Right Place, Right Time: Lake Lure has a lot to Offer

By Claire Gaskill

        Along the winding road of Highway 64 lies Lake Lure. This small town is known for its parks, historic landmarks, and, as denoted by its name, winding lake. Lake Lure is not vast in size, with a population just shy of 2,000 people, but it’s landmarks cannot be missed during a journey down Highway 64. When traveling from the west, you will first stumble upon the grand entrance to Chimney Rock State Park. A quick turn in will lead you through a tree lined climb up to the state park entrance. The road, which is surprisingly wide enough to fit two-way traffic, is a difficult drive. However, the clearing at the top that houses the Chimney Rock entrance is a welcome surprise. The entrance is home to a guardhouse that must be passed through before being admitted into the park. While waiting in line to speak with the park guard, the view is incredible. You can see Chimney Rock and the hike up along with a beautiful blue sky and autumn leaves if you, like us, visit on a clear October morning. Be advised, however, that admission into the park is not without cost. At a rate of $13 per adult and $6 per child, tickets to this unique experience can be purchased both online and at the park entrance gate. This seemingly steep admission cost caught us by surprise. As a result, we turned around and braved the treacherous drive once over to see what else Lake Lure had to offer.

            Suffering from car sickness from the windy drive along Highway 64, the Lake Lure Beach and Water Park was a welcome sight. This park was not only beautiful, but it was free.  A small information building sat just beyond the parking lot as the first stop in the park before venturing beyond to find basketball courts and grassy fields, each leading to Lake Lure. Sitting down a hill, the lake, which is the namesake for the town, can easily be confused for a river. Its narrow and winding path is home to docks and boats, and its shoreline is fairly undeveloped beyond a smattering of houses. The public access to the lake’s beach is free of charge and full of outdoor resources. We were not alone on our early Saturday morning visit: a pick-up game was taking place with children on the basketball court, locals were walking along the lake, and families were enjoying a picnic breakfast on the park picnic tables. That being said, just driving through, there was not much to do at the lake beyond enjoy the much need fresh air to settle sick stomachs. After an enjoyable walk, we once again piled into the car in search of our next destination.

            Lucky for us, the next destination was right across the street. Upon pulling out of the beach parking lot, we were shocked to see what appeared to be a village of tents, especially so early on Saturday morning when the rest of the town appeared to still be sleeping and store fronts were closed. We were eager to park and see what all the excitement was about. To our thrill, we had lined our trip up perfectly with the bi yearly Lake Lure Arts and Crafts Festival. The festival happens each year for two days during a weekend in October and for three days during Memorial Day weekend. For more information on the fair, read For Lovers of Crafts and Good Times by other student visitors that also experienced the Festival. As fans of soaps and candles, we were beyond impressed by the offerings of this festival.  With rows and rows of vendors as well as a few food trucks, the over 60 artisans presented their homemade creations under white tents.  Their work ranged from fairly expensive pottery to more unique homemade dolls and children’s toys.

We were first attracted to the candles at the Fresh Scent Soy Candles booth. The Spains, an outgoing and friendly husband and wife duo that run the business, educated us on their products, associated benefits, and the creation process. As we smelled all of their unique candle flavors, they were thrilled to share a detailed account of what differentiates their product from candles sourced from stores. Each soy candle is sold in a glass, mason-like jar and priced at $10. We were so impressed by the candles and their maker that we collectively purchased two. After walking around and fully immersing ourselves in all the festival had to offer, our final stop was Bully Bites. Attracted to their tent by their bulldog mascot, this homemade, all natural dog treat vendor was a great end to our visit. After chatting with the baker, we learned that although these dog treats rival their store-bought competitors, they are very different. They are fresh, meaning they either need to be refrigerated or frozen, and contain ingredients that contend with human food. Creating these treats is an effort to make dogs healthier; only wholesome ingredients are used and preservatives are omitted for a high-quality product. Excited by the healthy differences in these dog treats, we bought two unique $10 bags to bring back to our pups. As we paid with our credit cards, we were surprised by the connectivity of such a remote event. Although it took a second to load the Square app due to minimal internet service, it was fairly common to accept credit cards at the festival.

After a successful stop and multiple purchases, we headed back towards the car. Fulfilled by our time in Lake Lure, we were excited to get back on the road.

Burgess Produce

By Kate Flinn

Burgess Produce is one of the Foothills’ hidden gems, nestled right off the shoulder of historic Highway 64, just outside of scenic Lake Lure. Like us, if you aren’t looking for it, you are likely to zip right past this charming little produce stand. Winding along the highway, our interests were piqued by the small structure’s hand painted sign and the display of fruits and vegetables out front, so we pulled a U-turn and headed back to see what we had stumbled upon.

Pulling onto the road’s dirt shoulder, which doubled as the parking lot, we hopped out and approached the small wooden structure that houses Burgess produce. The building’s exterior was eclectically decorated with wind chimes, dream catchers and various tin and copper pots and kettles. Though none of the items seemed to go together, each somehow belonging, and creating a visual backdrop for the spread of produce before us.  Bins of onions, potatoes, cucumbers and tomatoes with the varied color and shape, guaranteeing authentic freshness, piled in and around the wide, doorless entrance.

Stepping inside the building, pots and pans of various styles line the ceiling, sometimes substituted with the occasional woven basket. The right corner of the room is filled with busheldsc_0605s of apples, each labeled in the same cursive handwriting. Above them lies an entire wall of cowboy hats in every color you imaginable. To the left appears about every type of butter and jam known to man, each in the same gold-lidded mason jar. The place gave me that same feeling I get in my grandmother’s attic, cluttered yet somehow everything seems to hold some sort of memory or value.

A young girl, no more than 8 or 9 years old, stood behind the counter, soon joined by an older woman coming in through a back entrance. She gave the young girl an affectionate pat on the head and offered me a “let me know if I can help.” I approached the counter in the hopes of learning a bit more about the stand. All it took on my end was a “so how long have you been here?” and the woman was happy to oblige.

“This is has been the family business for over 100 years,” the woman replied. Looking down at the young girl, she continued,“my daughter right here is the 4th generation since we started the shop.”

A slender elderly man strolls in through the same back entrance, garbed in a worn-out hat and camo puffer jacket, and does not hesitate to jump into the conversation. Pointing at my own Cubs hat, he begins to search his pockets, eventually revealing a laminated postage stamp. He passes it to me, the tiny face of a baseball player, and leads with an abrupt, “You know who that is right?” I didn’t. “That’s my great-grandfather Smoky Burgess,” the man said matter-of-factly. He explained that Smoky Burgess, was one of the few ball players to ever play for both the Chicago Cubs and the White Sox–a genuinely surprise for a dsc_0606Chicago local.

The man who had just schooled me in Chicago sports history was Donald Burgess, patriarch of the Burgess family and current owner of Burgess Produce. His great-great-grandfather had founded the stand, and the business had been passed from generation to generation ever since.

Donald proceeded to whip out his smartphone and scan through photos of each of his four children. Pride glinted in his eye, a quiver sneaking into his voice as he described the different cities each of them had moved and what job they were working now. Once Donald moved to help another customer, it appeared time to untangle from the branches of the Burgess family tree and return to the road. Not wanting to leave empty handed, I purchased a large jar of “Homemade Amish Peanut Butter,” which turned out to be the best peanut butter I’ve ever tasted.

Lake Lure and the Beginning of the Forest Fire

By Maggy McGloin – 2016

Moving from the Western part of the state, the drive to Lake Lure brings Highway 64 through a more natural, unchartered territory. After weaving around winding turns, dsc_0588across abandoned-looking towns, and several fruit stands, you will see the scen  e emerge from around the bend: the infamous Lake Lure, zig-zagging around rugged mountain ranges.

You can arrive to the lake through the entrance to Morse Park. The wide parking lot, just left of the lake, is speckled with few cars, so you can anticipate a quiet walk through the earthy landscape, uninterrupted by too many picnics or noisy frisbee-throwers. Get out of the car–leave your phone inside–and breathe in the crisp, autumn air. Take a walk throughdsc_0590 Lake Lure’s public garden, passing couples holding hands and babies in strollers–caught in the aura of simple contentedness. An aerial view of the lake exposes a quiet gazebo in the distance that looks out to one of the most beautiful views along Highway 64. The contrast between the mountains and lake may remind you of the changing North Carolina landscape along Highway 64, shifting between the coastal plains, foothills, and mountains.  

Begin a silent, meditative walk along the perimeter of tdsc_0596he lake. Rather than imagining yourself on the set of Dirty Dancing, a film inspired by this place, focus on the foliage around you, the memorial benches and species labeled along the path. It’s time to relax amongst the orange-browns and reds before you return back to work or school, the crisp air channeled through the leaves and your lungs, one of the same breath.   

After about thirty minutes, circle back from your meditation walk, headed back to the parking lot where you’d abandoned the car, technology, and the outside world. Returning to the road is sad, but you can be grateful for the time spent idsc_0602n nature. Perhaps take one last look back at the mountains, soon to return behind you. A pillow of smoke catches your eye, curling from the top of the mountain in a small patch. Must be a small forest fire, you think at the time; snap a few photos and go on your way. Weeks later, you may think back and realize that this small cloud of smoke could have grown to become one of the most destructive forest fires in North Carolina, spreading to Asheville and uncontainable until December 7, 2016.

A Bridge Made to Blossom

By Gina Apperson – 2014

There’s a certain beauty and mystery associated with bridges. When crossing them, we often don’t know what lies on the other side. As emblems of travel, bridges are quintessential parts of any journey, helping us reach our destination quicker and easier. But one bridge in the community of Lake Lure, North Carolina, encourages us to rest and realize that the joy is in the journey itself.

Crossing the Rocky Broad River that runs along Highway 64, the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge, a community pedestrian bridge, brings to life the history, community and natural beauty of the Hickory Nut Gorge in western North Carolina.

Flowering Bridge Lake Lure North Carolina

When the historic 1925 bridge closed to traffic in 2011, it was a childhood memory of Lake Lure resident, Bill Miller, that inspired the idea to transform the bridge into a community garden. After traveling to the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, Miller continued to envision the Massachusetts trolley bridge garden, giving him the motivation to create a similar project in the southeast. When volunteers gathered to move earth and prepare plants in April 2013, Miller’s dream, now a vision held by the community, began to bloom.

As we traveled the scenic route of Highway 64, between Chimney Rock State Park and the town of Lake Lure, I remembered my family vacation to Lake Lure in 2010: the time we visited Chimney Rock, hiked to waterfalls and explored the Rocky Broad River, jumping into the stream and eating ice cream outside the Harley Davidson shop. After we drove past the town of Chimney Rock Village, this time, my travel partners, Dustin and Miranda, and I pulled into the west side of the Flowering Bridge around noon. Rainbow petals greeted us and small chair  wrapped in flower branches displayed hand-painted signs that invited us to “come and sit a while” in the gardens. We meandered the 155-foot stone path across the bridge slowly, giving us the chance to uncover the beauty rooted in the bridge.

Flowering Bridge Lake Lure North Carolina

We started off in the Rock and Succulent Garden, one of the twelve themed stone-faced garden beds along the bridge. The orange flowers reflecting sunshine from the cloudless sky attracted a Monarch butterfly, which made Miranda and I run over to snap photos.. Strolling further, we found the Whimsical Garden, full of uncommon plants like Harry Lauder’s Walking Stick with its twisting branches that look like a corkscrew, growing to heights around eight to ten feet. Gnomes and oversized mushrooms keep the other plants and flowers in the garden company: the Flying Dragon plant, Polka Dot plant and the festive Candy Corn plant.

Flowering Bridge Lake Lure North Carolina

Miranda and I paused in the center of the bridge, leaning on the railing to look where the river meets Lake Lure, the man-made lake created in 1927 with 21 miles of forested shoreline. Turning around, we realized we could also enjoy views of the Chimney Rock monolith in the mountains of the Hickory Nut Gorge upstream. The vistas echoed the wild beauty found on the Flowering Bridge, affirming the bridge’s recent nickname, “The Gateway to Somewhere Beautiful.”

Flowering Bridge Lake Lure North Carolina

Continuing through the gardens, we arrived to the east end of the bridge where a 1920s period iron gate welcomes visitors with the words, “Lake Lure Flowering Bridge” etched into its arch. Next to the welcome gate grows one of the bridge’s natural treasures: “the rarest of the rare native trees.” The Franklin Tree, with its changing red leaves, was discovered by the famed botanist, John Bartman, and his son, William, in 1765 along the banks of Georgia’s Altamaha River and named after their friend, Benjamin Franklin. The plant disappeared from the wild completely in 1803, but through the efforts of the Bartmans, this member of the tea family survives today. All Franklin Trees planted today trace back to the seeds originally collected by the father and son, making this a truly native plant. Other plants on the Flowering Bridge recognize and honor the past. Two Flight 93 roses, gifts to the Flowering Bridge, grow on the west end of the bridge. These hybrid tea roses were planted to recognize the courage of the men and women on board United’s Flight 93 during September 11.

Flowering Bridge Lake Lure North Carolina

In addition to the roses and the Franklin Tree, other unique plants of the Flowering Bridge include the North Carolina Wildflowers of the Year. For 2014, the Garden Club of North Carolina, Inc. chose the purple-petaled Hoary Skullcap, a member of the mint family, as the Wildflower of the Year. The flowers’ aromatic leaves give the bridge a refreshing feel, and its long bloom period allows visitors to see its lavender sock-puppet-shaped petals for longer stretches of the year. The oasis of natural art comes together with the partnerships of nurseries, local artisans and construction companies through the nonprofit, Friends of the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge. While the birds, butterflies and plants all converse along the bridge, the community behind it all is an essential element. The Flowering Bridge captured the imagination of Lee Armstrong, who currently serves as a member of the nonprofit’s Board of Directors. Lee and her husband, Mike, embraced Bill Miller’s vision to create the garden from the start. As visitors from more than 40 states and 21 countries have experienced the bridge, Lee notes the light and energy in their eyes as they learn about different plants and dream up new ideas for their own gardens. The bridge also gives a sense of purpose for the residents in Lake Lure and Chimney Rock. Lee calls it the “garden connection,” as the bridge becomes “a beautiful catalyst for collaboration and creativity, for unity and innovation.” The Flowering Bridge connects to Lake Lure’s Town Hall and the Town Center Walkways, making it the perfect center for other business to take root. Since the opening of the bridge, Carolina Moon Coffee Café opened on the east end of the bridge and plans for new developments in the area have taken place. At the same time, the future is blossoming for the bridge itself, with plans to extend the gardens another 200 feet on the west side.

Flowering Bridge Lake Lure North Carolina

After spending a half hour in the gardens, Dustin, Miranda and I walked back to the car, parked next to Boys Camp Road on the west end of the bridge. Here we noticed the open space for the gardens’ extension, perfect for nature’s artistic touch. Miranda and I turned to get final photos of the bridge and Dustin did handstands in the grassy area by the car. Getting back on the road, we realized the importance of traveling slowly, even if it means stopping on the side of the road, just to experience the land around us. The Flowering Bridge, our first taste of Lake Lure’s mountain air this October, proved to be the place where we could reflect on our memories and relish in our journey.

Larkin’s on the Lake

larkins-on-the-lakebuilding

By Dustin Swope – 2014

You don’t have to look very hard to find reasons to visit the town of Lake Lure. The pristine beach, crystal-clear water, and mountainous view in the distance make this place an excellent destination, whether it’s just for the day or as a rewarding vacation. Whatever your reason for visiting, there’s one restaurant that I don’t think anyone in the neighborhood should pass up: Larkin’s on the Lake.

Tucked away in one of the lakes many inlets overlooking its own private docks, Larkin’s is any easy spot for boaters to break for a casual lunch or tie the day off with a fresh meal. The same can be said for drivers along Highway 64, too. The restaurant’s parking lot is a quick turn off the road and hidden from approaching views by a strong tree line, so you might need to double back if you don’t already know where you’re headed. If you do manage to get turned around and into the parking lot, you’ll find your last-minute maneuver happily rewarded.

The restaurant is a two-story log cabin-style lake house by design, an apt aesthetic complement to the woods surrounding. The outside seating for co-occupant Bayside Bar and Grill on the first story continues the unpolished theme, but the restaurant of the second story is a class act. Not so much so that one feels underdressed in a t-shirt, but the interior decor at Larkins is by no means that of a roadside truck stop. The logged walls and carpeted floor do wonders to keep the noise level down, even in a full house of around thirty other diners. Not one component of the hardware at Larkin’s spoke of corners cut, from the table setting, to the furniture, and even the vintage decor lining the walls. And good luck maintaining any bad mood with a view like Larkin’s;I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.

The wait staff was also quite impressive during my visit to Larkin’s. Friendly but not intrusive, knowledgeable, happy to accommodate requests and dietary restrictions, and fast; what more could I ask for? Plenty of specialty drinks keep things interesting, like ice cream floats and margaritas that can make any hour of the day feel like five o’clock.

Essentially American offerings like babyback ribs, burgers, and a collection of grilled dishes take center stage, but I came here for the seafood. As a native Floridian, I may be out of my element when it comes to barbecue but I know my way around a fish filet and Larkin’s seafood combo platter (pictured below) was calling my name.

 

LarkinsontheLakeFood

 

It might’ve had something to do with a 6:30am alarm or the hours of driving I’d clocked, but I found the portion size wanting, especially under a $24 price tag. To Larkin’s credit though, this meal was great! The shrimp weren’t otherworldly but they were large enough to carry flavor and texture, and the minimalist mashed potatoes were well-executed and a solid supporting act. The flounder was the real triumph though. Tender but composed, it separated cleanly for each bite. The seasoning was present and appreciated, and while far from tasting like low tide at the pier, the filet still retained the light flavor that assures diners that they’re actually eating seafood.

In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t liked each element of the dish so much – it would’ve made the portion sizes much easier to get over.

For Lovers of Crafts and Good Times

By Taylor Hill, 2013

It would seem that the town of Lake Lure has its fair share of attractions; of course with the expansive lake itself, which visitors get a mesmerizing view of while traveling Highway 64, the Blue Ridge Mountain range, its regal stature impossible to oversee, or the Town Beach, a man-made body of water that sits at the forefront of the large mountains, littered with floating inflatable platforms and plastic sliding tubes that lead into the depths of the water. These, being the most noted, are understandable reasons why Lake Lure is a recognizable western North Carolina tourist location, however, the town gives you yet another motive for visiting, specifically during the rustic fall months.

Lake Lure’s Arts and Crafts Festival – a title that holds no secrets- is a celebration of everything creative and locally made. From hand-crafted furniture, to intricately pieced jewelry, the Festival has no shortages in merchandise, and the sellers are not shy about informing visitors on the techniques and strategies implemented to produce such fine crafts. A product of the Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach–a charity organization that caters to the needs of residents within the Hickory Nut Gorge vicinity– the Arts and Crafts Festival is an annual event that hosts any artisan (after they have gone through the proper application process) who would like to showcase and/or profit from their talents . In 2013, the festival spanned the weekend of October 19th-20th, lasting from 10am-5pm each respective day, and was stationed, as it is every year, in the lot of the Arcade Commerce Center with a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.

With over 60 artisans present, however, it is hard for visitors to even take notice of the majestic mountains along the horizon, between maneuvering through curious and awestruck attendees and meeting the likes of guests who come from all over. The vendors, usually amongst the older crowd, have separate tents for the purpose of housing their setups and are welcoming to any buyers or people who are just intrigued by their artistries. Regardless, there are trades to appease everyone in attendance, some being more abundant than others.

Among these are the artists who bring self-made paintings and drawings to the festival. These range from pastel watercolors, with unbelievably vibrant hues and elaborate detail to penciled and chalk abstract sketchings of intangible figures. The subject of the pieces varies from vendor to vendor, some taking a keen fondness for recreating natural environments in the artwork including animals, bodies of water, landmarks etc., while others had a knack for portraits of others and household objects like coffee mugs, tea kettles and furniture. Along those lines, there are always artisans present who represent the craftsman’s league and display hand-made chairs, ottomans, and benches, all of which exude a brilliant shine from being polished thoroughly. Materials for these pieces cover mahogany, oak, pine, birch walnut and maple and often contain personalized inscriptions from their creators. Another large numbered group of crafts, which is always in attendance, come from proclaimed jewelers whose pieces showcase the mastery of complex beading patterns, glass welding and delicate carving.

As if this bevy of designs was not enough to satiate visitors, vendors supply a variety of food and guests are more than welcome to eat in the picnic area adjacent to the creek. To accommodate festival goers further, entertainment is provided through song and dance from performers who emphasize the Bluegrass ambiance of the area, wielding guitars, fiddles, harmonicas and banjos.

Festival coordinators Yvonne and Kevin Cooley take explicit time and effort in constructing a lineup that accentuates the diversity of craftsmanship and variety of expertise alive in North Carolinians, which is why the Lake Lure Arts and Crafts Festival is always a success. It is a flawless exhibition of the cultural elements that comprise of the interesting and never dull foothills region.

Visit the Arts and Crafts Festival’s site!

The Winding Road to Lake Lure

By Taylor Hill, 2013

I have always found October to be a beautiful month, as the rustic and subtle transformations of the leaves begin to take place. Vibrant oranges, dull yellows and shocking red hues line the trees and the medley of colors presents the last glimpse of life before the dull and brittle cold of winter. Our fall trip through the foothills of North Carolina offered me an even deeper respect for the month of October, specifically our journey to Lake Lure on the winding road of Highway 64.

The morning of October 19th, 2013 saw me and my travel group in a hotel room in Statesville, NC. Having just been immersed in the captivating festivities of the Statesville Balloon Festival the night before, we felt that staying the night in Statesville would be an opportune moment to regain our energy for the drive into Lake Lure the next day. Waking up to a rather glum and rainy morning, we checked out of our hotel, heading toward Lake Lure, but not before stopping off into Taylorsville to revisit a thrift shop that stole the heart of one of my fellow travelers Immanuel- he was particularly taken by the assortment of Nintendo 64 related products sold there- as well as spending some time in Lenoir to revisit our good friend Jeff, whom we met at his quaint farmer’s market a previous weekend.

The hour and something drive from Lenoir to Lake Lure was one that presented me with visuals that looked like they could have been painted by an artist. The dreary day produced low hanging clouds that shielded some of the mountains in the distance, with only the peaks jutting out from the very top wisps. The fall colors were enhanced by the grey overtone of the sky as the building pitter-patter of rain dressed the windows of the car. I was in the backseat and was overcome with lethargy as riding in cars during the rain always has that effect on me. I drifted in and out of sleep, catching glimpses of the beautiful autumn scenery that surrounded us with each brief opening of my eyes. During my longer spans of alertness, I was able to get a feel of the homes in the area, which consisted of expansive fields peppered with various grazing animals and noticeable spacing in between each home. Every now and again I would see the owners of the homes in their yards, playing with their dogs, doing lawn chores despite the weather, or sitting on porches in rocking chairs, covered from the gentle and relentless rain.

As I continued to notice the surroundings, I also realized that the scenery was changing, as we neared our destination. The road began to wind like a serpent as we began to navigate between high slopes of land and trees. Another five minutes of this persisted before we turned a bend and were met with a breathtaking view of Lake Lure, with a regal mountain in the distance, the top half of which was covered by clouds. The trees provided green, red, yellow and orange tints that lined the mountain and lake; it was reminiscent of a well-crafted portrait.

We briefly stopped our car in front of the lake to get some photos, me posing in front of the “Welcome to Lake Lure” sign cheesing especially hard. We noticed a restaurant located on the water that we wanted to explore for a potential snack, but decided not to as their menu didn’t satisfy our needs. One of my travel partners, Anna, and I did take a restroom break inside, noticing the creative décor, which consisted of $1 bills plastered over the walls, ceilings and doors, each one with a short message or drawing from the customer who left it. As we left the restaurant, and continued to drive into the town a bit more, we came across Lake Lure’s bi-annual art festival. We patted ourselves on the back for our sheer luck to travel during such a busy weekend for the towns on our list, and delved into the atmosphere that was the art festival.

Most of the sellers present were locals who hand made every item they had up for sale. There were craftsmen selling beautifully detailed chairs and ottomans made from mahogany and oak, painters with life-like creations made with watercolors, as well as talented women selling stunning hand-made jewelry and glassware with iridescent webs of color. Anna and I took particular notice to a woman who made soaps, lotions and oils for both humans and dogs, allowing us to test her goat milk moisturizer, which I fell in love with. I was fond of the closeness of all of the participants, how many of them knew each other by name and would stop by the other’s tents to catch up. I am from Atlanta, and the larger city does not really allow for such a closeness of residents so I was fortunate to experience the closeness of a small town gathering.

After spending our time at the art festival, we wanted to check into our motel, which was located right next to Chimney Rock Mountain in front of a small river that we had a nice view of from our window. The room was very cabin-like, with wooden walls and beds lined with tacky floral sheets. The bathroom was a little larger than out Statesville hotel, but had an uncharacteristically short showerhead, which we all struggled with. We discovered that we could walk behind the motel, closer to the river that flowed through the back, where we snapped some photos as a light rain began to fall again. I was moved by the distinct closeness to nature and how

Walking through the town, we saw all of the souvenir shops that were squeezed tightly next to each other, most of which garnished with suffocating Halloween decorations. My travel partner Jeff had noticed a bakery called Laura’s House that he wanted to test out, so Immanuel and I followed along with him. We were met with the owner who had an amazing story. He was an ex-karate instructor who retired and was living out of his car for three years before setting up shop in the bakery. One of his workers really caught our attention, an energetic and gregarious man named Austin who was adamant that we all try the sour cream cake with apples on it. Jeff ended up ordering it and we all tried some, and after trying it, I would also urge visitors to order the apples as well.

We ended up returning to Laura’s House in the morning for breakfast and we dined on the second floor of the bakery, with a stunning view of Chimney Rock Mountain through a large window. Unlike the day before, the morning showed favor on us, the sun was bright and was highlighting the yellow, red and orange leaves on the bevy of trees surrounding the mountain.

Lake Lure Smokehouse Review

By Chelsea Vollrath

Driving through Lake Lure on Highway 64, you will pass the Lake Lure Smokehouse, located across the street from the beach at Lake Lure and beside the Lake Lure Inn & Spa. The inside of the restaurant is cozily adorned with wooden accents and furniture, but with the beautiful scenery of the lake and mountains surrounding the restaurant, you’d be hard pressed to turn down eating outside and having that scenery be the backdrop of your dining experience. The outside dining area maintains a similar homey feel; diners are served their meals in baskets with checkered-paper on wooden picnic tables.

The menu has most items one would expect to be served at a barbecue restaurant: different cuts of pork, barbecue chicken, the option to eat both on a sandwich, and the typical sides, including hush puppies, regular and sweet potato fries, beans, slaw, and potato salad. There are a few items labeled as being “Signature Smokehouse” items, including the Signature Smokehouse BBQ wrap, that are more unique to the restaurant. Served with a side of your choice, the crispy wrap contained the Smokehouse’s tender pork and a variety of sautéed vegetables. I chose the “Ranch beans” to accompany it. At first I didn’t want to order the ranch beans because I assumed they had ranch dressing in them, which I don’t like, but after the waitress described them to me, I changed my mind. The side dish is a mixture of pinto beans, peppers, onions, garlic, and some unknown spices that gave it a little kick. They were more interesting than most beans you’d get with barbecue, and interesting in a good way.

The wrap wasn’t what I expected. The outside covering tasted must have been fried, as it tasted like the casing of an egg roll. It wasn’t what I expected or would have wanted, so I wasn’t too happy with my selection, but the ranch beans I ordered were great, so with those and the amazing atmosphere, I was still satisfied overall.

Paige ordered a smoked chicken sandwich and sweet potato fries. The chicken sandwich was pretty average, though the bun was particularly fresh and made the sandwich more noteworthy than it would have been otherwise. The sweet potato fries were good, but also nothing spectacular. Paige had the same opinion as I did though: the scenery and experience of eating at the smokehouse made it a worthwhile stop.