by Gwenyfar Rohler
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
The gently graded waterfall at the entrance to Reservoir Park in Southern Pines always makes me catch my breath. Spence pressed my hand and whispered in my ear that it really is the perfect blend of beauty and serenity. I agree, and that’s exactly what calls me back again and again to Moore County to share it with my loved ones. We meandered on the path around the reservoir greeting dogs and joggers while two young men playing disc golf floated in and out of our view.
“We need to remember the kayak next time,” Spence noted.
A goose honked back at him.
“I think the goose agrees with you!” we laughed.
With 95 acres of lake, there is plenty to explore, whether on water or land. Looking around at beautiful woods that surround us, and picking out the occasional signs identifying the local trees, it feels like we have been enveloped by the sense of peace that nature promises.
“It’s a pretty day for a round of golf.” Spence suggested and looked at me quizzically.
“Uhm, ok. Can we try the Cradle Course?”
I am not good at golf. No matter how hard I try to send the ball where I want it to go, it never seems to happen. However, the new Cradle Par 3 Course at Pinehurst Resort is intriguing, and I think it’s also really beautiful. Designed by Gil Hanse, it’s like strolling through my favorite park, having a great conversation and occasionally hitting a golf ball. Then at the end we can sit around and drink cocktails at the new Deuce restaurant while we giggle at our bloopers and bogeys. That is something I can do. Frankly, it is so pretty—and I enjoy being on the course so much—I forget to be embarrassed at how badly I play. I also mentally note that it puts us in the perfect location for me to suggest the Historic Walking Tour through Pinehurst Village.
“This is just because you want to visit the Tufts Archives and the Theatre Building, right?” he queried.
What can I say? The guy knows me all too well. “Look Margaret Truman even sang there!” I responded. “You are talking about one of the most successful Winter Repertory Playhouses on the East Coast!”
“Yes, and now you can walk through it and get a slice of pizza or buy a handbag,” he gently ribbed me. He’s right; the 600-plus-seat theatre was converted into a shopping center in 1981. The exhibits in the hallway have playbills, posters and lots of publicity stills from its earlier incarnation. If you like history or theatre as much as I do, it is irresistible.
On the Walking Tour, we wandered through the beautiful winding tree-lined village lanes, soaking in the history of the adorable buildings and the people who built them.
“Thank you for a lovely day, sweetheart,” I kissed his cheek. “I promise tomorrow we can eat BBQ and spot airplanes!”
We did, but first with cups of coffee in hand, we started the day with stroll around the Mural Trail of Carthage. The three murals are vibrant with color and dynamic. Artist Scott Nurkin managed to achieve a depth and saturation of color that makes you feel like you can step right into the brick. I really love the one celebrating the Tyson and Jones Buggy Co., which was the largest buggy manufacturer in the South after the Civil War. Of course, Spence liked the one for James R. McConnell, the WWI Flying Ace.
After seeing the mural, we headed to the Gilliam McConnell Airfield just outside of Carthage to see real planes.
At the Pik n’ Pig BBQ Restaurant with hushpuppies as a starter, we looked across the airfield at the small planes getting ready for take off.
“What kind is that one?” I point to a small, red-and-white plane taxiing down the grass runway. This common salvo usually leads to a lecture on the history of aviation and that particular model of aircraft filled with lots of personal reminiscences and nostalgia.
Confession time: the man I love is an aviation nut. A long time ago I learned that a great day trip for us was to drive out to eat lunch at the Pik n’ Pig and watch the planes taking off at the Carthage Airport. The restaurant is located right next to the airport (they even offer arriving by air as an option on their website). The family-owned restaurant makes real, traditional BBQ—you know what I mean: slow cooked overnight with a real natural wood fire BBQ. Trust me, you can taste the difference. The covered patio seating is charming, offering the perfect view of the airfield—with a table filled with delicious food in front of you. What more could you ask for? Like a lot of couples, sharing a hot lunch together is something we don’t do enough.
“OK, Sweetheart. We’ve got one more stop left on this trip,” I proclaimed after our filling BBQ lunch.
“Hm, where?” he asked skeptically.
“It is a surprise. But I’ll give you a hint: Aloha!”
Down a country lane (about thirty minutes from Southern Pines), more than 60 acres of land comprises the privately owned Aloha Safari Zoo. It is the passion project of the Crutchfield family who rescued most of the animals and strives to provide them with a safe and loving home. You can get up close to many of the animals—even the camels will stand still enough to let you pet them!
“You are getting giraffe slobber on your shirt,” he pointed.
“It’s worth it,” I wiped my hand off. “I wouldn’t trade feeding Stretch for a clean shirt.” Stretch is a giraffe who loves to eat carrots, but his aim is a little slobbery, shall we say.
“I can’t take you anywhere, can I?” Spence teased. Then Stretch stole the hat off his head! I laughed and wandered over to the tigers while he negotiated with Stretch.
Slowing down and taking some time together was what this weekend away together in Moore County was supposed to be about, and I would say: mission accomplished.