North Carolina 2009 – Day 7

This is the story of the seventh day of our vacation to North Carolina. You can also read about the background and trip up, the first day, the second day, the third day, the fourth day, the fifth day, or the sixth day.

Gem mining!! For me, this was the highlight of the vacation. We went to Rose Creek Mine on Thursday and then I got to go again on Friday. Jen & Michelle stayed behind to tidy up the cabin (thanks, Jen & Michelle!!) and the guys dropped me off and went exploring for a while. Here I am at the entrance:

Mine Entrance

The way it works is you dig a bucket of dirt from the dirt shack and take it to the flume, where you use a screen to wash the dirt and clay away from the gems and rocks. You get to keep anything you find! Each bucket of dirt was $4, except the first one, which was free.

The dirt comes from somewhere nearby – this mine is not “enriched” with other stuff, unless you buy the prefilled buckets which are salted with some very pretty gems. Here’s the dirt shack:

Dirt shack at the mine

Those buckets of dirt get pretty heavy after a while… the first day I did 5 buckets (Trav did 3 and Bleys did 1) and the second day I did 9. On the first day, Mike & Trav very kindly donated everything they found to my collection. Thanks, guys! Here’s the work area:

Mine Work Area

First you take some scoops of the dirt and throw it into the screen. Then put the screen in the sluice and let the water wash through it. To aid in the removal of the sticky, sticky clay, you can rub the dirt with the blue & yellow scrub brush. Put anything you find into the white container and at the end of the day, the fine folks there will sort, bag and label your treasure.

Mine Flume

The ladies sitting next to me on the second day had been there all week. The warning on the mine’s pamphlet sure got it right… mining can be addictive! I also had a lot of fun watching them sort other people’s stuff. There are some very pretty gems to be had.

My next post will be all about the gems we found. Here’s one of my favorites – a beautiful topaz which sparkles with rainbows. The picture doesn’t do it justice but here it is anyway!

Topaz Closeup

< Previous – Day 6 :: Next – The Gems >

North Carolina 2009 – Day 6

This is the story of the sixth day of our vacation to North Carolina. You can also read about the background and trip up, the first day, the second day, the third day, the fourth day, or the fifth day.

Today we went to Rose Creek gem mine!! It was very cool but I’ll post about it next, because I got to go back for a second go-round and I want to do one complete post about it.

The other highlight of this day was dinner at The Dillard House, down in Dillard, Georgia. The restaurant is part of a beautiful resort with horse stables and a little farm animal zoo with goats, pigs, sheep and cows. The food was amazing – they have an all-you-can-eat family-style menu. They brought a big bowl or plate of each item on the menu:

Dillard House Menu

By the end I was really, really full. I took a little sample of each dish, seconds on some of the vegetables and two desserts (I just couldn’t choose between the buttermilk pie and coconut pie). The neat thing about this place is whatever you don’t eat, you get to take home. And they don’t mind if you order extra of stuff, either. You can ask for as much as you want and then you take it so it doesn’t get wasted. How cool is that?! Here we are just before they served the food…

Dillard House

That was the last we saw of the top of the table. :)

< Previous – Day 5 :: Next – Day 7 >

North Carolina 2009 – Day 4

This is the story of the fourth day of our vacation to North Carolina. You can also read about the background and trip up, the first day, the second day, or the third day.

Today we opted for a lazy day at home. Everybody else went antiquing while Trav, Bleys & I stayed behind. After breakfast I went on a little hike on the path from the house and took tons of pictures of the flowers, plants and other interesting sights along the trail. Here are some of my favorites:

Waterfall along the path


Coral mushrooms

Coral Mushroom



A very strange creature by the side of the road!


After I got back, I went to work on a batch of pitas, since I had promised to make some during our trip. I had to call my Mom to get the recipe for Oatmeal Pita Bread (thanks, Mom!) and it was kind of strange making dough without the machine, but they turned out great. We ate them with Jen’s delicious black bean chili.

The excitement for this day was seeing black bear prints! Trav & I went for a walk and on the way back, Trav spotted several tracks in the mud. Here’s one of them:

Bear Track

It was very fresh, since it hadn’t been there at the beginning of our walk. I’m sorry we missed seeing the bear! To get a sense of the scale, here’s a picture of the print with Trav’s hand next to it:

Bear Track with Hand (for scale)

That was really exciting to see and one of my favorite moments of the vacation.

< Previous – Day 3 :: Next – Day 5 >

North Carolina 2009 – Day 3

This is the story of the third day of our vacation to North Carolina. You can also read about the background and trip up, the first day, or the second day.

What promised to be a gorgeous day started out with a bit of shopping in downtown Franklin. There are lots of cute little shops there so we all kind of poked and wandered. Bleys bought a big thick novel, Trav got a few books to replace some of his old ones, and we got tasty, freshly made chocolate fudge to take home.

Then we set out to visit a place called Dry Falls, a waterfall which projects over a cliff so you can walk behind it. On the way, we stopped at a neat spot, where you can see the cabin from the road, way up on the mountain. Click for original size picture, where you can see the cabin perfectly! It’s the house with the red roof.

Cabin From the Road

Also along the way to the falls was Bust Your Butt swimming hole, on the Cullasaja River:

Bust Your Butt Swimming Hole

After driving a little further on the narrow, winding mountain road, we saw signs for Cliffside Lake Recreational Area and decided to stop and check it out – see what was there. We discovered a lovely lake and park, with picnic tables, grills, bathrooms, and hiking trails… everything one needs for a day of fresh air and sunshine. We decided to come back and spend the day on Wednesday. I love this picture of Mike & Jen at the lake:

Mike & Jen at Cliffside Lake

Then it was off to Dry Falls. We had heard it was being refurbished, and it was still closed when we went by, so we kept on going just a little further down the road to Bridal Veil Falls.

Bridal Veil Falls

When we got there, people were down along the side of the falls, picking up stuff from the ground. I asked what they were after and they showed me the garnets they were gathering. They were just laying around, right in the open! So we spent a little while gathering garnets and that was really fun for me. I should have taken more pictures but I got in one of those modes where all I can do is look for shiny things. I didn’t want to leave – I could have stayed there all day poking around in the dirt!

After we each got a small handful of gens, we went down the road just a little further into the little town of Highlands. We poked around in the shops there, too. The reason we went shopping so much is because I was looking for a particular souvenir… a spoon rest. I didn’t find one; it’s just not the type of stuff the tourist traps carry around there. It was fun to look at all the stuff, though… lots of bear things, mountain crafts and pretty rocks & jewelry. We agreed to meet up at Buck’s Coffee Cafe when everyone was done browsing. Here we are enjoying delectable drinks:

Bucks Coffee Cafe

After a leisurely day of exploring, we headed home, as it was getting to be supper time. We enjoyed our evening meal (I can’t remember what we had), and entertainment was backgammon with Michelle and cribbage with Bleys. A really lovely day!

< Previous – Day 2 :: Next – Day 4 >

North Carolina 2009 – Day 1

This is the story of the first day of our vacation to North Carolina. You can also read about the background and trip up.

The view from the cabin’s porch was lovely! Every morning we would get up and take our coffee and tea out and sit on the rocking chairs. A sample view:

View From Porch

The view was constantly changing, especially the first few days. One moment we could see mountains, and then soon we would be enshrouded in the clouds and couldn’t see a thing.  One thing we did see was this brilliant bird – a scarlet tanager. I had never seen one of these before so I got to mark it down in my book. Yay!! Great way to start the vacation. Click the picture to see the zoomed in shot.

Scarlet Tanager

The first order of business was to go grocery shopping and then head over to Sylva to get beer from the Heinzelmannchen Brewery. What a cool place! The Braumeister gave me a little sample of each of the seven beers… all but one were very good and we ended up selecting the Black Forest Stout (a dark, smooth ale; balanced roasted coffee and caramel flavors with a thick creamy head) and their spring ale Hoppy Gnome (a creamy pilsner style ale with a mild bitterness and hoppy bouquet; light and refreshing). Here’s the Braumeister filling Mike’s growler:

Heinzelmannchen Brewery Braumeister

They also had root beer and birch beer which were pretty good. We took home a gallon of root beer for floats. Nummy!

After the brewery, we stopped for lunch at a little cafe on the main street of Sylva (I had a delicious goat taco) and then headed back to Franklin. On the way back, we stopped at the Ruby City gem store. Oh, I was in heaven! Rocks everywhere… so pretty. Trav bought me an amethyst heart and I got him one made of black, sparkly rock. Bleys & I got magnetic hematite bracelets, too. Mine is black and his is blue.

When we got back to the cabin, we found Mike’s son and his family were there to visit. It was nice to see them again (we met them last year) and we spent the afternoon tipping a few beers and chatting. Also, Jen was presented with a gift from Ruby City… she collects these glass paperweight things and Mike got her a really nice one. Here she is, opening her gift:

Jen opening her gift

I would say it’s 6-7″ tall and has a squid-looking design captured within. The egg now enjoys the center spot in the display of her collection.

That was pretty much it for that day… we ate another delicious supper, socialized with each other for a while and then went to bed. It was a very relaxing day. Don’t they look relaxed?  :)

Bleys T Trav on the Porch

< Previous – Background and the trip up :: Next – Day 2 >

North Carolina Vacation 2009 – Getting There

When our friends Mike and Jennifer found out I had a long-time wish to go gem mining, they invited us to go with them to Franklin – a quaint little city nestled in the Smoky Mountains in the extreme southwest corner of North Carolina. The company they work for owns a cabin up in the woods and they let the employees use it for vacations, so we reserved a week in the middle of May to make the trip up.

We left Friday morning with two mini-vans packed with 7 people (6 adults and a 2-year-old), a small dog and supplies for the week – food, clothing and entertainment. The drive up was quick and uneventful… the highlight of the drive there was seeing a place in Georgia called “Goats on the Roof“, which was a restaurant & country store with grass growing and live goats running around on the roof! I definitely want to stop there if we ever go by again.

We got to the cabin around 5 o’clock, so we had plenty of light left to unpack the cars. Here’s the cabin from the end of the driveway:

Cabin in Franklin, North Carolina

It’s three stories with decks on the back and wood throughout, and it’s decorated as an old-fashioned, down home cabin, complete with animal skins and deer heads hanging on the walls. Here’s part of the hearth and a perfect example of the lovely style:

Cabin hearth

After unpacking the cars, we threw together a delicious dinner of veggies and pasta, made with vegetables harvested from Mike’s garden… tomatoes, onions, peppers and eggplant. Jen and Michelle are really good cooks!

Just as we were finishing our meal, a rain storm blew in, with lightning and big winds. Not too long after that, we lost power! So we found some candles and settled in to wait for the electricity to come back. After a while we heard some commotion outside and discovered the electric company guys out at the end of driveway, cutting up a big tree that had fallen on the power lines. At that point we all decided to call it a night and everybody went to bed. Luckily we had explored enough to make our way downstairs and into bed by candlelight.

So that was our first day. I’ll be posting an entry for every day of our vacation, so check back later for more updates. Oh, and here’s another picture from the first day – Trav, Bleys and Mike at Tallulah Falls:

Talullah Falls

In this series of vacation posts, you can click any picture for a larger version.

Next – Day 1 >>