Field Trip: The Brushy Mountain Peach Festival – Wilkesboro, NC

Every year on the last Saturday of July, the Brushy Mountain Peach Festival takes place in Wilkesboro, North Carolina. That’s about two hours and some change to the southwest of Martinsville. I’ve had so many things going on closer to home since then that this post kept getting put off and pre-empted but I finally have time to say what a treat it was to be invited along with some fine friends and to discover the Wilkesboro area.

North Carolina has been hit hard by the tropical storm known as Fred. I had already planned on going back at some point for reasons I’ll explain at the end of this post but they are really going to need us, all of their neighbors, to help them through the damages of the recent floods.

The Wilkes Heritage Museum

This particular festival is huge. It completely surrounds the Wilkesboro Heritage Museum with tents and food and music and artisans. And peaches.

Trying on Hats in Aunt B’s Attic

We had a fantastic time. We went in all the shops along the road and then took in the festival itself.

We stopped by Cook’s Outfitters to see if they might be able to set us up with a tube ride a little later in the summer. Cook’s does kayaks and bikes but no tubes. I may look into going back for a kayak trip.

Rent Kayaks and Bikes at Cook’s Outfitters

Tents packed the area next to the museum. There were some good crowds but it didn’t feel too crowded.

Checking Out the Booths

This is a good fair for hand-crafted and locally sourced items. One of my favorites is pottery. Not only was there a lot of pottery for sale but there was a woman spinning a bowl as we watched.

Hand-crafted bowl taking shape

Call Family Distillers had a display out to promote their apple pie sour mash moonshine labelled Willie Clay Call’s The Uncatchable. Displays like this are ubiquitous not only at fairs but at the numerous classic car shows you’ll find around but I’m always a sucker for it.

An Advertisement for The Call Family Distillers Moonshine

There were also a lot of skilled wood workers. I normally do a good job of grabbing cards and linking back to the artisans but too much time has gone by this time.

I bought one of the small wooden pieces that fits on top of a bottle of wine and holds two glasses. You can see one in the picture below, sitting on the top of the half-barrel wine bar. I thought the wine bar was pretty cute too.

A Wine Barrel Bar

Several people, including myself, just loved this quilt cabinet. The artist’s wife is a quilter and this cabinet allows the quilts to still be shown off a little while they are being stored.

A Quilt Cabinet

There were easily dozens of tents plus an almost equally large concession area. A band played on a sound stage that opened out onto a grassy lawn filled with chairs.

There was live music on the soundstage.

There was an exhibit that we didn’t get to (it sounded hot) but check out the log cabin. According to the Wilkesboro Town website, this is was the home of a gentleman farmer named Robert Cleveland. The home was built in the 1770’s in western Wilkes County and housed Mr. Cleveland and his 17 children.

The Robert Cleveland Log Cabin

There is a lot of history here.

This would be a great area to tour in the fall and take it all in.

We eventually had seen everything except the log cabin and it had gotten just incredibly hot so we wrapped up our day with lunch and drove up to the Wilkesboro downtown area (the festival is held in North Wilkesboro) to plunder all the shops there and there were quite a few. It’s a very good shopping area with clothing boutiques, home decor shops, and even a Hallmark store.

Plundering the shops in Wilkesboro

North Wilkesboro has a few other claims to fame that you don’t have to wait for the festival to enjoy.

For one thing, they have their own local craft brewery, Two Boros Brewery.

Local Craft Brewer Two Boros Brewery

Right next door to the Heritage Museum and across the street from the brewery is Dooley’s Grill and Tavern, where we stopped for lunch. I suppose the name should have tipped me off, but it didn’t.

Sidewalk Seating at Dooley’s Tavern

It was the menu that did that. The first selection on the menu is “Executioner’s Choice”.

Perhaps the selection below it is ringing a bell, “Laura Foster’s French Dip”?

Menu at Dooley’s Tavern

As it turns out, this is where the story that would be immortalized in the folk song Tom Dooley played out.

Long story short, and there may be different versions, Tom Dooley (actually Tom Dula) was a local man who had become involved with two women (cousins). My understanding is that one of the women became pregnant and he agreed to elope. She then disappeared and was found murdered some time later. Tom was tried and convicted of the murder but there are some that think that Laura was actually killed by the other woman, her cousin, Anne.

The Kingston Trio was a bit before my time but they were a favorite of mine when I went through a folk music phase. I had no idea that there was really any possibility of truth to the story.

Talking about Tom Dooley, one of my lunch mates said that there were still bullet holes in the courthouse steps. I have no idea what she was talking about and the stream of conversation moved away from the subject so I left no better informed. But I’ve made a mental note.

I’d like to go back and learn more about this community. And Tom Dooley.

And why are there bullet holes in the courthouse steps?

I think the North Wilkesboro may just be like that. It’s always going to leave you asking about something.

Another Story for Another Day

If your curiosity can’t stand it, check out Save the Speedway.

The Kayak Quest: Kibler Valley

There were no pirates for me today. Sorry. I was disappointed too. My original plans had me on the road by 7AM to have breakfast (with pirates) at Smith Mountain Lake, see an outfitter up there, and then turn around and go out to the Kibler River Run in Kibler Valley, the opposite direction. Two hours in the opposite direction. Sort of in the mountains.

Things can go wrong … Need. More. Time.

So I scratched everything else and headed out for the Kibler Valley River Run first thing.

We’re off the asphalt now

The drive to Kibler Valley from Henry County is easy and uneventful. It takes a little less than an hour. You start out on a state highway and then turn off to smaller and smaller roads until you eventually leave the asphalt all together and the road snakes through densely wooded areas running alongside the Dan River.

The Dan River Running Along Beside the Road

I’ve never been to Kibler Valley before because I thought it was for hard-core whitewater aficionados only. While it does appear to attract younger men with Liquid Logic kayaks, I’m sorry that I let this preconceived notion keep me away for so long.

It is truly a community event worth a visit and, depending on who you talk to, not an overly challenging stretch of river. I’ll put it this way: everyone seems to agree that there are class III rapids on this stretch but there was disagreement about how class III they were. (I am not rolling my eyes but I do have “that look” on my face).

Free Form Parking at Kibler Valley River Run

Here’s the deal: There is a dam up the river and they release water especially for this event. So, if you are arriving at the event first thing in the morning and thinking that the river looks really low for kayaking, you will definitely not be alone. Registration starts at 8:30 and they will start shuttling you up the river then but they may not have started releasing the water yet. This year, the lake above the dam is low so they didn’t open the dam until around 11 o’clock. The water did rise significantly.

That means that the river you rode at 9 o’clock may not be the “same” river you will ride at 1 o’clock.

Kayakers Being Shuttled up the River Early Morning

The race costs $25. For that, you get a nice t-shirt and as many shuttles up the river as you can be present for. You can register to compete or not compete, it’s up to you. While I was there, I talked with someone who was surprised to win a trophy a couple of years ago. He had registered to compete and, just having fun, had taken second place. So, while this may be competitive, the people attending are still having fun.

liquidlogic Kayaks are built for whitewater

I did not end up on the water today. I had been hopeful but, no. I had called one of the race organizers earlier in the week asking if anyone rented kayaks for this event. Each time I would ask that, he would explain the shuttle service and I would ask, ‘but what if you don’t have a kayak?’. Eventually, we came to understand that no one rents kayaks at the event but his son had a used kayak for sale and I was looking to buy one so …

And this is how I have a Rhino Rack roof rack in a box in my living room and I carried home a kayak today tied to the top of my car on horse blankets.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The End of the Run

While it is true that no one was renting kayaks, that does not mean that there were no kayaks to be had. Roanoke Outfitting & Adventures, a new outfitter opening up in the Salem/Roanoke area had brought out some kayaks and canoes. I’m not sure if everything that they brought out was for sale but they are taking pre-orders now and I think that some of what they brought out was to help people make a pre-order by actually seeing/feeling/sitting on an actual kayak.

Roanoke Outfitting and Adventure Brought Kayaks and Canoes

Even though I had arranged to buy a pre-owned Perception Swifty kayak, I’m still very interested in getting something a little above entry grade. Given kayak availability, if I want something for next spring, I need to be looking now. I’m interested in the Dagger Katana, but I’m new at this so I’m still trying to see what is out there.

Roanoke Outfitting and Adventure brought out quite a selection and I really liked this Pulse 85 Huntsman by Tootega. I am wanting to get on rivers and lakes with a camera rather than a fishing pole. The Huntsman looks like it might be a good fit and costs almost half of what the Dagger costs.

Pulse 85 Huntsman by Tootega

If you are interested in the Huntsman also, Travis Overstreet is the man you want to talk to. He gave an impromptu lesson on how to tell how a boat will perform based on its footprint and explained a little more about the difference between a whitewater boat and a flat water boat.

Travis Overstreet Demonstrating the Hull on a Whitewater kayak
Travis Overstreet Demonstrating the Hull on a crossover

Travis gave me his card. It says the following:

Travis Overstreet II, Drew McClaugherty, and Preston Pettengill.

Services: ACA Courses and Certifications, Beginner Paddling Clinics, Playboat Classes, River Safety Courses, Boat Repairs & Upgrades, Custom Outfitting

Roanoke Outfitting & Adventures, www.roa-store.com, facebook.com/roapaddle, sales@roa-store.com

Authorized Silverbirch & Tootega Outfitter and Dealer

A Beautiful Bank at the End of the Run

And that was really all I could fit into one day. I apologize to the cosmos in general for driving home at speeds between 30 and 45 miles an hour but it’s done now.

This has happened so fast. Kibler Valley wasn’t even on my radar last weekend. I figured that I had plenty of time for logistics. Once it became obvious that I was actually going to buy a kayak this weekend, I scrambled to get a roof rack and all the accessories. I will need the roof rack no matter what, so my panicked buying wasn’t a bad thing. However, it turns out that the panic was not necessary and a little ingenuity and a couple of horse blankets goes a long way.

Now I Need a Roof Rack Attached to my Car

I honestly don’t know in which direction the kayak quest will go next.

Really, I think that the driving force behind the rest of the summer is simply to enjoy it.

Agreed?

Best Laid Plans – Covid Edition

Well, it’s been a weird year so far. In January, I was excited for the festival season to start here and, in February, I was anxious to entice a friend here for one of the many local foot races. And then we started the stay-at-home mitigation in March to try to slow down or prevent the spread of Covid 19.

It’s been 6 months and, in that time, I have learned: Continue reading Best Laid Plans – Covid Edition