We hear lots of folks tell us they moved to this area because of the beauty of its natural environment. But long before us newbies there were those hardy souls who were fortunate to view Western North Carolina’s primal and pure splendor. In the 1780s and 1790s, many of the settlers to Western North Carolina followed the corridor through Howard Gap which was steep and narrow and lined with massive virgin timber of white oak, chestnut, red and black oak, 5 feet plus in diameter; mountain magnolia soaring 100 feet with leaves 2 to 3 feet in length, what the locals dubbed the “cucumber tree” because of its clean pungent fragrance. Unbeknownst to these early settlers they were passing into a world unimaginably ancient; a world once covered by shallow oceans inhabited by trillions of tiny sea creatures whose skeletons still generously contribute to the ground’s fertility and biodiversity. They beheld a world of mountains piled upon mountains, an ecological wonder that contains the largest collection of plant life on the North American continent, with more than 3,000 seed-bearing plants, 130 species of trees and nearly 1,000 varieties of wild flowers.
In 1773 William Bartram, son of John Bartram, the King of England’s personal botanist, catalogued much of this plant life. Bartram, on horseback and by foot, traveled through the mountains of Georgia and the Carolinas and discovered this grandeur of creation. A notation in Bartram’s journal reads: “Again mounting my horse, I followed the Cherokee trading path a quarter of a mile and then gently ascended the green beds of the hills and entered the forests. I approached the river at the fording place which was greatly swollen by the rains day before. After riding two miles through Indian cultivated fields of corn and beans we beheld the celebrated beauty of the hills, glorious magnolias, blushing rhododendron, fiery azalea flaming on the hills, the color of the finest red. The clusters of the blossoms were of such incredible profusion that we were alarmed with the apprehension of the hill on fire. At length I rested on the most elevated peak from which I beheld with rapture and astonishment a scene of power and magnificence.”
William Bartram – Hine cognac straight pour
Rhododendron – C & K brandy, amaretto, lemon juice, sour mix
Chestnut – C & K brandy, honey syrup, lemon juice
Wild Magnolia a/k/a Cucumber Tree – CB Frost, gin, lime juice, muddled cucumber, simple syrup
Howard Gap – CB Frost, lime juice, agave nectar
US Flight – 1/2 price