[Editor’s Note: This is continues a series of guest essays by people living in Alexander County, telling in their own words why they love to live, work, and play in Alexander. We hope to bring these to readers on a monthly basis. Essays are reviewed by a committee from the Promote Alexander County group: Gary Herman, Laura Crooks, and Micah Henry.]
“It’s The Natural Beauty”
By BUD CAYWOOD
While Alexander County is a rural oasis in its own right, it is skirted by natural beauty between its interior and neighboring counties, creating an interesting reality for those craving a short adventure in any direction. Just ask the locals, or in many cases, the transplants. Mountain beauty, laid back atmosphere, and rural charm appeal to both visitors and good people of Alexander County. Each of the many unique places has its own distinct opportunity for fun, adventure and discovery.
To describe why I like living in Alexander County, I would much rather take you for a ride to the Brushy Mountains and share with you a slice of apple from one of our orchards to show firsthand why our apples taste the best. Then we would take on a short trip to historic Linney’s Mill where we might imagine stepping back in time, hoping that the buckwheat pancake mix has not sold out. From there, we would drive south and cross the South Yadkin River before turning toward Rocky Face Mountain. Then I would tell you that I love the fact that the mighty Yadkin River has part of its origin in our county.
For a closer encounter with our county’s wild beauty, I would suggest that we lace up our hiking shoes and take a trek up Rocky Face Mountain, or if we feel, try climbing up the “Stairway to Heaven,” a rock face ascent at its maximum climbable incline. I would promise you that an afternoon on the mountain would probably offer up something unexpected, something special. I would point out to you Mt. Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain. And on a clear day, I would show you how to locate the barely visible tip of the summits of Table Rock and Hawksbill mountains three counties away, as well as the Charlotte skyline and Kings Mountain. An afternoon might even include a bald eagle sighting and I would show you the exact spot where I stood when I once spotted one. Regardless of the temperature, the black vultures would assure us that heat continuously rises from the granite dome as they spiral effortlessly upward.
To know what truly holds me here I would ask if you might consider grabbing a paddle and tell you that with near perfect conditions all year long, Lake Hickory is one of the best paddling and boating destinations in our region. One has not really experienced Alexander County until you get out on the water. I would let you know that my favorite time to paddle is early Sunday morning and during first snowfall because there are very few boats then and I have never seen another boat when paddling in the snow. For me, our county’s natural beauty gets to my soul. Slipping my kayak into the water or hiking a trail, I can explore the world from a new, less complicated and less hectic perspective. For all of nature seen and heard, how much goes unimagined? For every turn intended, how many have we taken wrong, overlooked, ignored amid everyday distractions? In these moments, I see my county as it truly is. A morning not worth losing flows by with the river and it’s not often one hears snow settling on water, but it happens there…softly and quietly…and am I am reminded that morning never seems so fresh and alive as in wet weather. Excitement overwhelms me as soon as I hear that first flock of migrating geese landing in the cove, or the eerie haunting sound of that single lonely loon that returns every March. And I am reminded that our natural beauty reserves some of her choice gifts for days and mornings when my mood may be somber.
On the map, Alexander County is defined and somewhat square, though driving through you would hardly notice this boundary line or that highway; this bridge or that bridge tend to be nothing more than passage ways into other counties. Alexander County is much more than that.
Beyond a few strands of rusted wire an old barn groans, a farmer walks toward it, and a story walks with him. In the coolness of morning, an old horse stands to the edge of the pasture, stretching its neck over the wire fence, as if it could see through the mist or just might want to be included in the farmer’s story. To the left, a cornfield rises into the distance, dips, and rises again toward a blue sky. A small pile of rocks is purposely stacked in the center. In front, a whole mountain blossoms orange in autumn. In between a creek cascades over smooth stones then flows into a woods. What grows here and lives here is possessed with a beauty all its own, sometimes expected, but often unexpected. Of those that travel through on the local roads, few pay that cornfield any mind, even those with an eye for what blossoms may not notice. I have passed that way many times, and I look for that horse, and I can tell you I know where that creek flows and where that cornfield goes and how the maple trees glow in autumn. And I smile when I wonder what that rock pile implies.
Bud Caywood is a freelance furniture designer, artist, and writer. He and his wife, Judy, live in the Bethlehem Community on Lake Hickory. They have been residents of Alexander County for more than sixteen years. Both are very active and involved in helping make Alexander County a better place to live, work and play.