Tryon Mountain looms large over travelers on I-26. I knew there was a road to the top somewhere, and a bit of research revealed it to be Skyuka Mountain Road. I decided to take one of my days of spring break to go exploring and see if I could find it. That, I did, and the day turned out to be a trek through the North Carolina mountains, through Tryon, Lake Lure, Chimney Rock, Black Mountain, and Asheville.
I started out with a straightforward drive to Tryon – no stops at Campbell Covered Bridge or any of the other interesting points along the way. When I got to Tryon I noticed an antiquarian bookstore on the main street, and had to pull in. There were lots of theological texts, so I wondered if there were any hymnals. The proprietor soon came out, and I discovered that this is the same bookstore that I used to visit down at Stony Point near Greenwood.
Noah’s Ark was a strange warehouse of used books, mostly religious in nature. There were no signs, and if you didn’t know it was a place of business you’d drive right by. I had purchased several of the hymnals in my collection from there. The owner had moved to Tryon and divested himself of most of his books. He said he had a few hymnals, but sold most of his work online now. We chatted for a few minutes more, but I didn’t buy anything. The two volume set of Don Quixote that he had priced at $3500 per volume was tempting, but I declined. I decided I needed to find my road.
Skyuka Road wasn’t too hard to find, especially with a GPS. I turned off onto a lovely lane that had a nice babbling creek running next to it. Soon, though, I could see that the road wasn’t going to take me where I wanted. Before I knew it this road dumped me back onto Route 108. I retraced my route back to the turn off for Skyuka MOUNTAIN Road, hoping for better luck.
That did turn out to be the correct road. A series of incredible switchbacks took me past several waterfalls, and eventually to the top of the mountain. The views both south and north were astounding. It was worth the tricky drive to the top.
Back down into the town I still had quite a bit of morning left to explore. I continued up Route 108, and soon found myself on the road to Lake Lure.
Even though it was a beautiful day there weren’t too many people out and about. I stopped to take a few shots of the Inn and the lake itself.
Chimney Rock was tempting, but I decided not to drive up this time. It was close enough to lunch time, so I had a sandwich in a little cafe with a view of the Rocky Broad River and Chimney Rock. I stopped along the banks of the river for a bit for a couple of shots. However, soon the overall “tourist trap” feel of the place started to get to me, so I headed on.
Just past Bat Cave Highway 108 continues toward Asheville, but Highway 9 goes off toward Black Mountain. I figured it was still early, so I headed toward Black Mountain. It was an interesting drive, running alongside the river. There were a few artist shops and so forth all along the way, but I didn’t stop.
Black Mountain itself is full of artist and gift shops. The number of restaurants and cafes made me wish I had waited just a bit longer for lunch. I may have to make this a destination sometime. I parked and began browsing through some of the shops. I stopped into Songs of the Woods, a shop that sells hammered dulcimers and other wooden instruments. At one time I thought I wanted to learn how to play the hammered dulcimer. I got a brief lesson from the salesperson, but quickly discovered it was much more challenging than I had bargained for. They had some beautiful handmade instruments, but all I did was look this time.
Instead of I-40 I took the old Swannanoa highway toward Asheville. I drove through downtown, then stopped for a bit at the Grove Arcade. I’d never visited it before, and was amazed at the architecture. I took several photos, but for some reason those files were corrupted. I guess I’ll have to go back and take more.
I drove through the new River Arts District, a set of old industrial buildings on the French Broad converted to studios, and through West Asheville. As far as coolness factor is concerned, Asheville has Greenville beat hands down. Sure, Greenville is making some strides in that direction, but I guess as long as we have stodgy institutions like Bob Jones so ingrained in the city’s culture, it will never reach the coolness of Asheville.
One thing I have NEVER like about Asheville is the traffic. The roads are even more confusing that Greenville’s, and traffic is always horrendous. That was the case on I-26 headed southbound out of town. There had been an accident and one lane was blocked. I had thought about stopping at either REI or Diamond Brand Outfitters, but decided just to head on home.