Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking back: new favorites

Wow. There've been lots of discoveries in 2007 and thousands of miles logged in search of the best this region has to offer with my friend Lee of "From these Hills" fame. In this post, I've tried to pick my favorite 2007 discoveries from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia. Like I said yesterday, picking favorites is always tough -- but there is one fairly objective way to decide -- that is, which places do you find yourself going back to again and again. [click the links below for additional photos, information, and directions]

1. Northeast TN: Sill Branch Falls. Once we get some more rain, you can bet I'll be heading back to Sill Branch in the Clark's Creek area of Unicoi County. It's convenient to Erwin, Jonesborough and Greeneville -- and a fairly short and easy hike. Above is a shot from last spring. (BTW, the final tally on the rain deficit for 2007: 18.94 inches)

2. Western NC: Bass Lake. For those from the Blowing Rock area of NC, you're probably rolling your eyes at me. Bass Lake doesn't seem like a tough one to discover -- but you'd be surprised. I had been to Blowing Rock dozens and dozens of times and driven right past all the horse trailers along the road, and never thought to venture in. I've asked some friends who are always going to Blowing Rock and Boone for shopping, if they'd ever been or heard of Bass Lake... nope. So, I'm glad I'm not the only one! Bass Lake has become a regular stop on our tours of western North Carolina -- it's always a beautiful walk at the end of the day. Here's a shot from October.

3. Southwest Virginia: Virginia Creeper Trail. Again, this is one of the best known destinations in our region of Appalachia. But for all the talk of the Creeper Trail, I'm embarrassed to say that in over 12 years of living here, I never checked it out until this fall. It's an amazing treasure -- and needs to be at the top of everyone's list for '08.

I appreciate all the kind comments and the supportive emails I've received this past year -- they really mean a lot. I have to say my favorite ones are from those who say, 'I read your blog and followed your directions and ventured out!' That's really what this is all about for me -- pointing the way and encouraging everyone who lives or visits this region to get out and explore. This has been a great year of discovery for me -- I feel very fortunate to live in such a beautiful part of the country -- and I can't wait to see what's around the bend in 2008!

Happy New Year!

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