We headed from Virginia to Mars Hill, North Carolina which is near the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Appalachian Trail . Nearby is Mount Mitchell which is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi. Mars Hill has a population of about 2,000 people and is home to Mars Hill University. There is a story about a slave named Joe Anderson. He was owned by one of the trustees and was used as collateral for the building of the college. The Union Army invaded Mars Hill University in 1865. It took 40 years to restore the damage. A famous musicologist named Bascom Lamar Lunsfield, aka Minstrel of the Appalachians, was raised here.
Native Americans of the Cherokee Tribe lived on this land and were removed in 1838 to Oklahoma. They marched the Trail of Tears so named because so many died on the way.
We stayed with friends up in the hills. The hills here are sharp and steep and the roads are zig zagged which is interesting while traveling with an Airstream. Every bit of land has to be cut out of the hillsides and the rocky soil has to be heavily augmented. The woods are filled nut trees – hickory and black walnut. The acorns are big. There is very little light pollution and the night sky is very dark. There are horse farms down the road. In addition to lots of shale, there’s quartz.
The word that came to my mind in Mars Hill was resiliency – the capacity to recover from difficulties. It just takes so much to build here and to set up a new life. It’s hard to image how the early settlers succeeded in this frontier territory. I like the idea of resiliency. There’s this sense of sometimes just putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward with no guarantees and sometimes, for all you know, not even a remote chance of success. Life stops us in lots of ways. We get sick, we move, our hearts get broken, we can no longer watch the news, people die. I sure admire people who persist and keep living life in spite of hardship.
A woman named Ola Belle Reed was born a few counties north of Mars Hill. She was the 4th of 13 children. She composed and sang a song called, I’ve Endured. I love this song, especially when Larry sings it. I hope you will like it too.