Thursday, August 11, 2005

North Carolina Legend: Lover's Leap

View of my little town from Lovers Leap.

As you cross the "big bridge" into town and you look to your left, you'll catch a glimpse of a piece of rock sticking out from the side of the mountain, known to locals as "Lover's Leap." I've been told that you can see for miles from that vantage point, access is pretty easy if you're up for a short hike up a well marked trail. Personally, I'm horrified of heights, especially when there's no guard rail or anything else to keep you from toppling off, so I've never been up there. It is said that when this valley was inhabited by my Cherokee ancestors, this outcrop was used to keep an eye out for enemies aproaching.

The legend surrounding the naming of Lover's Leap is as follows:

A Cherokee chief named Lone Wolf ruled the springs located by the Tahkiostie river. He had three sons and one daughter, the beautiful "Mist-on-the-mountain." She showed no interest in the braves her father would have chosen for her to marry, including Tall Pine, a brave much older than she. Her heart belonged to Magwa, a tall handsome young brave whom she met when another old chief and some braves came to visit Lone Wolf in his village, bringing gifts and wares to trade.

The night before Magwa and his band were to leave and return to their village he asked Lone Wolf for his daughter's hand in marriage, but Lone Wolf refused, stating that she was already promised to Tall Pine. Late that bright June night, Mist-on-the-mountain waited for her family to go to sleep, then she snuck out of the village and made her way to the foot of the towering outcrop of rock which over looked the valley. She waited for Magwa there as they had arranged, but the only sounds she heard were those of the animals one always heard late at night. She was unaware that someone or something waited in the brush, watching her every move.

The silence was broken by the sound of a canoe touching the banks of the river. As Magwa emerged from his canoe in the darkness, another figure emerged from the brush. Tall Pine struck Magwa across the head, crushing his skull. He fell back into his canoe and Mist-on-the-mountain watched in horror as it was taken back into the river by the current and carried his body with it down stream. She felt his spirit call to her, for her to keep her promise. She fled, running as fast as she could up the trail that lead to the outlook, with Tall Pine following close behind. When she reached the top, she stopped for just a moment, again hearing the spirit of Magwa call to her, for her to join him. Just as Tall Pine reached out to grab her, she lept from the mountain and into the river, to join Magwa in his journey.

Tall Pine was so horrified by the sight, he didn't notice the glowing yellow eyes or the gleam of white fangs of the panther that lept from above him, striking him on the shoulders. It was with a horrid cry of man and beast that again the silence was broken as the pair rolled down the path, ending at the bottom in the dark rhododendron.

It is told that the spirits of Tall Pine, Magwa, Mist-on-the-mountain and even the panther haunt both Lover's Leap and the trail that leads to it. Maybe that's the real reason I've never been up there.