Monday, May 23, 2016

Price of Admission

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.


Anonymous said...

That trip really did turn out well. What interesting history you have there with big hurricane floods and civil war sites. Roger and I often say the same thing, "that was worth the price of admission."

Barbara Rogers said...

You came into my "neck of the woods." I'm on the other side of that Swannanoa Gap, in Black Mountain. And I take my visitors to see that little park with the fountain sometimes too. The last time was after having been up to see Mt. Mitchell. Sorry the exhibit about the flood sounds so disappointing. I know a friend who wrote a play about it, but don't know when/where it will be performed. I'll post about it if I find out.

Mary Lee said...

Funny, we detoured twice today to see museums, but the billboards that advertised them were larger than the sights. Now I must begin looking for kingfishers on this trip. I know I've seen that funny topknot before, but nothing like the brilliant blue ones on the internet. (Several links to the guy who took the "perfect" shot after 4 years of hanging around the lake, waiting to catch one diving at just the right moment. So, are the ones you see that brilliant turquoise blue? If so, I may have to go hang around Old Fort.

troutbirder said...

Indeed. We felt the same way about our 2 month camping trip to Alaska some years ago...:)

KGMom said...

Serendipity--that's what it is. Always "worth the price of admission."
The photo of the washed away bridge is uncanny.
In 1996, an ice jam on the Susquehanna River broke up very quickly and ice built up along a truss bridge (which looked exactly like the bridge in your photo). Suddenly, several of the sections of the bridge gave way, and that was the end of it for traffic. What remains is now used as a pedestrian bridge. You can see a video of the collapse if you look for Walnut Street bridge collapse (Harrisburg, PA) on YouTube.

Ms. A said...

Disappointing to surprising. That makes for a good trip and not a total waste.

Tara said...

You gotta roll with the punches, and that's what you did. You did manage to make a good day trip out of it all, and spending time with your daughter was probably better than anything.

Arkansas Patti said...

Free does takes the tart taste out of a disappointing visit. Sorry there wasn't more to the flood exhibit. Still you did manage to salvage and enjoy the day at the park.

Carolina Linthead said...

Wonderful ramble you had! I think the traveling history exibit is becoming a relic...just create and promote a website, unles it is hnds on educational. But I am a Google freak. My grandmother told family stories of Stonemans raid through Burke County...bitter family memories.

Vicki Lane said...

One wonders who decided it was worthwhile to send such a bare-bones exhibit traveling. But the geyser looks wonderful and any day with a kingfisher sighting is a day well spent.

NCmountainwoman said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone.

Robin - Yes, our state is steeped in rich history. Unfortunately the history being made by our current General Assembly is abysmal.

Barbara - Yes, we were definitely in your neck of the woods. We had lunch in Black Mountain. My daughter pointed out the Coach House as a place that looked like locals eat there. She was right. Delicious food and delightful waitress who addressed us as "girls." Clearly the other customers were familiar with the restaurant.

Mary - Yes, it was the gorgeous blue Belted Kingfisher.

Troutbirder - We can always find something about each trip that made it worth while. If nothing more than knowing we won't do that again. :)

Donna - I looked up the video. I do remember that section of bridge sliding downstream and striking the other bridge. And it did look very much like the bridge in the old photograph of the flood.

Ms. A - We always look for a reason to enjoy a trip. Sometimes it's as simple as a good lunch.

Tara - Oh yes. I don't get to spend as much time with my daughter as I would like since she is still in Wisconsin.

Patti - I hope the exhibit is more extensive in larger venues. I should have looked more carefully but I'm still glad we went.

Linthead - Yes, my grandmother knew all the relatives killed in the Civil War. The brave Confederates held their ground, but the Raiders did a lot of damage in their plunder of our mountains.

Vicki - Yes, I do believe the money might have been better spent on a good Web site marking the 100th anniversary of the flood. I'm certain there are many stories and photographs to fill such a Web site.