A Shay locomotive hauls logs along the top of Bard Falls in this circa-1909 photograph. The train is on its way to the W. M. Ritter Lumber Mill in Mortimer. Today, North Harper
A short distance beyond the gorge on Brown Mountain Beach Road lies the Wilson Creek Visitor Center. If you plan to hike in the area or drive the many forest roads, you’ll need a good map and some information about the sights. You can get that at the visitor center, as well as a plethora of information about the region’s history.
A couple of miles beyond the visitor center are the concrete remains of a cotton mill from the early 1900s. Just ahead, the road crosses Wilson Creek and passes through a floodplain that plays host to a few vacation cottages. Scattered about are old bridge abutments, rusted pieces of metal, and several overgrown foundations”but apart from these subtle hints, you’d never know that this site once hosted a bustling logging mill town.
Up ahead, in the community of Edgemont, more echoes from the past await. Coffey’s General Store, recently closed, served the community for nearly a century. Another early-twentieth-century survivor is the Edgemont Depot. When passenger train service ended in Edgemont in the late 1930s, the depot was moved a short distance and adapted as a private residence.
Two roads branch out from Edgemont: Forest Road 464 and Forest Road 981. Both take you to trailheads for some of the finest hiking in Pisgah National Forest, including access to spectacular waterfalls. Get a trail map and spend some time exploring the roads and trails. Continuing north on the route from Edgemont, you climb out of the valley on another winding forest road to reach the community of Gragg, nestled under the shadow of Yonahlossee Road (see Route 2). From Gragg, the route turns south and passes through Johns River valley on the opposite side of Wilson Ridge from Wilson Creek. Most of this part of the route cuts through private property, but thankfully it’s far enough back in the boonies to have remained largely undiscovered by outsiders and their bulldozers.
There’s a lot to see between Gragg and Colletsville, but one particular spot deserves advance notice. To keep from driving into the ditch upon first sight, it’s best to know ahead of time about things like Johns River House of Mugs. To find it, look for a small vacation cabin beside Johns River. The cabin has a fence running across the front yard and down both sides of the driveway. If that doesn’t help you find it, try looking out for
the 14,000 or so coffee mugs hanging on everything in sight. That’s right. Coffee mugs cover nearly every square inch of the fence, house, and porch of this vacation cottage. Proud owners Avery and Doris Sisk welcome curious visitors from all over the country to their coffee-cup haven.
Johns River House of Mugs sits beside the river near Colletsville. Adorned with thousands of coffee mugs, the cottage draws visitors from all over the country.
Vines entangle an abandoned gas pump near the community of Colletsville.
Durham North Carolina Travel Guide Photo Gallery