Living In WNC

Community Updates

 

We will keep this list updated as we receive information. If you are a business and have an update for us, please email info@ncliving.com. (Updated 4/03/20 at  2:30 pm)

 

NORTH CAROLINA STATE COVID-19 HOTLINE: 866-462-3821


The Town of Highlands bans gatherings of 10 or more and now requires that any visitor coming to reside overnight self-quarantine for fourteen days upon arrival. Highlands police department will be conducting checkpoints to gain compliance with new prohibitions and restrictions.

Jackson County requires visitors to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival.

North Carolina schools K-12 have been closed until May 15. 

The Bascom, Highlands Biological Station, and Highlands Recreation Park will be closed until March 31.

All hotels, home-sharing, nail salons, and hair salons are closed in Jackson and Macon County.

Fontana Regional Library and Albert Carlton-Cashiers Community Library are closed.

DuPont State Forest is closed.

The southernmost 14 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway, from Milepost 455 to 469, is closed.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is closed until April 6, this includes access to the park, trails, and roads.

 

Black Sheep Taxi is offering delivery of takeout from restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacy, shopping, etc. Call, text 828-200-7006 or  theflock@blacksheeptaxi.com. Rates are posted on their website for one-way trips.  

 

Events

Highlands Festivals Inc. Spring Concert is canceled.

The Village Green is open but all Easter activities have been canceled.

 

Cashiers Businesses

Cashiers Kitchen Co. is closed.

Cashiers Valley Pharmacy Open Monday- Friday 8 am-6 pm and Saturdays 8 am - 2 pm 828-743-3114

Ingles is offering a special shopping hour for seniors, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7 am to 8 am.

United Community Bank will remain open by drive-thru and appointment only.

Zoller Hardware is open and offering curbside pickup.

 

Cashiers Restaurants

Buck's Coffee - Open for takeout 7 am - 6 pm. Every Wednesday morning from 7 am to 10 am, all medical & emergency personnel can enjoy a complimentary to-go beverage.

Chili Loco - Offering takeout. Call 828-743-1160. See website for menu.

Cork and Barrel Lounge - Offering takeout Wednesday - Saturday 4 pm - 9 pm. Call 828-743-7477

Cornucopia is closed at this time.

Mica's - Offering takeout from 11 am - 6 pm. Call 828-743-5740. See website for menu.

Randevu - Offering takeout from 9 am - 2 pm. Closed on Monday and Tuesday. Closed 828-743-0190.

Slab Town Pizza - Offering takeout from 11:30 am-5 pm Call 828-7743-0020 See website for menu.

The Library Kitchen & Bar - Offering takeout and delivery (5-mile radius) Tuesday-Saturday place order between 12 pm - 6 pm and pick up between 4 pm-7 pm. Discounted menu for takeout and offering wine by the bottle to-go. 

The Ugly Dog in Cashiers - Offering takeout. Call 828-743-3000 and visit their website.

Winslow's Hideaway - Offering to-go and delivery orders. Call 828-743-2226.

Whiteside Brewing Co. - Call 828-743-6000. Offering takeout 11:30 am - 8 pm (closed Wednesday and Sunday).

Zookeeper Bistro is closed at this time.

 

 

Highlands Businesses

All businesses and restaurants are closed except those offering curbside service:

Highlands Wine Shoppe - Offering wine delivery. Call 828-526-4080, Tuesday - Saturday 12pm-5pm.

The Skin Lab - Offering medical-grade skincare for home care or curbside by order. Call 704-575-2038.

 

Highlands Restaurants

4418 Kitchen & Bar - Offering curbside pickup from 11:30 am-7 pm. Call 828-526-5002.

Asia House is closed at this time.

Blue Bike Cafe - Offering curbside breakfast and lunch, Monday-Friday 9 am - 2 pm. Call 828-526-9922 or order off ChowNow.

Bridge at Mill Creek - Offering curbside takeout from 5 pm - 9 pm (Closed on Tuesdays). Call 828-526-5500. See the menu on their Facebook page.

Cake Bar - Taking orders Monday through Thursday for Friday or Saturday afternoon pick up. Call 828-421-2042.

Calder's Coffee Cafe is closed at this time.

Four65 Wood Fire Bistro & Bar is closed at this time.

Highlands Burritos is closed.

Highlands Smokehouse - Offering curbside pickup, Thursday - Saturday 11 am-8 pm and Sunday 11 am - 7 pm. Call 828-526-3554 or order online.

Kilwin's is closed at this time.

Lakeside Restaurant - Offering curbside and in-town delivery. Open Tuesday- Saturday. Call 828-526-9419.

Midpoint - Offering curbside pick-up, Thursday-Sunday 1 pm - 7 pm. Call 828-526-2277.

The Ugly Dog Pub - Offering curbside and delivery from 11:30 am - 9 pm. Call 828-526-8364 or order online on ChowNow.

Tug's Proper is closed at this time.

Wild Thyme is closed at this time.

Whole Life Market - Offering curbside service. Call 828-526-5999.

The Musical History of Western North Carolina

Sitting on a mountaintop in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, legend has it that if you listen very carefully, you can still hear the drumbeats of the Cherokee Indians that once rose above these mountains. Prior to the 1800s, the powerfully moving sound created by these Native Americans juddered through the mountains, telling the stories of tribal life. Their community centered on music that led them into ceremonial games, dances, celebrations, healing chants, and daily activities. Their musical notes came from instruments such as homemade drums, hand-carved flutes, and rattles or idiophones made from turtle shells. Their original staccato-like drumbeats, as well as their more elaborate melodies, laid the roots for what was to develop into a land even more abundant with sound, vibration, and song.
The rich history of music in these mountains is varied, to say the least. Once the early settlers from England, Scotland, and Ireland arrived, bringing with them traditional ballads using flutes, fiddles, and pipes, the deep musical sounds that once echoed from mountain to mountain changed. The old Cherokee melodies began to mingle and mix with the new to form something multi-cultural. With the additional influence of enslaved Africans, who brought to the southern states the banjo made from gourds and animal hides, the melodic notes, beats, and tunes blended together to form a bluegrass-country style of music using drums, banjos, mandolins, harmonicas, and fiddles. 
Along with these musical enrichments came clog dancing, known today as “clogging.” Toe-tapping with clogs was a musical instrument on its own but paired with the fiddle, this new style of music became a popular accompaniment to any gathering in the southern region. Again with the confluence of dance styles of the Cherokee and African slaves, a harmonious series of step dances came to eventually form square dancing.
As the music was handed down from generation to generation, the expressive lyrics told stories of the past brought forth by the early settlers’ balladry. Slowly this classic music became more twangy and progressive, leading to country, bluegrass, blues, and sacred sounds. String bands began to form and lively performances of vocal and instrumental compositions could be heard far and wide around campfires, on front porches, at jamborees and festivals, and meeting houses.
The twentieth century brought explosive change to bluegrass and country music with the entrance of Charlie Poole and Bill Monroe to the scene. An old-time banjo player from North Carolina, Charlie Poole formed one of the first well-known country string bands called The North Carolina Ramblers that recorded many popular songs from 1925 to 1930. Monroe performed live on North Carolina radio stations in the mid-30s on his way to forming the Blue Grass Boys, which was dubbed the “Original Bluegrass Band.” Then came Earl Scruggs, who was born in North Carolina in 1924 and joined the Blue Grass Boys along with Lester Flatts in 1945. Scruggs was a chief influencer in bluegrass until his death in 2012 and was a musical hero to folk-bluegrass-rock musician Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. It was Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs’ classic recording of Foggy Mountain Banjo that influenced so many newcomers to bluegrass.  
Famously called a “walking archive of mountain music,” Mary Jane Queen, a twentieth-century Irish ballad and banjo player from Jackson County, was one of the few local greats to receive a distinguished National Heritage Fellowship in 1993 and, posthumously in 2007, the North Carolina Heritage Award.  Multi-Grammy award-winning Doc Watson, considered the father of southern Appalachian root music with his fingerstyle and flat-picking guitar skills, was another twentieth-century North Carolina trendsetter of bluegrass, folk, country, blues, and gospel music. 
Today, music in these mountains continues to be heard, but with even more fervor. Comedian, actor, writer, producer, and musician, Steve Martin, who played banjo with Scruggs in 2001, is a common fixture in the bluegrass music scene and is known for his impromptu pop-ups at music festivals here in Western North Carolina. A legend of our time, Peter Rowan (www.peter-rowan.com) continues the traditions of bluegrass music along with more regionally recognized bands, including Silly Ridge Round-Up (www.sillyridge.com) and Nitrograss (www.nitrograss.com), who play regularly in our area. 
A culmination of original melodies of the Cherokee, early settlers, and the Africans continue to live on in the sounds of the country, bluegrass, country-rock, and blues music that dominate our mountain area. Whether the music resounds around campfires, on stages, at barn dances, annual festivals, and major concert venues, it is not hard to find great traditional live music throughout the year. •

The Literary History of Western North Carolina

North Carolina's mountains are well known for pristine lakes, world-class golf courses, and scenic hiking trails. But less visible is the rich literary underbelly known to the lucky readers among us.
Perhaps it's the isolation of life in the mountains, or the spirit of hundreds and hundreds of ancestors and their stories that seem to come alive in the quiet of the woods. Whatever the source, the mountains of North Carolina abound in literary history.
Thomas Wolfe, arguably the most famous of North Carolina writers, grew up in Asheville, the son of a stonecutter, before beginning his writer's life in New York City. The locals knew him to be an able wordsmith...he had, after all, edited the Daily Tar Heel, University of North Carolina's student paper. But when Look Homeward, Angel was released to enthusiastic reviews and sales, it caused an uproar among the town, as apparently some of the characters in the best-seller seemed all too familiar. Wolfe called the town “Altamont” and says in the book, “The mountains were his masters. They rimmed in life...They were his absolute unity in the midst of eternal change.”
Those mountains, of course, have been the setting for countless significant events in our country's history, most notably the Civil War and the institution of the “Trail of Tears” by which native Americans were banished to Oklahoma.  
Charles Frazier's award-winning fiction is firmly planted in the local mountains. Did you realize there really is a Cold Mountain for which his novel Cold Mountain is named?  Just southwest of Asheville, the 6,000-foot peak is the tallest in the wilderness area and was the home of the protagonist Inman's wife, to whom he struggles to return after serving in the Confederate Army.  Inman's character is based on stories handed down—in true mountain tradition—by Frazier's father about his great-granduncle named Inman.
His second novel, Thirteen Moons, is also set in the North Carolina mountains and tells the story of a man's experience with the Cherokees during their removal from the area.
Kaye Gibbons, who grew up in rural North Carolina, is a prolific contemporary writer mostly about complex women with layered emotions. She draws on her hardscrabble upbringing in Nash County and many of her characters have similar struggles, especially as they attempt to push back against a restraining Southern culture. Her voice apparently rings true, as evidenced by her best-selling status, innumerable awards, and selection for Oprah's book club.
Ron Rash, who has been hailed by New York Times' Janet Maslin as an “elegantly fine-tuned voice”, grew up in Boiling Springs, North Carolina, and received a master's degree from Clemson University. A former professor and part-time resident of Sapphire Valley, Hallman Bryant, regrets that “Clemson let him get away.”  Seems he applied for a teaching job there but was turned down because he didn't have a doctorate but only an “ABT” (all but thesis). He concedes it was their loss and Western Carolina University's gain, as Rash spent years on WCU's faculty.
Rash went on to become a prolific novelist and short-story writer. He is perhaps best known for his 2008 novel Serena, which was a finalist for the famed PEN/Faulkner award and was eventually made into a feature film starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.
Wiley Cash, who made his debut with A Land More Kind Than Home, has more recently published The Last Ballad, a critically acclaimed story of a single mother's fight for rights in a North Carolina textile mill.  Based on a true story, Cash, who has been called by Vanity Fair magazine “a charming North Carolinian”, illuminates a dark period in Appalachian history and breathes life into it through his rich, intriguing characters. He was the writer-in-residence at the University of North Carolina Asheville in 2018.
Perhaps it is the incomparable scenery that stirs the creative soul.
Laura Lane McNeal sought solace in Cashiers, where her parents lived, following the 2005 upheaval of Hurricane Katrina in her hometown of New Orleans.  The quiet winter in the mountains was a useful backdrop as she spent the time here writing Dollbaby, a Southern take on coming of age, which was published to enthusiastic reviews.
“I spent countless hours with my dog Max taking hikes in the fiercely beautiful landscape of the Blue Ridge Mountains,” she says. “The gorges and waterfalls, the hidden streams, the fresh smell of cedar and hemlock, the way the earth and sky came alive after the rain, the ethereal sunsets that reminded me there would be light after the dark...”
Though she and her family did eventually rebuild in New Orleans, the mountains had claimed them, and they now own property in the Cashiers area and spend some of the season here. And, Laura has written two more novels following the best-seller success of her Cashiers-inspired debut.
Deanna Klingel is one of the more prolific writers to set up shop in these mountains.  She didn't seriously get down to fiction until she had raised seven children. Her stories, which she describes as being for the young and the young at heart, include civil war historical fiction and another called Blue-Eyed Doll which is based on a doll exchange that her elementary school class conducted with students in Japan at a time when there existed a deep mistrust of all things Japanese. Not surprisingly, she is a frequent guest at schools throughout the country, where her stories are enthusiastically received. “Maturity,” she says, “is a blessing when it comes to writing.”
But best-seller status is not required to take a stab at creative writing.
That many local residents are inspired by the environs is supported by the popularity of the Highlands Writers Group, a collection of short story writers, memoirists, novelists, poets and journalists who gather each Tuesday at the Bascom Center for the Arts to engage in writing exercises, readings, and critiques.  Highlands has always beckoned writers to visit the area...Walker Percy, Cassandra King, Pat Conroy, and Sandra Brown are examples...and the local literary culture even spawned a Writers Group anthology.
Even if you're just a passionate reader, you can indulge in a bit of literary sightseeing in this part of the world. Start in Asheville, at the Thomas Wolfe House, located in downtown Asheville.  It was actually a boarding house, run by Wolfe's mother, and the setting for Look Homeward, Angel.  Built-in 1883 in the Queen Anne style, the 29-room home is now a National Historic Landmark, and offers visitors an introductory film and guided tour.  Meticulously curated, with many of the furnishings from Wolfe's time there, the museum even displays each holiday season a copy of his original handwritten letter to Santa Claus.
The Grove Park Inn, also in Asheville, has been the backdrop for lots of literary action.  F. Scott Fitzgerald spent summers there in the 1930s and each year on a weekend near his September birthday, the Inn hosts an “F. Scott Fitzgerald Weekend” whereby visitors are taken on a tour of the author's favored suite and treated to insights of noted literary critics. Sadly, Fitzgerald's wife Zelda died in a tragic fire at a nearby psychiatric hospital. 
Another literary road trip could be made to Carl Sandburg's farm in Flat Rock, near Hendersonville.  Sandburg spent the last 22 years of his life in the bucolic setting where his wife was known for the cows she raised.  Visitors may tour the farmhouse, visit the dairy barn where some descendants of Mrs. Sandburg's herd reside and hike over five miles of trails.  In the summertime, visitors may enjoy live performances of Sandburg's Rootabaga Stories and other adaptations of his work at the farm's amphitheater.
But perhaps the best place to celebrate the literary culture of these mountains is from your favorite chair on your private porch with a book in hand.  Let everyone else rush to make their tee times!  
Which begs the question: Have you had a chance yet to pick up Charles Frazier's latest novel?  Varina is the story of Jefferson Davis' wife and the reviews, so far, are excellent. •

 

Wine 101

// what to drink now

Looking for something pink to drink for a Valentine’s Day outing? Turn to rosé in a can by Amble and Chase. This rosé, sourced from Provence, France, will add to the fun while wetting your whistle, $19.99 for four cans

Crisp, fruit forward, and refreshing
Portable, eco-friendly, and a good value

You’ll fall head-over-heels for the 2015 Joseph Phelps Chardonnay, Freestone Vineyards, $55.00

A well rounded Sonoma Coast white that works perfectly with spicy foods
Tasting notes reveal lemon and pineapple, while the nose sniffs out scents of lemon curd, peach and toasted cinnamon

Interested in something refreshing and bubbly, how about red bubbles? Lini 910- “Lambrusca” Lambrusco allows wine drinkers to step out of the box and try something new, average price $15.99

Appellation is Rosso Reggiano from Emilia-Romagna, Italy
A dry, sparkling red with tastes of berries and cream

Calling all California Pinot lovers! This 2014 Cambria, a.k.a. Julia’s Vineyard, Benchbreak Pinot Noir is a luxurious warm red to cozy up to on a cool, winter night $25.00

Rich, deep fruit, mild tannins and very balanced
Flavors of plum, cinnamon and black pepper
Pair with anything, especially pork

Robert Parker highly rates this easy drinking red, 2014 André Brunel Grenache, $20.99

90% Grenache grape
Produced in the Rhone Valley of France
Complex and intense; tastes of strawberry, cocoa and vanilla with round tannins
Ideal to relax by at the end of the day or pair with lamb


// what to cellar

Suggestions by sommelier Jennifer Cunningham at Highlands Wine Shoppe

2013 Emblem by Michael Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon,  $35.99

93 points by Wine Enthusiast
Rich blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (79%), Petite Sirah (8%), Petit Verdot (5%), Syrah (4.5%), Zinfandel (2%), and Merlot (1.5%)
Polished, full-bodied with flavors of caramelized crème brulee, blackberry and spice
Any vintage of Domaine de la Berthete Chateauneuf-du-Pape, price varies on vintage

2012 was winemaker Pascal Maillet’s first vintage of this wine
50% Grenache, 50% Syrah
Aged 18 months in stainless steel tanks
Handcrafted, limited production from 50+ year old vines
Aromas of black currant and spice; well balanced, rich, with tastes of pepper

2014 Smith-Devereux Cabernet Sauvignon by Steve Smith and Ian Devereux, $40.99 

First release at a great price point, and a champion out of the gate
Sourced by sustainably farmed vineyards from Napa Valley’s Howell and Diamond Mountains
Deep ruby red fruit, complex, well constructed tannins with tastes of black currant, blackberry, cassis, dark chocolate, loamy earth, leather, and tobacco

2016 Booker Vineyards “My Favorite Neighbor” Red Blend by Eric Jensen $84.99

Full bodied and elegant with tastes of crème de cassis, licorice, and tobacco
97 points by Robert Parker 
2011 Bruno Giacosa Santo Stefano Barbaresco, 100% Nebbiolo, $175.99 

Intense and complex with tastes of violets, licorice, and raspberry
Received 95 Points by Wine Enthusiast 
An icon in Italian winemaking, Bruno Giacosa passed away in January 2018. The 2011 vintage was his last that will make this vintage very collectible.


// Wine Education

Highlands Wine Shoppe (828) 526-4080

Wine tastings and education are part of the offerings at this well stocked wine shop. Advanced Sommelier, Nick Demos, is brought in once a month for the Highlands School of Wine, an educational series to taste and learn about wine. Each class has a different theme from bubbles to food pairings to wines from different countries. Call for a class schedule and to make a reservation.


// Wine Events

Tim Lundy of Rosewood Gourmet in Highlands often holds food and wine tastings at The Vineyard at High Holly in Scaly Mountain. There are two coming up in September and October as well as a special wine pairing dinner at a private home in November. Call for more information at (828) 526-0383.

Old Edwards Inn and Spa in Highlands hosts celebrity chef dinners including wine pairings. Go to halfmilefarm.com/chefdinners for the winter schedule

Highlands Food & Wine Festival is a four-day event featuring food and music of course, but also wine tastings, winemaker sponsored dinners, and education. Check out the website for tickets and the schedule of events at highlandsfoodandwine.com


// NC Wine Trail
Wineries and Vineyards in the Mountains
Burntshirt Vineyards - Hendersonville, NC
(828) 685-2402, burntshirtvineyards.com

Growing only estate-grown fruit from rosé to chardonnay to merlot to riesling, Burntshirt has several medal winners to share with tasters. Daily tours start at 2 pm and wine tastings are available all day. A bistro for a sit-down lunch is on premise as well as a food truck to provide sustenance while tasting. Live music rounds out the experience on the weekends.

Calaboose Cellars - Andrews, NC 
(828) 321-2006, calaboosecellars.com

Noted as “the smallest winery in America” and the furthest west located in NC, Jailhouse Winery, a.k.a. Calaboose, is a tiny 300-square-foot winery with award-winning wines. It’s history as an old jail makes the visit all the more interesting. Their vineyards are located elsewhere in the mountains of Cherokee County, but the wines and beers can be tasted Monday through Saturday. Varietals include Chambourcin and Seyval Blanc. 

Biltmore Estate - Asheville, NC
(828) 225-1333, biltmore.com

The most popular wine tasting destination in Western NC due to its fame and Disney-like draw, the Biltmore Estate offers a behind-the-scene tour and various wine experiences. Relax at their wine bar tasting all of their many vintages of reds, whites and roses while snacking cheese and charcuterie. Make sure to taste their award-winning pinot grigio. Consult the website for more general information, hours and about booking a private event.

Addison Farms Vineyard - Leicester, NC
(828) 581-9463, addisonfarms.net

Located seventeen miles northwest of Asheville, Addison Farms is a family-owned-and-operated vineyard and winery sitting on 55 acres that has been passed down through four generations. The Addison family grows six varietals including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc, Sangiovese, Montepulciano, Petit Verdot and Petite Manseng. Several of their wines have medaled. Receive a personal tour from winemaker, Jeff Frisbee, and enjoy a flight afterwards in their tasting room. Open year-round. See website for days and hours of operation.

Spying the Skies

Several decades ago in the days of spy secrets, espionage, and space wars, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) had a little known and well-hidden facility right in our own backyard, an undisclosed satellite-tracking center sitting on 200 acres.  Opened on October 26, 1963, this top-secret campus located deep within North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, with its bunkers, hidden tunnels, and cutting-edge tracking technology, was critical to national security. It was at this time that the race for space was full-on with the Soviets and each side battled for greater knowledge of space exploration and technology by watching and listening to the other’s satellites. 
Fast-forward fifty-five years, and what once was a covert spy center is now a public education science facility called the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute or simply known as PARI. Situated near the town of Rosman, NC between Lake Toxaway and Brevard, PARI still largely remains a secret today. Founded by Don and Jo Cline in 1998 as a non-profit astronomical educational foundation, PARI serves to inspire young people, hopeful scientists, astronomers and those who just want to learn more. An entertaining outing for the whole family, PARI surprisingly only sees a little over 6,000 paying visitors annually, as people are just slowly discovering this magnificent destination.
“PARI was founded with the vision of providing science discovery and learning experiences to people of all ages, with a special focus on getting young people interested in science with fun, hands-on activities,” said Don Cline. “Today, PARI is a well-equipped science center bristling with instruments and expertise to help maximize an experience that people will remember for a lifetime.”
Stargazing is at its highest level here at PARI as they are well equipped with the latest technology for viewing and recording the skies, including two radio telescopes of 26-meters (85 ft.), one at 12-meters (40 ft.), and one at 4.6-meters (15 ft.). With no light pollution to impede the view due to their remote surroundings, PARI’s optical telescopes can see deep into space, providing a unique opportunity to identify new stars, galaxies, comets, and things not yet named. With more than two trillion galaxies and one to four billion stars in each galaxy, there is a lot to see and learn at PARI.
Their goal is to bring greater knowledge of the skies to a wider audience including many young people.  Partnered with Duke University for their summer Talent Identification Program (TIP) as well as many county scholastic programs for all ages and programs for underprivileged children, PARI has a personal mission to get kids of all ages involved in science by making it fun. Having hosted approximately 100,000 students over the course of fifteen years, PARI is proud to have inspired several students who were once new to space science to go on and serve as astrophysicists, astronomers, and scientists. 
Last summer during the total eclipse, PARI hosted NASA, along with 250 amateur astronomers and eighty astronomers from Italy that wanted to use the facility to conduct research and record the skies before, during and after the eclipse. According to a PARI spokesperson, “This was the first time in history that an eclipse has passed over an array of sophisticated telescopes like [ours], giving us the opportunity to conduct scientific studies that have never before been possible. Another first for this site.”
In addition to their state-of-the-art telescopes, PARI owns and displays an impressive collection of rare meteorites from around the world in their museum. One meteorite dates back to 1492 found in Alsace, France. Also on display are several fossils, gemstones, and petrified wood specimens. In another area of the museum is a fascinating display of NASA Space Shuttle artifacts and items used and/or collected from outer space.
Aside from PARI’s own archival data collected since their infancy, they also house the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive (APDA) with over 400,000 plates representing 120 years of history in astronomical data. Next to Harvard, they are one of the largest collectors in the U.S. Essentially PARI has a library of over 220,000 photographs of the sky that show how it has changed or evolved over the years. 
PARI is still growing its 30 building campus and has many exciting capital projects on the books like the Fluorescent Mineral Exhibit due to open May 2018. Colors from these minerals when exposed to different types of ultraviolet light produce a captivating array of colors, sometimes from the same rock. The largest specimen displayed weighs 2,000 pounds. This glowing tunnel of fluorescence will be a spectacular site to see.
When you visit PARI, make a day out of it. Explore the miles of nature trails, eat at their cafe or enjoy a picnic either at Jo’s Cove or atop their observation deck offering an incredible 360-degree long-range view.
PARI is open Monday through Friday (9 am to 4 pm), Saturdays (9:30 to late) and Sundays (9:30 to 6 pm). Entrance fees are $10 with senior and student discounts. Children under the age of 5, military and first responders receive free admittance. For an extra fee, private tours can be arranged in advance for small to large groups. For $20 a person, Evenings at PARI, on the second Friday of each month, offer amazing entertainment to view the nighttime sky with astronomer docents. To donate to PARI or for more information on PARI’s mission, guided tour hours, educational programs, and to see a calendar of events and activities, visit their website at http://www.pari.edu/. 
 

Feel Good Giving

At the end of every year, we turn the page to move ahead into the next year. Like the old saying goes, “out with the old, in with the new,” we reflect on our past and plan for our future. With good intentions, we look ahead with a positive forecast bound by our goals and resolutions. Personal growth in the form of fitness, money, self-help, or education is usually at the top of the list. Whatever our past struggles, we step forward armed with new ways to better ourselves in the new year. According to studies done by the Mayo Clinic, giving of our time through volunteerism has an immeasurable effect on our wellbeing. 
Volunteerism is on the rise as individuals look for ways to enrich their lives and progress forward on their path. There are endless opportunities to volunteer, so it is important to find a non-profit organization that speaks to you and aligns with your interests. Whether you want to be hands-on as part of an emergency response team, love on animals up for adoption, or work behind the scenes stuffing envelopes, charitable organizations have a role for anyone willing to help positively impact the lives of others.
In helping others, we help ourselves. Results from a study called Doing Good is Good for You in partnership with United Healthcare and VolunteerMatch show many “feel good” reasons we should volunteer. 
“The results of this study affirm that volunteering is a relationship that brings people together and can profoundly change the way we think about ourselves and others,” said Greg Baldwin, president of VolunteerMatch, the largest online volunteer engagement network which serves over 113,000 participating nonprofits, 150 network partners and 13 million annual visitors.
The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau in Western North Carolina is no exception when it comes to an abundance of non-profit organizations looking for volunteers. The list is too long to name them all, but NC Living has compiled a select list of local organizations that welcome volunteers. Others can be found online by searching “non-profit organizations in your area” or by visiting volunteermatch.org or greatnonprofits.org. Giving just an hour, a week, or a few hours a month can make a tremendous difference in others’ lives, and yours too. As the Universal Law of Gratitude says, the more you give, the more you will receive.

 

/ Food Pantry of Highlands and Cashiers: These two non-profits provide nutritious foods to hundreds of individuals and families living at or below the national poverty level. Since both towns are seasonal communities, work becomes scarce in the winter months and families face the difficult challenge of putting food on their tables. These pantries are busy stores where community members go weekly to receive fresh foods, staples, and canned goods. Volunteers are needed for as little as one day a month to operate the pantries. Learn more at highlandsmethodist.org and fishesandloavescashiers.org.

/ Literacy Council of Cashiers and the Highlands Literacy Council: Both non-profit organizations share the goal of helping people to read and become educated. Some 30% of county residents cannot read. Teaching children, adults, and families to become literate will help them find employment (or a better job), gain confidence, vote, learn, and feel more connected to their community. Anyone who loves to read or teach will make a great volunteer. Learn more at cashiersliteracycouncil.org or highlandsliteracy.com.

/ Big Brothers Big Sisters of Western NC: This organization aims to enrich children’s lives through one-on-one mentoring programs. With inspiration and encouragement, children are led to find positive and productive paths. Volunteers become “Bigs” for “Littles,” creating relationships that spur growth. Learn more at bbbswnc.org.

/ Team Rubicon: Dedicated to disaster response and relief, this Los Angeles-based nonprofit’s mission is to coordinate teams of military veterans and first responders to work in service together helping communities affected by natural disasters. Chapters are created in locations around the world that can be in close proximity to the areas served. A local Highlands chapter is currently on task to help those devastated by Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Florida by removing debris and rebuilding homes.

/ Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust: Protectors of nature since 1883, HCLT essentially guards our natural resources, the air we breathe, our lakes, streams, mountains, flora and fauna. If you enjoy nature and want to preserve it for generations to come, this might be the right place for you. Learn more at hicashlt.org.

/ The Cashiers-Highlands Humane Society: This no-kill not-for-profit shelter does so much to help care for our furry friends. Volunteers walk, socialize and play with these sheltered animals making them better future pets and more adoptable. Fostering in your own home is another way to serve the shelter. For animal lovers, this is a heart-warming volunteer experience. Learn more at chhumanesociety.org.

/ Rotary Club: A civically minded organization where driven citizens and local leaders come together to do good for their community. Advocating “service above self,” Rotarians meet weekly to share ideas, enjoy fellowship, and develop projects that serve their area. Learn more at highlandsrotary.org and cashiersrotary.org.

/ REACH: With a mission to eradicate domestic violence, human trafficking, and sexual assault crimes in both Macon and Jackson Counties, this bilingual nonprofit works to support their mission through prevention, intervention, counseling, and education. There are many volunteer opportunities at REACH, from working directly with the abused or in the roles of fundraising, fielding Hotline calls, court advocacy, event marketing, and shelter assistance. Learn more at reachofmaconcounty.org.

A Wild Day in the Country

I scan the ground at my feet and spy the green clover-like specimen I am instructed to look for. As I am encouraged to do by our knowledgeable guide, I pluck it from the grassy patch and pop it into my mouth. I taste a mild tangy lemon flavor on my palette. Not bad. “Welcome to backyard foraging,” someone next to me bellows. Despite the fact that I feel like I am eating weeds, well, because I am, I learn that this is yellow wood sorrel, a native weed in North Carolina, and is great in gin cocktails. Hmm… tell me more.
Our foraging guide is Becky Beyer from No Taste Like Home in Asheville, who has a master's in Appalachian studies and speaks across the Southeast on Appalachian folk medicine, wild foods, and ethnobotany (huh? the study of the region’s plants and their practical uses). As we walk along the edge of an overgrown field of wildflowers and weeds, we learn about how to steep white yarrow for a cold remedy tea, how orange daylily blossoms are delicious fried after being stuffed with goat cheese, and how sassafras makes a mean root beer and adds a tasty zest to gumbo. We encounter all sorts of wild edibles from greens to flowers to roots that can be used to infuse drinks, soups, stews, teas, and salads, and many of which can heal a bevy of ailments. Who knew?!
Our organizer and host for this day in the country called Foraging Adventure and Wild Food Lunch is Kristin Jorgensen, a talented cook, caterer, and event planner. Entertaining our group of twelve today at her charming event hideaway called The Barn just outside of Cashiers, Kristin has refurbished the old and once minimalist structure, previously owned by her grandparents for almost thirty years, into an inviting, shabby chic finished space where she hosts dinner parties, events, and cooking classes.
The Barn is where childhood summers spent with her grandmother were majestically filled with foraging adventures picking blueberries and apples, making jams and pies and sipping lemonade under the big oak tree. Her grandmother’s motto, “Found food always tastes best!” is imprinted deep in Kristin’s heart and for today’s event, Kristin shares this passion with us. She has turned an ordinary Sunday into an extraordinary Sunday that is well organized, educational, and delectable. Our diverse group, hailing from Atlanta, Asheville, and the local area, enjoys an enlightening foraging tour and then relaxing under The Barn’s signature oak tree sipping Kristin’s Wild Lemon Balm Mint Smash (see the recipe on the next page).
As the glorious smells of a wild greens pesto, country ham, and burrata pizza make their way from inside The Barn to the outside, our party takes its cue to head inside to eat. We gather around the state-of-the-art kitchen watching Kristin cook up some fabulous eats and gush over The Barn’s interior, lovingly decorated with antiques, linen, silver, wood, stainless steel, and glass. With many original effects of the barn still intact like the wide plank flooring, the original beams across the ceiling, and the powder room humorously made to feel like an outhouse (only with real plumbing), the place feels bucolic but refined. As the warm, gentle breezes of the day billow through the open doors and windows, the views of the pasture, fields, and distant mountains make for a surreal setting.
With the pizza appetizer happily digesting in our bellies, we are invited to sit down at a long, beautifully appointed table for our much-anticipated three-course wild foods lunch meticulously prepared by Kristin. Each course sticks with the theme of the day to include some sort of wild edible. Our starter is a delicious Magenta Lamb’s Quarter (yes, a weed) Gnudi with ramp butter and parmesan, a naked ravioli that melts in your mouth. The chatter dies down at the table as we all dissect and savor the flavors. Our second course of Sunburst trout with a wild sorrel mayonnaise with wild greens and field peas is equally as impressive. The trout is so fresh like all of Kristin’s ingredients, which come from sustainable sources from the surrounding area. Our third course, a dessert of wild lemon balm pannacotta and wild fennel shortbread cookies blows everyone away. It is the perfect ending to a perfect meal. As laughter and joyous conversation fill the room, I look down the table and see nothing but smiles. You almost want to shout, “We did it! We ate prepared weeds!” but really the meal is so much more than that because you can feel the love Kristin infused into each preparation.
Her intention to create a nurturing space for comfort, happiness and good food where people can nourish their bodies and souls has been accomplished. “I hope that [guests] too will be affected by the magic that my grandparents created here,” confides Kristin, “and for the simple rustic beauty…unplugged and off the beaten path…and sharing a meal together.” One guest, Carol Saul, an attorney from Atlanta, put her perspective into words, “The almost magical serenity of the Barn’s setting in remote and lush Western NC enveloped us as we were served an amazing meal incorporating native edibles from the surrounding fields.”
The event calendar is quite packed for The Barn this season with interesting workshops, cooking classes, kids camps, and dinners under the stars. Check out The Barn’s website at www.thebarnnc.com for more dates and information. 

Lake Life

It’s early morning and my senses are tuned to the quiet of the world around me. As I sit lazily on the dock in my Adirondack chair sipping my morning coffee, I watch the mist slowly rise off of the pristine lake before me, Lake Glenville in Western North Carolina. Hues of green and blue emerge as the soft water becomes dappled in the morning light. You cannot beat the tranquil sound of lapping water as it slowly rolls to shore. My family and most of my neighbors are still asleep with the exception of a few anglers in canoes off in a distant cove. The only significant signs of stirring are the tall trees caressed by a soft breeze and the gossiping birds that fill them. With each breath I take of clean, fresh air, the sun gains altitude and slowly shows itself over the blue mountain range in my view. The warmth of the sun soothes me. My cozy plaid wrap slips off my shoulders as I ease deeper into a meditative state of relaxation. Ah, this is the life—lake life in the early morning.


With each hour of the day, this lake takes on a different personality. In the early morning, it supplies fuel to the soul for early-risers. Shortly thereafter, the paddle boarders and kayakers emerge to take on the glass-like waters. Once the day warms, the powerboats pulling skiers and giddy kids on inner tubes arrive. In the early evening before sunset, you’ll see friends and family lounging in pontoon boats idling along the shoreline exploring the lake one neighbor at a time and waving along the way. As darkness descends, the smell of charcoal wafts through the air as people fire up the grill for a summer supper under the stars. Laughter fills the air as groups gather, and the happy sound ripples across the water.
In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, second homeowners flock to these parts in the summertime for the cooler temps this altitude affords. It is a tough choice when buying a home here between mountain or lake views, although there are those lucky enough to have both. If you seek a low-stress life with a deep sense of peace, adventure, and community, then lake life might just be for you. 
A lake community is a deeply woven place centered on fishing, water sports, family time, and barbeques. Neighbors come together for cocktails on the dock, impromptu dinners, and toasting marshmallows on an open fire. Life is good on the lake.
Although there are many pristine bodies of water in the Highlands-Cashiers-Sapphire Valley area to consider, there are several lakes that have a great allure to many. A public lake offers lots to do and see all day, while private lakes cater to those looking for a quieter, more peaceful atmosphere with less distraction. Regardless, each area lake is unique with its own vibe, and the trick is finding the one that fits your dream of life on a lake.

The largest public lake in the area and the only one that allows gas-powered boats, Lake Glenville is an emerald gem offering a dynamic lifestyle. With the highest elevation of any lake east of the Mississippi River, a vast size, and tremendous depth, there is much to be found on this public lake aside from water sports. Packed with islands, beaches, fishing holes, and waterfalls, this reservoir calls to those who want to live in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains while overlooking an unspoiled body of water. Residents marvel in the richness of flora and fauna, the landscape contrasts of mountains sinking into the water and the glorious sunsets glistening across the surface of the lake. 
Signal Ridge and Lakeshore are two marinas that help supply the fun for the community and visitors with boat and equipment rentals. From jet skiing to wakeboarding, one can find plenty of adventure on the water along with boats of all sizes and speeds. For anglers, Lake Glenville has a bevy of fishing holes teeming with bass, trout, catfish, and perch. Explorers will love the three big waterfalls and a hiking trail that leads to a fourth one (High Falls) with a breathtaking 150-foot drop. 
Golfers who have dreamt of living on a stunning 18-hole championship golf course while enjoying lake and mountain views have found their wish at Trillium. This private residential club is adjacent to part of the lake and offers a multitude of recreational diversions and amenities. 
For all lake homeowners, events of all kinds support the community including a season kick-off cocktail party hosted by Friends of Lake Glenville, barn dances throughout the summer, and the immensely popular Fourth of July fireworks show on the lake. 
It is important to note that as a public lake there is an active recreational park, campground, and beach on the northern end where day-trippers and vacationers enjoy quick lake access.

This historical 55-acre plus lake completed in 1896 was once land Cherokee and Creek Indian Tribes called home up until the early 1800s. Later in the nineteenth century, the land became the country’s primary mining site for gold and sapphires (word has it Tiffany & Co. once mined here). Just after the lake was created, a Victorian-style inn called Fairfield Inn on the National Historic Register was built and had a life on the lake, serving as a vacation resort for families looking for rest and relaxation in the mountains. Despite the diversified history of the land where the lake now lives, the sheer granite rock face of the beloved landmark, Bald Rock, has remained a constant. Standing watch over the lake, this magnificent natural sentry makes living near this lake all the more spectacular. 
As part of the Sapphire Valley Resort, Fairfield Lake is an exclusive attraction only for its lucky members. You can find anglers fishing for bass and bream, kayakers, sailors, and swimmers. A boathouse offers rentals of fishing gear, kayaks, canoes, standup paddleboards, sailboats, and electric motor boats. Residences high above overlook the gentle lake and have magnificent views of Bald Rock, the surrounding national forest, and/or the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are three miles of hiking trails around the lake and one steep trail leading up Bald Rock. Nearby are waterfalls, mountain bogs, Camp Merrie Woode (where the gem and gold mine once stood) and an old Wishing Well that was once considered a “healing spring”. 
Sapphire Valley has other private lakes such as Sapphire Lake and Hogback Lake. The latter, known for its fishing, is 35+ acres of pristine water surrounded by forest and Hogback Mountain. Charming residences and home sites are nearby with direct lake access.

The largest private lake in North Carolina laced with million-dollar homes is Lake Toxaway, a charming Southern hideaway for the country club set. Steeped in a rich history dating back to the late 1800s, prominent families like the Fords and the Vanderbilts summered on the lake for relaxation, fresh air, and golf. 
In the 1960s, the Lake Toxaway Country Club was founded with the same high standards in mind for family and friends to socialize in the mountains while living on an unspoiled lake. Members enjoy the 18-hole championship golf course with dramatic fairways created by Master Architect Kris Spence and a Tom Fazio Learning Center where golfers can perfect their practice. In addition, club amenities include a pro shop, clubhouse, fitness center, tennis courts, croquet, and dining. 
The Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests and mountains such as Hawk, Panthertail, and Mt. Toxaway surround the lake. Its high elevation with long and short-range views creates a beautiful landscape to enjoy outdoor leisure including hiking, swimming, fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. While much of one’s life here is spent outdoors, there is an active social calendar filled with soirees, social clubs, and events throughout the season. 

 

 

Focusing on Fish

Named to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s “Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force Chef List,” William Dissen, owner of Asheville’s The Market Place restaurant, is a major advocate for sustainable food policy reform in the United States. Working with a network of local farms, artisan producers, and sustainable fishermen to produce flavorful, fresh food for patrons of his restaurant, he has received several honors in regards to his innovative approach to sustainable cuisine. 
Growing up in the foothills of Appalachia, he watched his grandmother prepare meals straight from her garden. From an early age, he recognized there is no cuisine without gardens or farmers, which is why his menu changes based on readily available farm-fresh ingredients. 
Dissen attended The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, after graduating from West Virginia University, studying English and French. Apprenticing under Certified Master Chef Peter Timmins at the Greenbrier Resort gave Dissen the itch to hone his culinary skills. After his stint at the resort, he left for a taste of the Lowcountry of Charleston, South Carolina. It was here he worked under James Beard-nominated Chef Craig Deihl at the fine dining establishment, Cypress. 
He yearned for more. His thirst for knowledge and experience took him to the University of South Carolina, where he attained a master’s degree in Hospitality, Restaurant, & Tourism Management. From the beginning, he had always had a dream of having his own restaurant in the Appalachian mountains, which led him to start roots in Asheville with his Wall Street establishment, The Market Place. 
By creating taste bud swimming dishes from his heart and soul, Chef Dissen has paved a path in sustainable seafood stewardship without even trying. Keeping his values in the kitchen, he demands the best ingredients to create his menus. “Even though Asheville is four hours from the nearest ocean, it is equally important to know how and where your seafood comes from as it is to know the same about your produce and livestock. For me, it’s also a pledge to do the right thing for our planet and community so we have these resources for generations to come,” stated Dissen. Named as Seafood Watch Ambassador by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2009 for his pledge to serve, sell, and advocate for sustainable food systems and sustainable seafood, he has made a real difference, even appearing on the steps of Congress to influence legislators. 
Being named a Blue Ribbon Task Force Member by the aquarium was a proud moment for Dissen. He keeps integrity with all of his selections in The Market Place. One of the many things I admire about him is his relationship with Alan Musket of No Taste Like Home, a wild food foraging tour company. The Chef’s restaurant will allow No Taste Like Home attendees to bring their foraged finds to the restaurant to be prepared with their meal. In addition, Dissen purchases from many local foragers and farmers to always have the best of the best, whether it be chanterelles, ramps, lobster mushrooms, or everything in between. 
Having hosted two James Beard Celebrity Chef Tour dinners and multiple field dinners, Dissen is always working together with local, regional, and national Chefs to provide his patrons an experience, something I admire about the young Chef. He is a go-getter and has a deep passion for his craft, and for providing a total experience. He truly understands hospitality and tourism.
Chef Dissen recently opened a new restaurant in Charlotte in January. “Fresh, local and seasonal menus will be the driving force at Haymaker.  Our restaurant menus will be centered around our Woodstone hearth.  I would expect to see food that’s fun and refined, and showcases the best the region has to offer.”

I met up with William Dissen on my last visit to Asheville to get his take on his favorite dishes, vacation spots, and more. 

1- Where was your love for culinary arts born? 

My grandparents had a farm in rural West Virginia, and I grew up visiting their farm and eating fresh food straight from their gardens.  It wasn’t until later in life that I had a realization that if you want to cook great food, then it has to be prepared with the freshest ingredients. 

2- What is your favorite at-home meal to create?
 
My wife Jenny is from India, and we love to cook Bhindi Masala (or curried okra) and serve it with jasmine rice, whole fat yogurt, cilantro, and lime.  Super easy to make, super flavorful and good for you! 

3- Favorite vacation destination? Wait, do you get to vacation? 

I’m headed to Mallorca this week! (Mallorca is the largest island in the Balearic Islands archipelago, which is part of Spain and located in the Mediterranean.) I’ll let you know if I get some downtime!  My favorite vacation place is to get away from it all, such as fly fishing in Montana on the Madison River, or going to a beach destination like Tulum, Mexico and exploring the Sian Ka’an Reserve. 

4- What is your favorite experience in Asheville? 
Walking down the street on any given day and seeing the nun on her bike from the LaZoom Tour, walking past a bluegrass band busking on the corner that could have a signed record contract, and then three topless women on unicycles ride by drinking craft beer on their way to march at Pack Square. 

5- What is your favorite menu item and libation from The Market Place? 
I love our Pappardelle Pasta.  We take braised lamb shanks and make a ragu from it with roasted shallots and garlic, confit tomatoes, and roasted oyster mushrooms, and serve it with hand cut semolina pappardelle with parmesan and ramp pesto.  For me, it’s a modern interpretation of Appalachia.  
For libations, I love our Benton’s Old Fashioned.  Country Ham and Bacon King extraordinaire Allan Benton is a good friend of mine, and we like to take his bacon and add it to the classic old-fashioned cocktail through a process called “fat washing”.  It’s a great drink.  Smoky, sweet, and did I mention it’s made with bourbon?
What is sustainable seafood? The Monterey Bay Aquarium defines it as Seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that have minimal impact on ocean health and ensure the availability of seafood for future generations. 
Today half of the fish eaten in the U.S. is farmed, and the practice is growing fast. Just as we raise cattle and chickens to eat, we’re now raising seafood to meet the growing global demand. Aquaculture, or farming of fish and other seafood, is helping relieve increasing pressure on our ocean resources. 
Global aquaculture includes 100 species, farmed in everything from traditional earthen ponds to high-tech tank systems. Each farming system has its own distinct environmental footprint. By choosing seafood from better farms and production systems, consumers can play a positive role in reducing aquaculture’s potential negative impacts. 
How do you know which fish to purchase? Download the Seafood Watch App by the Monterey Bay Aquarium for your guide to sustainable seafood. The app will provide you with markets or grocery stores near you that participate in the program, as well as allow you to search all the various types of fish and their ratings. 

What do the colors mean? 

Green - Best Choice 
Yellow - Good Alternative 
Red - Avoid
White - Eco-Certification. In addition to “Best Choice” and “Good Alternatives,” look for certain eco-certified labels on specific seafood. 
 

Mountains of Youth: Finding Longevity in Mountain Living

At first glimpse of a mountain peak, I begin to feel it. I recognize it as a sensation of lightness, or possibly even giddiness. On my journey from the city to the Blue Ridge Mountains, my excitement builds with each mile marker. As my car climbs the first mountain to home, I notice a deep sense of calm sweeping over me. And as my breath deepens, I observe my racing thoughts slow and my blood pressure drops. My intuition tells me I have made the right move to leave the city behind and choose mountain living. While I trust my gut, some might need a little science to spur or confirm a decision.
It’s obvious that fresh mountain air, a slower pace, cooler temperatures, and green spaces are good for us, new research tells us living in the mountains has positive health benefits and could actually prolong our lives. A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health concluded that living at higher altitudes creates a lower oxygen environment that mitigates heart disease. “Lower oxygen levels turn on certain genes, and we think these genes may change the way heart muscles function. They may also produce new blood vessels that create new highways for blood flow into the heart,” according to a study produced by the University of Colorado School of Medicine in partnership with the Harvard School of Global Health.
Furthermore, higher altitudes stimulate a certain hormone called leptin that is responsible for weight management, proper metabolic function, and balancing our energy stores. Possibly because of leptin production, lower rates of cancer and obesity were also found in mountainous communities. Lower mortality rates, greater levels of positive mental health, and lower levels of stress and anxiety were found in mountain residents compared to those living in more urban environments. I like this new evidence!  Who doesn’t want a healthier heart, lower risk of cancer, less stress, and weight loss? This green, mountain living could really be the fountain of youth! 
It is well known that living in a green environment is linked to stress reduction and well-being, and now it is concluded that a simple walk in the woods slows our heart rate and reduces anxiety. Using brain scans, heart-rate monitors, and behavioral tests on study participants, researchers, as reported by Scientific Reports, have proven the sounds of nature, like running water or birds singing, have restorative and positive physiological effects on our bodies and minds. 
The Highlands-Cashiers Plateau has a long history of people seeking wellness in the Blue Ridge Mountains, whether it is to get away from it all or actually convalesce from an illness. Known as a health resort in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this area drew people from afar to rejuvenate in the invigorating, clean air. We even had the first sanatorium in North Carolina in 1908 during a tuberculosis outbreak. 
Things have not changed much over the decades as many people still come from far and wide to seek solace here. Of course, anyone who enjoys getting outdoors to golf, croquet, fish, hike, yoga, canoe, and camp can find all that and more in this area. Take away excessive light pollution and dangerous electromagnetic frequencies found in more urban settings, and you have found your panacea.
And as if this couldn’t get any more perfect, our mountains are host to the highest number of vortexes, or energy fields, in the country according to Asheville Magazine. A vortex is thought to be a physical location that harnesses a great amount of positive and rejuvenating energy. Twenty-four vortex have been identified near the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, attracting people who seek emotional healing, spiritual awareness, and tranquility. Some might call it a “mystical Mecca.”
Just as the 19th-century naturalist John Muir famously penned, “The Mountains are calling and I must go,” many others are finding themselves “called” to this 400-million-year-old mountain chain. Once some of the highest mountains in the world, and despite being beaten down by time and erosion, the Appalachian Chain still proudly stands as the highest mountain range in the Eastern United States. The North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains claim a good many of the highest peaks and have the blessed fortune of being a biodiverse temperate rainforest. 
Some of this may explain why more people are choosing to leave the urban jungles behind for a more relaxing quality of life in the lush, green forests, and mountains with a hue of blue. Yes, we have to travel a little further for an international airport or shopping at Costco, but as we trade fast-paced living, traffic, and smog for cleaner air, taller trees, higher altitudes, and mountain vistas, we relish in our good sense and science’s findings, to feel young and alive here on the Plateau. •