Take a hike in the Garden of Eden

Staff reports

On Nov. 19, the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center will host its second-to-last hike of its 2016 Swannanoa Rim Explorer Series. This eight-mile, strenuous hike treks to the Garden of Eden, a summit one mile northwest of Lake Eden and gains approximately 3,000 feet over the course of the hike.

Edwin Wiley "E.W." Grove originally developed Lake Eden as "an amusement center for Asheville as well as Grovemont," his planned community in Swannanoa, according to an early promotional brochure. The summer resort property offered guests, “ideal natural surroundings … with all the gaiety of a modern resort” and included rustic bridges, artistic nooks and two spring houses providing water piped directly into the houses.

Hikers on the Garden of Eden hike take a break to take in the view from the sunny rocks where on warmer days rattlesnakes roam.

It also had a beautiful lake, a cheery dining room, a dance floor, mountain trails and drives, tennis and golf, bathing and canoeing, and “good, fresh, wholesome food of vegetables, chickens, and dairy products from the adjoining farm … attractively served by a trained dietitian.”

Born in Tennessee in 1850, Grove began his career as a drug store clerk and established the Paris Medicine Company, where he developed "Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic" and other popular patent medicines. The self-made millionaire, suffering from a bronchial ailment, first visited Asheville in 1897, upon the recommendation of his physician.

In Asheville, Grove's interests turned from pharmaceuticals to land development, and he built many structures, most notably The Grove Park Inn, which opened in 1913.

While building his famous hotel, he established a rock quarry in Swannanoa on Old Route 70 to gather, sort, wash and load the stones onto rail cars for transport to the inn and his other building sites. The museum’s hike will circle to an overlook within Grovestone Quarry where hikers can enjoy a historic account of the surrounding mountains and the valley below while observing dramatic views.

The rest of the hike continues downhill along logging roads and to several viewpoints before returning to the Lake Eden property, directly adjacent to the quarry.

In the 1930s, Lake Eden became the site of Black Mountain College and now serves as Camp Rockmont for Boys. The site still features several of Grove’s distinctive river rock buildings as well as Black Mountain College’s Studies Building, built by students in the Bauhaus style.

The Round House was one of several the E.W. Grove had built at Lake Eden

The Garden of Eden is the far end of the huge Swannanoa Rim loop that hikers attempt to complete each year. This rocky crest was purportedly named by students at Black Mountain College for the abundance of rattlesnakes and copperheads sunning on the rocks in warmer months and is the main reason this hike always occurs in the winter. From here, there are dramatic views of the Burnette Reservoir inside the Asheville Watershed on the east and the Bee Tree Reservoir to the west.

The final hike of the Rim Series loop, Weatherford Heights, one that navigates the terrain and history of Blue Ridge Assembly, is usually the first hike of the season. But because the January hike was postponed due to weather, it will occur on Saturday, Dec. 10.

People who have finished the entire 11-hike, 50-plus-mile series, are invited to attend the museum’s annual Hike Finisher Celebration, where they will receive coveted Rim Hike jackets. These Patagonia jackets are embroidered with the Rim Hike logo and are sponsored by Black Mountain Savings Bank.

"E.W." Grove developed Lake Eden as an amusement center for Asheville as well as Grovemont, his planned community in Swannanoa, according to early promotional material

The hike departs the museum at 8 a.m. for Camp Rockmont and ascends Cedar Cliff to Eden Rock. The hike generally returns to the museum about 3 p.m. Preregistration is required.

Swannanoa Valley Rim Hike #11

Hike: Garden of Eden

When: 8 a.m. Nov. 19

Meet: Swannanoa Valley Museum, 223 W. State St.

Difficulty: Strenuous, 8 miles

Cost: $30 museum members, $50 nonmembers

Register: swannanoavalleymuseum.org, 669-9566