Oct 18, 2013

Carolina

Thursday, while out riding my motorcycle I chanced upon the town of Carolina located on the banks of the Haw River in the northern reaches of Alamance County, North Carolina. I've been to Carolina numerous times but hadn't been there in many years.

Carolina is the home to what was once called, Carolina Mills, one of many cotton mills owned by Edwin M. Holt and his family even before the Cone brothers moved to North Carolina to establish Cone Mills. While no longer called, Carolina Mills, the mill established just after the Civil War, is still in operation today, having somehow survived the fall of the Holt Family Dynasty and the death of Burlington Industries.

You'll probably not find Carolina on Google Maps (at least, I couldn't) and it's not listed on the Wikipedia entry of Alamance County communities even though several smaller Alamance County communities are listed. Trust me, it's just a few miles east of Ace Speedway near NC62. Being unincorporated, Carolina runs the risk of being annexed and swallowed up by Burlington in a few years if it hasn't been annexed already.

Carolina is a sleepy little mill village full of modest homes built by the mill's owners. Back in the day, the people living there had to work in the mill or move onto property that wasn't owned by the mill. Other than the mill, there's not much of anything there.

I'm happy to say that Carolina looks to be a well kept community. Unlike a lot of other places where the mill towns have been left to die, Alamance County has invested heavily in preserving and restoring many of the county's old millvilles. They've also made a huge effort towards making public use of the Haw River with many canoe and kyack accesses open free to the public.

I think I could be happy living in a community like Carolina. Funny, I could follow the creek that flows less than a quarter mile from my home right to the mill.

Oct 17, 2013

Gator Mountain

Gator Mountain stands near the Carroll County and Floyd County lines in Virginia, to the North of US221, far off the main roads and only accessible via state owned logging roads. I doubt you'll find it on a map.The route to Gator Mountain involves several miles of dirt roads before you get to the road that leads up the mountain. In the winter months, access is only sure via four wheel drive or off-road vehicles. The same is recommended in Summer but most any pick-up truck or other high clearance vehicle could make the summer trek provided the driver is experienced in off-road driving.

That said, many an expensive tire has been ripped open and torn to shreds by the large rocks with which the road is covered. Your motor club won't be sending a tow-truck to get you and depending on which side of the mountain you are on your cell phone might not work. Driving across the mountain can take hours, walking might take days. The local ambulance service depends on locals with modified trucks to get the injured off the mountain as even their 4WD ambulance can't make the trip. I know this because I once helped the locals get a downed pilot off the mountain in the middle of the night.

While owned by the State, Virginia's logging roads are not maintained by the state. When a logging company needs to use the road, the logging company repairs the road only as much as is necessary to get the logs off the mountain. Then, in 20 or 30 years, come time to saw logs, the logging company will fix the road again. Occasionally, one of the few people with vacation homes on the mountain will fill a hole after getting their 4WD unstuck. These vacationers prefer the road rough so to keep people away and having seen the views I can't say as I blame them.

Should you meet a log truck on a Virginia logging road you will go backwards for several miles to make way for it as the roads are too narrow to pass and backing the logging truck on such narrow roads is often impossible. I promise, backing up or down Gator Mountain will scare the shit out of you. The locals there depend on their modified pick-up trucks, don't care about dented fenders and often remove fenders altogether as everything driven on those roads gets dented. Winter or Summer, sliding into a tree is always a better option than sliding off the side of the mountain. I have on occasion seen expensive new Range Rovers and other high end SUVs totaled on these Virginia logging roads simply from sliding into trees and rocks along the trail. If it still has paint on it I highly recommend you don't drive it there. And then there's the occasional deer subject to run right across the hood of your car should you spook him when he's bedding down. Virgina's Whitetail Deer aren't known for being the biggest in the world but hoof prints are hell on paint.

Gator Mountain stands on the edge of 30,000 acres of wilderness-- to my knowledge, the largest East of the Mississippi River. I personally have seen both Black Bear and Panther on the mountain. But no gators.

Nearby, on the banks of Big Reed Island Creek where I sometimes paddle my canoe, are the remnants of the old narrow gauge railroad called the Dug Spur. The community of Dugspur was so named. The railroads of the area were destroyed by Union Army Troops during the War of Northern Aggression and like most everything in the South, never restored, thus plunging what was once the some of the most agriculturally productive lands in the nation into an economic depression from which there has yet to be a full recovery. Funny thing is: almost no one in Floyd and Carroll Counties owned slaves as the area west of the Blue Ridge was first settled by run away indentured servants and Dutch-German Quakers who opposed slavery.

One could die on Gator Mountain and never be found as native Black Bear, unlike Grizzly Bears and Brown Bears found in the west, don't mind dining on carrion. In much of my native Southland there is an old saying about 40 acres and a shovel but on Gator Mountain there is no need for the shovel.

Not Aspiring To Be Me

Lost To The Multitudes

I used to be one in a million--
there were no more like me
but now I'm one of a million
and over them, I cannot see.

Oct 8, 2013

Obdis

Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountians in the southern portion of Ashe County near the South Fork of the New River and within site of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the community of Obdis, North Carolina is now no more than a dot on the map with only the Obdis Baptist Church-- the site of ever smaller annual family reunions on my mother's side of the family-- and two roads, Obdis Road and Old Obdis Road to remind passers-by that a town of some sort once existed there.

I can only assume the name Obdis to be of Gaelic or Dutch-German origin as the area was first settled by escaped indentured servants of Welch origins from the Jamestown and Williamsburg settlements in Virginia. Later, Dutch-German Quakers would also break the King's laws to move there from Pennsylvania. It might be a Native American name but Native American names are rarely used in North Carolina.

Christmas Tree farms and dairy cattle are common there.

If you'd like to visit Obdis, simply exit the Parkway onto NC16 North, drive less than a mile and turn left on NC163. You'll probably not even see it but you'll enjoy the view.