Friday, November 17, 2017

Hagood Mill

Just outside of Pickens, South Carolina is the historic property of Hagood Mill. The operational water-powered gristmill is on the National Register of Historic Places (listed in 1972), and is the centerpiece of the Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center and its monthly festivals.


The tributary of Twelve Mile River was formerly known as Jennings Creek, and mills have existed on the site since the 1790s. In 1845 James Hagood built the current mill on what is now the Hagood Branch, and operations continued until 1966. In 1973 the mill and surrounding acreage was donated to Pickens Country Museum, and over the years additional historic buildings have been constructed on site: two restored log cabins, a blacksmith shop, a moonshine still and a cotton gin.

Things to do at Hagood Mill 

Nature Trail
The 0.75 mile Nature Trail starts just behind the rock art building at the old outhouse. The trail follows Hagood Creek up to Prater’s Creek Bridge, a 64-foot steel bridge built by the Greenville Steel and Foundry Company in 1930 and brought to the site in 2007. In the autumn the hardwood trees towering over the creek are full of color, and walnuts and acorns litter the trail. After crossing the bridge the loop delivers you back to the mill, emerging on the opposite side of the creek next to the wooden water chute.

Prater's Creek Bridge
Near the end of the trail

Historic buildings
The moonshine still and cotton gin building are located adjacent to the end of the trail. This corner of South Carolina was rather infamous for moonshining, and old stills and other equipment can still be found near creeks in many places (such as Moonshine Falls). It was interesting looking at the old pictures of moonshiners and the many different set-ups that were used over the years for distilling spirits.

Moonshiners wall of fame

Over in the cotton gin building is an entire 1896 Daniel-Pratt cotton gin and cotton press, in use as recently as the 1950s. Additional tools can also be viewed, such as a 1925 horse-drawn crop duster.

To access the mill visitors must cross back over the creek. With the largest waterwheel in the state, Hagood Mill is the only waterwheel in SC still made of wood and one of the oldest known gristmills still producing grain products in the state. The water wheel and mechanical components of the mill were rebuilt in the mid-1970s and restored in the 1990s, but touring the inside of the mill you’ll see much remains as it was 170 years ago. The two story building is constructed of hand hewn logs and covered with clapboard siding, and for years was the vital gathering place that brought together rural families and friends.

The two historic Pickens County log cabins date back to 1791 and 1925, although both have been reconstructed on site. The cabins are open to visitors, as is the family farm exhibit. This area (which includes the ceramics shed and outdoor stage) is the center of the 3rd Saturday festivals, and traditional arts, folklife and living history demonstrations that include milling, blacksmithing, cotton ginning, moonshining, spinning, weaving, bee-keeping, metalsmithing, quilting, woodcarving, flintknapping, chair caning and open hearth cooking take place on site.

Hagood Creek Petroglyph Site
In 2003 prehistoric Native American rock carvings were discovered, having long been buried under a 19th century road. The petroglyphs were preserved, and today can be safely viewed from an observational boardwalk while listening to a historical audio presentation. The 17 human figures and other carvings are among the most significant of their kind in South Carolina.

Look for two stick figures in the center/center right of the photo

In addition to the petroglyph room, there is an additional exhibit room that has information on historic period rock art, the meaning of various figures and shapes, some petroglyphs for up-close viewing and a replica of a portion of the Hagood Creek site for hands-on exploration.

Visit a festival!
The monthly folklife festival and concert series is a huge draw, the music and other entertainment offered at the third Saturday events irresistible to adults and children alike. Many of this region's best bluegrass, old time, and blues musicians have performed at the Mill, including many SC Folk Heritage Award winners.

The next festival is tomorrow! In observance of Native American Heritage Month, Hagood Mill will be hosting a Native American Celebration on Saturday, November 18, 2017. “Visitors and guest performers will participate in the festivities of the day which will include: traditional drumming, singing, dancing, Native American flute playing, storytelling, Cherokee hymns in the Cherokee language, and traditional crafts. Demonstrations will be going on all day throughout the Mill Site including traditional Cherokee blow-gun demonstrations, traditional Catawba pottery making, beadwork, basket making, flint-knapping, finger-weaving, atl atl spear throwing, bow and arrow shooting and more.” For a full description of all the festival events, please visit the Hagood Mill Historic Site & Folklife Center Facebook page.

Bring a picnic
With multiple picnic tables located creekside near the old mill, visitors can take a break for lunch between explorations of the mill, trails and petroglyph site. Some of the resident chickens might wander over to keep you company!

Visit the Hagood Mill store
Fresh stone-ground corn meal, grits, and wheat flour ground on site are available for purchase, along with Hagood Mill cookbooks and a variety of other mill related items. The staff are extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and can be a valuable resource for local facts and lore.


There is a $5.00 parking fee on 3rd Saturday festival days, but otherwise admission is FREE to the Hagood Mill Site as well as the Hagood Creek Petroglyph Site. While in the area you might also be interested in visiting Glassy Mountain, Nine Times Preserve and Long Shoals Wayside Park, three of our favorite natural areas in the Upstate…

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Highlands Food & Wine

For over a century, Highlands NC has provided a mountain respite for visitors from all over the country. The resort town is located at an elevation of 4,118 feet, making it one of the highest towns east of the Mississippi; the surrounding mountains feature an abundance of recreational opportunities including hiking, fishing, waterfall photography and golf. In the postcard-perfect town of Highlands you’ll find a thriving arts scene (including the renowned Bascom Center), antique shopping, upscale boutiques, and fine-dining in a wide selection of restaurants. However the peak of foodie-delight comes in November, during the annual Highlands Food and Wine Festival.

Formerly known as Highlands Culinary Weekend, the festival celebrated its eleventh anniversary this year. Attendees were encouraged to explore nearby trails and waterfalls in between events, and local restaurants hosted individual dinners in partnership with the culinary and wine talent in town for the festival.

Truckin’, Friday’s food truck event, brought a wide array of food trucks from all over – including Greenville and Asheville – to complete a food-triangle-of-fame of sorts. The four hour event took place on Old Creek Circle, amidst tall trees decked out in autumn colors, on a chilly yet sunny Saturday, and proved that once again, the Highlands Food & Wine Festival is worth the trip!

On hand from Asheville was James Beard nominee Elliot Moss with his signature Buxton Hall Barbecue, chipotle cheese grits, collard greens and slaw, the pulled pork bbq bringing back memories of Greenville’s food festival euphoria that recently brought them down our way. Other highlights included Farm to Fender (also Asheville) with their Flying Goat BLT: smoked bacon, fried green tomatoes & local goat cheese, complimented by a side of Tabasco honey cauliflower wings.

A third vendor from Asheville was Bun Intended, the traditional Thai steamed buns and bao truck. Their Pork Belly Bao (with seared pork belly, cucumbers, pickled carrots & daikon, herbs, green onion and apple BBQ sauce!) and the Vegetable Bao are on my personal Truckin’ best-of list.

Greenville favorites Automatic Taco also had pork belly, theirs prepared Korean style with kimchi, cilantro and cashews. Despite worrying about stomach capacity and my ability to try everything, I admit that I couldn’t skip them, even though the Pork Belly Taco is what I usually order when I catch up with them here in town. (Very professional of me, right, making sure they were up to standard up in NC!?)

To complete the Asheville-Greenville-Highlands triangle, multiple local chefs participated during other festival events, including Adam Lewis of Mountain Fresh Grocery and Wolfgang Green of Wolfgang’s. However for Truckin’ we got lucky with a couple of food trucks from within the triangle - Backwoods Bakery and The Velvet Cup – and BrineHaus all the way from Raleigh! It was my first time trying BrineHaus, but the Tabasco sweet potato wings absolutely amazing, especially when paired with an IPA from Oskar Blues.

Beverages included cocktails from Tito’s Handcrafted Vodka, beer by Oskar Blues, and four wine distributors: Ecovalley Wines, Meeker Vineyard, Merry Edwards and Schug Winery. Tito’s had brought the bus, and I wasn’t the first (nor the last) festival-goer to take advantage of the comfortable leather seating to digest and recharge before the next course!

Backwoods Bakery with a mobile pizza oven

In addition to the cream of the culinary crop, this year’s Highlands Food & Wine Festival brought a spate of musical acts to western NC: JJ Grey & MOFRO, Love Canon, Liz Vice and the iconic Preservation Hall Jazz Band from New Orleans. The Futurebirds put on a great show before the Truckin’ headliners, Dawes, took the stage; it wouldn’t surprise me if folks came to Highlands just as much for the music as they did the food.

Between the Sip & Shop wine adventure on Friday, the Main Event that takes over Main Street on Saturday, various wine tastings throughout the weekend, Gospel Brunch on Sunday and a Generous Pour (concert) with the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the Highlands Food & Wine Festival was really the “Height of Happiness” for food and music lovers, allowing total immersion in food, wine, music and mountains.  And if you’re around for the festival, maybe I can suggest a few other stops while you’re in town…? 
Sunset Rock, Highlands
Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, Highlands to Franklin (4 waterfalls!!!)
Whiteside Mountain, between Highlands and Cashiers

For more on the Festival, checkout the website You can also follow on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Sunset Rock, Highlands NC

The gravel road leading up Satulah Mountain is rutted and narrow, the risky business of passing oncoming traffic only manageable in the rare wider section of road. Luckily it is mostly traversed on foot, although the adventurous sort will drive up the ½ mile to a small opening that allows for a turnaround. It is not a challenging hike, nor lengthy – but it is one you will want to take if you’re in Highlands, North Carolina.

Sunset Rock is located in Ravenel Park and is managed by the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. Granite domes are unique to the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment, and are known for having a mixture of bare rock, steep cliffs and shallow vegetation. The Highlands Plateau has also been designated by National Audubon Society as one of the Important Bird Areas of the world, and birds of high conservation priority found in the area include the Canada Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Hooded Warbler, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Golden-crowned Kinglet and the Red-breasted Nuthatch.

From the main intersection of Main Street with N 4th Street in Highlands, NC, head east on Main until the road turns into Horse Cove Road and follow it just past the intersection with Gibson Street. You’ll see a parking area for Sunset Rock/Ravenel on your right, and the gravel road to the park takes you up to the trailhead.

From the opening at the top of the road, look to your right for the trailhead that leads out to sunset rock – you’ll recognize it by the large info sign. Just a few hundred feet later you’ll emerge at the top of the world… The exposed rock face provides views of downtown Highlands and the surrounding mountains, and is named for what else but the excellent sunsets! There are a few park benches to soak in the views, but no safety railings – keep the kids close!

Whether you’re in town for the Highlands Food & Wine Festival, headed to Whiteside Mountain, or on your way north to one of the multiple waterfalls on the Mountain Waters Scenic Byway, Sunset Rock is worth the trip – especially if you park at the base and enjoy the walk up!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Anchorage, Village of West Greenville

The Village of West Greenville was the heart of the “Textile Crescent” for the first half of the 20th century; its central location to Brandon Mill, Woodside (the largest cotton mill under one roof in the world at one point in time) and Judson Mill equated to restaurants, stores, community centers and a theater to cater to the needs of the three mill villages. When the textile industry collapsed in the early 1970s a period of blight descended, and the next three decades told the story of poverty and crime so prevalent to the region at that time. But the story has a happy ending (new beginning?!) as in the early 2000s a group of artists found home on Pendleton Street, pushed out of downtown Greenville by rising rent costs. The artists were followed by other businesses, and with the redevelopment of Brandon Mill and the rebranding as “The Village of West Greenville,” the neighborhood is now in the throes of revitalization.

As the community works to come to terms with the newfound influx of business and people, a restaurant at the very epicenter of the district has taken Greenville by storm. In January of this year, Anchorage opened shop at the corner of Pendleton Street & Lois Avenue and started dishing up locally-sourced and regional food in a casual neighborhood atmosphere. The 100 year-old building most recently housed a doctor’s office and pool hall, but sat empty and neglected for many years before being completely renovated. Anchorage is named for the sense of roots that the owners feel they are creating:
noun | an·chor·age | \ˈaŋ-k(ə-)rij\ : something that provides a strong hold or connection

Chef and owner Greg McPhee will most likely be evident on a typical night at the restaurant, a portion of his preparations visible to patrons in the kitchen centerpiece – the Argentinian oven – which is visible from the dining room. Upstairs is the bar area, more seating, and a narrow patio lighted by strings of lights. The main dining room windows overlook what will soon be a public plaza on Perry Avenue (slated for completion in the coming months), while the side along Pendleton Street features a moss wall on the interior (created by a server at the restaurant) and the trademark mural on the exterior, painted by artist Sunny Mullarkey. (Mullarkey recently assisted Stone Academy students in the fifth installation of the Stone Avenue mural project, New Beginnings.)

For the full Anchorage experience we recommend the “Tasting Table,” a five course Chef’s selection tasting menu that delivers a comprehensive survey of the restaurant’s menu. On a recent visit the tasting looked like this…

  First course: Virginia oysters on the half shell (with cucumber, lime vermouth sorbert & mint), and “For the Table” featuring the absolutely divine, house-made bourbon liver mousse, Johnston County ham, soppresatta, artisan cheeses (including a blue cheese from Thomasville GA), bread & butter pickles and mustard made in the Anchorage kitchen.

  Second course: Charred Charleston king mackerel (with ginger, shallot, turmeric, apple, dark soy, herbs and olive oil), and roasted fall squash, served with purple sweet potato, herb ricotta and maple vinaigrette.

  Third course: Hand cut pappardelle filled with a ragout of Greenbrier Farm’s beef cheek & heritage pork, topped with 1 year aged Reedy River red cheese

  Fourth course: Grilled High Valley Farms rainbow trout (with grilled broccoli, breakfast radish, field green & nori puree and Romesco),  BBQ embered carrots (with lime goat milk yogurt and peanut sauce), sweet potato puree (accompanied by picked Aji Dulce, peppers and scallions) and white corn flint grits, parsnip puree, roasted hazelnut and fried herbs.

  Dessert: We chose the pistachio semifreddo over the monkey bread, and paired it with French press coffee.

It would be neglectful not to mention the drinks menu. Although not included in the Tasting Table, the selection is extensive and imaginative, and our server was instrumental in flawless pairings throughout. A favorite of mine from the cocktail menu is Devil Makes Three: Rittenhouse Rye, Casamigos Reposada, lime juice, mole bitters and cinnamon - seemingly unlikely partners in an epic (but not overwhelming) drink!

In addition to the immaculate and knowledgeable cuisine and service, the details make the Anchorage experience memorable. From the Dapper Ink-designed shirts, to the gorgeous custom plate ware by Village artist Darin Gehrke – the intricate sensory adventure at Anchorage will be one you want to repeat.


We’ve been regularly visiting the Village of West Greenville for lessons with Lynne Holcombe Music and coffee at the Villlage Grind, but as Vogue declared in a recent article, the Village of West Greenville is “The Neighborhood to Explore.” From the brand-new eatery Golden Brown & Delicious to the dozens of artists’ studios, you’ll soon find yourself returning to the Village of West Greenville for more!

Anchorage website here, and their Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Pilot Rock on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Morning view from Chestnut Cove overlook

A trail for mountain bikers, rock climbers and hikers – this challenging route on the Pisgah National Forest has it all! With a trailhead on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Pilot Rock trail is ideal for a fall hike - cooler temperatures and vibrant autumn scenery your companion for a memorable excursion into Pisgah National Forest.

View from the Laurel Mountain Connector

There are several pull-offs in a short stretch past the Buck Springs Tunnel including the Buck Springs trailhead, Mount Pisgah Overlook & trailhead at MP 407.6, Frying Pan Mountain Trail at MP 408.5, and the campgrounds, Pisgah Inn and trailhead at Mount Pisgah, MP 408.6. Our hike to Pilot Rock started at the Buck Spring Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway, although it is possible to connect via the Pisgah Inn. Facing south from the Parkway from the parking lot a trail heads off to your right, and 500 feet later you’ll have reached the site of George Vanderbilt’s hunting lodge. In addition to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, Vanderbilt owned 471 acres here in Buck Springs Gap where he constructed an enormous log hunting lodge; the stone foundation of the spring house is still visible today.

Buck Springs Lodge spring house foundation

When the Blue Ridge Parkway was constructed in 1961, the lodge and outbuildings were razed. We read about the lodge and site on the informational placard, and admired the grand view before continuing on. Soon we reached a split in the trail, the Laurel Mountain Trail following the ridge to the left while continuing straight takes you to the Buck Spring Trail which climbs over the top of Little Bald Mountain. Connecting Pisgah Inn with Buck Spring Lodge is a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and together this network of trails allows for a small loop – we followed the white blazes of Buck Springs on the way in and the Laurel Mountain Connector on the way back from Pilot Rock.

Note - the milage on this sign is incorrect, it is NOT 2.3 miles to Yellow Gap from this point

From the Mountains-to-Sea Trail intersection with Pilot Rock Trail it is 3.6 miles south to FS 1206 (Yellow Gap Road), although we would be returning once reaching Pilot Rock. The hike starts with an uphill climb to reach the summit of Little Bald Mountain, a grass savanna that is home to Ruffed Grouse and features views to the west, especially now that the trees had started dropping their leaves.

From summit of Little Bald

From Little Bald the trail descends down a dry ridge until reaching the top of Pilot Rock - 2.5 miles and 1,300 feet later. First we passed the intersection with Buck Springs/Pilot Rock Trail, and then following orange blazes through tunnels of rhododendron the descent became rather rocky, slowing our pace as we paid careful attention to our footing on the leaf-covered trail. The granite and shale at this elevation is the result of thousands of years of erosion attacking the pluton, and soon after the forest transitions to hardwoods, the fall foliage ablaze despite the cloud cover.

Along this stretch we found mature American chestnut trees, the spiky seed husks littering the trail. Before the species was devastated by the chestnut blight these giants filled the Appalachians, numbering in the billions and providing an important food source for wildlife as well as livestock. At the beginning of the 20th century the fungal pathogen responsible for chestnut blight was accidentally imported into the US from Asia, and it rapidly spread throughout eastern forests, leaving only the rare American chestnut standing by the 1950s. The fungus enters the tree through an injury in the bark, and spreads, killing tissue as it advances - effectively girdling the tree. Despite being infected, the chestnuts we saw were survivors; it was incredible to see these trees ‘in the wild’. (There has been much success in crossing the American chestnut with the blight-resistant Chinese chestnut – for more on the work being done to reintroduce the American chestnut to the eastern forests, please visit the American Chestnut Foundation’s website.)

American chestnut tree and seed husk

Soon the trail gets steep, each switchback a reminder that you’ll soon be going the other way to return to the trailhead. A rock outcrop gave us the perfect spot for lunch, and as we fueled up we took in the views over the Pisgah.

This rock outcrop makes a good lunch stop

According to the Forest Service website, there are two access points to the rock face, which at this point on the trail will be on your left. From this vantage point the breathtaking 180° views include Funneltop Mountain, the Pink Beds Valley, and the Cradle of Forestry. Down below is Yellow Gap Road; if you kept heading downhill you would descend another 600 feet in elevation over the course of a mile, emerging on the Forest Service road at Grassy Lot Gap where there is room for a couple of cars to park. On the way is also the intersection with the Pilot Rock Extension spur trail, which provides access to the rock’s base for rock climbers looking to scale the pluton.

However, the ascent back up to Buck Springs would provide enough of a challenge to us on this excursion, and so we headed back the way we came, Vilis growing heavy in the backpack carrier before I had even traveled ½ a mile. I carried him over the more steep/treacherous sections, and he would stretch his legs on the more level sections of trail. To avoid an extra bit of a climb, take the Laurel Mountain Connector; it skirts the side of Little Bald to return to Laurel Mountain Trail. On this side of the mountain we found ourselves crossing entire hillsides covered in rocky boulders, the moss-covered rocks a landscape straight out of fairytales. A bit of warning, that although the Connector has less elevation change than crossing the summit of Little Bald, the terrain is a bit more challenging, slippery climbs in some spots with rocky ground making for slower going.

Before too long we reached the junction with the Mountains-to-Sea trail, closing the loop, and just after that arrived at the former site of the lodge. We soaked in the view yet again, and then in the parking lot almost submitted to the lure of climbing Mt. Pisgah as we still had daylight to burn – Vilis was asleep in the carrier after all! But a celebration awaited this birthday girl back in Greenville, so I took one last longing look before loading up the car and turning east on the Parkway towards Asheville.

View from Buck Springs Lodge site

Note: The NC Arboretum is located right where we turn off the Blue Ridge Parkway on our way back to Greenville, meaning the Winter Lights event could be a perfect conclusion to a day on the Blue Ridge this December. Or, if you're headed west on the Parkway, my Pisgah to Cherokee post would be a good guide of sights to see en route! Finally, check out the Meanderthals post on Buck Spring to Pilot Rock for detailed trail descriptions, maps and fantastic photos.   

Mount Pisgah

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