Some potential points of interest for spring planning

BY RANDALL RIGSBEE, News + Record Staff
Posted 2/14/20

Just a couple of weeks ago, I used the bully pulpit of this column to write about the chilly stretch of weather we were enduring at the time here in the mostly moderate middle of our southeastern …

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Some potential points of interest for spring planning

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Just a couple of weeks ago, I used the bully pulpit of this column to write about the chilly stretch of weather we were enduring at the time here in the mostly moderate middle of our southeastern home state.

But weather is apt to change, sometimes very suddenly and not always — as hurricanes and tornadoes and straight line winds will sometimes remind us — without drama. Then again, like recalling what we supped on last Saturday, it’s easy to forget that today, though we might bask in balminess, a couple of Fridays ago we froze.

Such is the weather.

Pennsylvania’s Punxsutawney Phil, fortunately, has forecast an early spring, and — though it’s maybe misplaced trust to put any stock in a whistlepig’s opinion — I choose to trust him.

We’ll know in a few weeks if the celebrated groundhog was right because, regardless of what the mercury and the marmosets say, we’re officially stuck with winter — whatever that means around here — until March 19 when, as our calendars promise, spring begins.

That’s our chance, following four months of winter hibernation, to emerge from our cabins. But what to do once we’ve sloughed off winter?

There are plenty of possibilities.

Here are a few not-distant destinations you could consider.

North Carolina has its share of ghost stories and related sites and some are interesting to see. Once, en route to Ocean Isle Beach, I took the long way there just to pass through a small Brunswick County community which is the setting of the legendary Maco light.

Never mind that I drove through the unincorporated community of Maco Station mid-morning, in broad daylight, the famed Maco light — said to be the ghost of a beheaded railroad worker scanning the tracks with a lantern looking for his missing part — is impossible to spot under those conditions. It was still a thrill to drive through Maco Station, pondering the legend of the headless searcher.

Our state is blessed with many such stories, including — of course — one here in Chatham County’s flatwoods with the Devil’s Tramping Ground, just off Devil’s Tramping Ground Road. Legend has it that at the precise spot of the “tramping ground” itself, where it’s said Satan himself pensively paced, is a wide dirt patch where nothing grows.

But if Halloween seems the better time of year for those spooky sorts of adventures, spring — that hopeful season full of promise and life — would certainly be suited for a visit to some of North Carolina’s literary landmarks.

Carl Sandburg’s home (called “Connemara”) in Flat Rock, about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Pittsboro, is a good place to start such a tour. Maintained nearly exactly today as it was when Sandburg — three times the winner of the Pulitzer Prize — lived there, the mountain home was the first National Historic Site dedicated to a poet.

A bit farther northwest of Flat Rock, in Asheville, is the boyhood home of novelist Thomas Wolfe, who wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again.” For whatever truth there is or isn’t in that famous title statement, you can go to Wolfe’s home, and it’s worth the trip and would make a fine springtime destination, the home itself a testament to the spirit of renewal the spring season inspires, having been restored after an act of arson destroyed portions of the home and its many artifacts. It re-opened in 2003 after a $2.4 million renovation effort.

Or you might enjoy a visit to Cool Spring Tavern, the oldest house in Fayetteville and the location where novelist Carson McCullers completed “The Heart is a Lonely Hunter” and composed “Reflections in a Golden Eye.”

Southport boasts the childhood home of Robert Ruark, newspaper columnist and author. If you’ve read either of his memoirs about growing up in the Southport/Wilmington area (“The Old Man and the Boy” and its sequel, “The Old Man’s Boy Grows Older”) it’s nice to see the home that served as Ruark’s headquarters for his many youthful outdoor adventures.

But those two last words in the above sentence — outdoor adventures — are key here. With winter quickly (according to Phil) coming to a close, it will soon be time to dust the winter from our shoulders and get back out there.

Whether our adventures are inspired by a mysterious phenomenon of light in Maco Station or a desire to visit the former haunts of an old Flat Rock poet, you don’t have to travel too far to find a perfect springtime pursuit.


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