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To Be Young and Happy: A Kid's Guide to the Plateau

You sip strong coffee, reclined in an Adirondack chair, ankles resting on the railing of your deck. You take in the view of early morning Lake Glenville and smile at a little family of ducks gliding past your dock.  A hummingbird hovers over a nearby flower and that’s when you hear it.
“Mom, I’m bored.”
My own mother might have rolled her eyes, but that was way before children went to robotics classes on the weekends, learned Chinese in kindergarten, and could program a home’s electronics system in thirty seconds flat.
Fortunately, the Plateau offers infinite variety of activities for all tastes, many of which are a breathtaking change for children tied to computers and tablets during the school year.
The possibilities range literally from A to Z, as in art classes to zip lines, and even include some things to do on those dreaded rainy days. And, many experiences and activities can be had free of charge.
Starting at A, as in animals, High Hampton Inn (828-743-2411) offers a llama “show and tell” Thursdays at 4 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 and 4 p.m. Your children can mingle on the lawn, pet the animals and learn interesting llama lore.  If this is a hit, you may want to consider playing nine holes of golf with one of the llamas as your caddy. Call Craig Hartle, High Hampton’s director of golf, to make arrangements to have a llama (supervised by a handler) carry your bag for nine holes. Family memories start here!
B is for vacation Bible School, and a random survey of area churches makes clear that summer guests are warmly welcomed. Most are for one week of mornings and include music, art, and play.
C is for Chattooga River, site of Sliding Rock, a favorite destination for family outings, thanks to its slippery rock face slide into a natural swimming hole.
D is for day camp at the Sapphire Valley Resort (828-743-7663) which offers walk-in, half-day or full-day experiences that include swimming, sports activities, art projects, and treasure hunts. The counselors are beloved by the regulars, who enjoy being recognized by them throughout the town on weekends.
E is for Highlands’ Easely an Artist (828-526-2933), open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 to 2. Walk-ins are welcome (children under 6 will need an adult with them) and the studio provides canvas, paints, brushes, easels and aprons.  In addition, a children’s day camp will be offered each Tuesday this summer from 10-3. All your child needs to bring is a sack lunch.
F is for fly fishing. Local options include the Western North Carolina Fly Fishing Trail (800-962-1911), the first and only fly fishing trail in the United States.  Its fifteen stops offer brook, brown, and rainbow trout, open waters and small streams. Guide service, as well as beginner’s instruction, is also available through Brookings Anglers, with locations in both Cashiers (828-743-3768) and Highlands (828-482-9444).
G is for gem mine, as in Jackson Hole Gem Mine in Highlands (828-524-5850), where children can receive instruction and help with gem identification. The mine is protected from rain, so weather is never an issue.
H is for horses and Arrowmont Stables in Cullowhee (828-743-2762) offers great experiences for all ages and skill levels.  David Sellers explains that children, beginning at age 6, will enjoy their trails. Every ride begins with a 45-minute orientation, during which the children receive helmets, learn basic safety practices and meet their horses. There are five trails from which to choose, depending on experience level, and the outing usually lasts about two and a half hours.
I is for indoor swimming, available year-round at the Highlands Pool Complex (828-526-1595), next to the Civic Center. Extended summer hours begin on Memorial Day. The pool is enclosed in glass, making it delightful rain or shine.
J is for jet ski, awaiting you at Lake Shore Marina (828-743-9998) on Lake Glenville. The rentals come with gas, and dogs up to 100 pounds ride free!
K is for kayaks, also available at Lake Shore Marina on Lake Glenville.
L is for library, and there is no greater resource than the Albert Carlton Library in Cashiers (828-743-0215) or the Hudson Library in Highlands (828-526-3031).  Both offer calendars rich in offerings for children, like reading programs that reward independent reading, Lego Club, “crafter-noons,” weekly story times and special presentations from notables like Professor Whizzpop and the Snakes Alive expert. The calendar also includes regular showings of movies like “Moana” and “Trolls.”
M is for movies, and the Highlands Playhouse (828-526-2695) is one of the nicest venues for screen entertainment.  Movies are shown Fridays through Tuesdays and include a wide variety of offerings, many suitable for children. Great snack bar too!
N is for Highlands Nature Center (828-526-2623), a wonderful hands-on learning center for all ages. Children can see a working honeybee hive, play scientist at the microscope stations and dive into the “touch and learn” table centers. Check the Center’s calendar for special programs this summer, like “Going Batty” and “Salamander Meander”.
N is also for National Registry of Historical Places, of which Cashiers’ Zachary Tolbert House is one.  In addition to offering tours on Fridays and Saturdays from 11-3, which could be of interest to older children, the setting offers beautiful walking trails and a shaded pavilion perfect for picnics.
P is for playground, and nothing beats Cashiers’ Village Green to induce creative play and just plain healthy exhaustion. Designed by local children in 2002, this play space includes slides and swings, lots of climbing structures and even a playhouse and puppet theater.
Take a picnic to enjoy under shaded shelters nearby.
R is for Red Bird Golf Links (828-743-1991), a public driving and nine-hole executive course in beautiful Sapphire Valley. Check the calendar for golf clinics, open to all ages.  
S is for sun and sand which can be enjoyed in full at the Pines Recreation area on Lake Glenville. Open sunrise to sunset, the area features a swim beach, fishing pier, and a free life jacket loaner board.
T is for tennis. Public tennis courts are available through the Cashiers Recreation Center (828-631-2020). Check out a key from the Center’s office and enjoy the courts, which are located near the Cashiers swimming pool. First come, first serve (no pun intended).
V is for visual arts, and for visual arts there is no place like the Bascom (828-526-4949), the jewel of Highlands. Eight children’s day camps are offered throughout the summer, according to Billy Love, the director of education, with instruction in painting, pottery and mixed media. Additionally, the Bascom offers “art by appointment” whereby a child can receive one-on-one private instruction. Check out the family events too, like the old-fashioned barn dance.
W is for Whiteside Mountain, a wonderful two-mile hike along the Eastern Continental Divide. It’s a relatively easy hike, perfect for children eight years or older, along with their parents or grandparents, and offers breathtaking views as well as informational plaques along the way. You’ll see the signs on Highway 64 between Cashiers and Highlands and find easy parking inside the park area.
Y is for “Yosemite of the East,” another name for Panthertown Valley in Sapphire Valley. Acre upon acre of beautiful mountain valley, featuring waterfalls, streams, rare vegetation and wonderful hiking trails.  It is recommended that a visitor allow at least a half day to enjoy the site. Bikes are welcome on main trails.
Z is for zip line and children have choices: Highlands Aerial Park (828-526-8773) offers a variety of options for youngsters, including the “Brave Indian” for children five years and older and the “Mountain Top Canopy Tour” for those at least eight years old. In Sapphire Valley (828-743-7663), children eight and older can experience the “Vordach,” which includes training and thirteen zips.
The clever reader has noticed the lack of an O, Q, U or X activity and there will be no apologies offered, because the variety of children’s activities goes way beyond a mere a,b,c listing.  
As proof, where else can children experience the once-in-a -lifetime experience which will be ours this summer when Cashiers becomes shrouded in darkness for nearly two and a half minutes August 21?  The Cashiers Eclipse Festival, which will celebrate the out-of-this-world happening, is the most perfect retort to the whine of “there’s nothing to do...”  
 

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