Our Great Outdoors: The stunning skyline of the High Country

A collection of fantastic photos showing off the beauty of the High County, found recently on twitter.

US Airways magazine features the High Country of NC

For the next several weeks travelers on US Airways will be exposed to the beauty of the High Country area via the airline’s official magazine. The May 2012 issue has 15 pages dedicated to celebrating the region, with specific features on Appalachian State University football, Lees-McRae College, the Twickenham House, Grandfather Mountain, Green Park Inn and many other High County treasures.

The complete package is available for download. There’s also a story online headlined simply, “Living the High Country Life.”

High Country in US Airways magazineExtending north and west of the Piedmont Triad to the Tennessee and Virginia borders, the High Country starts in Wilkes County with the first glimpse of the ancient Blue Ridge Mountains. Why not begin your journey in the region’s wine country? Here, Italian-style sangiovese and homegrown blends delight palates, while the strains of guitar, fiddle, and banjo at the popular MerleFest attract roots music fans each spring. If it’s intrigue you’re after, the Wilkes Playmakers’ summer production of Tom Dooley: A Wilkes County Legend tells the tale of the doomed local folk hero (Tom Dula) immortalized in song.

Traveling northwest into Ashe County, you’ll find spectacular views, Christmas tree farms, and narrow roads, but the defining feature is the winding New River; the second-oldest in the world, it’s ideal for bass and trout fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. Traditional Appalachian culture is keenly felt in these parts. Check out the New River Celtic Music Festival, the Ashe County Bluegrass and Old Time Fiddlers convention, and the Barn Quilt Trail, a local arts project showcasing quilt designs mounted on 150 barns. And don’t miss West Jefferson, where summer gallery crawls draw crowds to the dozen or so galleries downtown. Perhaps take in a concert or dance performance at the sleek Ashe Civic Center, and enroll in a class for, say, oil painting or hammer dulcimer at the Florence Thomas Art School near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The exposure is designed to increase the already growing demand to call the North Carolina mountains home. You can browse the latest listings either on our website, or browse our online magazine.

Possibly the shortest 5K ever run

It started possibly as a joke. It became, though, a worthwhile event.

Jimmy Smith Park 5KThe humor centered on Jimmy Smith Park, a small by-the-highway grassy area in Boone. It’s comprised of three benches, three rocks and a wrap-around sidewalk. Several weeks ago someone posted to facebook a crude drawing of the park, with the words Jimmy Smith Park 5K.

It was funny. But, in a region known for a variety of great outdoor runs, it also became a viral hit. Why not have a 5K at the shortest track ever run? To further attract giggles, it was scheduled on the most appropriate day possible – April Fools.

And lo, runners ran it. Another indication of the uniqueness of those who call the High Country home.

I am proud to say I participated in the 1st ever: Jimmy Smith Park 5km in Boone, NC on April Fools Day! Many folks thought this was just a joke with humorous banter via Facebook for the last 4 weeks. Runners showed up doubting it’s existence= yet we thrived!

The event started out as a kinda joke, yet artistic director/race director Sean Dunlap, seized the interest and created a real fund raiser for a Math Scholarship Fund! …

Jimmy Smith Park is a itty bitty park with a few rocks, plaque, benches and not enough room for a trash can. The paved loop sidewalk equals .1 mile, so Sean calculated 31 laps would equal 3.1 miles! Makes sense!

Long live the short run! Let it soon rival other area events, like the Blue Ridge Brutal 100, New River Marathon, The Bear, and many more. The High Country has a variety of outdoor events, whether on a bike or on foot, or even for just .1 miles.

Live the Dream #41 – Home of a beautiful round of 18

Swing is in the air! Literally!

The High Country outdoors has plenty to offer, including more than one spectacular round of 18. The area is home to several golf courses, many of which are opening this week.

There are several drives from which to chose.

Boone Golf CourseThe enticing options range from a Par 3 course, to championship length, public layouts, and on to nationally-renowned private resort courses (where access is as easy as checking in to the lodge or a condo!).

Best of all, when the “sunny South” is baking in summer temperatures, the invigoratingly cool climate of the High Country makes any round of golf great (even if your score isn’t quite up to par!). The Boone Area’s options are plentiful – and that includes early and late season play when spring explodes along the fairways and the reflections of neon fall color make even the water hazards appealing.

The views from the tee are just this grand.

Early spring weather turns thoughts to outdoors

Spring has come early to the North Carolina High Country. Temperatures have peaked in the 60s most of the week, motivating flowers to bloom and people to get out and explore. One beautiful area that comes to mind is the Cascades at E.B. Jeffress Park. Located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, it is 12 miles east of Boone. It’s a spectacular example of much of the natural beauty in this mountain area.

The Cascade Trail follows Falls Creek to where the creek plunges over a bare-rock cliff face on its way to the Piedmont 2,000 feet below. The trail courses through forests of yellow-poplar, hickory, black cherry, witch-hazel, basswood, black locust, and Fraser magnolia. Benches, rustic footbridges, and two overlooks, one at the top of the rushing water, the other at a lower perspective, add to the trail experience. The Cascades Trail also features signs identifying plant life evident here and throughout the region.

The understory is thick with legendary dog-hobble, said to grow so intertwined that it traps bear-hunting dogs more intent on sniffing than watching where they are going; once caught, or “hobbled,” they fall easy prey to waiting bears. Other understory vegetation includes solomon’s seal, flame azalea, mountain laurel, and rhododendron.

The reward of a stunning mountain view

Three Top MountainAmong the many great hiking trails in the High Country is one which goes to the summit of Three Top Mountain in Ashe County. The highest of the three peaks has an elevation of 4,865 feet, though a few other ridges in the mountain range go above 5,000. Part of an ever expanding state park, Three Top Mountain is popular with hikers and hunters. One recent hiker had her camera ready for the dramatic conclusion of her walk, for when she finally clears the top. Her efforts are rewarded with a view of just how gorgeous the High Country can be, even on a windy winter day. “Oh wow!”

Three Top Mountain is located west of West Jefferson, where there are more than 130 opportunities to Live the Dream in the High Country of North Carolina.