Find great riches in nature, art in N.C. mountains

One of many quilt boxes to be seen on the “Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina” tour.
One of many quilt boxes to be seen on the “Quilt Trails of Western North Carolina” tour. Yancey County/Burnsville Chamber of Commerce

In Burnsville, N.C., both the only town and county seat of Yancey County, you won’t find a lot of the things that often come to wealthier places – high-rise buildings, avenues of McMansions, also gridlock traffic and the noise of honking horns.

What you will find in this small, mountain town and its surrounding area are great riches in nature and art.

Indeed, Yancey County is the most mountainous county in North Carolina, having within its boundaries five of the highest peaks in eastern America, including Mount Mitchell, which, at 6,684 feet, is the highest point east of the Mississippi. Amid these peaks lie not only diverse forests, nationally protected land and a host of small communities, but a population that is thick with artists.

You cannot roam far without encountering an artist, public work of art, mural, artist studio or gallery. Scattered around the county, you will see the work of woodworkers, glassblowers, potters, metalsmiths, weavers, quilters, basketmakers, painters, sculptors, papermakers, photographers and more. Everywhere you look there is nature inspiring art.

Visitors will delight in the local galleries such as the downtown Burnsville Toe River Arts Council (TRAC) Gallery. Stop in at One of a Kind Art Gallery in nearby Micaville, N.C. Call ahead to visit artists in their studios/galleries. Many of them, including Potter, Claudia Dunaway and mixed-media artist John Richards at Yummy Mud Puddle, as well as glassblower Rob Levin welcome visitors to enjoy a behind-the-scenes look and see their work.

Plan ahead to take part in the Toe River Studio Tour held twice annually in June and December. Save a lazy afternoon to drive through the Mount Mitchell Scenic Byway Quilt Trail.

Art takes the stage at the Parkway Playhouse where the 2015 season is in full swing. Coming up are performances of All Shook Up, Red, and The Glass Menagerie. Many artistic events and festivals take place in Burnsville’s town square.

Cooler summertime temperatures prevail and make Yancey County the perfect place for hiking, camping, mountain biking, gem hunting, and, of course, cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway which defines the county’s southeastern border.

Night-sky enthusiasts will want to make their way to theMayland Community College Blue Ridge Star Park, the first star park in the southeastern United States certified by the International Dark-Sky Association. Construction is under way for an observatory building which will house the largest telescope in the Southeast in dark skies dedicated for public use. Completion is expected this winter.

Burnsville’s bed and breakfast inns offer all the comforts of home. Remarkable among them is the Terrell House Inn where six individually decorated rooms and a scrumptious breakfast awaits – the homemade cinnamon bread makes every morning special. There is a history lesson in every room of the NuWray Inn, North Carolina’s oldest operating inn. The rockers on the long front porch overlook the town square and, on weekends, family style southern meals are offered to guests and the public.

Upcoming events

▪ Mountain Piecemakers Quilt Guild Quilt Show, 6 South Main Street, Burnsville, N.C., 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Thursday-Aug. 8: Come see the amazing and beautiful quilts created by The Mountain Piecemakers Quilt Guild on display. Tickets will be available for a chance to win this year’s raffle quilt. For more information: 828-682-7209.

▪ Mount Mitchell Crafts Fair, Burnsville Town Square, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Aug. 7-8: With approximately 200 juried crafts, this annual event qualifies as a craft shopper’s paradise, as evidenced by the more than 25,000 people who attend each year searching for those special, one-of-a-kind items created by artisans from across the Blue Ridge. Have a seat and watch as the artisans produce their craft throughout the day while listening to live music. Free. For more information: 828-682-7413.

▪ Emerald Village RockFest, Emerald Village, 331 Mckinney Mine Road, Spruce Pine, 9 a.m.-10 p.m., Sept. 5: Free live music, guided hikes to mines and kids’ treasure hunts. Emerald Village offers nighttime, underground mine tours that unlock vibrant hidden colors available only under ultraviolet light, commonly called black light. The brilliant coatings in the Bon Ami Mine are largely deposits of Hyalite Opal, a true form of opal found in this area. Under shortwave ultraviolet light, these coatings fluoresce or glow a vivid lime green. The effect, underground at night, is stunning. Cost: $15 adults, $10 students for tour. For more information: 828-765-6463.

▪ 10th annual Carolina Mountains Literary Festival, Burnsville Town Center, 6 S. Main St., Burnsville, 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Sept. 10-12: OUR EARTH … OUR TIME … OUR SPACE: Celebrate the stories of our shared earth. Reflect on our pasts and wonder about the possibilities for our futures. Dual keynote speakers are Barbara Kingsolver and Ann Patchett. Most events are at no charge. For more information: 828-208-4731.

▪ Old Timey Fall Festival, Burnsville Town Square, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Sept. 26: A full day of old timey family fun. Antique tractor and car parade, live music, kids’ games, arts and crafts, farmers’ market, food and great community atmosphere. Free. For more information: 828-678-9587.

▪ 30th annual Music in the Mountains Folk Festival, Burnsville Town Center, 6 S. Main St., Burnsville, 5:30 p.m., Sept. 26: The festival is dedicated to the preservation of mountain music and culture, and includes bluegrass and traditional music, ballad singers, storytellers and dancing. For more information: Toe River Arts Council, 828-682-7215.