Friday, June 6, 2008

About Ashe County:One Tank Trips...From Raleigh

The Raleigh Chronicle, Raleigh, North Carolina published this fantasic article about Ashe County and West Jefferson on June 6, 2008. It's a great article and I thought you might like to read it!

WEST JEFFERSON, NC - As I’m driving into West Jefferson, NC, on Hwy 221, the first things I notice are clear blue skies and the lack of tail-lights on the two-lane road. My window is down and a mountainside of aromatic Fraser fir trees sneaks in. On my right, a small herd of buffalo grazes on the hillside beside a serene lake.

I feel like checking to see if this is a leftover set from Last of the Mohicans. But my directions offer no reference to the movie, but just that I’m headed into Ashe County, which is wedged into the upper-most northwestern corner of North Carolina, bordering Tennessee and Virginia. It’s been a 3-hour drive from downtown Raleigh, but well worth it as the Friday afternoon air is sweet with blossoms and plants waking up to a late mountain spring. The high clouds to the east, hovering over the Blue Ridge Parkway, are headed out of the area. To the west, only a spectacular sunset awaits as I make the turn off the highway and head toward downtown West Jefferson.

I search for dinner and find myself torn between Frasers – an upscale bistro style restaurant with a lively pub – and the choice of driving out to the Glendale Springs Inn – a beautiful turn of the century farmhouse serving a full dinner menu and a large selection of wine.

It’s still early, however, so I park the car and settle into a smart little café called T. Gray’s. A jazz trio is melting the air and the place is filling up with singles. Clearly, this is one of the local watering holes.

Other options for nightlife include Frasers Pub, also with live music – usually classical guitar or R&B – or a little place called Bohemia, where you can get a local wine to go with your bluegrass or Celtic music – a pleasantly surprising number of choices for a town of this size.

Then there’s the question of “where to stay?” One choice is Buffalo Tavern Bed & Breakfast, a quaint four-bedroom inn with a beautiful view of Bluff Mountain. Managed by a retired professor, innkeeper “Doc” Adams keeps guests entertained with stories amidst the opulence of this 100-plus year-old waystation sitting on an old buffalo trail. Another is River House Country Inn, featuring along a mile of riverfront on the New River surrounded by 180 acres of mountains and hiking trails.

The inn has eight beautiful rooms, with three additional spacious cabins close by, and all include a plentiful breakfast in the price of the room.

To fill your weekend with activities, there are many options around Ashe County. The best hiking is Mount Jefferson State Park, which looms high above the area with an elevation of 4,400 feet.

Be sure to check out the Summit Trail and the Rhododendron Trail for breathtaking overlooks. These hikes are rated moderate to strenuous but the views are worth the effort!

You can also visit another state park, this one at the river level. The New River State Park has a first-class, brand-new Visitors Center loaded with exhibits and things to do.

Here you’ll enjoy the beauty of out-of-the way rugged hillsides, pastoral meadows and bucolic farmlands that surround the river.

The New River flows 320 miles north through Virginia and into West Virginia, and a float trip up the river provides beautifully scenic vistas.

Etched into the valleys prior to the formation of the Appalachian Mountains, and was dedicated as a National Scenic River in 1976. The New River is said to be about 300 million years old – the oldest river in America – second only to the Nile as the oldest river in the world.

Within Ashe County, the river is split into two branches; the North Fork and the South Fork. Of these, the South Fork is the most developed for recreational use. Because of its shallow, gentle waters, the South Fork of the river is ideal for canoeing, kayaking and tubing, while the North Fork is a more wild and undeveloped section of the river, preferred by some of the more experienced canoe enthusiasts.

Higher water levels occur during May and June, and August and September are low-flow, lazy floating months. Six outfitters, such as Riverside Canoe and Tube Rentals, offer canoes, kayaks and inner tubes.

On weekends at the Riverside General Store, owner Bryan Morrison provides plenty of good food, music and down-home camaraderie on the banks of the New River.

One Tank Trips is a monthly column about road trips to great destinations within a gas tank’s range of Raleigh.

Send us your ideas for future trips or stops along the way we shouldn’t miss to

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jack Glasure is Chief Marketing Officer at French/West/ Vaughan and can be contacted at THE WEB: For more on Ashe County and the surrounding area, visit the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce website:


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