In a small mountain town located in Franklin North Carolina there is a tradition among friends and family of the Jones family... Brunswick Stew.
Mid October, just as the leaves are at peak it is time for the yearly tradition. This past weekend was the 20th Anniversary of Brunswick Stew. For those that have never heard of the Franklin Brunswick Stew, it's a local families tradition of inviting friends and family to their rustic cabin high in the mountains of North Carolina. By rustic I mean rustic, complete with no running water and yes, an outhouse located along a short hiking trail.
To see the gallery of pictures from Brunswick Stew, click on the link below.
The tradition begins around noon on Saturday where all the Jones' children, one a Senior in high school and the other a Sophomore in college, best friends arrive to unpack the massive amount of camping gear and food. From a family recipe, the famous Brunswick stew, a mixture of five meats and vegetables, is started in a large cauldron type pot. Adults and children take turns stirring the pot with a large wooden ore and chopping the meat into little bits.
Around 4 o'clock in the afternoon, the stew is ready. By that time, there are people from all over that have been invited to join.... Old college roommates of the Mr. Jones, their parents and siblings as well as people that they have met over the years through work and church. My invite came from being the parent of their daughter's best friend. My daughter graduated last year and is in college, but she wasn't going to miss out!
This year, like all years, there are literally hundreds that come out for dinner. When I say a rustic mountain cabin, I didn't say what it took to travel to the cabin! Their cabin is located just below Wayah Bald fire tower, about 5800' about 45 minutes from Franklin. Once you manage the little dirt road to the top, you see cars parked alongside the road and a little rutted, overgrown road that leads back to the cabin. Cars are parked outside because only 4x4 can access the cabin. Because it is a one lane road, that's an overstatement, they have devised a clever way of controlling traffic.. 1-29 goes out and 30-59 goes in. Can't understand that, well it took some time to finally get but that's by the minutes! It takes 30 minutes going in or coming out!
Once the stew is ready, it's time to come out front and make a large circle. We each tell who we are and where we are from; them join hands and say a prayer. This year they invited a few musicians up to add to the atmosphere and it just added that extra special touch.
The circle began with Mr. Jones thanking the ones that have made the Brunswick Stew possible and telling a few stories from past participants.
The Jones family took turns reading a poem from a special friend. Then to commemorate the 20th Anniversary, special t-shirts were made and given to those that have participated the longest in their tradition. In addition, a special beer was introduced 'Wayah Cabin Fever' made especially for Brunswick Stew.
The back reads
Wayah Cabin Fever (noun)
1. A seasonal, highly contagious disease in which the afflicted have the overwhelming desire to subject themselves to:
A car-crippling road; a smelly/breezy outhouse; black coffee in a rusty pot; sketchy stew made by even sketcher men; tater guns; a field full of dusty mattresses; slicing cold meat in the early dawn; relaxing in a cabin and on a deck that know no building code; bad shooting; worse stories; unrestrained laughter; warm fires and warmer friends; enough food to ensure overindulgence; and a propensity to stand near the make-shift railing and just stare at the beauty that is Wayah. There's an outbreak every Fall and fortunately NO cure.
Just before the sun was setting and everyone was preparing for bed the Jones dog, a beautiful golden retriever, could not be found. The teens organized a search party and went to the tower looking for her... nothing! We are right on the Appalachian Trail and some went down looking for her, and still could not find her. She was no where to be found and she didn't have her collar and tags on. The Jones has always brought her and she has never just wondered off.
After an evening of food and friends... and sharing a huge bottle of Merlot with a new girlfriend, even though she wouldn't spend the night in the tent because she pays a mortgage----- Denise! The unbrave head down the mountain leaving about ten adults and all the teens! The cabin has dozens of mattress that are spread out on the floor and are covered with sleeping bags and blankets. The girls get the main room, with the wonderful fireplace that gives out the warmth and coziness of the cabin. While the girls sleep in luxury (lol) the guys get the bat cave. The room in the back behind what was the kitchen. It's ok, they are boys and the ceiling had black plastic nailed to the ceiling keeping the bats away. Bed time comes early at the cabin, as soon as it gets dark it's bedtime! I and a few other braver souls decided to either tent camp or sleep in our cars. For me, I choose my car... safe from bears and whatever else that may want to find us.
With our mountains, you never know what the weather will be like, but are sure it will be cold! This year was suppose to be colder than the past few years have been so I brought along four heavy blankets and a couple of jackets. I thought that would be sufficient for the back seat of my car.
I'm not much of a going-to-bed-early type of person so being in bed by 9ish was a little bit early. I thought putting on the long johns on would help keep me warm. So, I'm ready for bed all snuggled under four blankets that had been doubled and my two jackets. Not sure when I finally got to sleep, but I remember waking up around 2 am and my face was freezing as well as all of me. There was no getting warm, no matter how I laid. I finally figured out how to make a tent over my face so at least my nose wouldn't be so cold. The temperatures dropped in the 20's that night and when I got up and out at 6:30 for the beautiful sunrise that Mr. Jones promises, the ground was covered in frost! I think I was covered in frost as well..
I managed to wrap enough blankets around me to stagger to the cabin where I knew there would be an amazingly warm fire going. After pushing my way inside the door, I headed straight for the fire! All the teens know that they need to be out on the deck for sunrise, so shortly after I burst inside I watched each one get up in their sleeping bag and wonder to the porch to claim their spot. Not a word was uttered, I'm not even sure they were awake, but they were headed out to the freezing porch.
It's a 24 hour adventure starting about noon on Saturday and ending on Sunday morning with a spectacular sunrise, and breakfast! At least that's what we had been promised. I managed to drag myself from the fire and set my camera and tripod up so that I could capture this amazing sunset. It seemed like forever waiting for the sun to pop up from behind the mountains..
The clouds were filling the valleys, and the beautiful glow of the sun was beginning to show.
Little by little, the sun began to show and rays of light filled the sky. Everyone on the front porch bundled up in rocking chairs just waiting for that magically moment to happen.
And just as promised, the beautiful sunset was right before our eyes! The beauty of God's hand... the mountains lighting up with clouds filling in the valleys. It's a feeling that I just can't describe in words other than to say the suffering of sleeping in the car combined with freezing and not feeling my feet... were so worth it at that moment.
As everyone was retreating back inside the cabin for a little warm and thawing out, the adults began preparing for breakfast. I thought the sunset was amazing... just imagine cooking pancakes on a Paella pan with sausage and bacon. Oh, the sights and smells of breakfast!
The teens take over the pancake station and start making pancakes with guidance. The large Paella pan was loaned by another family and has worked out so well.
Mr. Jones does his duty on the bacon and sausage station.. What a magnificent view. I overheard Mrs. Jones telling Mr. Jones if he would get her a house with a view like that, she would cook all the time!
While breakfast was being made, search parties were being formed to look for the missing dog, Honey. It had been a cold night and everyone was worried about Honey. Their son took a ride up to the tower to look while other's searched trails and called for her. We all hoped that she had found a hiker and was just bedding down with them for the night and would be back.
The Jones daughter and her friends were making "lost dog" signs to hang up along the trail and on the house just in case someone would see her. Honey is an older dog and none of us were sure if we would ever see her again.
It was a really hard time for the Jones, their 20th Anniversary and the worse thing happened. A member of their family, Honey was missing. They tried so hard to make everyone feel at home, but you just knew their heart was breaking.
We all managed to get through breakfast, I had no doubts! Again, it was a wonderful food with an amazing view.
After breakfast, it was time to clean up and leave... our 24 hour adventure was about to be over. Everything had to be cleaned, packed and put into vehicles to go down the mountain. The cabin had to be locked up and secured from traveling visitors.
There were lots to be done and everyone is expected to pitch in and help.
The last thing that gets done is the group pictures in the morning... another tradition! Everything is done, cabin secured, cars packed and now I am putting the girls together for a group picture...
I can't hardly describe what happens next, or who even said it but.... all I know is when we look up towards the Appalachian Trail, here comes Honey. Tongue hanging out and tail just a wagging away. You could fill the emotions building up inside... She just trotted up like ok, the works done, and I'm here! The Jones family just hugged her in such relief, and the rest of us all had tears in our eyes.
The Perfect ending to a Perfect weekend!
A special Thank you to the Jones family for hosting such a wonderful, memorible weekend for everyone. The Brunswick Stew has become part of our memories and we have enjoyed sharing your tradition.
Here are the group pictures...
This is the original five... every year we take a picture of them. They are the best of friends, and no matter what happens between them I know they will always be best friends forever!
The girls.... all met through Rabun Gap Nacoochee school and one is from Germany, the others are from Georgia, and North Carolina.
The guys.... This was their idea. Big Bag Mountain Men!!!
The Whole RGNS group
This is the brave group that stayed overnight and roughed the elements of what is known as Brunswick Stew!
To see the gallery of pictures from Brunswick Stew, click on the link below.
Past Best Friends Pictures
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