Find Sandburg, Science and Shopping in North Carolina
By Bonnie and Bill Neely
The historic town of Flat Rock, North Carolina, established in 1807, is just what an ivy-and-pine mountain village should be. It offers unusual little shops, delightful restaurants and golf courses. In most seasons you can enjoy plays and concerts at Flat Rock Playhouse, so well known for its excellent performances that it's a good idea to purchase your tickets ahead of time. Art lovers will be thrilled inside the Gallery at Flat Rock, which offers finely curated arts and crafts made by accomplished creators from the surrounding area.
History and literature buffs must spend a couple of hours at Connemara, a National Historic Site. This is the home of Carl Sandburg, who won three Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry and biographies of Abraham Lincoln. This working goat farm is home to the progeny of the original dairy herd of 200 that Sandburg's wife, "Paula," transported by railcar when the family relocated here in 1945 from Michigan. Guests are invited to interact with the animals as well as to enjoy a picnic and follow the hiking trail to the top of Glassy Mountain.
A fascinating larger mountain town that almost runs into Flat Rock is Hendersonville. Main Street is filled with fun places to visit, varied types of shops owned by locals, and many restaurants and art galleries.
Spending at least an hour -- or much more -- at the free Mineral and Lapidary Museum of Henderson County is definitely a worthwhile experience. Here it's possible to see hundreds of beautiful gems -- precious and semiprecious -- including part of the rock that became the largest diamond in the world. Specimens of minerals and gems from around the world are displayed in this little basement museum, and there's even the fossilized head of a T. rex dinosaur. The members of the local Gem and Mineral Society meet regularly to learn about the finds of amateur rock-hunters who search the mountains nearby, and the museum attendants are volunteers from their membership.
We were fortunate to be there when a family had brought a few friends to enjoy their 9-year-old daughter's birthday. She selected an ugly round geode and bought it for about $10. The very nice pros there told her to look for a lightweight one and they would crack it for her. The men were so entertaining as they locked the rock into the vice and helped the girl to push the lever to crack her prize. And with the cracking sound her fairyland within was revealed! Blue and white quartz in two hemisphere caves of spectacular beauty were hers to keep and remember her special birthday.
The docents give excellent tours and provide information about all the displays. A three-minute video reveals the secrets of many collected geological specimens revealed under black light and another spectrum of light. We learned such a lot in a short time that we are planning to return again.
Be sure to take in the lovely Village Green Antique Mall. Buy some beautifully handmade leather items on Main Street, stop for an ice cream or candy at Kilwins and for coffee and pastries at Black Bear Coffee. You will want to spend a week on Hendersonville Main Street any time of year. If you happen to come in the fall you can enjoy the Apple Festival on Labor Day weekend and pick your own apples in one of the many orchards nearby.
WHEN YOU GO
A good place to stay in the Hendersonville-Flat Rock area is Pura Vida Cottage, available through Airbnb: www.airbnb.com/rooms/28928948?guests=1&adults=1
Gallery at Flat Rock: www.galleryflatrock.com
Bonnie and Bill Neely are freelance writers. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.
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