Monday, October 7, 2019

History of the Linn Cove Viaduct by the National Park Service

One of the most beautiful drives through the Fall colors is on the Linn Cove Viaduct. Circling around Grandfather Mountain, it is worth the drive to enjoy the views!

The below is courtesy of the National Park Service and covers the history of the viaduct. 
Viaducts are elevated roadway sections carrying the road high above dry ravines or across the shoulders of mountains where extensive and aesthetically unpleasing fill sections would otherwise be required. The earliest of these is the Rocky Mountain Viaduct, constructed in 1937, on the northern section of the parkway at milepost 35. This steel girder structure is supported by arched stone piers and stone-faced abutments, and is the only viaduct to feature this treatment. Most other parkway viaducts are steel girder structures supported by reinforced concrete or steel piers.

Text excerpted from "Highways in Harmony" publication produced by Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), in cooperation with the National Park Foundation
Linn Cove Viaduct immersed in fall colors
The Linn Cove Viaduct is 1,243 feet long and is made up of 153 segments weighing 50 tons each.
Kristina Plaas photo
As the last piece of the Parkway to be completed, the Linn Cove Viaduct was a peak of Parkway engineering and environmental protection. Completed in 1983 at a cost of almost $10 million, the Linn Cove Viaduct is 1,243 feet long and contains 153 segments weighing 50 tons each. The American Society of Civil Engineers designated it a National Civil Engineering Landmark (Highways in Harmony). Visit the Linn Cove Viaduct (Milepost 304) to experience this engineering feat in person.

Establishing the Route

The exact route location of this segment, commonly referred to as the "missing link,” created a lengthy and heated controversy between private individuals and the National Park Service. Finally, North Carolina Governor Dan K. Moore negotiated a compromise location. A key factor in this controversy was environmental concern over Grandfather Mountain. Engineers were faced with a serious question: How do you build a road at an elevation of 4,100 feet without damaging one of the world's oldest mountains?

National Park Service landscape architects and Federal Highway Administration engineers agreed the road should be elevated, or bridged, where possible to eliminate massive cuts and fills. Figg and Muller Engineers, Inc. developed the bridge design and construction method. The result: the most complicated concrete bridge ever built, snaking around boulder-strewn Linn Cove in a sweeping "S" curve.
Black and white photo of Linn Cove Viaduct construction in 1979
Computer control kept Linn Cove Viaduct construction measurements accurate to 0.0001 feet.

Constructing with Care

In order to prevent environmental damage and to allow construction to continue during severe winter weather, builders pre-cast sections indoors a few miles from the site using a process known as "match casting." Each new segment was cast against the segment preceding it.

The viaduct itself was the only access road for construction. Each pre-cast section was lowered by a stiff-leg crane and epoxied into position against the preceding segment. Steel cables threaded through the segments secured the entire bridge deck.

The viaduct was constructed from the top down to minimize disturbance to the natural environment. This method eliminated the need for a "pioneer road" and heavy equipment on the ground. The only construction that occurred at ground level was the drilling of foundations for the seven permanent piers, on which the Viaduct rests. Exposed rock was covered to prevent staining from concrete, epoxy, or grout. Tinted with iron oxide, the concrete blends in with the existing rock outcroppings. The only trees cut were those directly beneath the superstructure.

Black and white historic photo of Linn Cove Viaduct construction
Out of 153 total segments, only one - the southernmost - is straight. The rest create a sweeping “S” curve around Grandfather Mountain.

Timeline of Completion

Although the Blue Ridge Parkway’s construction began in 1935, construction of the Linn Cove Viaduct was delayed until 1979, when Congress finally approved funding. In the meantime, other portions of the "missing link," most of them north of the Viaduct, were completed bit-by-bit between 1968 and 1987. In addition to 12 bridges, the 7.5 mile section includes a dozen parking overlooks and the 13.5 mile Tanawha Trail, stretching from Beacon Heights to Julian Price Park.

A ribbon-cutting dedication ceremony on September 11, 1987, heralded the completion of the Parkway and the end, too, of a narrow and crooked 14-mile detour around Grandfather Mountain via the Tonahlossee Trail (U.S. 221). The final section is not only a triumph of engineering and sensitivity to the environment; it is a joy to drive, safe but thrilling. Hugging the contours and Grandfather Mountain, the road gently curves and rolls, presenting motorists with magnificent views as it sweeps toward the sky.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

River House Inn & Restaurant

Located just 2 miles from Healing Springs is the River House Inn and Restaurant. Offering elegant, fine dining Wednesday through Sunday, River House is a culinary experience. 

The menu is small, as is the kitchen, and it changes daily to represent the freshest seasonally available products. River House offers a full service bar with a wide range of wines and beers, along with traditional and artisanal beverages. 

Dinner is served Wednesday through Sunday. Sundays typically offer live entertainment - known as the "Sunday Salon" starting at 4:00 pm, hors oeuvres and a 4-course Chef's choice dinner at 6:00 pm. Dinners are $45 per person excluding alcohol, tax and gratuity. Reservations are required. 

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

It's Fall Y'All!!

Fall is one of my favorite times of the year :) From stoking up a campfire to enjoy the crackling flames to relaxing and enjoying the spectacular colors of our surrounding mountains, there is something for everyone with Fall in the High Country. 

Colors start to change at the higher elevations first, so plan your leaf viewing accordingly! Late September to the beginning of October will see color changes in elevations that are 5,000 feet above sea level and higher. 

Grandfather Mountain with its' Mile High Swinging Bridge, located in Linville has breathtaking views, some great hiking, and a wonderful nature museum. 

The Blue Ridge Parkway is always a great choice for breathtaking vistas and a scenic drive through the Fall colors. It offers a variety of hiking trails and picnic spots. 

Linville Falls located at milepost 316.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway is the perfect area for hiking, enjoying the scenic views and hiking to the stunning falls. The Falls have two different hiking trails. An easy trail leading to the upper Falls area and a more difficult trail leading to the larger lower Falls area. 

Kick off Fall in style with the Ashe County Museum of History - Autumn Leaf Festival - on Saturday, September 28th at the Museum. There will be historic demonstrations, children's activities, food, music, dancing and more! The Festival is free and open to everyone from 10 am to 2 pm. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

West Jefferson Antiques Fair this weekend!

For us the West Jefferson Antiques Fair marks the beginning of fall. This charming festival takes over downtown West Jefferson as it runs down the center of main street and into the surrounding side streets. 

With a wide variety of offerings this is an outdoor antiques fair featuring numerous vendors of antiques (old and modern), collectibles, primitives and rare hard to find relics. There is also live music and several food vendors.  

The festival is Friday the 20th from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday the 21st from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Stroll through downtown West Jefferson and enjoy!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Whats happening this weekend near West Jefferson!

After another week of wonderful weather, we have some fun and interesting activities coming up over the weekend. 
Did you know that the Mountains to Sea Trail stretches almost 1200 miles across North Carolina? The trail system is celebrating its 42 birthday over the weekend and will be offering hikes guided by NC State Park Ranger at Jeffress Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway on Saturday, September 7th at 10 am. 

Our guests really enjoy shopping in West Jefferson and exploring the variety of shops, art galleries, restaurants and breweries.  The West Jefferson Business Association is sponsoring the annual Scarecrow Contest. Scarecrows will be up by September 20th and stay up through November. Stroll around and pick your favorite!

In mentioning West Jefferson, we would be remiss if we didn't mention a new restaurant downtown - stop by Craft Bistro led by Chef Jared Yelton and and savor some of their wonderful menu items.  Their scrumptious menu is here

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Whats on your Fall bucket list?

Fall is on it's way! The air is a bit cooler and the leaves are starting to change. I love this time of the year, just the promise of the glorious fall colors that are on their way and the fresh mountain air. 

What is on your wish list for Fall?? 

Apple pie is one of my favorite desserts, along with a cup of fresh hot apple cider, or even better - some locally grown / locally made "hard" cider!. Stop by Molly Chompers Cidery and taste some of their wonderful hard ciders. Available by the glass or by the bottler, taste some today! This time of the year, they are open Wednesday & Thursdays from 2 pm to 8 pm and Friday through Sunday from 1 pm to 9 pm. 

Take a relaxing drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway - the Fall colors should be at their peak in October, but the leaves change first on the highest peaks and conclude at the lower elevations. The Parkway varies in elevation from just under 650 at James River in Virginia to over 6,000 feet south of Mt. Pisgah in North Carolina. 

The Parkway offers spectacular mountain views, rolling pastures and some wonderful trails. Try the Jumping Off Rock Trail (milepost 260.3), Thompkins Knob Trail (milepost 272.5) and the Lump Trail (milepost 264.4).  Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trail info can be found here


Another of our favorite things to do this time of the year, is to just relax around a crackling  fire! Here at the Cabins at Healing Springs, we offer several cabins with fireplace and we also have outdoor fire pits, stocked with wood for your use, with comfy Adirondack chairs. Grab a beverage of your choice and the marshmallows and toast some s'mores! We look forward to seeing you!

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Ashe County Studio Tour, Soap Making Demonstrations and Open House!

We are very much looking forward to being on the Ashe County Studio Tour August 3rd and 4th! 

Join us on Saturday between 10 am and 6 pm or on Sunday between Noon and 5 pm. 

We will be offering soap making demonstrations, come to visit Healing Springs and learn about the history behind our property, get free water from the Healing Spring, stroll around our property, or just sit a bit and enjoy the sounds of nature. 


I started making soap back in 2014 as a way to utilize the water from Healing Springs. My soap making has evolved a bit over the years and I am very proud of the wonderful vegan soaps that I now make. These are an olive oil based soap, full of skin loving ingredients. Unlike your typical grocery store soap, my soaps are made with only natural ingredients. There are no fillers or chemicals in my soaps, just pure skin loving oils, Healing Springs water and lye. Some of my soaps have fragrances and colors added for fun, but we also make a pure Bastille soap which has no colors or fragrances added. Try some of our Healing Springs soaps today!

I will be demonstrating how to make soap on both Saturday and Sunday, stop by, ask questions, hang out for a bit, we might even have fresh baked cookies to share!

We are always happy to answer questions about soaps, soap making, the Healing Spring waters, etc. 

We look forward to seeing you this weekend! 

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Murals in West Jefferson

If you have been to West Jefferson, you will have seen the variety of murals decorating the sides of the buildings downtown. The mural project began in 1996 and was part of an Arts in Education Residency Grant funded by the North Carolina Arts Council. Additional funding was provided by Handmade in America with the West Jefferson Community Partnership and the Ashe County Arts Council. 

Today the thriving downtown area is dotted with a number of unique works of public art that showcases the history, culture and beauty of our High Country mountain region. 

One of my favorite is the "Angel Wall" next to the Hotel Tavern on the BackStreet. Painted by Raney Rogers. Visitors and locals both enjoy photographing themselves in front of the wall. 

Located on the side of the Ashe County Chamber of Commerce is a mural titled "New River Traditions" and painted by Marianne DiNapoli Mylet in October of 1998.  Also painted by the same artist is the mural titled "Unity in Diversity" 

This mural located on the side of Boondocks Brew Haus and was done in the summer of 2006 with students from Ashe Middle School. They wanted to create a mural that reflects the landscape of Ashe County, the music and people who live and work here. The mural was painted on fabric panels that were adhered to the wall with a special adhesive. 

Painted by Robert Johnson and located on S. Jefferson Avenue is "Spring Wildflowers on Mount Jefferson" 

"Cut at the Devils Stairs" painted by Stephen Shoemaker is located on the Dollar Building at E. 2nd Street. This mural is reminiscent of the time that the railroad was a vital part of Ashe County. 

In 2004 with collaboration from Ashe County High School and artists Earle Klutz Thompson and Raines Thompson painted "Wings and Things" on the wall of the Ashe County Cheese Plant with help from over 125 students and community volunteers. 

Local Ashe County artist Whitney Landwehrmann has recently added the "Tree of Appalachia" to the side of the Third Day Market and her new mural is drawing a lot of attention. 

More information on some of the murals located in the county can be found on the Ashe Arts Council website 

Take a walk through the West Jefferson downtown area, which mural is your favorite? 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Fun on the New River!

Looking for a relaxing way to spend a couple of hours or a day? Float down the New River! You can kayak, canoe or tube down this slow moving, relaxing river.  We have 26 miles of the New River here in Ashe County. The New River is a designated National Wild & Scenic river.

The New River is believed to be the second oldest river in the world. With a gentle, free flowing current and mild rapids, it is perfect for even the inexperienced. Located near West Jefferson and Jefferson and conveniently flowing past New River State Park. Access points to the New River are just a short drive from the Cabins at Healing Springs, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Boone or Sparta, it is the perfect way to spend a lazy day. 

At the Cabins at Healing Springs, we are lucky to be located near two wonderful river outfitters - Riverside Canoe and New River Outfitters. Both of them offer canoe, kayak and tube rentals. They will transport you to / from your put - in or take - out point and will provide you with everything you need to float or paddle down the river. 

With a variety of trip lengths available, from a short trip that lasts 2 to 3 hours to longer 5 or 6 hour trips to overnight trips, you choose how much time you would like to be on the river. 

We suggest that you wear comfortable clothes and wear shoes with a good gripping sole, such as a tennis shoe or water shoes. Our weather can be unpredictable, expect hot sun and the possible occasional shower. We strongly recommend that you bring sun screen. Bring a small cooler to hold your lunch and drinks an just enjoy the day. 

We are looking forward to seeing you on the New River soon!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

A new brewery taproom and eatery in West Jefferson!

We are super happy to have a new brewery right here in downtown West Jefferson! Have you tried New River Brewing? They have opened a Taproom and Eatery at 108 S. Third Avenue, just across from the Parker Tie parking lot. 

Their goal is to provide the freshest, most innovative and consistently delicious beers possible, along with tasty food and they are absolutely hitting the mark!

New River Brewery is a family affair with Greg Hershner and his son Adam Hershner. Greg is a local physician, and was a hobby brewer for years. Adam is the head brewer and they craft a wide variety of tasty beers. 

Beer offerings include a Farmhouse Ale, Bald Mountain Brown, Fresh Hop IPA and some more unique beers such as Gingersnap Cookie, Blue Caboose or Agave Ale with Habanero. 

They have a fun menu with appetizers such as corn nuggets, hush puppies and fried pickle chips. Entrees include tasty burgers, pulled pork and chicken BBQ plates and a yummy smokehouse salad. 

Open Wednesday & Thursday from 11am to 9pm, Friday & Saturday from 11am to 10pm, and Sunday from Noon to 5pm, we hope you have a chance to visit this new downtown West Jefferson gem!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Stop in and eat at Shatley Springs Restaurant

Located just two miles from our cabins is the iconic Shatley Springs Restaurant. An Ashe County tradition that offers family style, country dining in a casual setting. 

Breakfast served at Shatley Springs is renown for being hearty and having traditional country food. Biscuits, all warm and fresh from the oven, crisp bacon, tasty sausage and fluffy eggs, along with pancakes, are just a few of the items offered. The offer a family style "all you can eat" option for $12.50 per person, or you can order off the menu - $4.95 to $6.50 per plate. They open at 7 am on the weekends, and we always suggest getting there early!

The restaurant serves both lunch and dinner as well. Renown for their fried chicken, the family style meal is $18.95 per person, or you can order off the menu for between $5.95 to $10.95. If you are a fan of fried chicken, it is well worth stopping in for lunch or dinner! 

Shatley Springs' history is very similar to our history here at Healing Springs in that the property was built around a natural spring discovered in 1890 by Martin Shatley.  Mr. Shatley testified to the curative powers of the spring and in the 1920's, cabins and a tearoom were built and the name was changed to Radium Springs as a result of a chemical analysis revealing a trace of Radium in the water. For a short time the water was bottled and sold; one truckload in 1927 brought a price of $840 for 600 gallons. The current owner, Lee McMillan has owned and operated the restaurant and cabins since 1958. 

People often ask if the water from Shatley Springs is the same as the water from Healing Springs? While the historical documents showing the analysis of the waters list similar minerals in both waters, they are not identical. Healing Springs was discovered in 1883 and for a long time had a sign on the spring house that said "the original Healing Springs". We always suggest that folks try the water from both springs and taste for themselves.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Sharing our favorite hikes at Grayson Highlands State Park!

We love the fact that our cabins are only 18 miles from Grayson Highlands State Park, located in nearby Virginia. Start the day with the beautiful scenic drive through fertile farmlands passing by some beautiful vistas on the way to the State Park.

You can choose from the number of moderate trails in Grayson Highlands State Park ranging from 2 to 29.9 miles and from 1,955 to 5,482 feet above sea level. Established in 1965, this mountain park is next to Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in the Jefferson National Forest.

One of our favorite hikes is the Rhododendron Trail. This is a very popular hike at the park because it leads to where you can frequently see the Grayson Highlands wild ponies. These wild ponies live year -round at 4,000 foot elevations and there are about 110 of them at Grayson Highlands. The easy hike up to the see the ponies is just a bit more than .6 miles one way. It is mostly uphill, but with switchbacks making it a relatively easy hike with nice view out over the Appalachians.  Please note that these are wild ponies and they may kick or bite if they feel threatened. Views from the trail over the Appalachian mountains are lovely!

Another favorite hike is the Cabin Creek Trail - an easy 1.8 mile hike along a series of small waterfalls through the woods. While this is a fairly easy hike, you will have to step over rocks along the trail.

The Twin Pinnacles Trail, located behind the visitor's center is a loop of 1.6 miles with spectacular mountain views. This trail goes through a section of boreal forest, a type of forest normally found in Canada or Alaska, thriving here because of the high altitude and subsequent lower temperatures.

For a more challenging hike, try Wilburn Ridge via the Appalachian Trail to the top of Mount Rogers!

Grayson Highlands State Park hosts two different festivals every year, the Wayne Henderson Music Festival and Guitar Competition in June and ever popular Grayson Highlands Fall Festival featuring live music and pioneer living demonstrations.

Visit the park for yourself and let us know what you think :)