Fresh, hot cider. Crisp air. Spectacular colors as far as the eye can see. Fall is the best time of year to visit Fraser’s Ridge country in the North Carolina mountains.
When you explore the North Carolina high country, the Blue Ridge Parkway is an absolute must. So, I propose an outing of which botany-loving Claire Fraser would certainly approve.
Make your way to the Cascades Trail at E.B. Jeffress Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Deep Gap and a short distance from Boone and Blowing Rock. This nature trail, which is located at mile post 271.9 and marked with signage, starts by the parking lot (where restrooms are available).
As you begin, you will soon spot signs along the trail that identify various plants and provide information about their uses and blooms. Rhododendrons line the trail, and you’ll also find mountain laurel. Other plants here might have been of more use to the Frasers. There is serviceberry, which produces an edible fruit in summer, and witch hazel. Native Americans and others used witch hazel for medicinal purposes to make salves. Witch hazel is still commonly used today. Can’t you just picture Claire walking along this path and collecting things for her kitchen and surgery?
This is an easy to moderate trail that forms a loop of less than a mile. It’s a great fit for families with children. Be aware that there is a set of stone steps, but otherwise, there are no steep or strenuous inclines. The trail crosses Falls Creek, where you can play or just dip your toes into the cool water.
When you complete the loop, have a picnic! Near the parking lot, there are several picnic tables, including a few at an overlook with a spectacular view of the mountains. But I actually recommend an alternative picnic spot just a hop, skip and a jump down the road.
Spread a blanket on the earth floor of the Jesse Brown Cabin and imagine yourself in the cabin that Jamie built when they first arrived on the Ridge. The Jesse Brown Cabin is a two-story home that was built sometime before 1840 and later relocated to this site in the early 1900s.
It’s in a field alongside the road where you can also find the Cool Springs Baptist Church. If you walk a short distance into the woods, you’ll discover a spring house, a small structure that was built over a spring to create a cool room that would essentially serve as an early refrigerator.
The cabin is located at mile post 272. From the Cascades Trail parking lot, you can either take a short walk to the cabin (the path leading there is located on the opposite side of the parking lot from the starting point of the Cascades Trail) or drive there by taking a left out of the parking lot. There’s a small pull-off that can fit about two cars at the cabin.
As you’re packing your picnic, be sure to check out Outlander-inspired recipes from Outlander Kitchen’s Theresa Carle-Sanders. Now, take a seat by the cabin fireplace with a book and enjoy!