel Lane. Take a moment to look around Annie Cannon Gardens at the trailhead before you begin the steep 800-foot descent to the falls.
The Chetola Sporting Reserve in Boone — just 6 miles from Blowing Rock — spans 67 acres and features archery, clay shooting, fly fishing and other outdoor hobbies for guests of Chetola Resort or visitors with a day pass.
EAT & DRINK
Meander through the town to find coffee shops, restaurants and taverns. The Blowing Rock Ale House is a brewery, restaurant and a five-room inn. Signature dishes include a Southern fried chicken sandwich and a bison burger. Forty to 50 beers — from blonde ales to porters and everything in between — are brewed throughout the year, with a dozen always on tap.
Six Pence Pub’s hearty shepherd’s pie or fish and chips will sustain you for the next adventure. The pub promotes an English vibe with British beers such as Bass, Newcastle and Old Speckled Hen, and supports North Carolina breweries by offering local craft beers.
Take the stairs next to Tazmaraz clothing boutique to find The Backstreet Bakery, a hidden spot offering cakes, pastries, scones and coffee. Go for soup and sandwiches at the Grilled Cheese Café — the French, with brie, gruyere, provolone, arugula, sliced pear and fig preserves, is a local favorite.
‘HAVEN OF REST’
The winding driveway to Chetola eases guests into this “haven of rest” — the translation for the Cherokee word. Though the property began as a single-family home, over the years, it’s become a place of refuge for vacationers.
Today, guests stay in newly renovated rooms in the lodge or fully-equipped condominiums, perfect for families needing additional space. Couples have the option to stay in the eight-room Bob Timberlake Inn, a bed-and-breakfast in the original estate home.
Chetola’s activities could fill a weekend: Boot camp, yoga and tennis lessons; acupuncture, facials and massages at the on-site spa; and kayaking or paddleboarding on the lake. Dine at Timberlake’s Restaurant, then finish the evening in an Adirondack chair, making s’mores and swapping stories around the resort bonfire. SP
Getting there: Blowing Rock is about a two-hour drive from Charlotte via Interstate 85 South and U.S. 321 North.
Plan your getaway around these upcoming events:
July 2- Sept. 24: Music on the Lawn at Ragged Gardens, Friday evenings
July 4: Fireworks Extravaganza at Tweetsie Railroad
July 5-Aug. 2: Monday Night Concert Series at Broyhill Park
July 17, Aug. 14, Sept. 11, Oct. 2: Art in the Park, downtown Blowing Rock
July 18, Aug. 15, Sept.12, Oct. 3: Concert in the Park, downtown Blowing Rock
July 23: Symphony by the Lake at Chetola Resort
July 23: St. Mary Tour of Homes
Aug. 18-21: Blowing Rock Plein Air Festival