. He also told us about Charles McKinney (which the nearby McKinney Gap is named after) who had 48 kids and 4 wives...all at the same time. After the hay ride we went inside again and bought some of the most divine homemade fudge - there were flavours like Maple/walnut, Vanilla Walnut, Peppermint, Key Lime pie, Rocky Road, Peanut butter...yum! Well worth a visit if you're ever in that area.
After getting lost twice we finally found our way to the Emerald Village Mine, www.emeraldvillage.com
First we had a look around a museum with mining bits and pieces, then we went outside and down into the cavernous entrance to the actual mine. We had a good look around and then we strolled down the road to the Gemstone mine. At the mine we bought 2 buckets or raw rocks for the kids and they got to sieve through it with a wooden box sieve in a real water flume - they got a big bag of different gems each (like amethyst, quartz etc). They both really enjoyed themselves, and there was a lot of 'Wow look what I found!'
Today we visited the Old Orchard on Altapass (off the Blue Ridge Parkway) www.altapassorchard.com which has been operating as an apple orchard for 99 years. We cruised through the gift shop and then not spotting any apples for sale asked about them. They evidently had no apples this year as a frost in April killed all the blossoms! We were all disappointed as we'd been looking forward to some fresh, crisp apples! We paid for a hayride, and then sat down and listened to some free, live 'Mountain Music' performed on stage by two ladies & one man - very entertaining. Once it was time for our hay ride, we jumped on the back of the wagon (yes with real haybales to sit on) and had a fascinating trip around the orchard with a brilliant storyteller Bill Carson, who is one of the on-site managers. Bill's sister Kit bought the orchard to preserve it as an orchard - and to keep it from developers who would happily put up condos - not to make lots of money. On the ride we parked up under some apple trees (some of them are nearly 80 years old) and Bill told us stories of the orchard's history: the area played an important part in the Revolutionary War and is one of 3 historic roads in the larger area