“A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….” Good story but that’s not the one I’m looking for. “A tale as old as time….”, nope, not that one either (although it seems like it!). Okay, so 12 months, 1 week, 2 days, 13 hours, 43 minutes and 27 seconds ago (give or take a second or two) we had a phone conversation with our amazingly talented and ever so generous publisher, Ms Luci Tate (really, we aren’t sucking up, it gets us nothing or nowhere!). After much begging, crying and lots of arm twisting (all on her side of course), “Appalachian Wanderers” was born.
That’s right, last week’s edition of The Loafer marked the 1 year anniversary of Appalachian Wanderers. It’s hard to believe that we could take you, our dedicated readers, along with us on a whole year of our journeys and travels. We have taken you from the highest mountaintop east of the Mississippi River (Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet above sea level) to the low swamps of the coastal plain (Congaree National Park at just 129 feet in elevation) and so many places in-between. You’ve tagged along across the state on the Memphis to Bristol Highway (which we intend to finish this year, we promise), faced your fear of roller coasters at both Dollywood and Kings Island, and were introduced to a world full of “pocket monsters” (aka… Pokémon).
Along the way, you have been kind enough to send us encouraging messages, gifts (a big thank you to Scott Honeycutt for your amazing hand drawn whimsical illustrated maps! Get yours by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org,) and some of you have even shared your heartfelt story with us about a place that we have visited that means so much to you (Mrs. Thelma Rose Watson, your story around Ozone Falls brought us to tears and will forever live in our hearts). These are the reasons that we continue to take you, our ‘fellow travelers’, along with us week after week to enjoy the very thing that we hold so dear to our hearts, our Appalachian Region.
When we wrote our first article a year ago, “The Virginal Creeper Trail – Whitetop to Damascus”, we had so much fun we knew we were doing something that people would love. Months went by and we started to receive messages asking about the other end of the trail. “You’ve only covered half the trail…” one reader wrote in. “You did the easy part, (she wasn’t joking here), but what about the Abingdon to Damascus end?” another reader asked. So we took to the trail early one morning and invited you along for the other 17 miles (the upper end really is so much easier) of the journey. From there, requests continue to come in to cover different places near and dear to each of you. Some requests are to cover historical landmarks. For this we took you to the Andrew Johnson National Cemetery and Historic Site in Greenville (we were amazed that so many didn’t know we have a US President’s final resting place here). Some have asked about good places to take children or teens, so we invited you along for a bio-diverse tour of the Tennessee Aquarium and then to Alcatraz East, Crime Museum (for those teens that can’t be controlled).
We have taken you along the tops of mountain ranges so that you could have a peek into the valleys below and see the hidden waterfalls or the obscure trails. From the Blue Ridge Parkway to Skyline drive and more south across the Cherohala Skyway and the Foothills Parkway these driving trails that cross the peaks of our beloved mountain tops will provide you an eagle eye view of what Appalachia has to offer.
We wanted to do something new for this next year of travels. From time to time as we venture to a show, park, museum or something else that we think would be of great interest to you, we will be doing something to offer our readers a chance to get tickets or some other “loot” from that location. But to get these, you’ll have to work or maybe “wander” for them. So make sure to read the weekly column, Appalachian Wanderers to see how you can “cache” in on these great offers (if you read the recent article in The Loafer on Geocaching, you’ll get it.)
So many people take our region for granted as they have not taken the time to sit atop one of our majestic mountain peaks (Clingmans Dome is amazing to do this) and watch a Smoky Mountain Sunset. Most have never hiked a trail into the mountains and sat down and taken off your shoes to put your feet in the cold mountain stream (Laurel Falls outside of Elizabethton is a must for this) and just relax and take in what nature has to offer us. So many times, when we wander outside of our area, people ask us, “what does the Appalachian area have to offer? Isn’t it just another set of mountains?”. I think Dolly Parton says it best when she sings, “My home is a place heaven shines so bright upon, my home is a place where the mountain streams roll on, my home is a place of laughter, love and song, these are my mountains, this is my home”. Please continue sending us your thoughts, messages, requests and we will keep bringing you another part of our beautiful landscapes week after week. And remember, not all those who wander are lost….