Summer in Western North Carolina

This summer, Jack went to summer sleep away camp for the first time.  While he spent his days being challenged, enriched, and rewarded with new skills and new friends, Rigby, David, and I were able to steal away several days near his camp in the mountains and charming towns of Western North Carolina (WNC).  WNC is a place that gained importance to David and I during our years at Davidson and we are thrilled for the opportunity to include this special part of the country in our yearly summer adventures as we travel westward for camp pickups and drop-offs for the next many years.

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We arrived with a short list of places to explore and restaurants to pop into, and left with so many more ideas for our next visit.  We concentrated our time during the first set of days on the town of Highlands, just an hour northwest of Brevard where Jack's Summer Boys Camp, Camp High Rocks, is located.

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We rented a home via AirBnB for our stay and it could not have been more charming!  The home is located about 1 mile from the town center oh Highlands, across the street from Mirror Lake.  We appreciated all of the fun details and folk art in the house and the boys loved the candy cabinet and snack basket that the owners so graciously left for us.  The biggest highlight was the canoe that was included with the home rental.  Despite the copious amounts of rain during our four day stay, we loved paddling around the lake and exploring all of the beautiful homes and gardens.

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It was with such pleasure that we were able to coordinate a visit with dear friends on our first night in Highlands.  We met at Bistro on Main for cocktails in the late afternoon and then walked down Main Street to Cyprus for dinner on their upper patio.  Truth be told, do not come to WNC for the food...it's alright, but doesn't come close to matching the beauty and splendor of its surroundings.  So, dinner was more about friendship and connection rather than flavors and pairings.

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Jack only stayed with us for one night in Highlands before we dropped him off at Camp!  He was eager to get started on his adventures and new friendships, so after a quick goodbye, we drove away from Camp High Rocks with hopeful hearts for our big boy!  Before departing Brevard, we made a stop at OP Taylors toy store.  This has become one of our favorite places to spend an hour playing with the fun remote control cars and exploring all of the new toys.  It has multiple rooms and two stories and is such a treasure to visit!  We stopped in Cashiers for lunch on our drive back to Highlands hoping to eat at Cornucopia but the wait was very long and we weren't feeling up for a long delay.  Instead, we went to the Cashiers Farmers Market where they serve BBQ out of a small trailer on the side.  The grounds are dotted with wooden picnic tables, making it a lovely place to eat. 

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Many of our afternoons were spent cozy in the house napping, reading, looking for bears in the lake, or watching a movie.  It was such a treasure to have unstructured down time.  On our first night without Jack (second night in Highlands), we took a very short hike to Sunset Rock after dinner where we were rewarded with a sunset, albeit hazy.  Rigby enjoyed playing on the rocks and we loved watching the daylight fade over the town.

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We cooked many meals at home (as I mentioned earlier, the food is quite average, for the most part), but we did enjoy going to Mountain Fresh Grocery multiple times.  Their breakfast is quite tasty, but be aware most people feel the same way and it can get busy, and their chocolate chip cookies are large and amazingly delicious!  They also have a nice selection of beers on tap and it's a pretty tasty spot to grab a pizza.

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We enjoyed our time exploring the Highlands Nature Center.  Although small, it has some neat interactives for children, some cool animals, and beautiful gardens.  Another hit in town was SweeTreats for ice cream and The Toy Store.

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Perhaps my most favorite day in Highlands was spent at the gorgeous Bascom: Center for the Visual Arts and then taking another short but very rewarding hike to Dry Falls.  Because of all the rain Highlands got during our stay, Dry Falls was roaring with water making it quite a spectacle to walk behind.  It was hard not to get wet from all the mist.  We had an early dinner at Ugly Dog Pub before we turned in for our last night.

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After going to a Family Reunion and then coming back home in Chattanooga for a few days, we returned to WNC to pick up our big Camper!  This time, we stayed in Brevard at the quirky Sunset Motel which was perfect for our short weekend visit.

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The most exciting part of this group of days, was picking up Jack from High Rocks!  We enjoyed our morning at Camp learning about all of his activities and seeing the areas of camp that he grew to love during his time there.  We were also able to visit a bit longer with his counselor who seemed like Jack's kindred spirit.

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Again, we were rewarded with a visit with friends...this time, a surprise visit with a dear high school friend who happened to be visiting from Tokyo and staying in the area with his family!  We had lunch at Dahlia's on the Davidson River, then went to Dolly's Dairy Bar for ice cream.  We ended our visit with a stop at Highlands Books.  It was a great afternoon spent reconnecting and watching our children interact across different languages. That evening, we went to Oskar Blues Brewery and played corn hole, listened to live music, ate pizza, and sampled yummy beers.  

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Before heading back home, we spent the morning at Looking Glass Falls and the Pigsah Ranger Station.  The boys were brave enough to get into the water, but I am so fearful of cold water, that I opted to stay on the rocks and take pictures.  After some outdoor exploring, we had lunch from the Blue Smoke food truck and grabbed a beer at the Hub and Pigsah Tavern.  We did a little shopping in the Hub for frisbee golf discs before making our way back to Chattanooga.

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Other ideas for next time:

In Highlands-

  • Secret Falls Hike
  • El Manzinillo for margaritas and Mexican food
  • A show at the Highlands Playhouse
  • A splurge stay at Old Edwards Inn and dining at Madison's and The Wine Garden (which I am certain would not disappoint)

In Brevard-

  • Tubing on the Davidson River
  • Sliding Rock
  • Hiking in the Pigsah Forest
  • Performance at the Brevard Music Center

In the area-

  • A stay at Highland Lake Inn and Resort
  • Fly Fishing
  • Eating at Cornucopia in Cashiers
  • A stay at High Hampton Inn and Country Club
  • A stay at Greystone Inn and Exploring Lake Toxaway