Monday, February 26, 2024

March - April 2024

Calendar of Events

March 19, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. - St. Patrick's Day Dinner. Club will provide corned beef, cabbage, and baked potatoes; neighbors bring toppings for potatoes or desserts. Program: Karen King, from Outreach.

March 24, Sunday, 3 p.m. - Free community movie on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Popcorn available.

March 30, Saturday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. - Springtime in the Gorge at Laughing Waters

March 31, Sunday - EASTER

April 16, Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. - Community Covered Dish. Program: TBA

President's Note

We’ve had a major repair to the community center with a new well pump and switch, a costly undertaking we had hoped to avoid for a while. Have you ever wondered how the community center makes enough money to keep going? It’s not the dues! We only ask $10 per adult or $20 for a whole family for annual dues, and welcome all who come to our community dinners and events, whether or not they are members. Sure, we have breakfasts, cookouts, bake sales, and other events to raise funds. But it’s the wonderful donations that help us, too. More about this at the end.

While being present during the repair work, I took the time to look through the many scrapbooks at the community center. It’s amusing to see the old fashions, cars, and other things from years ago. But the best part is amazing: the incredible number of people who shepherded this community center through the many decades. How many local men have volunteered to fix issues at the community center, build things, and fry countless hamburgers at cookouts? How many women have baked pies for bake sale after bake sale? The countless volunteer hours these people spent in planning and hosting meetings, cleaning and decorating the community center, getting the word out, and all the other activities are astonishing to see. And being the first Adopt-a-Highway group, cleaning our highway for 50-plus years. It is impressive that so many dedicated people—hundreds, over the years!—fought very hard to take care of the community center and keep it thriving. I also think, what would we do, living here, without this wonderful place?

Some of you grew up here, and have memories of your folks here, and this is your home. Others of us are newer residents and love a place where we know all the neighbors and can gather regularly right here for fun, great meals, and community support. I grew up in a nice small town, and it changed. But right here in Gerton, it’s like the town I remember from back in the day, where we have a niche of peace, landscape beauty, and great, helpful neighbors even in modern times. 

It’s not just about dinners, either. We provide a substantial amount of food to the Hickory Nut Gorge Outreach food pantry. We are working with Conserving Carolina on new ways we can promote and help preserve nature and our trail system. In the past couple of years, we’ve reconstructed our meeting room, where a writing class, Bible study group, and a short story club have met. We’re developing a list of well-regarded local repair people. And more is coming. We never stop!

So whether you are a periodic attendee, a regular, already a member, or a former resident who has wonderful memories of Gerton, keep us in mind if you want to make a donation. I would be remiss if I didn’t give our mailing address: UHNGCC, PO Box 222, Gerton NC 28735. Or, we always have a donation jar at dinners and events. We’re working on new electronic ways for donations. Like all of us on the board, and those who read this, we love our community center. It’s the heart—not just geographically—of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge.

Chuck Mallory, President, UHNGCC

January Dinner and Meeting

Neighbors gather to talk before we eat.

On a really cold (20 degrees) evening of January 16, just under 20 of us gathered to share a meal---until the last minute we had no dessert!, but then someone rushed in with a platter of cookies (thanks, Chuck and Jim). We had a wonderful assortment of foods--perfect for a blistering cold evening with a group of warm-hearted neighbors. 
The Kelly Donaldson family hosted the evening, along with Lee Strickland and Dan Clancy. Books-to-take-home were the centerpieces on the tables. 

Our program for the evening was cancelled because of a fire that broke out near Chimney Rock when a tree fell over and caught fire. Traffic had to be re-routed, and Karen King, Manager of the Food Bank at Hickory Nut Outreach had to postpone her visit because of the fire.
Mike Hamlin was a repeat winner of the 50/50 Raffle and took home $41, leaving $41 for the club. 

Laughing Waters Sponsors Ground Hog Day Talk

By Karen Owensby

A celebration of the Ground Hog was sponsored by Conserving Carolina and Laughing Waters Retreat Center on February 3.  Doug Elliott, well known naturalist and storyteller, presented “Groundhog-ology: Of Whistle Pigs and World Politics.”  
Mr. Elliott kept the standing-room only attendees laughing at tales of folklore, history, mythology, philosophy and the lives of people of different cultures, past and present. We learned how groundhogs have been a source of food, clothing, medicine and music for generations ofAppalachian folks. Mr. Elliott taught the mystical aspects of groundhogs — how they are woven into Native American and European mythology. And finally, we learned the real story of Groundhog Day and clues to that great riddle: How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? 
Doug Elliott

Bible study at Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Community Club

Teresa Garrick will lead a Bible study for six weeks in the Community Room at the Community Center. Here is the information:
  • "Patriarchs in the Old Testament"
  • Each Tuesday at 10:30 am for six weeks
  • February 27 through April 9
Everyone is welcome --even if you miss the first discussion! For questions, please email Teresa at

Springtime Festival: Easter Egg Hunt. Crafts, Music in the Laughing Waters Orchard on Saturday, March 30 (11 a.m.)

Questions? or email:
We would love for you to join us at our springtime in the gorge festival. Our orchard is park like, with plenty of space to explore and play. Kids are encouraged to come! We will have an Easter egg hunt, fairy home crafting, and more!...Music by Old Man of the Woods. Zonda, Gardner in the pavilion.

Third Annual Chili Cook-Off

The 2024 Chili Cook-Off was held on Saturday, February 24 at the Community Center. There were six chili entries this year. The recipes were deliciously diverse, ranging from Jamie Linn's Cincinnati style – offered with toppings including hot dogs and spaghetti - to Karen Owensby’s deliciously healthy vegetarian version, chock full of root vegetables. The event was well attended with over 30 folks, even attracting a few hikers and Fairview residents, who heard about it in the Fairview Town Crier. Thanks to Karen Owensby and Ellen Boyle who worked to get the room set up and to Karen Owensby, Chuck Mallory, Tom Buffkin, Lee Strickland, Dan Clancy, and Jami Linn for cleaning up. The event netted the club $253. 

There was lots of corn bread as well as drinks and desserts. Nobody left hungry, and some even got to take leftovers home with them.

The crowd voted for their top three favorites. Here are the results:

First Prize: Spicy Texas Ancho Chili with Pork and Beef

Tom Buffkin and Lee Strickland

Second Prize: Medium Chili with Chicken and White Beans

Liz Hejl

Third Prize: Medium Creamy Chicken Chili

Jim Peine

Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all the chili cooks and discriminating tasters. 

Steve Ringenberg takes a bite of hot dog with Cincinnati chili.

Gerton Oral History Project Still Ongoing...

To date, Julia Pierce has conducted five interviews for our Gerton Oral History Project. In-person interviews will continue this spring. Please contact Julia if you are interested in telling her about your time in Gerton. You may reach her in one of the following ways: call Julia at  (828) 582-3404 or send a note to

Time Spent in Gerton as a Child

by Sophia Breton

I am built from my experiences.

My laughter is taken from cherished family friends, sitting at the table as the only child and hearing their stories of wise words and silly comments. Everyone laughs along so I join, my small voice intertwining with the others.

My heart is full of acts of kindness, mimicked from my mother’s selfless deeds, always helping those closest to her before she paid attention to herself.

My passions always burning strong come from my father’s struggles, his climb to recognition and each tough step he took for our family; building a business, being a father, and continuing to love what he does.

As I begin to start my journey of life as an adult, I realize the impacts my childhood experiences had on the person I have become today.

Growing up, my family and I moved multiple times. The first and largest of these moves was to a small mountain town near Asheville, North Carolina called Gerton. It was difficult on my family and myself moving to Gerton because not only did it mean leaving our life behind, but also our whole family as well. At the time, half of our family still lived in Savannah, including my grandparents, whom I was very close to. This adjustment was difficult and daunting for my parents, as navigating parenthood with no resources nearby is no easy task. We could have never known how important this time living in North Carolina would be for us. My family and I were welcomed with open arms to a community of the most special people, all different, each with beautiful quirks. Even though I was the only child in this community, the two years we spent in Gerton were the most loved I had ever felt in my life. We made a second family, and I loved each member so dearly.

I spent my long weekends curled up with Aunt Bobbie watching old rom-coms in her warmly lit apartment, throwing popcorn at each other across the kitchen when the movie was over. I picked apples in Jane and John's orchard, running quickly through the damp grass barefoot and trying my best to avoid the rotten apples neglected from the harvest. I played in the cold creeks, collected stones, and made soupy mud cakes for my honorary family. I spent holidays with Aunt Millie and Aunt Bobbie at their Inn. Halloween always was the most exciting. Uncle Tommy’s visits always kept me prepared to perform a last minute show for him and my parents on our rocky driveway, my cold bare feet dancing against the jagged rocks. I had sleepovers with Aunt Marcia when the dinner parties would last too long and I’d get too tired. Tucked up in her bed, the lull of conversations and laughter would rock me to sleep.

Every day I continued to grow up in Gerton, I learned something new about life and loving unconditionally. Being around those people not only made me who I am, but allowed me to see what type of person I will continue to strive to become, one full of acceptance, gratitude, and unadulterated love. From these people, I’ve learned how to overcome struggles within myself by working through problems and accepting help from those around me. I’ve learned how to extend kindness and aid to others in every way I can. And most importantly, I’ve learned that to be a part of a community is to have the greatest gift you can receive. As I continue on my path of becoming an adult I can say with full confidence that I will keep these experiences with me. I will practice what I've been taught and find a community of my own, one that helps me blossom and become the person I strive to be.

A Yucatan Travelogue

By Lee Strickland

Dan Clancy and Lee Strickland moved from Chicago to Gerton in 2020, and they expected to stop taking February trips to Mexico to escape polar vortices, icy sidewalks, and freezing winds. But this year, they changed their minds and headed down to catch some tropical sun in the Yucatan Peninsula.

Beyond the popular resorts of Cancun in the adjacent state of Quintana Roo, there is no shortage of interesting non-beach activity in the Yucatan. Dan and Lee visited the city of Merida, Mexico’s oldest and reputedly safest city. Without reservations, they found a quiet, cozy room at an intimate bed and breakfast near the city center - Casa de Maya. Owned by an American couple, and featuring a gourmet Mexican breakfast, the stylish little inn has only six rooms. One night there turned into three.

Merida is a family-oriented city where every night is a festival with entertainment at one or more of the major city squares: light shows, Mayan ball games, a children’s parade, and costumed dancing and music. Dinner, usually not before 9 PM, featured Yucatan specialties like conchinita publil (suckling pig in banana leaves) and papadzules (egg enchiladas). Mayan influence distinguishes this cuisine, which relies heavily on pork and turkey and on spices like achiote.

The Yucatan is full of Mayan ruins, so it was helpful to explore the Museum of Archeology and History housed in an ornate early 20th century mansion on the wide tree-lined avenue, Paseo de Monteya – the so-called Champs Elysee of Merida. An exhibit about the recent excavation of Ek Balam illustrated the painstaking process of unearthing a city that dates from 100 B.C. and thrived through 700-900 A.D.

After that introduction, it was time for some real ruins. Uxmal. an hour south of Merida, was recommended as smaller and less crowded than the famous Chichen itza. Uxmal had populations estimated at 25,000 or more between 700 and 1000 A.D. It was a farming community with families farming small plots, producing enough food for their own family and, of course, a portion to return to the powerful kings. A guide of Mayan ancestry showed the travelers the splendid temples, residences, and sports fields of this ancient, advanced civilization. (The winner of their beloved ball game was honored with a beheading and the immortal status of human sacrifice.)

Merida has lots of beautiful art galleries. Dan and Lee’s favorite was Nahaulli just a few blocks from Casa de Maya. There they sat by a fountain enjoying the sculpture of Melva Medina and the large acrylic paintings of Abel Vazquez.

On the way back to the airport in Cancun, they checked out the beach at Progreso. A recent storm had covered the beach with red sea weed and plastic. The local government is intent on keeping Progreso tidy and preserving the natural environment using Green Teams of volunteer environmentalists. Maybe next time, thought the Gringos, we’ll do an eco-beach trip and volunteer to pick up plastic.

Dan and Lee highly recommend this area of Mexico and might return, depending on how many power outages and days lost to icy roads the next years bring to Gerton.

Reflections on the Land of the Rising Sun

By Linda Reandeau

Many of us have heard Japan called the Land of the Rising Sun. An internet search can provide various reasons for this. Notwithstanding, Japan has always had a reputation for its distinctive culture and unique traditions. We had the opportunity to visit this beautiful island country in October 2023, and learned much about their culture through sightseeing an visiting with Japanese locals.

After a 17-hour flight, we touched down in Tokyo, a city of 14 million people and a place where you can buy almost anything from a vending machine. It’s a mix of ultramodern skyscrapers and historic, ancient shrines. With only one day in the city, we decided to learn about it through a food tour of the Shibuya area, referred to as the epicenter of modern Japanese culture. Often compared to Times Square and Piccadilly Circus, there are thousands of people taking it all in. We visited a standup sushi bar, a Japanese barbecue where we cooked our own food, and strolled throughout this district chock full of cafes, bars, restaurants, and shops.

MIKE & LINDA AT SHIBUYA CROSSING: Shibuya is also famously known for its iconic intersection, the Shibuya Scramble Crossing, where close to 2,000 people cross the streets every two minutes. It’s nothing short of well-organized chaos!

Upon leaving Tokyo the next day, we flew to Matsue, on the southwestern coast, where we stayed for two weeks while Mike was consulting at the Shimane Nuclear Power Plant. Known as the “City of Water,” Matsue is a town crossed with many canals and boasts one of twelve remaining castles in Japan that has not been destroyed from fire or war since it was completed in 1611.


Matsue is not touristy and is considered “authentic Japan.” With Mike working most days, I had the opportunity to tour on my own. I started with booking a day-long tour with a local guide using ToursbyLocals. We visited Matsue Castle, various Shinto shrines, a noodle restaurant for lunch, a foot onsen (a hot spring foot bath at a bus station), and the Kyomise shopping district, home to many restaurants and stores selling locally-made goods. My guide’s English was very good, and she helped me get a good feel for the city and its culture. She also provided me with suggestions for other places close to Matsue to visit.

 PEONIES AT YUSHIEN GARDENS: Close to Matsue are the beautiful Japanese gardens of Yushien. It is well-known for having more than 250 types of peonies, and thanks to carefully timed planting, peonies flower year-round in dedicated indoor and outdoor displays.

 FAMILY IN KIMONO: This family was taking photos dressed in traditional Kimono.

Activities and events in Matsue are generally centered around Matsue Castle, which is open for tours every day. We were lucky to be there in October during the annual water lantern festival. This event features about 1000 lights including lanterns handmade by residents throughout the castle grounds. Matsue is also home to the Lafcadio Hearn former residence. Hearn, born in Greece, was a writer who moved to Matsue as an English teacher in 1890. Hearn also lived for a time in New Orleans, and Matsue and New Orleans are now sister cities. While we were there, the castle hosted a “Little Mardi Gras” festival complete with gumbo, beignets, and a parade featuring a brass band playing “When the Saints Go Marching In.”


One of Matsue’s most beautiful areas is Lake Shinji, which surrounded by various water parks and an art museum. At sunset the eastern water park teems with hundreds of people hoping to capture their best sunset picture. It was a great place to unwind from the day and visit with locals.

Lake Shinji is renowned as one of Japan’s best 100 sunset spots.

As we were winding up our visit, we took a day trip to the city of Hiroshima and visited the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, commemorating the 1945 atomic bombing that virtually destroyed the city. There were thousands of visitors from all over the world, mostly who had not even been born when this event happened, all respectfully looking at the displays and reflecting. Although the US was responsible for the bombing, there was no America-bashing in signage or how Americans are treated. The Children’s Memorial with a curtain of 1000 peace cranes was particularly moving.

 THE PEACE POND: The Peace Pond, with the Dome in the background, also includes an eternal flame that will only be extinguished when there are no more nuclear weapons in the world.

There are so many places to visit in Japan and our trip only included a few. While we have many great memories, we believe our most memorable is the people. While there are definite challenges with the language barrier, the Japanese begin learning English in 5th grade. It was not uncommon to have natives approach us and ask to speak to us so that they could practice their English. They asked us questions about our home and America, and they were very happy to talk about Japan, offer us suggestions, and even invite us into their homes. When I was on my own, I would often seek out a younger person and ask if they spoke English. Most did, and they were always respectful in answering. Google Translate is also an invaluable tour traveling abroad!

When meeting a person in Japan, one bows to them. It is an essential part of Japanese culture, and is a way to greet another, show respect for that person, and express gratitude. In a world where kindness is often replaced by meanness and customer service is a thing of the past, we did not experience any of this in Japan. We found Japan’s people welcoming and gracious.  

Officers of UHNGCC for 2024: President - Chuck Mallory; Vice-President - Ellen Boyle; Secretary - Karen Owensby; Treasurer - Sylvia Sane; Board Members - Sarah Gayle; Stan Mobley, Lee Strickland, Tom Buffkin. Immediate past president - Margaret Whitt.