You can see the face, that recognizable face — the forehead, the nose, the jutting chin of the Old Man, the reclining profile that is Grandfather Mountain — from the dining room of Grandview Restaurant in Banner Elk, just beyond your plate of biscuits and white gravy, beyond your bacon and eggs and hash browns.
You can see it from the ninth fairway at Hound Ears Club golf course, that familiar rock face rising nearly 6,000 feet above the earth, its gaze toward the heavens, anchored in place as it has been for a billion years.
You can see it from NC Highway 105 in Foscoe; in the winter, the profile is veiled in snow, its beard dappled white, yet the semblance is always there, the comfort of an age-old, immemorial landscape.
For four days in the fall, I saw the profile of Grandfather Mountain every morning from the deck of a vacation house in Boone, having been lucky to find a spot with such an extraordinary view. I drank my morning coffee and watched the clouds skim across the top of the mountain, watched a midday rain shower settle over the valley, watched shafts of afternoon sunlight bathe the trees in a glorious shimmer.
How many places in North Carolina can claim views like this? A dozen? A hundred?
I think of sunrise over Old Lighthouse Beach in Buxton, a sight that’ll hold you spellbound, and the sweeping view from the gallery of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. It’ll leave you breathless, and not just from climbing the 257 steps, but also from that expansive vista of treetops leading to the open sea, a beauty to behold.
I think of the views closer to home, the ones that take me back to the landscapes I knew. I can see my grandmother looking out over her flower garden, dormant in winter but readying for blooms of early crocus. I can see my dad looking out the windows of our old house in Randolph County, the gently sloping Uwharries in the distance, far less elevation than the Blue Ridge, but just as enduring.
When my parents moved to a townhouse in Greensboro, away from views they’d known for so many years, my dad still found a place by the window. He worked his crossword puzzle every morning and watched for the birds, chickadees and northern cardinals, to gather at his feeders. He watched for deer that appeared in the early evening; he excitedly called for my mom when he saw the first flakes of snow drifting from the sky. Views don’t have to be dramatic to be memorable.
Now, from my own window on quiet winter evenings, with the tree canopy sparse and the horizon unobscured, I wait for my favorite view, a moonrise, luminous in a cloudless sky. I can make out the shadows on the surface, the ones that give the illusion of a face, the fabled man in the moon — the Old Man — eternal in its place in the sky. And I can imagine that it’s looking back at me, reflecting light, full of hope, shining and so bright.
Elizabeth Hudson Editor in Chief
Get our most popular weekly newsletter: This is NC
One of the last old-school fish houses in Onslow County stands sentry on the White Oak River. Clyde Phillips Seafood Market has served up seafood and stories since 1954 — an icon of the coast, persevering in pink.