Even as a lifelong Southerner, I wilt at the first signs of the heat & humidity our region is famous for. Fear not: there is an out.
When I was 14, our family managed to settle in the one place where Southeastern culture intersects Northeastern weather–the High Country of Western North Carolina. That July day we pulled out from the little Georgia town that had been home for the previous 9 years, it was 107 degrees. In our new driveway (500 miles later and 3,800 feet up), it was a heavenly 62. Thanks to that move, I grew up with barbecue and blizzards, sweet tea and skiing, fried okra and fresh air.
After college, the need for employment opportunities and affordable living led to putting down roots in my wife’s hometown of Chattanooga (where we still live and which we still love). When days start nudging past 80, though, my thoughts head for the hills. Thanks to my folks’ ongoing homestead (they built a house in 2006 on 23 acres “down in the valley”, at 3,300 ft. in Deep Gap), we can act on that impulse and be feet-up in the front porch hammock in five hours’ drive.
The older two girls and I made one of our escapes from summer this weekend and were handsomely rewarded with perfect weather and the full array of spring flowers. Our kids don’t know yet just how blessed they are to have access to this as a routine part of life, but they do know how much they love to visit Grandaddy and B-Ma any time of the year.
Plants hold a special place in my heart, so visiting home means I also get to visit some amazing plants (weird perhaps, but we’re all a bit off at some level or another). I worked four summers at a nursery and landscaping business during college. One of the perks was getting all manner of amazing plants at a steep discount. When my parents built their house, they asked me (and my employee discount) to do the initial landscaping. Whenever we go back to visit, I love seeing how those few trees, shrubs, and perennials have filled in over the past 9 years (owing much more to my mom & dad’s ceaseless care than any work I did in picking and planting them). As they’ve grown in, covering the bright red fill dirt that first surrounded their place, the house looks more and more like it’s always been there in that little bowl.
This series is supposed to be about hikes and assorted adventures in the wilderness, but sometimes a trip “into the woods” feels a lot like home. There will always be more to say about the vast beauty of the Appalachians, and people with more time on their hands than me have written and photographed enough to document every good hike around. This little corner of the world is all ours, though.
A little corner of rhododendron varietals
You can seriously grow everything up there…
Mountain Laurel are everywhere
Lupine is an old favorite
They have several patches of Pink Lady’s Slipper around the land
Even the weeds are pretty: Cow Parsnip
And so are the grasses…
This Bigleaf Magnolia (not native to high altitudes) moved with me twice, but it seems to be thriving in the last place I planted it…20′ tall and about to bloom
The creek bottom down the hill from the house is covered with Skunk Cabbage and Cinnamon Fern