One of the first things I noticed in downtown Boone, North Carolina was this mural painted by local artist Peter Grant Catoe.
The mural depicts the Tank Man protest on Tiananmen Square back in 1989 when the repressed students and citizens of China rallied for economic reforms and personal freedoms, among other changes. The Chinese government responded with a brutal massacre.
I have not been able to identify any parallel events or connections of Boone to the events that took place in Tiananmen Square, but rad mural all the same.
My song for this blog is “Tin Omen” by Skinny Puppy, a song they wrote about Tank Man and the Tiananmen Square massacre:
The High Country Region
Boone is a college town in the High Country region of the Blue Ridge Mountains in western North Carolina. The town was named after famous frontiersman Daniel Boone, who was known to camp there, and his descendants helped found some of the town’s oldest churches and other structures.
The High Country includes the seven counties of Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey, those with the highest altitude and perfect natural environment for the region’s many ski resorts.
Appalachian State University
Since 1899, Appalachian State University has transitioned from the tiny Watauga Academy created to serve the region’s children in place of a State or Government education system, into a University of North Carolina campus serving over 20,000 adults from around the world.
Of course, the diversity in population has globalized the town and its highly sought-after college campus. Turchin Center for the Visual Arts and a Caldwell Community College satellite campus are also located in Boone and contribute to its modernization.
Wine to Water is a grassroots humanitarian non-profit that provides clean water and sustainability support to nearly 970 communities in 48 countries. They are not affiliated with any religious or imposing dogmatic beliefs, and Wine to Water employs people in the communities they serve to manage operations on site.
You can volunteer, apply for scholarships and employment, donate, or support this amazing organization in a multitude of other ways.
I will also mention that Samaritan’s Purse, led by Franklin Graham, has its headquarters in Boone with a mission is to “save” the world and provide aid with fundamentalist Christian principles. It is an NGO which always raises my suspicion about being a true non-profit, but form your own opinion.
Gem mining plays an enormous role in Boone history, like many other towns in the High Country region. Visit the Foggy Mountain Gem Mine and Doc’s Gem Mine to learn more about gem mining and to purchase or dig for some emeralds, quartz, rubies, or topaz gems of your own.
Another fascinating bit of Boone history is the Junaluska community, just north of downtown. A “free” black community was formed there before the Civil War, and it is home to one of only a few existing African American Mennonite Brethren congregations. College students and retirees now live there among many of the community’s original African American families.
Many people in this community use the term “Afrilachian” (alternately, “Afrolachian”) which is a non-derogatory and self-describing term used by African American Appalachians. Learn more about those who settled in the area known as “The Hill” or “The Mountain” long before it was called the Junaluska Community here and by visiting the Junaluska Heritage Association.
Horn in the West
Every summer since 1952, the story of Boone has been told in an outdoor amphitheater, recounting the life of Daniel Boone and other settlers of the area. Ned Austin and Glenn Causey were two of the original lead actors and have Hollywood Star-like memorials on King Street.
Horn in the West has the distinction of being the nation’s longest-running Revolutionary War outdoor drama and is just as popular today as it was nearly sixty years ago.
Next to the amphitheater is the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum which hosts a plethora of artifacts early mountain settlement life, tools for cooking and weaving, blacksmithing, farming, farm equipment, log cabins, and other primitive items from the 1700s.
Music & Local Art
Music is a big deal in Boone, and two of its most notable musicians include the late bluegrass singer/guitarist Doc Watson, founding member/ lead guitarist Michael Houser of Widespread Panic, the bands Old Crow Medicine Show and The Blue Rags, and singer Eric Church.
You can find custom-made art on guitars all over town. Many of them pay homage to Doc Watson and other musicians and artists in the area, and most of them depict local history.
A bronze statue of Doc Watson is on King Street, and Doc Watson Day festival is celebrated each June at the historic Jones House.
Downtown Boone is only about ten minutes from downtown Blowing Rock so the two cities share many attractions including Mystery Hill, the 1903 Dougherty House Heritage Museum, the Native American Artifacts Museum, the 1888 Museum, Moses H. Cone Memorial Park, Linville Caverns in Humpback Mountain, and so many more.
King Street is the main drag through Boone and you can watch the town streetcam here.
Mast General Store has a location on King Street, and the original is just minutes away in the community of Valle Crucis.
Where to Eat/Drink
Espresso News Café & Roastery is a fun downtown spot for coffee, smoothies, and sweets. Staff roasts their own coffee onsite and can sell it by the pound or ship it to you.
Wild Craft Eatery, as much as I loathe the word eatery, was a delight. Everything they make and serve is handcrafted, locally sourced, and using fresh, seasonal, organic, and sustainable items.
We shared a couple different dishes. First, the gluten-free Habana Plate with grilled chicken, bacon, red peppers, pineapple, plantains, rice, beans, chipotle queso, and a cheesy corn tortilla quesadilla.
We also tried the daily special that was Wild Craft’s take on shepherd’s pie, using their famous rosemary mushroom gravy.
Melanie’s Food Fantasy was well worth the brunch crowd wait. We shared the daily special, a BLT with pimiento cheese and a green tomato slice, served with home fries.
We also had the corned beef hash with garlic, pickled onions, and a Sunny-side egg on top. Both dishes were fantastic.
Serious craft beer lovers should plan a visit to Boone in the summer for the High Country Beer Festival,
Where to Stay
I really wanted to stay at The Horton Hotel in the center of downtown, with its rooftop bar and fancy lighting, but they were booked solid.
Instead we stayed at the Highland Hills Motel & Cabins. This company has properties all over WNC ranging from extreme luxury to dingy roadside rooms.
The sticky old craftsman furniture and cobbled hearth fireplace in our cabin-style room was oddly comforting, but the best part about this place came as an unexpected surprise.
The King Size canopy bed had a mirrored ceiling that provided endless entertainment, and not the kind you might think.
Outside, a private deck overlooks the pool and highway further down the hill, and out into the treetops at eye level. I would definitely stay here again just for the mirrored canopy.
Getting around downtown Boone is easy by walking or by utilizing the AppalCART, a free fixed-route public transit system that has been in operation since 1980.
Daniel Boone Native Gardens
Right next to the Horn of the West Amphitheater and the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, visit the Daniel Boone Native Gardens with almost 200 native species.
It opened in 1963 with a mission to preserve North Carolina’s native wildflowers, plants, ferns, and trees within its eight acres.
An Ashevillian named Doan Ogden build the gardens, stone walls, walkways, lily pond, rockery, a well, the Squire Boone Cabin, and other features in the early 1960s.
The gardens are sponsored by the Garden Club of North Carolina and supported by donations, volunteers, and paid memberships.
You can visit between May-October, and watch for special events and guided bird walks each month, led by High Country Audubon.
Boone is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway which was started in Cumberland Knob near Boone in the 1930s, and was later completed at the nearby Grandfather Mountain in the late 1980s. The Blue Ridge Parkway divides Boone from Blowing Rock, but there are more than 50 hiking trails in the shared area.
Laurel Creek Falls, Crabtree Falls, Linville Falls, the Cascades, Otter Falls, Boone Fork Trail, Turtle Island, Howard’s Knob Mountain & Park, and the Boone Greenway are just a few places to get started.
The Daniel Boone Heritage Trail leads visitors through ruins of a former Moravian village from the 1700s, a replica of Daniel Boone’s cabin, the site of a fort where Boone sought refuge during the Cherokee War, some cool caves and other amazing sites that inspired naturalist Eustace Conway and thousands of people since.
The High Country, especially closer to Banner Elk, Sugar Mountain, and Beech Mountain, also have several options for skiing including Appalachian Ski Mountain.
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