By Bob Heafner © 1985-2012
Issue: March 1985
Viewers of WFMY-TV in Greensboro, North Carolina or the CBS News Show, Sunday Morning with Charles Kuralt have often been treated to the beautiful nature studies of cameraman Jim Waters. His work often focuses on the Blue Ridge and it has been my pleasure to spend a good many days with Jim, riding mountain Backroads and often stopping while he captured on film such things as butterflies on daisies or old weathered buildings. Jim is a true lover of nature's beauty and it has added to my enjoyment to introduce him to some of my favorite spots. On each of our trips, his appreciation of mountain beauty has been verbalized with an almost continuous stream of, "Oh golly that's beautiful" or "Oh wow, look at that!" to which I would inevitably beam like a grandparent displaying photographs of a newborn grandchild. His sincere appreciation of mountain beauty has added to my enjoyment of each mile we have traveled together.
Recently, however, the shoe was on the other foot and it was Jim who introduced me to a truly breathtaking area. It was my turn to provide the "Oh gollys" and "Oh wows," as we drove through Ashe County, North Carolina. This is a beautiful area and the focus of this month's BACKROADS tour. It offers scenic vistas and sparkling rivers which I'm sure you will enjoy.
We will begin at the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and North Carolina Route 16 which is located between Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 261 and 262. Be sure to take along your camera! Our entire trip will cover 32.5 miles and require approximately two hours to complete. There is so much to see and enjoy that I'm sure you will want to allot more time.
BACKROADS tours always make a complete loop back to the point where we started. The underlined numbers at the beginning of each paragraph indicate the total number of miles we've traveled from our point of beginning. The numbers in parenthesis ( ) indicate the distance from the last point of interest that we passed.
(0.0) From the intersection of the Blue Ridge Parkway and NC 16, we will head north on 16 toward West Jefferson, North Carolina. 00.0
00.4 (0.4) Continuing on NC 16, we will pass the intersection of NC 163 at this point. We will stay on NC 16.
02.9 (2.5) Here we turn left on NC state road 1632 which runs beside the Glendale Springs Inn and the small Rose Grocery Store. The Inn was built in 1895 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It served as local headquarters for the WPA during construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway in the 1930's. Today the Inn is operated by Gayle Winston who, with the help of manager Loren Webster, provides a thoroughly enjoyable experience for those wishing to relax and dine amid an atmosphere of long ago. May 1st through October 31st the Inn opens it's doors to travelers and diners. There is seating for 70, but often tables are set on the wide front porch in order to accommodate everyone. Overnight guests are treated to a continental breakfast in the upstairs breakfast nook. The dinner menu offers a French cuisine that has drawn a lot of rave reviews. Reservations are not required, but are recommended since only six rooms are available. Gayle not only operates the Glendale Springs Inn but also the Old Salem Tavern in the historic Old Salem district of Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
[Update 2012 - According to the Glendale Springs Inn website the property is closed to the public and for sale at this time. The current owners are Amanda and Larry Smith.]
(0.1) Here we turn right on state road 1161 toward the Greenhouse Crafts Shop and the Glendale Springs Inn Bakery. After turning they will be on our left. Gayle also operates the shop and bakery which supplies the fresh baked goodies to the Inn. 03.0
03.1 (0.1) At this point, the Holy Trinity Church of the Fresco is on our right. The entire interior wall behind the pulpit is a beautiful fresco of the Last Supper. It was painted by Ben Long, a native of Statesville, North Carolina who currently resides in Italy. Mr. Long's work has drawn international attention to this small mountain community for this beautifully realistic work of art. The church is always open and visitors are invited to enter. We will turn left here onto state road 1160, directly across from the church. As we turn, the Mission House Gallery is on the right. This is home to Father J. Faulton Hodge, Vicar of Holy Trinity and the Gallery which offers a large assortment of work by local potters and artists for sale. Father Hodge's personal collection of Western North Carolina pottery is also on display, but not for sale. The Gallery is open fulltime April through October, but visitors are always welcome to stop by anytime, including during the winter season.
03.2 (0.1) Here the pavement ends and beautiful views of high mountain peaks and rolling meadows begin.
(0.5) The high peak to our right is Mount Jefferson State Park. 03.7
04.0 (0.3) An old quarry is tucked away to our left here.
04.4 (0.4) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto state road 1159.
04.7 (0.3) Here we cross a low water bridge over the beautiful New River. Pavement resumes again after we cross the bridge. We will follow the New River for the next several miles and each turn offers beautiful views.
[Update 2012 – The New River was designated as an American Heritage River in 1998. President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore dined at the Glendale Springs Inn Restaurant after the ceremonies.]
08.4 (3.7) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto NC 163.
10.6 (2.2) At this point, we will leave NC 163 and turn right onto state road 1149 toward Mount Jefferson State Park. Be careful, this is an easy turn to miss!
11.4 (0.8) The old two story white house in the meadow to our right is the Greenfield Restaurant and centerpiece of Greenfield's Campground.
11.9 (0.5) The Ashe County Career Center is on our right.
12.2 (0.3) Entrance to Mount Jefferson State Park is on our right here.
12.7 (0.5) At this stop sign, we will turn right onto US 221.
15.4 (2.7) This is the junction of Route 88 and NC 16 with US 221. We will follow 16 and 88 toward Wilkesboro, North Carolina.
17.5 (2.1) Here we turn right onto state road 1155 and are instantly afforded a breathtaking view of beautiful Mount Jefferson.
20.5 (3.0) At this stop sign, we will turn left back onto NC 163.
21.3 (0.8) Here we are passing, on our left, the spot where we first turned onto NC 163 earlier.
22.0 (0.7) Turn right onto state road 1147 and immediately cross a small bridge. There is a Texaco station on the left of NC 163 across from this point.
22.5 (0.5) Ahead is a beautiful view of mountains and cabins surrounding Ashe Lake Creek.
23.4 (0.9) Here we cross a one lane bridge.
23.5 (0.1) At this stop sign, state road 1147 turns right, but we will turn left onto state road 1181.
24.8 (1.3) Bethel Baptist Church is on our left here.
26.6 (1.8) Pavement ends at this point and the New River is on our left.
26.8 (0.2) Here we cross another one lane bridge.
27.0 (0.2) There is a beautiful view of the New River to our right.
27.1 (0.1) At the top of the hill here state road 1168 turns right, but we go straight ahead continuing on state road 1181.
27.2 (0.1) This spot offers a breathtaking view of the New River and meadows tucked into a narrow valley with mountains rising on all sides.
27.9 (0.7) Just after passing a beautiful log home on the right which overlooks the road and river, we will turn right onto unmarked state road 1183.
28.0 (0.1) A beautiful old two story mountain farm house sits on a knoll to the right at this point.
28.9 (0.9) At this stop sign, we will turn left onto state road 1003.
30.9 (2.0) Turn right at this stop sign onto NC 163.
32.1 (1.2) Turn right at this stop sign onto NC 16.
32.5 (0.4) We are now back to our point of beginning at the intersection of NC 16 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
I hope you found this area as enjoyable and entertaining as I did, and my special thanks to Jim Waters for my introduction to Ashe County beauty.