Western North Carolina is a region of small, vibrant downtowns. Each has its own personality and history, so take the time to get out of your car and meander, sit on a bench, and just enjoy your time in these unique places.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park has an amazing array of mini-ecosystems within its borders — from peaks over 6,000 feet to low valleys, from moist, densely forested coves to dry meadows. A walk from mountain base to peak compares with traveling 1,250 miles north. Several resident plants and animals live only in the Smokies.
With the quiet evening sun fading behind the Great Smoky Mountains on a late spring evening, a single building glowed bright at the bottom of Miller Street in downtown Waynesville.
The usual joyous commotion at Bosu’s Wine Shop wasn’t coming from their store. Rather, it was from a large wooden door around the side of the building and down the alleyway. Welcome to The Secret Wine Company, where curiosity and culinary delights intersect.
Cruising through downtown Franklin, one begins to wonder where exactly is the Lazy Hiker Brewing Company. You’ve been told it’s on Main Street, but where? And just as you begin to debate whether to turn around and try again, your vehicle hits the crest of a steep downhill.
They say the easiest way to hide something is to place it right in front of someone. Well, what would you say if I told you one of the most beautiful roads in America was right in your backyard, and it’s something besides the Blue Ridge Parkway?
Standing in her Dillsboro studio, potter Zan Barnes can’t help but smile.
“If you told me in high school that this is what I’d be doing, I’d have laughed in your face — absolutely not,” she said.
Pulling off the Great Smoky Mountains Expressway onto the Cabin Flats Road, within an earshot of Waynesville, the quiet road soon turns from pavement to gravel to dirt.
And just as quickly the Balsam Mountain Inn appears, looming high above Cabin Flats like a postcard of a forgotten era, perhaps lost in the mailroom of time, a point in history when style and class were synonymous.
Sitting on a bench one recent sunny afternoon, Steven Lloyd gazes to his right, a big smile immediately rolling across his face.
“When I look over there, I see potential — a lot of potential,” he said.
Four rivers — the Little Tennessee, Nantahala, Oconaluftee and Tuckaseegee — flow through the NC Smokies and into Fontana Lake at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains, creating a spectacular “Blueways Trail” throughout the region.