Blue Ridge Country - May/June 2018 - 48
would catch fire in
1989, and so would the
town's train depot-in
"It's almost like creating this little village," says the owner, Debbie
Gardner. "And it's more like creating the lifestyle that you aspire to,
having that real connection that
we're losing nowadays-you know,
the real Facetime."
Draper Mercantile shares its
name with Draper Mountain, a
3,332-foot-high point in Pulaski
County crossed by U.S. 11, the
legendary highway that connects
courthouses, going from downtown
Pulaski to downtown Wytheville.
Just east of that corridor, I wander a few miles to find Newbern.
This village is the home of an annual fall festival on the second weekend of each October, uniting folk
artists and painters, basket-makers
After 1893, when the old Pulaski
County courthouse burned in Newbern, the seat of the county government shifted to Pulaski. But, unfortunately, fires persisted: Pulaski's
prominent stone courthouse would
catch fire in 1989, and so would the
town's train depot-in 2008. Today,
the town's Raymond F. Ratcliffe
Memorial Transportation Museum
has moved from the old depot to its
own structure on Commerce Street.
The depot, in turn, has been rebuilt
"Downtown Pulaski is in a renaissance," says 67-year-old businessman Bill Smith, who lives at Claytor
Lake. "Downtown Pulaski was a factory town when I grew up-a busy,
busy, busy place."
For a quick escape, just eight miles
from town, you can find fishing at
Gatewood Park, where a 162-acre
mountain lake remains the draw for
Michael McManus. This park manager was on site when I visited in
1997; he's still there today, observing bears and bald eagles in the remote wilderness. "And I don't know
how I could be blessed any more,"
Gatewood Park's campground
has witnessed a renovation since
the 1990s, says McManus, 53. "And
I guess one of the biggest things is
our hiking trail system has expanded quite a bit. We have over nine
miles of hiking trails now-from the
short, very easy walks to the much
Leaving Pulaski, you can walk or
bike your way to Draper on the New