Today’s Room with a View takes us to a rather different destination than the previous articles in this series. It is still sumptuous, richly-decorated and visually pleasing. It is a magnificent example of aesthetic beauty… but it is not the deftly-articulated, placed interior of a stately home…
The ‘Opera Box’ at Chimney Rock Park, North Carolina, is one of the smallest, most basic rooms you will ever see. It has a dirt floor, a small, wooden bench and walls on only 3 sides that are made of plain rock. It is what the 4th ‘wall’ (actually a fence) provides that makes this worthy of the Art Today Room with a View accolade.
Utilised to the full by the Hollywood movie Last of the Mohicans, the views from the Opera Box are unparalleled. Photography alone cannot do them justice – it is necessary to take in the whole 4-dimensional experience. The gentle breeze tousling your hair; the shade from the overhang providing nature’s own air-conditioning; the lush, green valley below spreading out before your eyes and the sheer wonder of being able to position yourself – as indigenous tribesmen would have done years before you – high aloft a naturally-forged viewpoint – as though you are perched like an eagle.
Nature herself seems to have provided you with a bucket-list moment. As you gaze downwards at the world below, time stops, almost placing you in a meditative state. It’s like you are suddenly external and detached from the hustle and bustle you have just departed from. A truly amazing experience…
The Opera Box forms part of a hiking experience through Chimney Rock Park – a designated site of natural beauty near the East Coast. Washington lies to the north of North Carolina state, and Charleston and Atlanta lie to the south.
There are 2 levels of adult hiking trail that both take you via The Opera Box and through the lush, green forestry of the park. The Exclamation Point trail leads you on an intermediate walking experience, taking approximately 20 minutes. It is a fulfilling activity, taking you through plentiful woodland on natural cliffs, up natural, rock staircases and through narrow, rocky switchbacks. Look down to Lake Lure and Hickory Nut Gorge from The Opera Box, and marvel at your 2,480-feet view of the panorama when you reach Exclamation Point itself.
The Skyline Trail is a different story. The Art Today team – having an adventurous spirit – chose this option. Including the head waters of the 404-foot Hickory Nut Falls, ridge-top forests, sheer cliffs, plus an initial climb of 838 steps to access the Skyline trail starting point, this is not for the faint-hearted. The Skyline Trail has recently been re-commissioned to a higher location than the older trail, which was closed in 2008. Chimney Rock Management state the project cost $39,500 (not including labour).
As an artist, if ever you are able to take in this experience, it is truly worth the time and effort. Take a sketchbook in your pocket and you can marvel at the en plein air majesty. Need some stock images or scenic movie footage? Bring your most portable equipment and get incomparable material. Both watercolour and textile artists alike will be inspired by the landscapes here. And as for interior designers – this is truly an example of how a minimalistic interior can stand back from the naturally-occurring wonderment surrounding it.
Local hotels and restaurants are available at nearby Asheville – a pleasant, valley town – and another tourist attraction – The Biltmore Estate (home to George and Edith Vanderbilt, and America’s largest house) which is well worth a visit in its own right. We’ll be covering this ‘marvel of elegance and charm’ in the next article in this series.
Day Tickets: $13/$6
Opening Times: 10am to 4:30pm (Nov 26th to Mar 11th); 8:30am to 5:30pm (Jan 12th to Nov 4th); 8:30am to 4:30pm (Nov 5th to Nov 25th). Closed on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. If you purchase your ticket after 4pm, you can return again the next day for free!
Autumn is a particularly spectacular season to visit Chimney Rock Park, with the valley turning a vibrant orange/yellow from October through November each year.
N.B. In August each year, the Dirty Dancing Festival comes to Lake Lure.
Chimney Rock Park includes 4 hiking trails suitable for families:- Great Woodland Adventure Trail (Beginners); Four Seasons Trail (Intermediate); Hickory Nut Falls Trail (Intermediate) and the Outcroppings Trail (Intermediate – although lots of steps and railings!).
[Credits: Chimney Rock Park; chimneyrockpark.com; Biltmore.com; visitncsmalltowns.com]