It started as a trip to Old Fort, NC to see a new traveling exhibit about the great flood that submerged much of the land in western North Carolina in 1916. The 100 year anniversary of that flood will be in mid-July. The result of two hurricanes, the flood brought the heaviest sustained rainfall recorded at the time. Railroads, bridges, houses and farms were carried away by the flood waters.
The North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources is sponsoring a traveling exhibit so our daughter and I decided to drive to Old Fort to see the exhibits. We drove down the mountain in pouring rain and arrived at the Mountain Gateway Museum in Old Fort shortly before 11:00. The doors were locked and the museum was dark despite the hours posted as "9 a.m. to 5 p.m." My daughter called the number listed. The person responding said she would be there in 10 minutes. So we waited. A young woman arrived in about 15 minutes, short of breath and loaded with grocery bags. Without any apology or excuses, she simply opened the door and said rather tartly, "It's a self-guided tour." We found the room with the flood exhibit and were quite surprised. The exhibit was in a very small room and consisted of four large panels displaying information and grainy photographs. A small screen laptop had a short touch-screen message recorded by one of the survivors. And that was the entire exhibit. I don't know if the exhibit is better in larger venues, but this one was limited in scope. One could learn much more in five minutes on the Internet.
Flooded valley in Asheville. The floodwaters carried away part of the bridge.
(Photograph from the Internet)
Well, that was a bit of disappointment. But I knew there was a famous geyser in Old Fort so we set out to find it and salvage something from our trip. The sun started shining and we took that as a good sign.
We drove along a winding old US 70 to the geyser. At certain places, signs advised us to blow our horn since there was no visibility around the curve under the railroad tracks. Fortunately we did not see even one other car. We were in no hurry and drove leisurely (no other way on that winding road) and were treated to a gorgeous Kingfisher that flew past us. Then my daughter spotted a turkey hen with tiny little poults in the grass. I've never seen such little ones before. We saw several other wild turkeys in the fields by the road.
We have a saying in our family when we see something thrilling. "Well, that was worth the price of admission." So seeing these lovely birds and driving this lovely road definitely was worth the free admission of our trip.
We came upon the geyser (called Andrews Geyser) in a large field that is actually a Civil War engagement site. The geyser is man-made and was built in 1885 by Alexander Boyd Andrews to honor the men who built the railroad through this treacherous area of the mountains. The building of the railroad took the lives of 120 men.
Andrews Geyser shoots water 80 feet into the air.
Andrews Geyser is in a park that was a standoff during the American Civil War. A brigade of Stoneman's Raiders was pushing through western North Carolina in April 1865. When the Yankees reached the Old Fort area they were met by 500 Confederates in Swannanoa Gap. Felled trees and munitions turned the Stoneman's Raiders in another direction. There was no real battle.
The information plaque near the geyser
The park is lovely with picnic tables and benches carved from mountain stones.
There was another reason for Andrews Geyser. The railroad had a 20-acre retreat for executives near the site. The geyser provided a lovely feature for the retreat.
Sometimes a day turns out far differently than planned. And that's why we take it easy. We do indeed believe that the journey is often the destination.