Picnicking with Fentimans Botanically Brewed Beverages at the Apple Barn on Mrs. Moses H. Cone’s Carriage Trails

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Anyone who has ever visited Moses H. Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Boone and Blowing Rock, NC has probably been enticed by the gorgeous carriage trails Mrs. Cone kept meticulously maintained to find themselves on a long walk. Or maybe they were lured to step into the woods surrounding the grand manor house by rumors of a haunted apple barn on the property owned by the Gilded Age entrepreneur whose textile factories supplied the majority of denim to Levi Strauss and Co. as the world leader in denim manufacturing.

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I have stopped by the park many times over the years that I have lived and visited in and around the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, during all the seasons of the year that the Blue Ridge Parkway is passable, but I have always balked at the “stroll” that would take me from the main house, past the “haunted” and abandoned apple barn that is said to still emit the ghostly sounds of working machinery, all the way to the dam and lake at the base of the mountain below.

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It was easy to choose the less strenuous of the two trails, the one that leads past Mrs. Cone’s carriage house to the cemetery at the top of a bald that houses the Cones’ graves in a nice little Gothic fenced plot, because I was with my toddler nephew or my own children and husband, who has been in delicate health over the years. I avoided the long haul because I knew that if we went down the mountain, we would have to come back up, completing a 5 mile hike that would certainly feel uphill both ways.

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The Georgian mansion that the Cones occupied is itself worth a stop at the park. I’ve been in love with it since I first saw it at around age 18. Visitors to the park can not only walk the grounds but are able to get a look inside the building that houses items for sale created by artists from around the mountains.

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On our last trip, though we had intended to just stop long enough to enjoy our packed lunch under a pretty tree with a view, we finally did it. We hiked all the way down to the lake, around it, and back on up to the house. And though I was worried about my husband, he did just fine. The views and amazing forests along Mrs. Cone’s carriage trails, the ones she rode through every day in one of her fancy schmancy horse-drawn buggies, kept us putting one foot in front of the other to haul our behinds back up that mountain.

On the way down, we stopped to have a nice picnic on the loading docks of the old apple house, which that day was devoid of phantom machinery noises. We could see, however, why people hike for a spooky thrill on moonlit Halloween nights to the old building that’s set in the middle of a clearing among tall pines. Even in broad daylight it feels eerily forgotten.

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The Fentiman’s Botanically Brewed drinks we had purchased in a little store in Blowing Rock were perfect with fruit and cheese and pita crisps and gave us the pep we needed to finish our hike.

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These drinks are so good and much healthier than the toxic 2-liter sodas that come off the grocery store shelf. The original process of making them was based on natural fermentation in wooden containers after their components of roots and herbs had been combined with yeast and sugar, the same way home lacto-fermentation hobbyists make ginger ale on the kitchen counter, though Fentiman’s glass bottling process has been updated over the years.

We tried Ginger Beer, Rose Lemonade, and Curosity Cola. The men in our family liked Curiosity Cola best, but I really liked the pink lemonade with Rose Otto oil.

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And now we can’t wait to try the other flavors, particularly the new Wild English Elderflower, and take them back up and down the mountain at one of our favorite stops on The Blue Ridge Parkway.

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