We all got our own opinions
We all believe what we believe
But everything that’s heaven to you
Is Carolina to me. – “Carolina To Me,” Scotty McCreery, 2021
BEACON HEIGHTS – Ninth place is lousy.
Year-to-year disappointments the Cali … er, Los Angeles Angels finished in ninth place this year in the American League, despite having the best slugger in baseball and the best player, a unique, Japanese combo pitcher/DH. The Carolina Panthers, in football, can only dream of ninth place and the playoffs.
So as I sat on this popular granite-outcrop overlook next to the Blue Ridge Parkway and near Grandfather Mountain during my annual autumn leaf trip to the mountains, I struggled with ninth place.
Airport Parking Reservations, a tourism blog, has ranked North Carolina No. 9 in natural beauty among states in America. That ain’t right.
Before me I marveled at my view of Grandmother, Hawksbill, Shortoff and Table Rock mountains under a crisp Carolina blue sky with wispy white clouds over the South Mountain range on the southern horizon. No. 9, they say? With this spectacular view on a great October day in a great state like this? No. 9’s a travesty.
North Carolina’s four diverse seasons and four disparate topographies (mountains, Piedmont, Sandhills, coastal plain) are rare. From mountain peaks like Grandfather, Mitchell and Pisgah to rolling green hills and valleys to longleaf pine forests to Outer Banks beaches, North Carolina has it all and has it all in abundance.
The Chicago-based travel agency said it based its new state “beauty score” on high mountains, national parks, large lakes and beaches, all ranked on a scale of 1 to 10.
North Carolina’s composite average came in at 6.26. We lagged behind No. 8 Colorado (6.36), which the late folk/pop singer John Denver exalted in so many 1970s songs, led by “Rocky Mountain High.”
No. 5 Hawaii (6.97) also seems low, while No. 3 Alaska (7.89) is too cold.
No. 2 California (8.64) has too much dirty air, bloated and trashy cities, and earthquakes. I’d take Carolina over California any day.
The loveliest state in America, according to APR Travel, is Washington (9.29) in the northwest, home to 8,000 lakes, 3,167 named mountains, 3,132 waterfalls and 1,368 beaches.
Meanwhile, only Great Smoky Mountains National Park got counted on behalf of North Carolina in the survey. The Blue Ridge Parkway, for instance, got ignored. Our 100-plus state parks and other natural treasures like Pilot and Stone Mountain, recreation areas, natural areas like Bullhead Mountain next to the Parkway up in Alleghany County, rivers like the New, trails and other sites deserved consideration. The Outer Banks also got left out because Hatteras is a national seashore, not a park.
Our best lakes also got disqualified because they were made by hydroelectric dams. But our lakes, starting with James just south of here, are gorgeous and attract boating, swimming, fishing and lake homes. Few big American cities have a cool lake like 32,500-acre Norman near Charlotte.
A big chunk of Garner-born Scotty McCreery’s “Carolina” video (internet address https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oz2uVBHund0) was recorded on nearby Rough Ridge on Grandfather. And for good reason. Take a look and judge for yourself.
Denver once sang that West Virginia is “almost heaven.” But I’d say McCreery and James Taylor (“Carolina In My Mind,” 1968) have it right.
By the way, a beach umbrella made in Greensboro won this year’s Coolest Things Made In N.C. contest held by the state Chamber. I reported on this page last month that Harris Saddle and Silverworks near Mountain Park was a nominee in the small-business category. Some 46,000 internet votes were cast in the popularity contest. A Caterpillar truck loader made in Sanford won in the top category.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road. Here he shares his musings about the hometown and beyond.