Tax Free Weekend

The North Carolina Retail Merchants Association (NCRMA) has announced that the 10th annual Sales Tax Holiday is scheduled from Friday, Aug. 3 through Sunday, Aug. 5. Due to the success of the previous tax-free weekends, the North Carolina General Assembly has once again set aside one weekend free of sales tax on back-to-school related items such as pencils, paper, backpacks, text books, computers, shoes and clothing. The popular event exempts clothing, footwear, and school supplies of $100 or less per item; school instructional materials of $300 or less per item; sports and recreational equipment of $50 or less per item; computers of $3,500 or less per item; and computer supplies of $250 or less per item from sales tax. Tablet computers and netbooks of $3,500 or less per item qualify, eReaders, do not. Items are not necessarily exempt from sales tax just because they are required by a child’s school or sports team. Visit NCDOR’s website for a complete list of items that qualify. Come to West Jefferson NC and check out our local shops!

ASU Football is gearing up for the 2012-2013 Season

ASU football is in full force right now practicing and getting ready for the upcoming season. The freshmen are trying to get involved in the Mountaineer offense and defense by learning the playbooks and maybe get a chance to work themselves into the starting lineup. The App State Mountaineers of Boone NC have three Non-Conference match ups this year. The first non-conference matchup is against East Carolina. The Mountaineers faced East Carolina on the first game of the 2009-2010 season and came up short with a 24-29 Loss. Montana is one of the Mountaineers FCS rivals from the west because both teams have made the playoffs regularly for the past couple of years. Some of the other Key games at home this year is Elon at Homecoming, Wofford at Education day and Furman with Black Saturday. Come and Support the Mountaineers in their first home game against Montana on Sept. 8 at 6:30 pm.

Virginia Creeper Trail

Starting at Abingdon VA and ending at Whitetop VA, there is a 34.3 mile rail to recreation trail. If you are a first time visitor then the Virginia creeper trail section from Whitetop down to Damascus is best for you. Bike rental companies in Damascus and Abingdon will shuttle you to the top of the mountain for an easy 15 mile coast/pedal down to Damascus. The ride takes anywhere from 2-4 hours, depending on your pace. Stops along the way include the old railroad station at Green Cove, operated by the US Forest Service; check out the high trestle at Creek Junction, where the trail runs beside some of the best trout fishing in Virginia; or stop for a bite of lunch in the community of Taylor’s Valley. If you choose to ride the section between Abingdon and Damascus, you’ll have the experience of passing over the longest Virginia Creeper Trail trestle as it crosses the Middle and South Forks of the Holston River at their confluence. You’ll also be able to stop at the newly built Alvarado Station, a replica of the one that served the Virginia-Carolina Railroad. Mark, at Old Alvarado Station next door, serves some of the best BBQ you’ll ever taste. The Virginia Creeper Trial is appropriate for all levels of bike riders.

Sightseeing along and near the Parkway

Here in the High Country are some destinations that are a must see for the Summer!

The Blowing Rock

Blowing Rock – The Blowing Rock is an immense cliff 4,000 feet above sea level, above Johns River Gorge 3,000 feet below. The rocky walls of the gorge form a flume through which the northwest wind seeps with such force that light objects thrown over the void return to their senders, thus the name Blowing Rock. There are several lookouts that let you enjoy the view in almost every direction. You can also see different mountain ranges; For example Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, Grandmother Mountain, and many more.

Moses H. Cone Memorial Park

Blowing Rock – This 3,500-acre country estate was the turn of the 20th century home of “Denim King” Moses H. Cone, whose textile empire made this magnificent retreat possible. Today, 26 miles of carriage roads are available for hikers and horseback riders. Shop for fine crafts at the 23-room manor house. Or, simply sit on the front porch and enjoy the views and cool temperatures from 4,000 feet. Also there is approximately 2 mile hike up and back down from Bass lake to the Manor house. From Bass lake in certain areas you can see the manor house on top of the hill. If you start at bass lake its an uphill hike but you can enjoy it when you get to the top with the wonderful views and you can take a tour of the house.

Linville Falls

Linville Falls – The home of the most popular waterfall in the Blue Ridge Mountains due to its accessibility to the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a spectacular three-tiered waterfall plunging into Linville Gorge, the "Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians."

White Water Rafting

If you are a beginner rafter and you would like to know what rivers best fit for you and your family here are the class ratings and rivers for you.

The Class Ratings

Class I – Very easy. Waves small, regular. Passages clear, sandbanks, artificial difficulties like bridge piers. Riffles.

Class II – Easy. Rapids of medium difficulty, with passages clear and wide. Low ledges.

Class III – Medium. Waves numerous, high, irregular. Rocks, eddies. Rapids with passages that are clear though narrow, requiring expertise in maneuvering. Inspection usually needed.
The river best for beginners would be the Watauga River it is a popular river to enjoy for families with younger children. On this river you can enjoy the milder rapids and beautiful pastoral scenery along the banks of the river.

If you love adrenaline high pace rides then here are the class ratings you might want to consider when you go white water rafting.

The Class Ratings

Class IV – Difficult. Long rapids. Waves powerful, irregular. Dangerous rocks, boiling eddies. Passages difficult to reconnoiter. Inspection mandatory first time. Powerful and precise maneuvering required.

Class V – Very difficult. Extremely tough, long and very violent rapids, following each other almost without interruption. River bed extremely obstructed. Big drops, violent current, very steep gradient. Reconnoitering essential but difficult.

Class VI – Extraordinarily difficult. Difficulties of class V carried to extremes of navigability. Nearly impossible and very dangerous. For teams of experts only, at favorable water levels and after close study with all precautions.

One of the local favorite rivers to raft is Wilson’s Creek NC. The creek drops 85 feet per mile and gives you a great thrill as you raft over 5 and 10 foot ledges. More popular rivers for NC white water rafting is the Pigeon River in Gatlinburg, French Broad river near Asheville, and the Nolichucky River lies at the bottom of one of the deepest gorges in the east.

Family getaway to Tweetsie Railroad

Need a family getaway? Then Tweestsie Railroad is a great place to go. They have it all at this amusement park, live entertainment, rides, places to eat, places to shop, and a deer park. Here is a description of some of the rides at Tweetsie Railroad. Free Fall – Marvel at the spectacular view from the top! … For the brief moment before plummeting in zero gravity! Minimum passenger height 48". Tornado – Reap the whirlwind when the Tornado sweeps you off the ground and into the sky — where you can twirl your own seat as much as you dare! Minimum passenger height 48". Great rides for smaller kids are the Merry-Go-Round, Ferris wheel, Mouse Mine Train, plus many more. One of the most famous entertainment attractions at Tweetsie is the Wild West Train Adventure. Which you will Ride the rails with Tweetsie’s Wild West Cowboys – a Tweetsie tradition. Our Cowboys will show you a rootin’ tootin’ good time on Main Street and during your adventure around the track. You never know what might happen, so keep a sharp eye out for marauding renegades plundering on the warpath. And when the ride’s over, the adventure’s not. When you come to Tweetsie, you get unlimited rides on the train throughout the day. If your hungry then tweetise has plenty of options to choose from. Sparky’s Southwestern & Barbecue has real NC barbecue, plus favorite burritos, tacos, wraps and nachos. There are many other places to eat with ice cream, soft pretzels, tweetsie’s famous fudge, funnel cakes, pizza, and hotdogs. Tweestsie Railroad Blowing Rock is a great place to get away from the heat if you don’t live in the High Country and a great place to take your kids. General Admission is $35 dollars for Adults and $22 for children 3-12 and children 2 and under is always free.

Mast General Stores

The First Mast General Store started in Valle Crucis North Carolina. Visitors come from all over to visit one of the first Mast General Stores, Since Mast General Store was built in Valle Crucis there has been 7 more General stores have been built throughout North Carolina and South Carolina. The other stores are Boone NC, Asheville NC, Hendersonville NC, Waynesville NC, Columbia SC, Greenville SC, and Knoxville TN. Before there were mega-malls and specialty stores, before there were department and discount stores, there was the general store – a family-owned, folksy place where you could buy flour, fabrics, nails or grain while getting caught up on local news , where those short on cash paid in trade (a chicken for a sack of flour, etc.) What’s making a – ahem – "general store" so popular that people sometimes have to squeeze sideways between the aisles? Well, variety, for one. It still sells "granny gowns" and "long johns," but they’re between the Flyshacker, Miss Erika, Northern Isles, Woolrich and other quality brands of sportswear, from tops to bottoms. And Mast has such other "general store" items as cast iron cookware, woven baskets, pottery and bird feeders. But is also carries portable GPS devices and precision compasses; outdoor stoves and streamwater purification systems; insect and bear repellents; backpacks and sleeping bags of every size and style; and other hiking and camping gear and casual footwear from Patagonia, Keen, Ecco, Mountain Hardware and Jansport, among other brands. If you love coming up to the High Country why don’t you check out our local listings and see what the High Country has to offer.

NC Mountain Real Estate – Choose and Cut Christmas Tree Season


2011 truly has been an excellent year for real estate here in the NC and VA Mountains.  Although we have seen a slight correction in prices our local NC Mountain Real Estate market has continued to flourish.  NC and VA Mountain Land has probably seen a larger decline in prices moreso than NC and VA Mountain Homes.  As we are looking forward to the Holiday Season we are hoping to have even more people in the area exploring our are here in Ashe County NC and Watauga County NC.  The small towns of West Jefferson NC, Boone NC, and Blowing Rock NC all become alive with lots of Holiday festivities that generally circle around the NC Christmas Tree industry.  As Thanksgiving draws nearer Choose and Cut in the NC Mountains comes alive as well.  If you make a trip to our area feel free to give me a call if you have any questions concerning NC Mountain Real Estate.  I look forward to seeing you in our area and assisting you in any way possible with any real estate need you may have.

Highway Safety Program Campaign

State and local law enforcement officers cited 1,937 motorists for driving while impaired during the “Booze it and lose it." The Campaign was called Operation Firecracker, while the campaign only ran from June 29th – July 9th. This is good news for families and everybody else on the road that these criminals are getting removed from the road before any accidents happen. The highest number of DWI citations was Mecklenburg with 107, Wake with 106 and Robeson with 76. This campaign was a good success for the state and local law enforcement. Campaigns like this one will send information throughout NC and will hopefully make people think twice before getting behind the wheel while impaired. In the High Country area, the numbers were not as high with Watauga County North Carolina having 13 DWI citations, Ashe with three, and Avery with eight.

River House Inn and Restaurant


A hidden gem here in the NC Mountains is the River House Inn and Restaurant.  It truly is a great place to enjoy a wonderful meal or to even spend the night at during a visit to our area.  Below is a recent review of the River House.  Enjoy!


Review by the Greensboro News & Record

Charmed by a Country Inn
By Stan Swofford

Imagine sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch of a century-old farmhouse-restaurant and marvelling at mist rising from a wide, crystal-clear, ancient river as fireflies begin practicing a show that will soon have surrounding hills twinkling like diamonds.

The peace and beauty of the place and moment lull you into a wonderful reverie — but not for long. Competing for, and soon winning over, your senses are delicious smells wafting through the open windows from the kitchen and dining room.


Well, you don’t have to just imagine. The place is real, and it’s only about two hours from Greensboro. This is River House, a country inn and restaurant nestled in a natural bowl formed by mountains and the North Fork of the New River in Ashe County in northwestern North Carolina.


The natural beauty of the mountains and the New River is reason enough to drive the approximately 130 miles from Greensboro. Add the superb food, charm and hospitality of River House, and a weekend there becomes one that many people repeat over and over again.

Coasting beside the river

“Elegance, without a sign of pretentiousness.” That’s what innkeeper Gayle Winston says she strives for at River House. Her guests believe she has succeeded, judging from the comments in the inn’s guest book:

“A delight! Along the river are shades of green, patent yellow to emerald, and all the shades between. There are sounds not often heard by those who rush. Hospitality! Wonderful food! And many wonderful memories.”

“As nice as visiting a special friend’s home.”

River House is actually one three-story main house and five outbuildings. River House’s restaurant, bar, dining room and sitting room is on the first floor, and Winston lives on the top two floors. Winston converted the outbuildings into seven guest rooms. From outside, the outbuildings look just like what they used to be – a chicken house, carriage house, caretaker’s house and weigh station (where produce was weighed) on a working farm. But open the doors, and you’ll see rooms filled with antiques, books, paintings, a huge Jacuzzi whirlpool tub and a king-size bed.

Winston said she likes to think of all her guests as honeymooners. Add sensuousness to the elegance she strives for at River House.

One of the first things a guest notices at River House is the books: novels, biographies, history books, every kind of book. They line the walls of guest rooms in the main house and the out-buildings, and they’ve been well read. Hundreds of cookbooks fill two wall-size bookshelves in the sitting room of the main house. Winston accumulated them over the years as she developed and honed her culinary skills. They signal to guests that this is place where food is very special.

Guests browse the books in the library or chat in rockers on the front porch and watch ducks and canoes glide down the river. Others gather in the bar for drinks while waiting for dinner. Some, such as Debra and Peter Perret, drove up from Winston-Salem. Others traveled from Doe Run in nearby Virginia. Some were local, from West Jefferson, less than 10 miles from River House. Some visit regularly from Blowing Rock and Boone, about 30 miles away.

Amy Hart, bartender as well as River House manager, distributed menus as she mixed cocktails and poured white wine. Winston moved easily from the kitchen, where she assisted chef Bill Klein, to her guests, greeting many by their first names. She says she’s never had a guest she didn’t like. “This is like having friends over every day,” she said.

The restaurant is open to the public for dinner, as well as overnight guests. There are two sittings for dinner, one at 6 and one at 8:30.

A sample dinner menu might include appetizers such as warm asparagus salad with mushrooms and hollandaise; red pepper soup with creme fraiche and lobster; frog legs with carrot-lemongrass broth and plum tomato.

Entrees on a recent night included tenderloin filet with melted leeks, potato gnocchi, and mushrooms; duck breast with lentils du puy, artichokes and savoy cabbage; and marine halibut with tapenade, tomato tartlette and zucchini.

Winston hired Klein as the River House chef seven years ago, when he was only 21, and trained and supervised him for three years. He was so talented that she encouraged him to get his culinary arts degree. Klein then studied for a year in France with some of the country’s best chefs. He also worked in four-star restaurants in San Francisco before returning this year to Ashe County, his home, and to River House.

But Klein still defers to Winston, especially when it comes to desserts. Desserts are her domain. There are people who travel a hundred miles or more several times a year for another piece of Winston’s chocolate bourbon cake or another helping of her bread pudding.

Veteran River House guests enjoy initiating newcomers to Winston’s bread pudding. “You can’t leave here without trying it,” said one, as she summoned a waiter to order another serving. The pudding is crusty outside, moist and rich inside and chock-full of currents that have been soaked in brandy. She was right; the dessert was to die for.

Just as good, though, was breakfast at River House, and Winston prepares it to order after placing a pot of freshly-brewed coffee outside each guest’s room. Her gourmet breakfasts include fresh-squeezed orange juice, fresh fruit, and a choice of hot foods, including French toast, pancakes, sherried eggs and omelets. Her mushroom and cheese omelet is on a par with her bread pudding.

A remarkable life

Winston, at 72, embraces innkeeping and cooking with the same verve and enthusiasm that have marked her many other pursuits during her remarkable life.

Winston, a 10th generation Ashe County native, was fresh out of college and armed with an English degree when she went to New York in the 1950s looking for a job as a journalist. She landed at Time magazine, where she met Leslie Stevens, a copyboy who had written a play and needed a producer.

At 23, Winston became his producer. “I guess I didn’t know any better,” she said. “I just went out and begged for the money.” She got it, and produced Steven’s play, “Bullfight,” off-Broadway. She produced several other plays, and worked with people such as Joanne Woodward and Roger Stevens, for whom Stevens Center in Winston-Salem is named.

Winston took her fund-raising prowess into the political arena where she worked for Democrat Adlai Stevenson in his unsuccessful campaign for the presidency against Republican Dwight Eisenhower. During this time Winston worked and became friends with two young men who would make quite a name for themselves in political circles: Jack and Robert Kennedy.

In 1958, she married Ron Winston, a film and television writer, producer and director whose work included the Hallmark Hall of Fame series and the television show, “The Outer Limits.”

Winston loved New York — its different people, cultures, ideas and food, especially the food. She became a regular reader of Gourmet magazine, and her original edition of Gourmet Cookbook is still with her in River House.

Ron Winston died in 1973, and Gayle Winston moved back to Ashe County to an environment that was worlds away from New York City. But Winston tackled her new world with the same enthusiasm as when she produced her first New York play.

Winston bought the house and farm that had belonged to her great-grandfather, and, along with brief stints as a schoolteacher and librarian, she became a cattle farmer. Her farm, which was not far from River House, eventually grew to 1,000 acres and supported 350 head of beef cattle.

Winston, however, missed the fine restaurants of New York. Beginning in 1976, she began opening and operating a series of restaurants, including, the Troutdale Dining Room in Troutdale, Va.; the Glendale Springs Inn, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway; Greystone Inn in Roaring Gap; Old Salem Tavern in Winston-Salem; The Tavern in Abingdon, Va.; and, finally, River House.

She has sold or closed all the other restaurants except Old Salem Tavern and River House.

Winston bought River House in 1988. She had admired the property for years, and knew something of its history. The house and farm had been the property of James Larkin “Doc” Ballou, a physician, inventor, environmentalist and ecoologist, who died in 1966. Winston renovated the cottage that had been his office, and it’s now one of her guest rooms.

Winston has expanded the property to about 170 acres, including a mile of river frontage.

The New River, despite its name, is even older than the Nile, geologists say.

Ponder that as you sit on the River House front porch and watch a mother duck and her babies paddling by. Time, at least in the anxious way we have come to know it, seems irrelevant here.

Like it has for thousands of years, the river flows serenely and gracefully toward its destination, an elegant complement to River House and its innkeeper.


Where: River House Country Inn and Restaurant

How to get there: From Greensboro, take I-40 West to Winston-Salem. Then take U.S. 421 North to Wilkesboro. Just north of Wilkesboro, turn right on N.C. 16. Proceed on N.C. 16 through Jefferson and travel about 10 miles to the North Fork New River Bridge. Immediately after crossing the bridge take a sharp left turn onto Old Field Creek Road. Go down a dip for 100 feet to a stop sign, and turn right. The river is on your left, and River House will be the first house you see, about a half-mile on the right.

What to do: Many North Carolina and Virginia mountain attractions are within easy driving distances of River House. The Blue Ridge Parkway is about 20 minutes away. Blowing Rock, Tweetsie Railroad, Boone and Grandfather Mountain are no more than an hour’s drive. The New River State Park, where you can rent and launch canoes, is about 10 miles from River House. The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Va., is about an hour’s drive. Also, you can hike or ride your bicycle on the near-by Virginia Creeper Trail, or visit Mount Jefferson, Grayson Highlands and the Bluff Mountain Nature Conservancy.