Thursday, April 27, 2006

Great Smoky Mountain National Park: The most visited national park in the country

With more than 9 million visitors annually, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the United States.

"The Cherokee thought it always looked like the mountains were on fire,” Park Ranger Brad told the Asheville Citizen-Times. In fact, the article states, the Cherokee called it “shaconage”— the place of blue smoke.

It’s National Park Week in the U.S., proclaimed by the president to celebrate America’s national parks. We are lucky because of the proximity of the Smokies; it is within a day's drive for a third of the American population.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

A couple of notes from the Outer Banks

Here are a couple of links to two articles from the Outer Banks Sentinel that are pertinent to the Society ...

Tatting, once lost, now found
Not long ago, tatting was considered almost a lost art, but a Southern Shores resident is doing her part to bring it back to life.

Tatting, a technique for making particularly durable lace, was first conceived in the mid 1800s. The finished products are made by a series of knots and loops. The result can be a wide assortment of articles ranging from doilies, collars and other decorative pieces. The lace is formed with a series of half-hitch knots called double stitches over a core thread.

Ann Marie Parlette said she failed as a little girl to learn the craft of tatting from her mother, but after waiting 40 years, she was taught the art by the late Margaret Mills. The second attempt took just three months. ...

Fishing advocacy groups call for state action
Two advocacy groups have asked the North Carolina Marine Fisheries Commission (MFC) to take steps to protect the state's seafood industry. The MFC will discuss those requests Thursday morning during its business meeting in Wilmington.

In a letter dated March 17, North Carolina Watermen United (NCWU) requested that commissioners ease restrictions on the commercial harvest of five species of finfish in order to "avert the immediate threat of the economic failure of the state's seafood industry." ...

'It's about the story'

That is the theme of this year's North Carolina Festival of the Book, which begins today and runs through Sunday, April 30 in Durham.

Among the highlights of the festival will be a reading by "Oldest Living Confederal Widow Tells All" author Allan Gurganus, a Rocky Mount native, and a keynote address by Tom Wolfe.

For more on the festival, click here.

A tribute to the state flower

Fayetteville's tribute to the state flower will take place April 28-30 with the Dogwood Festival. To get ready for the big event, the Fayetteville Observer has asked readers to submit photos of their own dogwoods.

Oh, and Hootie and the Blowfish will entertain festival-goers on April 29.

While we're talking festivals, what are some of the better ones in the state? Wilmington's Azalea Festival is the first one that comes to my mind.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Development boom could be hazardous to pristine mountain communities

Here's a shocker: People will pay big bucks for breathtaking views. But sometimes it is the general public that suffers the consequences.

Case in point: The beautiful mountain towns of Lake Lure and Chimney Rock and the area around Lake James.

These areas, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times, boast "green mountains, flush with cool breezes and soaring birds"; the namesake lakes offer "idyllic vistas, swimming and fishing to scores of visitors." But people are willing to pay upwards of $1 million -- for just a lot.

But that comes with a cost.

In recent years, says this article, lakeside development has, in some cases, sparked efforts to protect public access to the water and fragile environment and to shape development so it considers both the environment and the local economy.

It's a particularly delicate balance for a region where "building boom" is on the tip of nearly every resident's tongue.

"Obviously, Lake Lure is growing leaps and bounds like it never has before," Lake Lure Mayor Jim Proctor, town native and real estate agent, said recently. "That's certainly a boon for the economy, but it's certainly something the town has to pay attention to and not let it get overboard." ...

North Carolina is a state with a natural resource heritage like very few others. There are just a handful of places where you could conceivably drive from the coast to the mountains in one day.

But the attractions that many of us grew up enjoying, especially in the mountains, are being tossed by the wayside because of pressure from developers. The blue-collar worker's family will find it almost impossible to be able to take his kids for a week's vacation in the mountains to enjoy Tweetsie Railroad or an outdoor drama or even a day at Lake Lure's beach. Is it no shock that mountain real estate is going the way of beach real estate?

"It leaves most of us speechless," Foothills Conservancy of North Carolina Executive Director Susie Hamrick Jones told the Citizen-Times. "People are just speechless about how fast and how high the land values have risen."

Shipwreck intrigue: The Queen Anne's Revenge?

From the Jacksonville Daily News ...

State archaeologists don’t know why there are nine cannons in a cluster in the main ballast area at the center of the shipwreck believed to be Blackbeard’s Queen Anne’s Revenge.

It is not normally where the experts would expect to find armament on a pirate ship, said QAR Project Director Mark Wilde-Ramsing.

“Something pushed all these things together,” Wilde-Ramsing said.

It may be that the cannons were not part of the armament, but were in storage, Wilde-Ramsing said. It could be they were being moved when the ship went down, he said. Or they may have simply fallen to the heap from another part of the ship sometime in the nearly 300 years they’ve been underwater in Beaufort Inlet.

The archaeologists hope to get clues to the answer during a diving expedition planned for the site next month. ...

Click here to read the rest of the story.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Brother vs. Brother, Family vs. Family: The Great N.C. BBQ Debate

State vs. Carolina. Coke vs. Pepsi. Panthers vs. Redskins. Raleigh vs. Charlotte.

These are all major feud-starters. Families have been divided over less. But few topics in North Carolina result in the kind of impassioned debate as: "What kind of barbecue is better?" This chopped version of the "Other White Meat" is king in North Carolina (so long, tobacco!). But then again, that's like saying basketball is king. Sure, everyone can agree that hoops rules in the Old North State. But which team? UNC? N.C. State? Duke? Wake Forest?

While numerous factions split the basketball vote, We can all agree that BBQ rules -- but which kind? For my money, you just can't beat good ol' Eastern-style barbecue. (And, for what it's worth, there's no better venue than Wilber's in Goldsboro.)

Having said that, it's hard to argue with the fact that -- as far as I can tell -- just one city in the state can actually lay claim to having a style of 'cue named after it: Lexington. Then it makes sense that two authors, doing "research" (what a gig!) for a book about BBQ, made a pit stop in Lexington recently.

As the Dispatch noted, the great east-vs.-west controversy was even broached by the two authors. It's doubtful that this great rivalry will come to an end anytime soon.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Hot Springs enjoys its location along the 'AT'

Walking down the main street of downtown Hot Springs, you can recognize an Appalachian Trail through-hiker in an instant.

In a town of only 639, the some 2,000 through-hikers who trudge through the picturesque downtown each year are as visible as the white trail blazes on the trail itself — a 2,175-mile route from Springer Mountain, Ga., to Mount Katahdin, Maine. ...

And this weekend, Hot Springs — the first and only trail town in North Carolina on the northbound route — will host Trailfest to celebrate their arrival and the trail that helps serves as the river of life for the small community.

For more on this article, visit the Asheville Citizen-Times.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The wild horses of Shackleford Banks

Among the many fond memories of my childhood is that of peering across the waters of Taylors Creek in Beaufort for a glimpse of the famed wild horses that would occassionally reveal themselves on the opposite shore of Shackleford Banks. The sightings of the horses were rare; but when they did occur it felt like I was catching a glimpse back in time.

Just a handful of places in the United States can boast these unique animals. According to the website of the Foundation for Shackleford Horses (, "Historical research and genetics testing indicates that these wild horses descended from a core group of the old type of Spanish horses. One genetic factor, the blood variant Q-ac, is believed to be contributed by the Spanish horses of 400 years ago. This genetic marker has been found in only descendents of those Spanish horses. Easily lost through genetic drift, Q-ac has been documented in the Puerto Rican Paso Finos, the isolated mustang population of Montana's Pryor Mountains, and the horses of Shackleford Banks."

Please do what you can to support this foundation and to ensure that these beautiful creatures -- that are as much a part of North Carolina's heritage as its other natural resources -- are preserved. Here's to hoping that the children of generations to come will be able to get a thrill from gazing across the Beaufort waters for a glimpse of these majestic creatures.

-M. Lail

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A tribute to North Carolina's musical heritage comes together -- for a great cause

One of North Carolina's greatest -- and yet underrated -- cultural traits is that of her music and the quality and quantity of musicians. And the kinds of music that the state has produced is varied, from country (Randy Travis) and bluegrass (Doc Watson), to rock (The Connells) and folk (James Taylor), to rap (Petey Pablo) and jazz (Nnenna Freelon) -- and everything in-between.

For a quarter of a century, John Plymale has been one of the godfathers of North Carolina's music scenes as a musician (Pressure Boys, Sex Police) to a producer. But recently Plymale completed his greatest work so far: "Songs for Sixty-Five Roses." The album is a treasure-trove of songs by North Carolinians being performed by fellow North Carolinians. Among the cuts on the album are Ryan Adams' "Oh My Sweet Carolina" performed by Portastatic; Travis' "Forever and Ever, Amen" done by Greensboro's Athenaeum; Drive By Truckers; handling of Superchunk's "Driveway to Driveway"; and Queen Sara Saturday's "Seems" as performed by Mike Garrigan.

But this is a special album beyond the collaborations and networking that it took to complete. One-hundred percent of the proceeds from the sales of "Sixty-Five Roses" ( will go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. You see, Plymale's daugther, Allie, has the terrible disease. (The album's title is a play on how chlidren pronounce cystic fibrosis.)

"I'm not good at asking for help when I need it," Plymale recently told the Raleigh News & Observer. "I don't know if it's because I'm embarrassed, too proud, afraid or whatever. But I have a hard time with not being able to just handle something on my own. I don't like to show weakness because it's my job to be in charge of things even if I don't know what I'm doing -- which is the case more often than not. So I can usually keep up a good game face.

"But not with this."

Here's to finding a cure for CF; and here's to John Plymale.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Preserving North Carolina's Heritage

The Dare Society is open to anyone with an interest in preserving North Carolina's cultural heritage: her music, art, literature, politics, sports, cuisine, industry, education and religion. The Society is not about trying to go back to the "old days"; it is merely a group of folks who hope to preserve and celebrate the many unique aspects of North Carolina. It is not a political organization. It should remain open to all people -- even those who didn't have the good fortune of being born in North Carolina.

Please check back often for articles, discussion and commentary about this great land, the Old North State.