Friday, October 2, 2015

Exploring Historic Marion, NC ~ Where Main Street Meets the Mountains

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Last week, the boys and I accompanied daddy on another "business" trip to the mountains.  While daddy was teaching professional loggers their accreditation course for being certified pro-loggers, the boys and I took the opportunity to explore in and around the beautiful mountain community of Marion, NC.  Marion is located about 40 miles east of Asheville on the eastern side of the Pisgah National Forest at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  It is close to several well-known cultural and geographical attractions like Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell, the highest point in the U.S. east of the Mississippi.  Grandfather Mountain and Mount Mitchell are great natural attractions that I know my boys will love to see one day, but I did not feel comfortable taking three young children on such daring adventures by myself.  Brody alone would be enough of a challenge, and my anxiety escalates just thinking of crossing the mile high swinging bridge with him.  So for this visit, we chose to explore safer and more child friendly areas.  First, we explored all around Historic Downtown Marion and saw and learned a little about the history of this quaint little mountain town.  

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Marion has a long history of being a thriving railroad community as the oldest surviving depot on the western rail line.  We just happened to cross the bridge in downtown right as a very long train passed under it.  Brody loved watching the train go under him.  

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We loved seeing the town's Veteran's Monument that listed all of the soldiers from the area that had died in wars. 

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The old courthouse has seen a lot in its nearly 100 years of operation and has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

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We also ate our way through the town and stopped in at Hernandez's Bakery & Sandwich Shop for a yummy milkshake.  One minute, the boys were being rowdy and fighting in the booth and then they were peacefully sipping their shake together.  Yes, I am the mean mommy who made them share. 

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We had already planned to stop by Mr. Bob's Do-nut Shop for some yummy fresh donuts.  I had read some great reviews online, and it did not disappoint.  My favorite was the coconut cream filled one, but they were all very yummy. 

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Driving around town affords some lovely views of the mountains and other interesting sites.  Of course, the part of my heart that will always belong to the UNC Tarheels appreciated the sign referencing the birth place of Carolina basketball coach Roy Williams.  Although Roy may not be able to live up to the amazing personal and professional attributes of his predecessor, Coach Dean Smith, he is still a championship winning coach. 

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We loved this mural in downtown that showed all the seasons.  The boys, of course, loved seeing Olaf in it. 

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These brightly colored painted squares are a part of the McDowell County Quilt Trail.  From the brochure, "Woven into the fabric of our lives are cherished family quilts, handed down through generations.  Today, we share them with you through the miles of brightly colored quilt blocks scattered throughout the hillsides, mountains and valleys of McDowell County.  Discover who we are by traveling the back-roads and main streets of the McDowell Quilt Trail."  Although we didn't follow the whole trail, the boys and I enjoyed looking for these squares during our visit much like our hunt for the bears on our trip to New Bern this summer.  The squares often detailed something about the building to which they were attached like the Mason's symbol, guitars on the music shop, the red cross on the American Red Cross building, scales of justice on a law firm, and cupcakes on a bakery.  

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We enjoyed trying out some of the local restaurants, and we couldn't resist the one with the smoking gun out front.  It really was pretty cool to see a giant smoking gun.  Eddie said it was "too hot to handle."  Haha! 

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The boys also enjoyed the pig decor although Evan looks like he is trying to butcher the pigs. I liked the pigs painted like Batman, Mr. Potatohead, a reindeer, and Uncle Sam. 

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We saw several historical houses, including the home of Daniel Kanipe who was one of the only survivors of the Battle of Little Bighorn.  I also just thought the sign for Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park was cute and nostalgic.  I am pretty sure my kids had no clue who Yogi Bear was.  

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This house was the home of Joseph McDowell built in the mid-1700's.  The county Marion is in, McDowell County, was named after him, and his home is on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.  The house is not open to the public now but is supposed to be refurbished to become a museum.  

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I think the house has been used as a community meeting place in recent years, and this was the best shot I could get of the inside through the large windows.  The fireplaces looked original. 

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The Marion Depot is another historic spot that has been rejunevated into a lovely community treasure.  

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The boys liked the train caboose displayed out front. 
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We enjoyed getting to visit the depot on Thursday night for the weekly free music concert.  

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As my husband noted, we were the youngest people in the room and probably the only ones under 65, and we had a blast dancing to the lively bluegrass music.  My little man, Brody, has really got some moves!  I particularly enjoyed dancing to the Old Crow Medicine Show's "Wagon Wheel" (more recently sang by Darius Rucker) and feel that a trip to the North Carolina mountains just wouldn't be complete without this experience.  That song has become a theme song of our state in recent years.

Headed down south to the land of the pines
And I'm thumbin' my way into North Caroline
Starin' up the road
Pray to God I see headlights

I made it down the coast in seventeen hours
Pickin' me a bouquet of dogwood flowers
And I'm a-hopin' for Raleigh
I can see my baby tonight

So rock me, mama, like a wagon wheel
Rock me, mama, any way you feel
Hey, mama rock me
Rock me, mama, like the wind and the rain
Rock me, mama, like a south-bound train
Hey, mama rock me

Runnin' from the cold up in New England
I was born to be a fiddler in an old-time string band
My baby plays the guitar
I pick a banjo now

Oh, the North country winters keep a-gettin' me now
Lost my money playin' poker so I had to up and leave
But I ain't a-turnin' back
To livin' that old life no more

So rock me, mama, like a wagon wheel
Rock me, mama, any way you feel
Hey, mama rock me
Rock me, mama, like the wind and the rain
Rock me, mama, like a south-bound train
Hey, mama rock me

Walkin' to the south out of Roanoke
I caught a trucker out of Philly
Had a nice long toke
But he's a-headed west from the Cumberland Gap
To Johnson City, Tennessee

And I got to get a move on before the sun
I hear my baby callin' my name
And I know that she's the only one
And if I die in Raleigh
At least I will die free

So rock me, mama, like a wagon wheel
Rock me, mama, any way you feel
Hey, mama rock me
Rock me, mama, like the wind and the rain
Rock me, mama, like a south-bound train

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We also felt nostalgic eating at Moondoggy's Diner & Soda Fountain. 

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And while the boys and I were enjoying most of these exploits, Daddy was teaching this group about responsible and sustainable logging.  
Our adventures continued with explorations of another old historical house and an underground adventure.


  1. Fun times! I'm in total agreement that you skip some of the more difficult and dangerous attractions for when the boys are older or when Eddie is with you. It seems though that you had a great time and saw plenty with what you did find to do. And I don't think you're mean at all for making them share. That's what childhood is all about- sharing a shake with your brother. I'd also like to thank you for mentioning the coconut cream filled donut. I'll be dreaming about that one for days!

    P.S. Love the dancing pictures! You rocked that place.

  2. This looks like such a cute town to explore and it looks like you made the most of it. I also make my kids share things, although they usually get separate glasses to keep things even! And it's not being mean -- it's teaching them to use resources wisely! Ha!

    You know that every time you write one of the posts I just want to follow in your footsteps. Except you know I'd be hunting down every last one of those quilt squares :)


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