Appalachian people hold closely the old wive’s tale that when March comes in like a lion it will go out like a lamb. So if the weather is bad on the first, it should be mild on the 31st. Here in southern Ohio, March arrived gentle as a newborn lamb so we assume that the month will go roaring out.
Another superstition tells us that it will snow three times on the forsythia bloom.Well, it was 75 degrees and sunny for the forsythia bloom yesterday. The evening ended with a thunderstorm. No snow in sight.
Will we see snow this month? Will this fool’s spring succumb to cold and snow when the real spring should be arriving?
Probably so and I’m sorry for that. As much as I enjoy winter with its cold and snow, I’m always ready for spring by early March. Anything different feels like regression and that sounds terrible.
During our travels through the mountains north of Asheville, we found ourselves driving through a small town called Pineola.
It was here that I caught a glimpse of an old church that caused me to scream that we had to stop. Haha. My poor friend was driving and had never experienced my irrational demands to stop and go back immediately.
Isn’t it pretty?
With wood shingle siding and stained glass windows, Pineola Presbyterian Church is one of the prettiest and most unique churches I have seen.
The hillside behind the church holds an older cemetery and there’s a shelter house with picnic tables where I imagine the church holds events.
Here’s another look from the cemetery.
There are churches everywhere you look in North Carolina. This one is tidy and so pleasant it’s tempting to go back for a service someday just to see inside.
The best things in life are rarely found in the places you plan to go. They typically occur at unlikely times and in places where you least expect to find something special.
That’s exactly what happened when we were searching for lunch on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We had packed snacks and drinks but hadn’t planned for our midday meal. According to our trusty map (always carry a map because cell service is unreliable in the mountains), we were approaching a small town called Little Switzerland.
As you exit the Parkway, you will immediately see a resort called Switzerland Inn. It’s home to fine dining, shopping, a spa and more. But if you keep going, there’s a little area on the side of the mountain where you’ll find the village post office and a complex that includes a restaurant, general store and bookstore.
That’s right, friends.
In the middle of the wilderness, in a town populated by approximately 46 people – yours truly found a bookstore.
It was a proud moment.
We were there for lunch, not books, so our first stop was the Little Switzerland Cafe. Here we had the best meal I’ve eaten in ages.
The food was prepared fresh and served by a handful of waitresses who know how to hustle. We did have to wait a few minutes for a table because it was quite busy with locals and tourists including lots of folks on bicycles and motorcycles.
It was worth the wait.
They have vegetarian options and everything is made with what tasted like very fresh ingredients. My quiche had a flaky, buttery crust and was served with a fresh salad and homemade bread. The attention detail was impressive especially for the price which was about $10.
In the general store you’ll find some souvenirs and handmade items as well as some things you might need while out adventuring like aspirin and bandaids.
The bookstore, though, is the stuff that dreams are made of. It looks tiny from outside but the store is multiple rooms that wind around and reach into the basement. It’s packed from floor to ceiling with new and used books and interesting things to see in every nook and cranny.
At this point in the trip I had already purchased an alarming amount of books so I practiced restraint and purchased just one – a lovely little pocket sized copy of Thoreau’s “Walden.”
Little Switzerland was such a fabulous diversion that I badly want to go back to stay at the inn and explore the area (and the bookstore) more.
By the way, people like to think of Appalachia and rural areas as being backward. There are charging stations for your electric car right outside that bookstore.
Little Switzerland Books and Beans can be found online here. Learn more about Switzerland Cafe here. And if you’re interested in staying, there are a few options in the area including Switzerland Inn which we passed on our way on and off the Parkway. Find it here.
I ran away from home on Saturday. It was a gorgeous day to be out so I hiked before heading north into an area called the Little Cities of Black Diamonds.
This region is a collection of small mining communities in Appalachian Ohio. Well, they used to be mining communities where laborers did the back breaking work to extract abundant deposits of coal, oil, iron ore and clay from the land. They were once prosperous but are now shadows of their former selves
The history of this region is rich and far too complicated to do justice in a single blog post. I won’t claim to give you the whole picture. But I’m going to tell you one of those stories today and then share some more pictures another day.
Mining caused towns to pop up quickly, attracting people of a variety of ancestry and races. The people here took on important roles in national social and labor issues including mine safety and racial equality.
Today, the towns are in the heart of Wayne National Forest and it’s astounding to think of the important impact they had. Robinson’s Cave at New Straitsville is commonly known as the birthplace of the United Mine Workers. Ohio’s worst mine disaster occurred years later in nearby Millfield.
Just up the road in Rendville, African Americans broke the color barrier and played an important role in racial integration in Ohio.
Businessman William P. Rend founded the town in 1879 to create a community for the miners who worked in his nearby coal mine. He brought in workers from other countries and from the American south, instilling in these people the idea that they were all there for the betterment of the mine. They all served the same purpose and people got along relatively well despite living with people of other races and backgrounds.
Sadly, labor issues were already boiling over in the nearby town of Corning. Folks there were threatened by the presence of blacks in the industry and fearful they would drive down the value of wages.
Miners in that town and surrounding communities formed a small mob that descended on Rendville. Fortunately, there were just a few injuries but the event garnered attention from the Governor and the Ohio National Guard. Today it’s known as the Corning War.
Despite these racial concerns, Rendville prospered and produced some important Ohioans. Dr. Isiah Tuppins was the first African American to graduate from Ohio State’s Medical School and went on to be Ohio’s first black mayor when he was elected Rendville mayor.
Roberta Preston, who lived in Rendville, was the first African American Post Mistress in our nation’s history. An important Ohio University basketball player came from this town as well as some national labor movement leaders.
Today, the town has just a few dozen residents and doesn’t look like much. However, there are people working hard to preserve their history and the very thought made me happy.