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Consider a local mountain vacation

Johnny Molloy • May 8, 2014 at 8:59 AM

We are blessed to live in the bosom of the Southern Appalachians here in upper East Tennessee, Southwest Virginia and western North Carolina. How many times have you told people where you are from and they said, “Oh, that place is beautiful”?Well, it IS beautiful. That is why, during summertime especially, vacationers from out of state flock to our hills and hollows, lakes and rivers, to spend their precious free time and money.Ironically, we locals head for the beach. But have you considered a local mountain vacation? Granted, it isn’t far, or exotic, or something entirely unseen. An important component of a vacation is the anticipation — when you look out your office window and dream of the adventure to come. That being said, if you are going on a local mountain vacation, you can literally look out your window and see the mountains upon which you will explore.I understand vacationing at the beach, but not during summer. It is hotter than Hades on our Southern beaches in June, July and August. The mountains offer far better weather — mild days and nights. That is why all those folk who live in latitudes below us head for our hills, from the Smoky Mountains to the Blue Ridge Parkway to the Virginia Highlands.Not only will a local vacation afford better weather, it is also more economical. Do the math — do you want to drive 50 miles or 500 miles round trip? Do you want to get an expensive condo on the beach during the high season or get a cool, shady campsite for a tenth of the fee? Do you want to pay for contrived rides at an expensive theme park or make your own adventure in the natural mountains? There are few self-created adventures at beach vacation places: you have to pay to play.What about the health component? Do you want to lie on your back by the ocean, eating greasy potato chips or walk a scenic trail to a photogenic waterfall? Do you want to pay to eat fried hushpuppies at a seafood restaurant or recruit the entire family to cook a healthy meal over the campfire using store- bought groceries?Local vacations save time, too. Would you rather spend a whole day driving to and from your distant destination? Or would you rather be actually vacationing instead of breaking up sibling battles that inevitably crop up on long road trips?Local vacations also help the local economy. We can keep our hard-earned money here when we head up to Damascus, Va., camp out in the Jefferson National Forest, buy our groceries at Food City, then rent a bike and get a shuttle to ride the Virginia Creeper Trail. We keep our money local when we camp at Rock Creek, then go on a rafting trip down the Nolichucky and take a hike atop Unaka Mountain.Maybe you’ve been on local adventures. But have you? Have you canoe camped on Fontana Lake, with the crest of the Smokies rising 5,000 feet from the water’s edge? Have you visited Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, where Daniel Boone cut his path to Kentucky? Have you tackled the rapids of West Virginia’s New River? Our greater area offers vacation destinations aplenty if you look around.

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