Ashe County mountains beguile with cheese, frescoes, trails
Posted May 8, 2009
Updated May 9, 2009
West Jefferson, N.C. — A trip west from the Triangle over the hills into the mountains of Ashe County will give travelers some time on the road and a little extra money in their wallets.
Travelers can stop and watch workers make between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds of cheese a day at the Ashe County Cheese plant, built in 1930 in West Jefferson.
"From (age) 6 to 70, people like to see something exciting being made. And cheese is one of those things. Everybody loves cheese," cheese maker Josh Williams said.
Stroll through downtown West Jefferson, and enjoy 14 murals painted by regional artists. On the eye level of children, check out the fire hydrants: A program called "Art on Fire" has them sizzling.
"It's child-sized; it's child-friendly. They can touch it; they can embrace it," Jane Lonoa, with Ashe County Arts, said.
For art with a higher meaning, the Churches of the Frescoes are a must. The paintings by North Carolina rtist Ben Long left a trail of art and faith throughout mountain churches.
"They come by the bus loads. We've had people come from here from every state in the country," said church member Garrett Briggs. "The word of mouth has really told people that this is something to see."
The churches are open for free to tourists around the clock.
Away from civilization, the Blue Ridge Parkway offers limitless opportunities to enjoy the outdoors. Take the 30-minute Cascades Trail, off mile marker 271.9.
Michael Syx said he brings his family to the Parkway every year.
"You don't pay a thing. That's the beauty of it," Syx said.