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January 21st, 2009
My family watched the movie National Treasure the other night, in preparation for Tuesday’s historic inauguration ceremony swearing in Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States.
The film stars Nicholas Cage as the last in a long family line of treasure hunters seeking the fabled treasure of the Knights Templar-turned-Freemasons, said to have been brought to this country before its beginnings and carefully hidden by the Founding Fathers beneath Trinity Church in New York and found only after following a trail of clues long thought to have been lost to time.
But there are other, less obscure treasures in our nation that we can proudly protect and gratefully enjoy. Some of them are included in Brainz’ scenic post about 16 Incredible North American National Parks, though most of those are out west or up north, including that ‘other’ North American nation, Canada. What was not included is North America’s most beloved, most visited National Park, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park which straddles the North Carolina-Tennessee border and includes some of the tallest peaks and most folded landscapes east of the mighty Mississippi.
Whether your family pitches a tent in one of the well-kept campgrounds, makes use of the rustic shelters along the park’s portion of the Appalachian Trail, stays in luxury hotel accommodations in one of the nearby towns or cities, or rents a cabin or chalet nearby or in the park, there’s plenty to see and do that keeps millions of visitors coming back year after year. 2009 is the year of the park’s 75th Anniversary, so be sure to make your plans well in advance if you’re planning to stay for awhile.
Hike some of the 800 maintained trails, take in some beautiful scenery along the Parkway, play some golf in a landscape that harkens back to the Scottish Highlands where the game first began. Take up mountain biking or engage in a leisurely horseback ride. Attend a festival in a nearby city or get good and wet at an area ski resort, most of which offer summer activities for the whole family. Take a tour of area organic farms or artists’ studios, hit some of the westernmost hotspots on the Mountain Music trail and get to know some of the best fiddlers, banjo pickers and washtub base pluckers anywhere!
You’ll love our beautiful National Treasure nearly as much as we who live here do, I promise. See you there during the Great Smoky Mountains National Park 75th Anniversary year!
Links:Adventure, Blue Ridge Parkway, Family Activities, Great Smoky Mountains, Hiking, Nature, North Carolina | Comment (0)
July 15th, 2008
When my brother and I were children, we got to spend a couple of weeks every summer visiting our grandparents and aunt in Eastern Kentucky. They lived in town, but our aunt was a social worker who often traveled into the hollows and onto mountaintops to check on her clients, many of whom lived so far back in the woods there wasn’t an actual road into the homestead. Instead, there was often a mule path we’d follow, sometimes with fine limestone cliffs she’d let us climb just for fun. We learned about the plants, the animals, and had great fun helping at harvest, then got to sit at the crude picnic tables in these homestead yards and listen to the stories of the old folks.
A frequent topic for those old men was a legendary mountain man named Big Tom Wilson. He became a hero to my brother and I, and we often played in the woods pretending we were Big Tom-like mountain folk, seeking deer trails or following bear hollows through the rhododendrons to the mountain peaks, blazing trails and knowing everything about everything these abundant mountains have to offer.
Decades later my own family moved here to Western North Carolina where Big Tom is more than just a legend – he was a real man who played a significant role in the history of this region. He’s still got descendants here, I taught one of them in junior high a few years ago.
Big Tom was born Thomas David Wilson in 1825. He got his nickname by being a lanky six foot two in a time when most men were much smaller in stature. They say he killed 114 bears in his lifetime, and he knew the Black Mountains (the Seven Black Brothers) better than anyone alive. He married Niagra (Polly) Ray in 1852 and they lived in a 2-room cabin on the upper Cane River while he earned a living as a gameskeeper for a hunting preserve, as a farmer, hunter, fisherman and a mountain guide. It was as a guide that he played his strongest role in the history of the region.Adventure, Bears, Blue Ridge Parkway, Carolina History, Hiking, North Carolina | Comments (2)
March 11th, 2008
There are literally hundreds of great places to go and things to do in beautiful North Carolina, but for this series I’m just going to highlight 25 of the best reasons to visit. Starting in the lush mountains of the west and meandering through the state toward the storied Outer Banks, this quick tour of our state offers something for everyone!
Part 1: Reasons 1 – 5
The most visited of America’s National Parks, the Great Smoky Mountains hosts more than 9 million people a year on its Blue Ridge Parkway and in its forests, creeks, coves and hollows along 900 miles of trails. Straddling the Tennessee-North Carolina boarder, the park is home to one of the most diverse ecosystems on the planet. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is now an International Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site.
Continue reading »
November 5th, 2007
The North Carolina Mountains-To-Sea Trail
Having previously covered The Simple Joy of Hiking on one of Western North Carolina’s historic pioneer trails from the base of the continental divide to the top of Mount Mitchell, it’s only fitting to introduce the building of a new trail, this one traversing the entire width of the state from mountains to sea.
From the top of Clingman’s Dome near the Tennessee border in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park to the high dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the Atlantic coast, North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail [MST] will be another gold doubloon in North Carolina’s full to bursting chest of treasures.Biking, Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking, NC Trails, North Carolina | Comment (1)
September 17th, 2007
Leaf-Looker Season in the Blue Ridge
First come the wannabe Leaf-Lookers. They start arriving in late September, inevitably disappointed by the lack of fall foliage anywhere but atop the highest portions of the Blue Ridge Parkway, but happy there are so many side excursions to engage, festivals to attend, and adventures to embark upon.
Then, about mid-October the real Leaf-Lookers arrive in droves. They can start at either end of North Carolina’s section of the Parkway, timing their stops along the way to the many events going on. Starting in the north, the Yadkin Valley Grape Festival is scheduled for Saturday, October 20 in downtown Yadkinville.Autumn Leaves, Blue Ridge Parkway, Family Events, Festivals, North Carolina | Comment (1)