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Memories of Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming 2019

October 26, 2019

It’s only been three weeks since we left the Ridge after an amazing second Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming, but it seems like months! We have to apologize for a somewhat lengthy absence, but the second Homecoming event was worth all of our time and energy. We’d like to share some attendees experiences and photos with everyone, as well as our exciting news for Homecoming 2020!  Today’s experience is from Debbie Morelock!

“So, what was it like to go back in time for a few days and get in touch with my inner Sassenach and for my husband, his inner Highlander? Aye lass and lassie, it was awesome!  Getting to Leatherwood Resort wasn’t a bad drive from TN and GPS kept us on track. After a lot of curvy roads, some paved and others not so much, which helped make us feel like we were being transported back in time, pulling in to Leatherwood was a welcome sight. Let me tell you, it is an absolutely gorgeous place. Tucked neatly on the side of the mountain with a little creek and horse barns, it’s peaceful and beautiful!

Checking in was simple and quick. In no time, we had the keys and directions to our cabin. My husband and I resisted the urge to go on to the Fraser’s Homecoming check in and drove on to our cabin to unload and freshen up.  Then it was off to registration and begin our Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming 2019 weekend!

First impression of checking in for the weekend’s activities? I was in awe at how well it was streamlined! And the tote bag full of goodies that we each got was a nice surprise! From an Outlander 2020 calendar, to a zippered notepad with pen, to a book of short stories from a local author, to cute themed pins and a sticker, there was just so many things! The best part of all during check in was hearing the bagpipes being played! And seeing Highlanders dressed in their kilts marching up and down the field calling commands only added to the sights and sounds. Talk about having the hair on your arms and back of your neck stand up! Were we still in NC or did we really go back home to Scotland? You know the old saying “The devil is in the details.”? Well, I could tell after checking in, Beth and her crew were certainly going to beat that devil to death over this weekend or die trying. I knew we were in store for an amazing time! There is no way I can begin to name every little detail I noticed that went into everything, there were so many!

We spent the rest of Thursday afternoon on the scavenger hunt looking for charms that depicted different parts of the Outlander series. The finale was getting up to Craigh na Dun cabin and the standing stones!  From where we were, we could also see Grandfather Mountain off in the distance. All I can say is WOW! Soon it was time for the Hello the House Welcome Party. There was lots of yummy hors d’ oeuvres, live music and what we had all been waiting for: The Calling of the Clans! It was so fun to hear all the different clans being represented as each flaming torch was placed in the fire. Sadly, we were too tired to stay for the ghost stories and headed back to the cabin.

Friday brought several different workshops that we had signed up for oh, and did I mention it was hot yesterday? It was in the mid 90’s and Friday turned out the same. We were sweating buckets, but we had so much fun! Probably my favorite workshop was listening to The Tale of the Regulators. Lunch was a wonderful beef stew and at dinner the barbecue and fixings was so good. During dinner we officially welcomed Shaun Alexander, world traveler and YouTube vlogger and his wife, Teka to the gathering. It’s so cool that they came across the pond to be here and share this weekend with us and with his fans around the world! When the costume contest took place, I was so impressed with everyone’s costumes. The contestants came dressed and ready to win. Then we watched the Druid Lantern Dance performed just like in the opening scenes of Outlander! AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL is all I can say.

Saturday brought a complete change in weather. It started to mist and temperatures dropped! I think somehow Beth planned it that way to give us a real feeling of being in the Scottish Highlands! The workshops Saturday were even better! I enjoyed having a one on one with the genealogist and gathered some tips on researching more of our family history. My husband had a great time with the hawk and knife throwing. Lunch was so good! I had shepherd’s pie and my husband had the smoked pork tacos. After lunch I went to hear the 18th century doctor. I could have stood there in the drizzling rain all day. It was so interesting! My husband participated in the flint fire building class and really liked it. I have a feeling he will be building his own hawk throwing target before too long and a place to practice his flint fire making skills.

Soon it was time to go warm up and change for dinner. This was the evening we’ve been waiting all year for! I dressed in my Scottish skirt and blouse and my husband looked so dashing in his kilt.  The tables were set and decorated in a rustic fall foliage and a mixture of different plaids. We enjoyed tender venison, chicken and mashed potatoes with roasted kale. Dinna fash, I’m getting to the dessert. Warm toffee sticky pudding and apple dumplings. Do I need to say more? The music by Celtic Connections was hauntingly beautiful. But the icing on the cake was the surprise Beth had for us all. A video giving us the dates for next year’s gathering as well as the guests who will be attending with us next year!!! Yes, I screamed along with everyone else when we saw who it was. Welcome to Fraser’s Ridge 2020!!!!  Annette Badland (Mrs. Fitz), Gary Lewis (Colum Mackenzie), and Graham McTavish (Dougal Mackenzie)!!!! How are we supposed to sleep after this? Much less wait for next October to hurry and get here?

Sunday, time to pack up and check out of our cabin. No, I did not want to. We closed out our time at the Homecoming listening to Capt. Robert K. Rambo (U.S. Military, Ret.) portraying Attakullakulla, Peace Chief and First Beloved Man of the Cherokee from 1761 to 1775. WOW, just WOW! I don’t know what else I could even say.

After all the goodbyes and see ya laters to our new found friends, it was time to head back to our time and to life off the Ridge. I can’t begin to thank Beth and her crew enough for all of the time they spent planning and getting everything together and ready for us. I was right though, the devil in all the details sure was beat up one side and down the other.  How will they possibly outdo this year? I have no clue, but I have no doubt they will!”

Debbie, thank you so much for recapping your weekend with us at Leatherwood Mountain Resort! We can’t wait to be with you and your husband again next year!

For more photos of our wonderful weekend, go to the Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming 2020 Facebook page (whether you have a Facebook account or not!) and scroll through!

Dates for next year’s Homecoming are October 8-11, 2020.  The projected date for ticket sales to begin is February 1, 2020.  This date gives us plenty of time to be sure that plans are finalized, and the big stuff is in place!  We do know that the 71st NC Highlanders will be returning, as well as the Warriors of AniKituhwa. Our special guests next year include television series cast members Annette Badland, Graham McTavish, and Gary Lewis!  Saying we’re already looking forward to next year is an understatement!

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Fauna at Leatherwood Mountains & WWCD?

July 24, 2019

from Mary Helen Ellis

If you are reading this, you are one of “those” that are sucked into the world of Outlander, and glad of it! The Outlander Vortex–I find I measure a good portion of my everyday life by WWCD, What Would Claire Do? It’s twenty degrees outside my mountain cabin, snow is a foot deep, and I must walk out to the car and clear off the windshield. WWCD–it just makes my “git up and go” a little easier! For Pete’s sake, if I must run out to the mailbox when it is 95 degrees, I stop and think, at least I don’t have to chop wood to cook dinner.

Our lives are a cakewalk compared to the 18th century. Every once in awhile, though, there is a reminder of Fraser’s Ridge time that sneaks up on you. These peeks into their world are very close by in Leatherwood Mountains. The flora and fauna of the North Carolina wilderness assault your senses as soon as you arrive. Owning a cabin in Leatherwood, I will share some of the fauna that I have encountered over the last twenty years. I am from eastern North Carolina, my town literally has 5 streets and 1 blinking light, so I am a rural gal, but it is quite different than being a mountain wilderness lassie…WWCD!

Fauna always makes me think of fairies. My 25-year-old niece has a favorite Leatherwood fairy story: at the bottom of Flag Branch Road is a mountain creek and waterfall. Years ago, when she was 6, Mara saw a fairy at the waterfall. About 6” across with white wings, it fluttered by her and spoke to her–I’m guessing a luna moth, lovely in its own right, but more so as a mountain stream fairy. A not so pleasant recent story involves my blind Yorkie, her daily constitutions, and the redbugs (chiggers) she brought back to my lap! I can’t watch Jamie and Claire rolling around the beautiful green grass without thinking of chiggers and their itchy bites that last for days! WWCD in the NC mountains?

Yep, red bugs, millipedes, ladybugs, oh my! Our ladybugs are of the Asian variety, said to have been sprayed from aircraft by the Wildlife Commission on the mountain ridges to rid the mountains of some other kind of tree damaging insect. These are not the cute red and black variety they named a vehicle after; these orange ladybugs swarm into log cabins and have an odor. Claire would have never seen these. But she probably had plenty of millipedes, cluster flies, and other insects to contend with. I see some different species every time I stay at Leatherwood. I believe there are many more varieties of insects in the mountains than back east.

Leatherwood Mountains is a wildlife sanctuary, no hunting, no ATV’s, no fireworks; just peace and the natural quiet only found in nature. Large game animals such as deer and turkey live happily in the natural environment of the gated 5000-acre resort. Populous game animals also attract the “top of the food chain” critters. I have had a cabin for 20 years and have yet to actually see a bear, a wolf, a panther, but have seen a bobcat. There is clear evidence of scat and tracks to show that they are living with us in the wilderness. The first renters of our cabin in 1999 woke to find a bear on top of their minivan, hoping for the left-over french fries inside. On a January trip to Leatherwood, we arrived at midnight. The next morning, we found wolf tracks by the horse trough. We have seen tracks of coyotes, wolves, panthers, bears, and elk tracks as large as a man’s boot! My husband swears he and his parents saw an actual elk, (not out of the realm of possibility as they have been reintroduced in the southern NC mountains). Remember, I have yet to see any of these animals, only their tracks. I have seen skunks, raccoons, groundhogs, eagles, hawks, owls, turkeys, and more.

WWCD? In the movie “The Songcatcher” the old mountain woman told the Yankee lady…if you hear a “painter’s*” cry (sounds just like a woman’s cry) and he is after you, run as fast as you can while stripping off your clothes. The panther will attack your clothes and shred them giving you precious time to flee. *The Eastern Cougar, panther, or “painter,” as they are called by mountain folk, is said to be extinct in this part of the US by biologists. Many people claim to have seen and heard their bone-chilling cries, especially in the vast swampy places in the coastal areas of North Carolina. Do they or don’t they? Depends on who you ask.

Copperhead with a nearby mothball, said to keep snakes away. The bite of a copperhead usually happens when they are stepped on. It’s easy to see how well their colors and pattern
camouflage them on the ground.

Who remembers the three storylines regarding snakes in Outlander? In 20 years, I have seen snakes three times (four, if you count the dead one on the road). The first time there were two in a pallet of rock with a wire fence around it. I wanted to use the left-over rock to edge a flower bed. It was me or the snakes. Had I known what kind at the time, I may have let them be. I tied a rope around the pallet, attached it to my trailer hitch and yanked the fence and rocks to smithereens. The snakes turned out to be king snakes–the good guys. The second snake encounter was also a good guy. However at 6’-7’, I did not bother the black snake as it scaled a steep embankment! I hope he is still around, guarding against snake number three, a beautifully marked but poisonous copperhead. WWCD with a very large Copper Head?

We sort of chased him off with mothballs and have not seen him for a year. I have learned though, that this fauna is one to watch for; know what is beneath your feet! Thankfully, we don’t have outhouses to contend with (except for one of our cabins, Hemlock Point, that has an outhouse ½ bath in the basement!).

Today’s cabins with AC, WiFi, Netflix, refrigerators, dishwashers, laundry appliances, computers, central heat, etc. are modern and comfortable, just like your home. But, step out the door and you can enter Jamie and Claire’s time. Leatherwood’s motto is “The stars are our streetlights.” It is true in every sense of the word; I encourage rental guests to arrive in daylight hours. At night, however, you can see more stars than you knew existed, because of very little light pollution. On a moonless night, at the right time of year, you can make out the Milky Way! We saw Claire make the startling realization when she first rode behind Jamie and saw the town of Inverness off in the distance, and no incandescent lights anywhere. It is like this at Leatherwood when you look out over the mountains. You are in the Outlander moment.

So, I believe what Claire would do is relish and stand in awe of the fauna she encountered in her life at Fraser’s Ridge in the 18th-century mountains of North Carolina. She had no choice but to fall in love with the area, but we do. We can turn off the television, shut off our phones and computers, and step out the door at Leatherwood Mountains….aka Fraser’s Ridge!

Thank you, Mary Helen, for the preview of what animals we may encounter while we’re at Leatherwood Mountains in October at A Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming!
Why not plan a visit to the NC mountains, and consider the Leatherwood Resort for a cabin rental? Their lovely homes range from one bedroom to five, so you can go alone for a breather, or meet the whole family for a wonderful vacation! The resort also features camping sites if that’s more your speed! Amenities include a swimming pool, horses available for trail riding, tennis, fishing, hiking, and tubing down the creek! Take some time to just be, enjoy the natural surroundings and all of the flora and fauna, and experience the back county much like it was in the 18th century! Your stress hormones will thank you!