The curious folktale of Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Apparently, most people born in North Carolina have visited Blowing Rock at one time or another in their lives. The town of Blowing Rock, is named for “The Blowing Rock”, an outcropping of rock studded with crystals that hangs over a deep valley in the Appalachian Mountains. In any case, along with Tweetsie Railroad and the “mile high swinging bridge” at nearby Grandfather Mountain, it is a popular destination for anyone that visits the Blue Ridge Mountains.
However, few people know the story behind Blowing Rock.
As a child, my brother and I once stood on the observation deck at Blowing Rock and we wondered if the stories we have heard were true: if you tossed your hat off the rock that the wind would return it to your hands. He decided to take a chance and removed my brand new cap and gave it a toss, reluctantly, into the valley below. To our surprise, the hat was returned to him by the wind. Well, almost…
It didn’t exactly return to his hands, but was instead blown into the face of an innocent tourist few meters down the walkway. Red-faced with embarrassment, we quickly apologized and my brother’s beloved cap was returned to him. Of course, the cap stayed tucked in his pocket until we got back to the car.
Personal stories apart, It is said that the wind blows up from the valley below with such a steady intensity that in the wintertime the snow blows up past Blowing Rock instead of falling down from above and, as with any folktale, there is a legend behind this phenomenon.
The story goes that two young Native American lovers, knowing their love was forbidden since their tribes were about to go to war with each other, met at the rock and swore to each other that their love would transcend the coming fight between their people and conquer all, as true love often does.
However, when the red sky signaled the start of the war, the young man made a horrible decision: facing the shame of not returning to fight with his tribe, or the heartbreak of leaving his true love, he chose instead to jump to his death into the valley below.
As the young girl watched her lover jump from the rock, she quickly prayed to the spirits of the mountain for his life to be spared.
Legend has it that the wind, blowing steady and strong up from the valley below just as it continues to do this day, returned her lover to her arms.
Another version of the same story tells that a Chickasaw chieftan, fearful of a white man’s admiration for his lovely daughter, journeyed far from the plains to bring her to The Blowing Rock. One day the maiden spied a Cherokee brave wandering in the wilderness and playfully shot an arrow in his direction. The flirtation worked because soon he courted her with songs of his land and they became lovers, wandering the pathless woodlands and along the crystal streams. One day a strange reddening of the sky brought the two lovers to The Blowing Rock: to him it was a sign of trouble commanding his return to his tribe in the plains. With the maiden’s entreaties not to leave her, the young man, torn by conflict of duty and heart, leaped from The Rock into the wilderness far below. The grief-stricken maiden prayed daily to the Great Spirit until one evening with a reddening sky, a gust of wind blew her lover back onto The Rock and into her arms.
In both versions, the young lovers journeyed together to each others lands, and used the example of their love to bring peace to the two nations. And the wind still blows strongly at Blowing Rock.
In any case, for people of other days, at least, this was explanation enough for The Blowing Rock’s mysterious winds causing even the snow to fall upside down.
So if you ever find yourself in the Blue Ridge Mountains, do a visit to Blowing Rock. You can even bring a hat and test the wind’s ability to return it to you. But if I were you, I wouldn’t trust the wind more than that, like a Native American girl did hundreds of years ago….
Author’s notes: The Blowing Rock is a North Carolina’s oldest privately-owned attraction. In addition to the rock itself, it offers hiking trails and a gift shop. The Blowing Rock is located on Highway 321 South, near the town of Blowing Rock ad Grandfather Mountain.
Images from web – Google Research