Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Welcome to the Garden of Eden

The Green Park Inn's green horse stands southbound on the Eastern Continental Divide,
as if he might sip from the Pee Dee and piddle-dee-dee into the Mississippee.

     Four of America's more poetic rivers descend from the mountains where I live: the Mississippi, Pee Dee, Santee, and Tennessee. The first two can be traced to springs under the stately Green Park Inn, which straddles the Eastern Continental Divide in Blowing Rock. Headwaters for the other two are within walking distance.
     As far as I know, the only other place that stands at the head of four great rivers is the Garden of Eden, as described in the second chapter of Genesis.
     A beloved local banker named Alfred Adams (1911-2002) wrote a little essay about this, harking back to the simpler days before Boone had a Five Guys, four-lane highways, or a three-time national champion football team. 
     I couldn't find this anywhere else on the web, so I put it here just for you:

Boone, the Second Garden of Eden

by Alfred Adams 
    There’s been a certain amount of research done to locate the ancient Garden of Eden. It’s been discovered to have been forty miles east of the city of Damascus; the Damascus where Saul had his vision. From the Garden there rose four rivers. One flowed north, one south, one east, and one west.
    Boone, North Carolina, is located forty miles east of the city of Damascus, Virginia, and from the base of Grandfather Mountain rise four rivers, flowing one to each of the cardinal points of the compass—-which gives you all the physical evidence necessary to convince you that it is indeed the second Garden.
    Now with it being 3,333 feet up here to the courthouse yard, depending upon where in the courthouse yard you measure, because it ain’t level either, we have no air and water pollution problems here. The air you breathe here is just as pure as any breeze that ever chortled down a country lane before the advent of the combustion engine on civilization.
    The water that bursts out of the breasts of these majestic mountains and cascades down over the rocks, over the logs and on out into the rivers of the valley below has been tested to be 100.00001 percent pure, which makes it a good place to live.
    But eventually, the shadows lengthen and twilight falls and you can no longer ignore the clear call of the tolling bell. You’re now 3,333 feet closer to the abode of the righteous. You’ve got a running go on heaven from up here.
    And look at the other side of the coin. Suppose you fail to walk circumspectly before the world, and the keeper of the Golden City frowns upon your application and supplication. Heaven forbid! But in that event, you are 3,333 feet farther from the kingdom of the Satanic majesty. You can delay your entrance into that unwanted and unholy land by that much travel time.
    And the way traffic gets in Boone, it’s worth considering.

  • Raindrops that fall in Blowing Rock actually have five ways to go to the beach. The New River heads north to the Ohio, the Watauga winds west to the Tennessee, and a thousand miles downstream they merge and feed the mighty Mississippi on the way to New Orleans. Meanwhile, the Yadkin flows east to the Pee Dee, and the Johns River goes south via the Catawba and Wateree to the Santee. Separated at birth, these two rivers eventually run parallel and are nearly reunited in the end—emptying into the Atlantic on opposite sides of Georgetown SC. In addition to these three natural outlets, there are also canals that divert waters from the Santee to Charleston and from the Tennessee through Alabama to Mobile.
  • A patch of rhododendron across the road from the Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock is one of 53 "triple divide points" in the United States—where the watersheds of three major rivers begin. Technically, the Santee, Pee Dee, and Mississippi define this triple divide, while the Tennessee starts three miles west in the Moses Cone Park. The nearest triple divides along the Blue Ridge are on Sassafras Mountain SC (head of the Santee, Savannah, and Mississippi) and in Carroll County VA (the Pee Dee, Roanoke, and Mississippi). Click here for the list.
  • The Blowing Rock News published a story about the head spring of the Pee Dee, which is now hidden in a manhole at the Green Park Inn. See the postcard below. 
  • You'll occasionally read that the New and the Nile are about the only rivers in the world that flow north. I've also heard Asheville's counter-culture ascribed to the fact that the French Broad runs north—as if there is something strange about that. Let's dispense with this nonsense forever: Five of the 13 longest rivers in the world flow north. So do many of our more famous rivers, including the Rhine, Niagara, Monongahela, Shenandoah, Snake, and St. Johns. Just because they go toward the top of the map does not mean they defy gravity or social norms.
  • On the other hand, why do we say that rivers "rise"? They only rise when dammed. 

Antique postcard shows the springhouse that once guarded the head of the Pee Dee.
The house in the background still stands on Green Hill Road just off U.S. 321.
A thousand captured Confederates drank here the evening of April 17, 1865.


  1. Fascinating post Tom! I have been following in your footsteps (literally) in the past year or so through your peakbagger posts. More than once they have saved me from making some crucial wrong turns. I live in Charlotte and as a practicing attorney with 4 kids to put through college I hike when I can, but not as much as I would like. My Mom lives in Avery County just below the summit of Big Yellow Mountain - a peak I have been climbing for almost Fifty years - so I know your neck of the woods very well. Thanks again for what you do!

  2. Good to hear from you, Henry. I responded via Peakbagger.