Living In WNC

Photographer Spotlight

Growing up in Western North Carolina is something that can be hard not to take for granted. From the very beginning, professional photographer Brittany Scales noticed the beauty that surrounds us and felt the draw to capture its essence.
The Blue Ridge Mountains have a way of inspiring creativity that some might find indescribable. Behind every ridge, in every flowing waterfall and stream, there is a constant sense of awe that just begs to be photographed. It’s this inspiration that motivates Brittany in her work every day. Whether a quick drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway, or a five-mile hike to a mountain summit; whether it’s in the details of the trail below or the way the light hits the ridge just right, the beauty is everywhere.
After attending Savannah College of Art and Design to obtain her photography degree, Brittany recognized and learned to appreciate her ability to view the world in such a unique way. With her camera, Brittany aims to bring her viewers to see what can so often be overlooked and, as a result, gain the same sense of admiration that she has for the natural world.
Although the majority of her work comes from her home of the Western North Carolina mountains, being able to travel and photograph new places is a huge passion of Brittany’s. “Maui and Yosemite National Park have to be two of my absolute favorite photographic destinations. The landscapes there are breathtaking, and there’s always something new to catch your eye, no matter how many times you visit.” On her bucket list, locations to photograph include Alaska, Iceland, and New Zealand.
To see more of her work or to inquire about print requests, please visit her website at brittanyscales.com.

The Craft Beer Revolution

The godfather of Asheville craft beer, Oscar Wong, opened Highland Brewery in 1994 in the basement of Barley’s taproom. Passion for his hobby led to the tourism and craft that has earned Asheville national accolades of “Beer City USA” many times since 2009. Today, with more breweries per capita than any other city, this area is a craft beer lover’s paradise. From hoppy IPAs to dark stouts and every taste you can imagine, where can you find craft beer to taste and enjoy on an afternoon in Asheville? Everywhere, but we’ve got the guide to match both your palate and style. 

  

1 Sierra Nevada - Located near the Asheville airport, it is the perfect stop—pre or post flight. With a Jackson Hole style lodge look, this national brewery is coming onto the scene big time in Mills River, NC. With 23 beers on tap, their selection of craft brew is a force to be reckoned with, and their small plates and farm-to-table culinary menu options include the sinfully engaging duck fat fries. Don’t miss a chance to do some sitting by the fire outdoors, listen to live music at the amphitheater, or stroll the Mills River Estate Garden.

sierranevada.com/brewery/north-carolina

 

Burial Beer - This local favorite in the South Slope of Asheville has a mysterious vibe. Its name suggests something morbid, yet the art surrounding their selection of beer is a celebration of life, the harvest, and what is to come. The name matches their taproom, the low lighting and unfelt dampness of the earth inside leads to a sunny patio to toast your friends. It is one of the “it” spots, and the brew is good. 

burialbeer.com/taproom

 

Wicked Weed - This is a tourist trap, yet well worth a visit. Since opening in 2015 with their West Coast style of brewing, it has become known for labels such as Pernicious IPA, Lunatic Belgian Blonde, and a portfolio of barrel-aged sour and farmhouse ales. The hot spot was recently purchased by Anheuser-Busch in an effort to tap into the increasing popularity of craft beer. The brewery also offers a small, tasty menu, which can be helpful when indulging in some of their high gravity beers.

wickedweedbrewing.com

 

New Belgium - The Colorado-based brewery opened its Asheville location in 2015 with a conscious, sustainable craft beer business model. The space has a California industrial feel paired with a grass-roots vibe. Nestled next to the French Broad River off of Craven Street, the tasting room offers an outdoor park for kids, dogs, and outdoor games. Register online for the 90-minute tour of the facility prior to visiting if you want to learn more about their process. Food trucks are on location, as the taproom serves beer only. 

newbelgium.com/Brewery/asheville/tasting-room

 

Highland Brewing Company - The first craft brewer of Asheville, is also the largest family-owned brewery in the Southeast. Named after the Scots Irish who settled in these Appalachian Mountains in the 18th and 19th century, the brewery is a legend in North Carolina. Located approximately ten minutes from downtown Asheville, the brewery offers a rooftop, outdoor venue location and large taproom that is used to host many non-profit events. I recommend the Highland Gaelic Ale, and Cold Mountain (winter seasonal) on tap.

highlandbrewing.com

 

Oskar Blues - Close to the plateau, you’ll find Oskar Blues in Brevard. Its funky atmosphere accompanies its most recognized label, Dale’s Pale Ale. Located 10 minutes away from Pisgah National Forest, it is a popular stop for bikers and hikers. Hungry? The CHUBwagon serves tacos and CHUBburgers.

oskarblues.com/breweries/brevard

 

Satulah Mountains - Of course, we can’t go without mentioning our neighborhood brewer - Satulah. East of downtown Highlands, this quaint spot offers great live music and a down to earth atmosphere. satulahmountainbrewing.com

 

It used to be that only the sophisticated, geek beer drinker enjoyed and explored the crafts. Now more favored by the average beer consumer and tourist, the craft beer industry is on the rise across the nation. Here in Western North Carolina, there is an app for that. Dedicated to all things craft beer in Western North Carolina, the Asheville Ale Trail is your guide for craft beer destinations and current happenings. Download the Ale Trail App here - ashevillealetrail.com

Raise a glass, because our region’s beer is some of the best! 

Old-Fashioned Family Fun

Trending today is the idea of strengthening the family bond by sharing more memorable and meaningful moments together. Families are increasingly electing to put down their smartphones and turn off their televisions in order to find group activities away from screens. In the new year, if you and your family resolve to find quality time together then the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau has several terrific options to enjoy good old-fashioned family fun outdoors. The small town of Highlands, surrounded by national forest and nestled in the mountains at 4118’ in elevation, may appear like something out of a Norman Rockwell painting. The town plan lays out ideally for visitors and residents alike to easily walk the sidewalks and enjoy the quaint shops and plentiful restaurants, or sit on a bench to watch the world go by (perhaps with an ice cream cone in hand). Steepled churches, rhododendron walkways, and front porches adorned with rocking chairs make for a handsome picture-perfect postcard. Adding to the charm and character of the town is the newly opened ice skating rink that draws more families to experience the fresh air and find fun on the ice. Sandwiched between Main Street and Kelsey-Hutchinson Founders Park, the town green space named after Samuel Hutchinson and Clinton Kelsey who founded Highlands in 1875, the state-of-the-art rink was a gift to the town by Art and Angela Williams of Old Edwards Inn and Spa. Open from November to March, Thursday through Tuesday, the ice rink entices people from families to singles to wrap themselves in fleece and don their skates. People of all ages take to the ice amid gleeful faces and peals of laughter. While lively background music plays, you’ll see some young and old holding hands, solo skaters finding their own magic, and observers on the sidelines snapping photos of loved ones and sipping hot chocolates. While there is the option to use your own skates, the $5 entrance fee includes skates, making it an affordable form of entertainment. And for those with more limited skating abilities, plastic Skate Helpers are available to assist in keeping everyone upright on the ice. One visiting Atlanta family staying in town was thrilled to find amusement of this kind for their five kids ranging in age from 5 to 13. They loved the accessibility of the rink and the beauty of its surroundings. While the rink hosts birthday parties, after-school gatherings, and events, “date night” has become popular on Friday and Saturday nights when the rink remains open late. No matter who is on the ice, bliss and delight seem to be a common theme. If you need to be outfitted for chilly weather, go to Highland Hiker in Cashiers or Highlands to find the best brands in outdoor apparel. Around town or at the rink, you may just run into an old-timer who recalls many years past when ice skating on local lakes was commonplace. Neighbors and families would gather to enjoy a good skate, but not before shoveling lots of snow off the ice. Times have changed because winters are not as cold as they once were, but this area is fortunate to have two manmade rinks on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, along with other outdoor sport offerings for you and your family. With the summer crowds gone, winter is a perfect time to enjoy the beauty this area holds. Don’t let time skate by before you and yours find some adventure on the ice.

A Mountain Christmas

Christmas on the Plateau is much more than a single day or a week. It seems to begin the moment one pushes away from the Thanksgiving table.

Be sure to check out the Highlands ice-skating rink which will be open extra hours during the Christmas holidays. The charge to use the rink is just $5 and ice skates are provided.  For more information regarding the holiday schedule, call the Highlands Recreation Department at 828-526-3556.


With the lighting of these community Christmas trees and the season's kick-off comes thoughts of a tree for one's own home. There is no better place to find a live tree than here in Western Carolina, where Christmas tree farms are a cottage industry. Our region's elevation, excellent soil, and well-dispersed rainfall contribute to its deserved reputation as a reliable source for Christmas trees.


A perfect place to visit is the 80-acre Tom Sawyer's Tree Farm in Glenville, where families can choose and cut their own Fraser Fir trees, measuring from three to twelve feet. While the tree is being packed to take home, visitors can check out the farm's charming village populated with Christmas elves, a craft tent for creating Christmas art, and a storytelling room. Move to the big red barn for food, drink, and evergreen selections, participate in a scavenger hunt and then drop off letters to Santa at his own post office. A ride in a horse-drawn carriage can round out a memorable experience. Tom Sawyer's is open through the season until Christmas Eve for people arriving to the mountains later in December. Please note, because of his busy schedule in December, Santa will only be at the farm on weekends.


Of course, you could choose to create a truly indelible family memory with the “Christmas Tree Package” from Old Edwards Inn in Highlands, the luxury hotel which is included on the National Register of Historic Places. Spend one night, enjoy dinner at Madison's, and take in such family-friendly amenities as popcorn, holiday movies, and games in the Kelsey Game and Theater Room. You can even ask an elf to come to your room to tuck in the children. Awake the next morning and drive to a local tree farm with a voucher for a five-to-six-foot Christmas tree. Now that's a holiday kick-off!


The month-long celebration continues the following week with Highlands' Olde Mountain Christmas Parade, Saturday, December 1 at 11 a.m. This tradition draws participation by area marching bands and school groups and boasts a live nativity scene including real camels, the Mountain Garden Club Dancing Ladies and, of course, Santa Claus. Small children are encouraged to bring bags for the candy that is distributed from the various floats. The merchants in Highlands will be competing in a holiday window decorating contest, making Main Street and surrounding streets perfect for strolling all day long. 


Cashiers hosts its Christmas Parade on Saturday, December 8, at noon. This year's parade is titled “Over the River and Through the Woodes” and honors Camp Merrie Woode's centennial. Look for another appearance by Santa and then head to the nearby Community Center for the eleventh annual Christmas luncheon showcasing Cashiers Cares. The luncheon provides a timely opportunity to learn about the work of this “neighbors helping neighbors” organization which supports ten local charities. A hot dog luncheon will be provided by Cashiers Rotary Club, and Santa (he's everywhere!) and Mrs. Claus will be guests of honor for those wanting photos.


Christmas, of course, would not be Christmas without special music and The Cashiers Adult Community Chorus is practicing for its Christmas concert to be presented in the Sanctuary of the Cashiers United Methodist Church on Sunday, December 2 at 2 p.m. Selections include the "Sing Christmas" cantata.


Another community offering on December 21 is "A Bluegrass Christmas with Sierra Hull" at the Smoky Mountain Center for the Performing Arts. Sierra Hull is a singer and mandolinist who was the first bluegrass musician to receive a Presidential Scholarship to the Berklee College of Music.


Of course, merchants from Highlands to Cashiers will be a big part of the holiday spirit with lots of festive temptations. One must-see is the famed “Christmas Cottage” on Main Street in Highlands which has been a local landmark for more than thirty years. Richard Osborne, who owns the shop with his wife Teresa, says that Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones themed ornaments are very popular this year, as is an electric “climbing Santa” who walks up and down a ladder that can be leaned against a wall. Animated “Christmastime televisions” are also flying off the shelves. A visit here will fortify you for the rest of your holiday shopping and preparations.


And, before you know it, it's here!


Packages wrapped, family safely gathered, pantry fully stocked. By Christmas Eve it's time to slow down and remember what the season is all about. After all, isn't this where the best family memories are made?

The Nirvana of Fly Fishing

 

The mountains of western North Carolina lure those far and wide seeking higher elevations, stunning views, waterfalls, and verdant forests. However, it is the copious streams, creeks, and rivers lying within these mountains that draw fly fishermen, of all levels and skills, year-round. North Carolina’s waterways are abundant with wild or stocked rainbow, brown and brook trout as well as smallmouth bass in mid-summer.

 

When asked what attracts them to the sport, many fly fishermen find it hard to put into simple terms. The collective agrees there is no easy formula in making “the catch,” for an angler is challenged before even stepping into the water. The sport requires thought, instinct, and strategy. Great consideration goes into understanding the fish on that particular day, on that particular stream, since it varies day-to-day, stream-to-stream, season-to-season. Sometimes is varies hour-to-hour. One must consider the fish’s relationship with its environment, the weather, water temperature, level, and current. What and where does it eat now? The answers are key in crafting a cunning approach to the day’s journey.

 

“There is an art to fly fishing,” according to Ben Elmer, an avid fisherman, prominent local guide and manager at Brookings Anglers in Highlands. “The draw for me comes with chasing the fish and convincing them to eat my fly.” With tens of thousands of artificial flies to consider, wisely choosing a fly that best matches the current bug hatch creates a greater opportunity for this to happen. Equally as important to an aspiring fish catcher is mastering casting techniques where the fly mimics the actual habits of the “bug du jour.”

 

Elmer describes the scene on the river. An angler first strategically scopes out an ideal location where the fish might be found. He then chooses his fly, not just any fly, the right fly that will tease and tempt the fish. After quietly wading into the water, he fortifies his stance, chooses his cast, and delivers his fly. Patiently he waits. Feeling camaraderie with nature and perhaps his fellow fisher friends nearby, he enjoys the whip and grace of his cast as his fly dances on the surface. There is no impatience in the wait as the rewards are great, and then suddenly, possibly many casts later, STRIKE! He hooks one. A rush of adrenaline courses through his veins as he works to keep the trout or bass on the line. His skill at properly setting the hook will hopefully secure the catch as the duel plays out. However, stalking and catching the fish is only part of the game. “It is not over until the fish is successfully in the net,” says Elmer, “and that is a challenge in itself.”

 

Gail Bell, a ten-year veteran fly fisherwoman from Scaly Mountain, North Carolina says, “Fish are spooky and smart. Stealthiness is always your mantra. Imagine, now the fish has his choice from tens of thousands of natural food floating by. What are the odds he will choose your artificial fly? But when he does ... POW ... lights out awesomeness! It can be spiritual and technical with a little luck thrown in.”

 

“You don’t have to catch a fish though to have a good time,” Elmer shares like a secret. Fishermen are unique in the experiences they seek. Some choose to float rather than wade, some want private over public waters and some prefer to fish in the quiet winter months when they can take their catch home. Finding a peaceful experience grounded in nature is ideal for some who want to “get away from it all,” while others seek the thrill of the chase.

 

American author Norman MacLean who wrote A River Runs Through It equates fly fishing to a piece of music that slowly builds to an exciting crescendo. Maybe this metaphor best explains the growth of the sport and its captive audience of all genders and ages. Regarded as being meditative and therapeutic, restorative fly fishing retreats are plentiful and hosted by groups such as Casting Carolinas for cancer survivors and Project Healing Waters for military personnel and disabled veterans.

 

Brookings Anglers, with locations in Cashiers and Highlands, is a trustworthy resource for finding the best experience. Their guided trips are a terrific way to learn, grow, and perfect techniques. In addition, they offer fly tying courses, licenses, and full or half-day packages for individuals, couples, and groups. Packages start at $200.

 

 

Here is Redington’s Quick Guide to Common Fly Fishing Terms:

Cast: This is the motion you make when you collectively 'throw' a fly rod, reel and line.

Delivery: Used to describe the action of casting the fly to a fish or into a promising-looking area of water. 

Dry Fly: Any fly fished upon the surface of the water, usually constructed of non-water-absorbent materials. Dry flies are most commonly used to imitate the adult stage of aquatic insects. 

Fly: A hand-tied artificial lure imitating natural insects or baitfish to entice fish.
Fly Casting: A standard method of presenting a fly to a target using a fly rod and fly line.

Forward (or Power) Stroke: In fly fishing, casting is a back-and-forth motion of the rod and line that allows you to place your fly where you'd like.

Hatch: A large number of flies of the same species.  

Matching the Hatch: An attempt by a fly angler to select an artificial fly that imitates the color, size, shape, and behavior of natural insects that fish are feeding on at a particular time. Often when a hatch is happening, fish become very selective and refuse insects that do not match the predominant insects present. 

Mayfly: Commonly found in cold or cool freshwater environments, mayflies are the most commonly imitated aquatic insects worldwide.

Roll Cast: This is a main cast every fly fisher should master. It can be used to cast short to medium distances - 15 to 30 feet of line.

Setting the Hook: The act of pulling the hook into the flesh of the fish's mouth.

Stalking: The action of creeping up on a fish so as not to surprise or disturb it. 
Stance: The foot of the casting side should be back at roughly a 45-degree angle from the lead foot and about shoulder width apart. Right handed: right foot back. Left handed: left foot back. This stance allows your body to twist back and forth with the cast easily.

Strike: The attempt a fish makes to eat a fly, successfully or not. This term also refers to the movement of the rod a fly angler makes to set the hook. 

Wet Fly: Any fly fished below the surface of the water; nymphs and streamers are wet flies.

Cedar Hill

Situated between Cashiers and Sapphire Valley, Cedar Hill is an upscale gated community offering its residents awe-inspiring views and the very best in luxury mountain living. Whether searching for the latest in elegant mountain construction or a very special lot to call your own, Cedar Hill will not disappoint. An easy hike from your backdoor will lead you to the natural splendor of waterfalls set amongst a backdrop of hardwoods. Be one with nature, but enjoy the modern conveniences of underground utilities available to all home sites and a short drive into town.

Residents of Cedar Hill have access to all of the amenities of nearby Wyndham Resort at Fairfield Sapphire Valley, including golf, swimming, tennis, fitness and much more (see Sapphire Communities for more information).