Monday, May 10, 2021

Along the Nantahala River and US 19/74, Topton, North Carolina

Heading west through western North Carolina, you need to drive through the Blue Ridge Mountains. You can bypass the mountains entirely by driving south and taking the freeway through Atlanta. But can you think of a more dismal way to spend valuable hours of your life? Yuck.

Rugged terrain of western North Carolina (National Geographic base map from ArcGIS online)
West Oak Bed & Breakfast, Bryson City. Very friendly owners.

A much more enjoyable way to go west is to choose one of the mountain highways that pass through the Blue Ridge. One option is to stay in Bryson City (which is becoming a foodie place) and then head southwest on US Highway 19/74. Part of the route parallels the Nantahala River, which has carved a rugged valley through the mountains. It is slow going, especially in the tourist season when rafting groups load up busses and trucks for raft adventures. You pass farms, small towns, solitary houses, and some funky stuff. This looks like bubba terrain, in stark contrast to the ambience of Asheville and even Bryson City. 

Garage, 10444 US 74, Bryson City, North Carolina (Ilford Delta 100 film, Rolleiflex 3.5E Schneider Xenotar lens, green filter)
I stopped at an old-fashioned car repair/junk store on US 74 near the Wildwater Nantahala Rafting center. His "Vote for Freedom" sign emphasized • Limited Government  • Free markets  • Fiscal responsibility. How did that work out? This poor fellow was duped big time. 
(Ilford Delta 100 film, Rolleiflex 3.5E, 75mm ƒ/3.5 Schneider Xenotar lens)
There is some old Detroit iron in the yard, but will any of these samples ever be restored?
I did not see the proprietor or any activity at all.
Peanut store, 14305 US 19 west of Wesser (Fuji X-E1 digital file)
Unused house, US 19/74 west of Wesser (Fuji X-E1 digital file)
Here are some examples of western North Carolina rural decay. With all the tourist traffic, I am surprised that the peanut store was closed. 
Rowlin Creek, east of Topton (Fuji X-E1 digital file)
The Nantahala makes a sharp right angle turn and heads south, while the highway continues southwest along the Rowlin Creek. This is a fast-moving tributary that flows into the Nantahala River. Several rafting companies offer raft trips on the Rowlin. 
US 19/74 view west, Topton, North Carolina
Country store, US 19/74 at Topton Road, Topton, North Carolina (Ilford Delta 100 film)
Finally, after driving through the Nantahala National Forest, you reach the hamlet of Topton. From here heading west, the valley opens up and the hills are less rugged. This poor old country store is at the corner of US 74 and Topton Road.
A railroad once ran through this valley all the way from Bryson City. I do not know when it was last used. The ties were in poor condition. 
Fixer-upper house, 24266 US 129 (also Routes 19/74), Topton
Post Office, Topton, NC
Topton has an unusual post office clad with stone facade. I assume it is local stone. The architecture was not exactly inspiring.

This ends our very short run through the Blue Ridge Mountains. I need to return and explore some more. Western North Carolina must have plenty of interesting urban decay topics.

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