When the Gales of November Came Early – 44 Years Ago (Repost)

Every November 10, I reblog my post on the Edmund Fitzgerald. 44 years seems like a long time to most of us, but to the families of the crew lost, it must seem like yesterday.
Ever since I moved to Michigan, and especially since I have now been to Whitefish Point and seen the bell and the other ephemera at the Shipwreck Museum, it is even more poignant.
I hope you will read, enjoy, and comment on the story. It would be especially interesting to hear your memories.


November 10, 1975. Do you remember?

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called ‘Gitche Gumee’
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy
With a load of iron ore twenty-six thousand tons more
Than the Edmund Fitzgerald weighed empty.
That good ship and true was a bone to be chewed
When the gales of November came early.”

 Gordon Lightfoot, “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” 1976


I remember it well. I can still “see” Harry Reasoner sitting at his desk on the evening news talking about the apparent loss of the ship “Edmund Fitzgerald” and crew of 29. For some reason, it struck me – viscerally. Perhaps it was because we were so used to seeing great ships going under the Sunshine Skyway Bridge (although they were not nearly as large as the Great Lakes freighters). I remember following the story at the time. I never forgot the sadness I felt. Then, too, there’s that song…it’s one of those that sticks in your head and takes forever to get rid of.

The last voyage of the Great Lakes Freighter “Edmund Fitzgerald,” captained by Ernest M. McSorley, started in Superior, Wisconsin on November 9, 1975. The “Fitz” was loaded with over 26,000 tons of iron ore pellets. The ship was scheduled to transport the cargo to Zug Island on the Detroit River. She left port with the Arthur M Anderson whose captain was Bernie Cooper. It was determined that the Edmund Fitzgerald would take the lead as she was the faster vessel.

Both captains were acutely aware of a building November storm entering the Great Lakes. Captain McSorley and Captain Cooper agreed to take the northerly course across Lake Superior, where they would be protected by the Canadian shore. They would later make a turn to the southeast to eventually reach the shelter of Whitefish Point.

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate. Gale warnings had been upgraded to storm warnings early in the morning of November 10. While conditions were bad, with winds gusting to 50 knots and seas 12 to 16 feet, both Captains had often piloted their vessels in similar conditions.


Last Voyage

As the Fitzgerald approached Caribou Island, it appeared to Captain Cooper on the Anderson that the Fitz had passed far too close to Six Fathom Shoal. He could clearly see the ship and the beacon on Caribou on his radar and could measure the distance between them. He and his officers watched the Fitzgerald pass right over the dangerous area of shallow water. By this time, snow and rising spray had obscured the Fitzgerald from sight

According to transcripts and quoting from the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum website, “At 3:30 pm that afternoon, Captain McSorley radioed Captain Cooper and said: “Anderson, this is the Fitzgerald. I have a fence rail down, two vents lost or damaged, and a list. I’m checking down. Will you stay by me till I get to Whitefish?” McSorley was “checking down” his speed to allow the Anderson to close the distance for safety. Captain Cooper asked McSorley if he had his pumps going, and McSorley said, ‘Yes, both of them.’”

There were no more extraordinarily alarming reports from Captain McSorley that afternoon. However, at around 5 p.m., a wave smashed into the Anderson smashing its starboard lifeboat. Winds were reported to be almost 60 knots steady, with gusts to 70 knots. Seas were running 18 to 25 feet.

Again, from the GLSM website, “According to Captain Cooper, about 6:55 pm, he and the men in the Anderson’s pilothouse felt a “bump”, felt the ship lurch, and then turned to see a monstrous wave engulfing their entire vessel from astern. The wave worked its way along the deck, crashing on the back of the pilothouse, driving the bow of the Anderson down into the sea.

“Then the Anderson just raised up and shook herself off of all that water – barrooff – just like a big dog. Another wave just like the first one or bigger hit us again. I watched those two waves head down the lake towards the Fitzgerald, and I think those were the two that sent him under.’”

The first mate of the Anderson spoke to the Fitzgerald one last time, about 7:10 pm.

Fitzgerald: “We are holding our own.”

“Okay, fine, I’ll be talking to you later.” The mate signed off.

The radar signal, or “pip” of the Fitzgerald kept getting obscured by “sea return,” meaning that seas were so high they interfered with the radar reflection. Around 7:15 pm, the pip was lost again, but this time, did not reappear. The Anderson’s First Mate called the Fitzgerald again at about 7:22 pm. There was no answer.

Quoting Captain Cooper, “At this time I became very concerned about the Fitzgerald – couldn’t see his lights when we should have. I then called the William Clay Ford to ask him if my phone was putting out a good signal and also if perhaps the Fitzgerald had rounded the point and was in shelter, after a negative report I called the Soo Coast Guard because I was sure something had happened to the Fitzgerald. The Coast Guard were at this time trying to locate a 16-foot boat that was overdue.”

Captain Cooper kept asking the few other ships in the area if they had seen or heard anything from the Fitzgerald. As there had been no word, he persisted with the Coast Guard. Captain Cooper and his crew had just managed to pilot the Anderson to safety in Whitefish Bay. They were all breathing a huge sigh of relief when the Coast Guard made a huge request of them.

There were no Coast Guard ships in the immediate area. Could the Anderson go back out into the storm to look for the Fitzgerald? I can’t imagine the anxiety. Here they had just reached safety after being hammered by a huge storm including two huge, rogue waves (called “two sisters” in maritime lingo), but the seaman’s unwritten code is that you go to try to help fellow seamen.

The Anderson became the lead boat in the search. The Anderson was again severely pounded by the storm and was rolling badly, but they were able to locate the Fitzgerald’s two lifeboats (empty) and other debris, but no sign of survivors. The William Clay Ford also left the safety of Whitefish Bay to help. These two were later joined by two Coast Guard cutters and a fixed-wing aircraft.

The Coast Guard continued the search. On November 14, a specially-outfitted, U.S. Navy plane got a strong signal 17 miles off Whitefish Point. In the next few days, the Coast Guard cutters used different technologies (including side-scan radar) to check that area. One of them located two large pieces of wreckage on the bottom in the same area. A similar search took place in late November. However, winter was closing in. There would be no chance to continue until spring. As large as the Great Lakes are, Mother Nature and winter are stronger. The Lakes become impassible with ice.

In May of 1976, they returned to try to determine if these sonar responses were, indeed, the wreckage of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Navy submersibles took thousands of feet of video and hundreds of still photos. On May 20, 1976, all question as to the final resting place of the “Fitz” was removed as photos were examined and the name “Edmund Fitzgerald” was clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake.

Depiction of the Wreck

In November of 1994, family members of the crew brought their concerns to The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society (GLSHS). They were worried that technology was getting to the point where more and more divers were able to dive the wrecksite of the Fitzgerald. They, naturally, considered this sacred ground as it is the final resting place of their loved ones. The families were still trying to find some form of “closure.”

After discussions with the families, a long list of U.S. and Canadian government agencies, and the owners of the wreck, it was determined that a single, significant artifact – the ship’s bell – could be removed from roof of the pilothouse and brought to shore. A replacement bell, inscribed with the names of the 29 sailors who lost their lives on the Fitzgerald, would be returned to the pilothouse.

The bell of the Edmund Fitzgerald broke water at 1:25 pm, July 4, 1995 as family members watched. A wreath was placed on the water following the recovery. Family members there that day finally had the opportunity to express their grief, say goodbye and for some, bring closure after 20 years. The replacement bell would be returned to the wreck.

The Fitzgerald’s bell was stabilized and then delivered to the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point. From there, the museum continued restoring the bell for use as the centerpiece of a memorial to the men who died in the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. You can see it, today, as the centerpiece of their museum along with a photo of Captain McSorley and additional information about and pictures of the Fitzgerald.

The Edmund Fitzgerald will forever, legally, remain off-limits to divers as it is the final resting place for the 29 souls lost that fateful night.


Christening of the “Fitz”

“Life” moments of the Edmund Fitzgerald

8/7/1957: Keel laid

6/8/1958: Hull #301 is christened “Edmund Fitzgerald” after the CEO of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company

9/24/1958: The Fitzgerald makes her maiden voyage

1972: Captain Ernest McSorley takes command of the Edmund Fitzgerald

11/10/1975: Last day of the great ship

5/20/1976: More than 40,000 feet of video tape from expeditions to the purported wreck by submersibles is examined. The words “Edmund Fitzgerald” were clearly seen on the stern, upside down, 535 feet below the surface of the lake

7/4/1995: The bell of the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald is raised, restored, and replaced on the ship by a new bell with the names of the twenty nine men lost. This is the last time the S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald will ever again be legally dived upon


To this day, the true reason for the sinking goes unsolved. Did the Fitzgerald essentially scuttle herself on the shoals in the storm? Were the hatches properly fastened? Did the two giant, rogue waves (the “two sisters”) that hit the Anderson continue to build and swamp an already listing Fitzgerald driving her into the bottom? We’ll never know. There were no survivors to tell the tale.

“Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searches all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.
They might have split up or they might have capsized;
May have broke deep and took water.
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters.

Secretariat and Me

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The Incomparable Secretariat (photo taken at Claiborne Farm)

The Incomparable Secretariat
(photo taken at Claiborne Farm)

So, what’s this about Secretariat? THAT Secretariat? Yes, there was only one; and in 2013 racing celebrated the 40th anniversary of his amazing Triple Crown. Even if you don’t follow horse racing closely, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Super Horse of 1973 (and 1972)! Secretariat was a phenomenon. He was not undefeated in his career, but – in my mind – that only goes to prove that this was a flesh and blood athlete who, when he was at the top of his game, was the best that ever was. The 44th anniversary of his birth is rapidly approaching (March 30), so I wanted to make certain that my remembrance was posted before the celebration.


Secretariat's Amazing Leap at the Preakness 1973

Secretariat’s Amazing Leap at the Preakness 1973

There are those who say that Man O’War was better. I couldn’t say for certain. I don’t know that anyone truly can. Those who saw them both run couldn’t even agree. Let’s just put all that to bed and say that they both were bright, immensely talented, beautiful-to-look-at, beings who inspired legions with their ability to run. They were immediate celebrities who captured the attention and imaginations of generations. That’s a lot to say about one horse – let alone, two.

Secretariat also came into our lives at a time where the country desperately needed a hero. We had been through years of the tortuous and divisive war in Vietnam. On the heels of that, there was the Watergate scandal. To say that there were a great number of us (especially those of my age group) who were becoming increasingly disillusioned was putting it mildly. This was the early times of the “hippie” movement and counter-culture. Secretariat was a bright, shining beacon of truth and beauty. Even those who had never seen a horse race or had any previous interest in horses tuned into the innocence and power of the amazing, chestnut. Secretariat, in full flight, was almost a mythical beast. His stride (which later turned out to be the greatest measured) ate the ground. He was poetry in motion. It was a kind of beauty that almost everyone could appreciate.

Secretariat is so iconic that the greats have photographed him

Tony Leonard's Iconic Photo of Secretariat at the Belmont

Tony Leonard’s Iconic Photo of Secretariat at the Belmont

(this example is the famous photo of Secretariat at the Belmont by the late, great photographer, Tony Leonard),

Fred Stone's "Final Tribute" - Secretariat

Fred Stone’s “Final Tribute” – Secretariat

and painted him (this is Secretariat – Final Tribute by the incomparable, Fred Stone).

Much has been written about Secretariat the race horse. There have been terrific books (I especially like the one written by William Nack) and even a feature movie about him. This post is a more personal look at the great horse as I knew him.

My “relationship” with Secretariat came many years after his heroics on the track. As you may have learned from earlier posts, my husband and I were in the thoroughbred breeding and racing business for a number of years. My first visit to Secretariat, though, pre-dated that time in our lives, but not by much. Did meeting him have any bearing on our decision to go into the business of breeding and racing horses? Probably, but not directly.


My first encounter with the Great One:

We were living in Georgia, and took a road trip to visit family in Michigan. On the way back, we stopped first in Louisville, Kentucky. One of the pamphlets available at the Kentucky visitor’s center outlined different tour groups that were available to the general public to visit horse farms in the bluegrass. I have been “horse crazy” all my life. (Perhaps that’s a by-product of being born in Kentucky.) We called and requested a tour to Claiborne Farm where Secretariat held court. The tour company said that they would do their best, but that there were no guarantees. We told them where we’d be staying in Lexington and they said they would leave word as to whether or not they were able to book the tour.

When we arrived in Lexington, this message awaited us!

The Note

The Note

I have to say that I honestly don’t remember any of the details beginning at this point until we arrived at Claiborne. I’m sure I enjoyed the amazing scenery (beautiful tree-lined roads and the stacked-stone fences of Paris Pike), but my only thoughts were that I’d actually get to see the horse that I’d dreamt of for so many years.

I do know that I thought I would see Secretariat (or “Red” as I came to call him later) in his paddock and at a distance. Imagine my amazement when he was led out of his stall on a lead and brought in our direction. I’m sure I was breathing; but, at that moment, everything else was blocked out of my vision. Walking right up to me was the most amazing horse of all time.

My First Brush with Greatness

My First Brush with Greatness

Secretariat  - Oh, yes, that's me touching him

Secretariat – Oh, yes, that’s me touching him

As you can see from these photos, I got to actually “touch” him. I couldn’t be bothered to take the camera. I only wanted to stand next to him and spend all the time I could in his presence. Funny thing, the big guy knew he was being adored. I’m sure that he was used to being shown to people from the time he was a foal. His whole life had been documented by famous photographers and award-winning authors. He was totally happy being fussed over by his public. He was the consummate gentleman. From the moment I first met him, I knew I had to take every opportunity afforded me to visit.

Secretariat and Me (Yes, he was THAT easy to love)

Secretariat and Me
(Yes, he was THAT easy to love)

It was quite shortly after that visit that we entered the thoroughbred business. Jim and I made many trips to Lexington to evaluate potential mates for our mare, Permanent Cut. Each time, we would visit Claiborne to both see the stallions we might possibly purchase seasons to and to visit Red. We never failed to bring the requisite “starlight” mints. Each time we approached his stall door, I’d start to un-wrap a mint (I must mention that we always got permission first). Red sure knew that sound. He’d nicker and have his head out of the door before we could get there. After giving him the mint, he’d stand like a child’s pony to be rubbed and fussed over.

Secretariat Reaching for a Starlight Mint

Secretariat Looking for a Starlight Mint

The last time this scenario played out was when we were visiting just prior to the 1989 Kentucky Derby. We visited again in August, but were told that Red wasn’t feeling well and might not come to the door. We were also told that we shouldn’t offer him a mint. We walked to the stall door and looked in. Secretariat was standing in the back of his stall facing away. I called to him and he turned his head, but didn’t walk over. I could tell, then, that he wasn’t feeling well, but had no idea how badly he was doing.

Secretariat & Me (The Pretty One's in Front)

Secretariat & Me
(The Pretty One’s in Front)

On October 4, 1989, I was driving home from work in Atlanta. The radio started to report the death of Secretariat. I had to pull into the nearest parking lot. I sat there, at first in shock, then crying my eyes out and sobbing. It took quite a long time until I could compose myself long enough to drive home. Once home, I told Jim that I’d heard that Red was gone. It was on all the evening news stations. Even 16 years after his Triple Crown triumph, Secretariat was news. He was a legend in his own time.

Many terrific horses have come and gone since Secretariat. Some have caught the imagination of many; however, none have inspired such a multitude as Secretariat has. To this day, with the recent Disney movie, Red is captivating a whole new legion of fans – many whose parents weren’t even alive when Secretariat blazed into history. I’m just so very grateful that I was able to see this spectacular being, not only break all the records with his racing, but to get to know the horse, himself.

I doubt that there will ever be another.


Up Next: Funny Horse Stories


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Old Friends at Old Friends – A Visit to Great-Grandpa’s Grave

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Great-Grandpa is buried at Old Friends? Yes. Our very first mare’s name was Permanent Cut. (If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll undoubtedly recognize the name.) She was bred by Dan Lasater in Florida. Her sire (dad) was a son of the great European champion, Ribot. Her dam (mom) was by the very good Nasrullah son, Jaipur. Even more interesting was that her grand-dam (grandmother) was by the great son of Nasrullah, Noor. Noor is buried at Old Friends.

Noor (Stallion photo)

(Stallion photo)

Here’s Permanent Cut’s pedigree

PERMANENT CUT (USA) b. F, 1981 {16} DP = 7-4-7-0-4 (22) DI = 1.93   CD = 0.45

  Permian (USA) 1971 Ribot (GB) 1952 Tenerani (ITY) 1944
  Romanella (ITY) 1943
  Pontivy (USA) 1959 Battlefield (USA) 1948
  Mahari (USA) 1954
Permanent Cut
(USA) 1981 Jaidan (USA) 1969 Jaipur (USA) 1959 Nasrullah (GB) 1940
  Rare Perfume (USA) 1947
  Dawn Fleet (USA) 1953 Noor (GB) 1945
  Monsoon (USA) 1942
Permanent Cut in 1989

Permanent Cut in 1989


Permanent Cut Noor's Great Granddaughter

Permanent Cut
Noor’s Great Granddaughter

Noor was born in 1945 in Ireland. The black son of Nasrullah was bred by the Aga Khan III. He was first raced by his breeder but purchased as a two-year-old by Charles S. Howard. If the name Howard rings a bell, you probably either read the story of Seabiscuit or saw the movie. While Noor won on the turf in Britain, he excelled on the dirt in the U.S.A.

Noor (Photo from Charlotte Farmer)

(Photo from Charlotte Farmer)

Even those who don’t follow horse racing closely probably recognize the name “Citation.” Citation was one of Calumet Farms’ triple-crown winners from the 1940s. He also had the longest unbeaten (16 straight) streak in thoroughbred racing for almost 50 years. He could beat almost every horse on any track – that was until he met Noor.

Noor's 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup (photos from "Noor: In Memory of a Champion" Facebook Page

Noor’s 1950 Hollywood Gold Cup
(photos from “Noor: In Memory of a Champion” Facebook Page

Noor (whose regular jockey was the famous Johnny Longden) defeated Citation four times, in the Santa Anita Handicap at 1¼ miles, the San Juan Capistrano Handicap at 1¾ miles in world record time, the Forty Niners Handicap at 1⅛ miles in track record time, and the Golden Gate Handicap. In the latter event, Noor conceded weight to Citation and set a world record of 1:58 which stood as an American record on a dirt track until Spectacular Bid broke it 30 years later. Citation’s times in these races would have also been records, but Noor ran faster than any horse in history up to that point.

Noor & Johnny Longden American Handicap

Noor & Johnny Longden
American Handicap

Noor - Johnny Longden up (Photo from Devora Berliner, creator of Noor Facebook page)

Noor – Johnny Longden up
(Photo from Devora Berliner, creator of Noor Facebook page)

On his way to being named 1950 U.S. Champion Handicap Male Horse, Noor beat not only Citation, but he also beat Horse of the Year Hill Prince, Derby winner Ponder, and twice overtook another Triple Crown winner, Assault. This made Noor the only horse in American racing history to defeat two Triple Crown winners. Sadly, Charles Howard died in June of 1950 and never saw his horse crowned champion.

Noor Battles Citation 1950 San Juan Capistrano)

Noor Battles Citation
1950 San Juan Capistrano)


Noor Wins By A Nose (1950 San Juan Capistrano)

Noor Wins By A Nose
(1950 San Juan Capistrano)

After his championship year, Noor was retired to the breeding shed. He first went to Kentucky (where he sired our mare’s grand-dam, Dawn Fleet, who was born in 1953 – the same year as I). He sired 13 stakes winners, but Dawn Fleet went on to become a very important mare and she and her dam, Monsoon, went on to be foundation mares for many, many stakes winners (not including my dear old Permanent Cut) and can be seen in the pedigrees of many top horses.

Noor on His Way to Kentucky with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor on His Way to Kentucky
with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor Arrives in Kentucky

Noor Arrives in Kentucky

Noor (What a Beautiful Head!)

(What a Beautiful Head!)

After 1954, Noor returned to the sight of his greatest achievements, California.

Noor with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor with Trainer Burley Parke

Noor was an imposing individual with terrific balance. He was very tall – over 17 hands (one hand equals 4 inches) at the withers. He was very much the same size as the amazing Zenyatta Unlike his sire, Noor was known to have a very pleasant disposition until the age of 29 when he developed equine dementia. Even Zenyatta’s trainer, John Shirreffs, became a fan of Noor. As a very young man, Shirreffs would tack a 19-year-old Noor up during the winter and ride him around the back arena at Loma Rica Ranch.

Noor Obituary (Photo from Horseandman)

Noor Obituary
(Photo from Horseandman)

He lived at Loma Rica until his death in 1974. Upon his death, Noor was buried in an unmarked grave (which was common in that era) the infield of the half-mile training track at Loma Rica. He was gone and almost forgotten by many. In 1999, however, Blood-Horse Magazine released their list of the 100 top champion thoroughbred racehorses of the 20th Century. Noor was listed at number 69. Then, in 2002 (any far later than one would think), Noor was inducted into the Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame at Saratoga in New York.


That was not to be the end of his story. Loma Rica Ranch was sold and a business park and residential development were planned for the land. That is when racing enthusiast, Charlotte Farmer, got involved. Not willing to see the beautiful champion remain buried under what would become a parking lot, Ms. Farmer went to work and got the wheels in motion to have Noor disinterred and brought to Old Friends in Georgetown, Kentucky. 

Charlotte Farmer (Noor's Greatest Fan)

Charlotte Farmer
(Noor’s Greatest Fan)

In March of 2010, using ground penetrating radar, Noor’s remains were located. On August 26, 2011, the bones of the great racehorse were very carefully exhumed from the earth and reverently placed in a wooden coffin. The long trek across country began. On August 31, 2011, Noor was buried with a fitting funeral/memorial at Old Friends. Ms. Farmer completed her mission of love by attending the service and seeing that Noor had a fitting headstone. I’d like to take this moment to, personally, thank Ms. Farmer for her dedication to making sure that Noor finally got the respect and resting place he so richly deserves.


Great Grandpa's Grave (the Amazing Noor at Rest at Old Friends)

Great Grandpa’s Grave
(the Amazing Noor at Rest at Old Friends)

This past summer (almost exactly two years later), I finally got to pay my respects to a grand champion and the great-grandpa of my beloved mare. I couldn’t help but shed tears for Noor and for my old girl. I wish I’d known Noor. He embodied all the things in a horse I’d grown up loving. He was big, black, could run like the wind, and – by most accounts – had a very pleasant personality for a stallion. He was, in all ways, a Champion.

Noor's Headstone (With Utmost Thanks to Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Noor’s Headstone
(With Utmost Thanks to Ms. Charlotte Famer)

This is the final post in my current series on Old Friends. I want to particularly thank Lorraine Jackson for her article on Noor, and Devora Berliner, creator of the Noor Facebook webpage “Noor: In Memory of a Champion.” I want to send special thanks to the amazing Charlotte Farmer for sharing her photos and research, and for her fortitude and persistence in not allowing this magnificent horse to be forgotten. As always, a huge “thank you” goes to all the wonderful people at Old Friends for finding a special burial plot where many can come to pay their respects and learn about this worthy champion.

Noor's Headstone (epitaph by Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Noor’s Headstone
(epitaph by Ms. Charlotte Famer)

Remember, it takes a great deal of money to support all the horses at Old Friends. They give the horses the kind of life they so richly deserve. Old Friends gratefully accepts donations (which are tax-deductible) and has some terrific items for purchase (some on Ebay). All of the profits go to help the horses. Please check out their website ” (www.oldfriendsequine.org ) and see if you, too, might want to be one who helps Old Friends and their tremendous mission.


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (Eagle’s Nest Mountain)

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)


Eagle’s Nest Mountain is beautiful. The views are spectacular.

One View From Eagle's Nest Mountain

One View From Eagle’s Nest Mountain

In 1900, S. C. Satterthwait built the Eagle Nest Hotel at an elevation of 5050 feet. The hotel was one of the two hay fever resorts in western North Carolina, and it had room for 100 guests (although tents could be used if the hotel filled up) and a view of Plott Balsam. “[A] good wagon road” reached the top of the mountain.


Today, Eagle’s Nest Mountain Road winds up the mountain, following much the same trail as the “wagon road” of yesteryear. It’s still a twisting, turning road that must be respected. If you read my story about having to snake our way up with police cars guarding front and back (https://colmel.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/a-truely-scary-story ), you know I have a healthy respect for that barely, two-lane byway.


Our home on Eagle’s Nest Mountain was a Lindal Cedar Home. It was built at an elevation of 5,150 ft. – not very far from the former location of the hotel. I have been desperately looking to see if I can find some of the photos of our home, but haven’t had any luck. Of course, this is one of my favorite topics, so I’ll (undoubtedly) revisit it soon.


There are many legends that involve Eagle’s Nest Mountain. One of the most persistent is that of Boojum. I told the story – as I’d always heard it – in an earlier post (https://colmel.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/another-appalachian-tale-%e2%80%93-boojum-the-mystery-on-eagle%e2%80%99s-nest-mountain/ ). I recently read a post from another blogger who had learned a slightly different story http://ashevilleoralhistoryproject.com/2012/11/02/boojum/


In his story, Boojum’s bride could be responsible for the burning of the grand hotel.


There have always been tales of strange things happening on Eagle’s Nest. There was a large outcropping of rocks known as “Boy Scout Rock.” Scouts used to regularly hike up the mountain and camp in the area. Many of them told stories of seeing and hearing strange things. Some were so frightened that they only went on one trip. Others say that they neither saw nor heard anything other than the wind and the animals that naturally inhabit the mountain.


Other stories involve people feeling as though they are being followed, but turning to see no one there. Some have reported hearing “parties” in the large meadow near the top only to find it empty. There are wild animals on the mountain, so that might explain some of the things people have seen or heard. The stories go back over a century – probably even before the first, non-native Americans arrived.


Party Here?

Party Here?


During our relatively short time on the mountain, there were numerous odd things happen, but – other than one terrifying, inexplicable occurrence – nothing that made me worry. That, of course, was until our house burned to the ground. The destruction was so complete, that there never was a definitive cause. One more mystery to add to legends of Eagle’s Nest Mountain.


On our recent trip, I was pleased to find that there is, once again, a home on the ground that once held our home. It’s a lovely home and the owners have landscaped the second lot beautifully. I wish I’d stopped and given them my card so that they could call me if they ever wanted to sell. (That would require me to win some form of lottery, though, I’m sure.) Their view (our view) is spectacular! From our deck we could see Maggie Valley, the “smoke” from Ghost Town in the Sky, and – on a very clear day – all the way to Mount LeConte near Gatlinburg, Tennessee.


New Home Where Ours Used To Be

New Home Where Ours Used To Be


Beautiful Landscaping

Beautiful Landscaping

On the way back down, I snapped a couple of photos of the meadow where the old hotel stood so many years ago. It took all my self-restraint to not hop out of the car and go running in the tall, wet grass. Every time I go back up the mountain, I feel more at home and get a stronger sense of that this is where I belong.


The "Meadow"

The “Meadow”


The "Meadow"

The “Meadow”




The "Pond" (Boojum's Bath?)

The “Pond” (Boojum’s Bath?)


Up Next: What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (The Andon-Reid Bed & Breakfast)


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What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (Waynesville: A Journey “Home”)

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In my “Prologue” to this group of posts I wrote about Waynesville, North Carolina. As I read that post again, I realized I’d poured my heart into it and wouldn’t change a word. Here is that text again.

My aunt grew up in Waynesville, North Carolina. I had listened to her talk about her home town for so many years, I felt like I knew it, too. Years later, my parents were offered the opportunity to purchase land on Eagle’s Nest Mountain in Waynesville. A neighbor was involved in a partnership to development a portion of the mountain and offered my parents the chance to get in on the ground-floor at the pre-development prices. They jumped at the chance. I’ll never forget driving up Eagle’s Nest for the first time to choose our lots. I immediately fell in love with the mountain and knew I’d come “home.”

“Waynesville has, ever since, been a magical place for me. Even after our home on Eagle’s Nest burned to the ground in late 1980, Waynesville has held a very special place in my heart. Memories of spending happy times with family (immediate and extended) are part of the reason for this; however, there is just something about the town, and the people who live there, that makes me feel warm and welcome.

Beautiful Waynesville, NC (Eagles' Nest Mountain in the Background)

Beautiful Waynesville, NC
(Eagles’ Nest Mountain in the Background)

Waynesville is the county-seat of Haywood County. The courthouse is right on Main Street.

Haywood County Courthouse Waynesville, NC

Haywood County Courthouse
Waynesville, NC

Main Street has changed quite a lot since we had our home in Waynesville. Most of the storefronts are still the same, but the change is in what’s inside. I was afraid that I would find the loss of the stores I used to visit hard to accept. I was wrong. Main Street, now, has some beautiful stores with artisan-quality goods. There are galleries of all kinds. Some world-class artists now call Waynesville home. There are also restaurants, chocolate shops, and clothing stores. Several real estate agents have offices on Main, as well as several attorneys’ offices.

Banjo & Wash-tub Base Main Street @ Miller Waynesville, NC

Banjo & Wash-tub Base
Main Street @ Miller
Waynesville, NC

Main Street Waynesville, NC

Main Street
Waynesville, NC

Looking Down Main Street Waynesville, NC

Looking Down Main Street Waynesville, NC

Mast General Store (one of several in North Carolina) is also on Main. Mast has a little of everything – clothing, shoes, housewares, furnishings, food, and the largest selection of old-time candy found anywhere.

Mast General Store Main Street Waynesville, NC

Mast General Store
Main Street
Waynesville, NC

I think the biggest surprise for me was that there are now three active breweries in Waynesville! We visited Tipping Point Tavern, but there are also Headwaters Brewing and Frog’s Leap Public House. Those two we will check out on our next visit.

Tipping Point Tavern Waynesville, NC

Tipping Point Tavern
Waynesville, NC

Tipping Point Tavern was a fun place to visit. Their in-house brews are quite good. We tried both the “Hiking Viking” (my Northeast High School friends will certainly understand this) and the “Chunky Girl Amber.” They also have an IPA called “Punch in the Face IPA.” We found the brews quite hoppy, so we can imagine what the IPA must be. Next time…

We had both a lunch and a dinner at Tipping Point Tavern. Lunch was quite enjoyable. The food was quite good – can’t say “great” with regard to sandwiches and beer, but very good. We started with the beer-battered jalapeno poppers which were hot from the fryer and had very good flavor. I had the Tavern Reuben and really enjoyed it. Jim had Fish Tacos. I must say, you really shouldn’t be leaving Tipping Point hungry! They don’t skimp on portions!

Dinner was something of a different story. We had planned to go to The Bourbon Barrel, but they weren’t interested in seating us – even though there were many open tables. I guess that’s a place for locals only. Out-of-towners need not darken their doors. So… we ended up back at Tipping Point Tavern. Yes, the portions were huge (especially the Pulled Pork Burrito)! What was really off-putting was the noise level. We were there on a Wednesday night, so we didn’t expect the crush of people or the noise. Obviously, this is the place for the younger crowd to meet for drinks after work. If we’d been there just for a beer or cocktails (and had been several years younger), we probably would have had a wonderful time. For dinner, well it was rather hard to enjoy ourselves. If you go, it’s probably wise to stick to lunch, or go for their terrific beer and after-work party.

Now for the best meal of our entire trip. It was at The Sweet Onion restaurant on Miller Street. This restaurant would be at home in any large city in the U.S, but it’s nestled in beautiful, downtown Waynesville, NC.

Sweet Onion

Sweet Onion
Waynesville, NC

We had been told by the innkeepers at our bed & breakfast (Andon-Reid) – complete review in a dedicated post coming – that reservations were strongly suggested, so they made them for us. This lovely restaurant was bustling and after our experience, I understand why. The service was superb. We were warmly welcomed and shown to a comfortable table next to the window. Our server took our beverage order and gave us a couple of minutes to take-in the menu. What a menu! It was incredibly hard to decide.

We settled on splitting the crab cake appetizer. This was chock-full of lump crab loosely bound and served with a terrific lemon-basil aioli. Our entrees were amazing. Jim had the Blackberry BBQ Short Ribs. He proclaimed that they were the best he’d ever had. They were fall-off-the bone tender and the sauce was incredible. I had the Shrimp & Grits. Now, these are no ordinary shrimp and grits! The white cheddar grits were topped with huge, perfectly-cooked shrimp and big pieces of bacon. On top of all that lusciousness, there was a delicate, yet flavorful, lobster cream sauce. Heavenly! I even got one of my all-time favorite sides with this entrée. Marinated Cucumber and Tomato Salad is one of the food items I most closely associate with my Aunt Jean (who grew up in Waynesville). To have this on the menu, and on my plate, brought me nostalgically home with her.

Dessert wasn’t necessary; but, then again, we were on vacation. We decided to splurge on splitting an amazing crème brulee. It was absolutely perfect. It was creamy and soul-satisfying, yet light enough to leave us comfortable. All in all, one of the best meals either of us had ever had.

If you are going to be in Waynesville for any length of time, I highly recommend you make plans to have at least one dinner at Sweet Onion. You won’t be sorry.


Up Next: What I Did on My Summer Vacation 2013 (Eagle’s Nest Mountain)


Would you like to subscribe to my blog? (Oh, yes, it’s free!) If you have already clicked on the title and are now directly in my blog page, go to the bottom left hand portion of the page. If you have not gotten to the blog page, click on the title of the Posting and it will take you to the blog. That’s okay, we’ll wait! At the top of the blog, you should see a button with “Follow” next to it. If you click that button, a checkmark should show up. At that point, you should be subscribed. (WordPress is one of the easiest blogs to work with, and I’m still frequently befuddled with how it works!)