Blue Ridge ~ Smoky Mountain Highlander
Follow us on... Twitter Become a Fan... Highlander on Facebook Mountain Blogs... Highlander Blogs Mountain Events
& Festivals
Calendar of Events Sign up for
Highlander Newsletter
Messages from the Mountains
Welcome to the Blue Ridge Highlander Library of tales and road trips. We hope you enjoy the stories we have created for your entertainment. The Blue Ridge Highlander's Online Magazine and Travel Guide is diverse in nature. We write about things we find interesting and feel others will as well. At this time we have 3 writers, the Highlander, C. W. Pendragon and Nathanael O. Smith, each with their own style. We have recently added a couple of contributing writers to the mix. Choose a category below and explore the possibilities, or scroll down the list to see all the articles in the archives. New stories will continue to be added, so check back occasionally to enjoy the new additions.
Visit the Highlander's Library of Stories, Tales and Road Trips on Line...
Blue Ridge Highlander Library and Archive
Legends, Myths and Eccentric Ramblings
Scenic Drives through the Mountains
Unique Destinations
Artists, Festivals and Creative Souls
Adventure, Recreation and Fun
Mountain Cathedral Inspirational Scripts
Historical and Cultural Stories and Tales
Seasonal Holiday Tales
Mountain Interesting
Contributing Writers

Or Scroll down to see links to all the editorials on line at this time....

Chief...Who would have thought

The spellbinding atmosphere of the John C. Campbell Folk School has driven some devotees into the surrounding wilderness homesteads along the outer fringes of the school campus where many have chosen to pursue their craft as a local artisan.

I suspect a few missing former students might even have evolved into a hermit society of local woodland wanderers grasping onto the Folk School campus as though it were a Mystical Shire Village in a land of folklore and fable....continue story...

Freedom of the Skies, interview with an OutlawIt started out as an ordinary average day, what became of that and how the day ended was something of the extra… ordinary.

It had been a warmer than usual summer and we could surely use the rain. The natural rainforest within the southern Blue Ridge Mountains are at their finest when they receive sufficient rainfall even though the unusual summer heat this year had often just sucked the moisture right back up into the atmosphere. The forest looked rather healthy yet the water levels were down a little. read on....

Wonders of Chimney RockThe great towering column known as Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park is the centerpiece of a geological, botanical, wildlife habitat, purely existing as an educational stage under the open sky and by far one of the most inspirational playgrounds for folks of all ages.

Hiking, climbing, informative guided tours, group outings, nature studies, outdoor classrooms and exhibit houses, plus two gift shops and two restaurants will fill your day from dawn to dusk.... read on...

Mysteries of the Temple MountMrs. Highlander and I have made many journeys together to Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park and have found each visit to be exciting, informative and enlightening. The unusualness and geological wonders located at Chimney Rock State Park can set the imagination into pondering the physical shaping of our world. To stand in full view of this uniquely formed mountain site is like witnessing the remains of great structure of unknown origins, worn and deteriorated by the expanse of time yet strong and resilient like the ancient temples of old.

Unlike Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids, Chimney Rock is a reminder of not what man has built, but what nature has shaped with its firm and patient hand, both smoothing and sharply cutting its surface for nearly 535-million on... 

Great Woodland AdventureThough the giant trees of Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park do remain at present time under the solitude and protection of the North Carolina State Park service, there is a special forest set-aside just for you at Chimney Rock, along the upper end of The Meadows.  Below the eastern end of the towering mountain is a trailhead that leads into an enchanted forest much like the "Old-Growth Forest" at Chimney Rock, though considerably younger as history goes. One of the more special features of this enchanted forest is that it contains some of the many future “Elders” of Chimney Rock’s "Old-Growth Forest." on...

The Wonders of Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State ParkThey stand tall in stillness and silence at the very edge of dawn anticipating a call to service that awakens them each day. The small delicate winged inhabitants residing within their sturdy and spacious limbs begin to sing their morning songs just before the first light of day. Their voices blend in unison resounding as if they were part of a wilderness choir held within a cathedral forest of giant trees, all the while fluttering about in excitement and reverence of a new rising sun.

The giant elder trees of this forest have stood here for centuries facing the east eagerly awaiting the summons of the glory they have known since they were saplings upon the forest one...

Blue Ridge Parway 75th AnniversaryThe magnificent Blue Ridge Parkway is considered to be the world’s first recreational highway as well as an official National Park within itself.  Located in the mountainous regions of North Carolina and Virginia, this renowned scenic byway is celebrating its 75th anniversary on September 11, 2010. The event will take place commemorating its first 12-miles of construction at Cumberland Knob Recreation Area in North Carolina just south of the Virginia state line. read on...

Great Smoky Mountain 75th AnniversaryIt takes a trained, skilled eye to know when they have found a "diamond in the rough," or any other gemstone for that matter. To bring out the true beauty of a rough stone it must be fashioned through a process of tumbling to smooth the stone, then it is precisely cut and polished into an object of beauty, a prized possession.

Such was the challenge when the first National Park in the eastern United States was strongly proposed at the turn of the 20th century. Amongst the vast eastern landscapes of wilderness forest lands, began a quest to find that one truly unique tract of natural "beauty in the rough" that could be fashion into a great outdoor gemstone for all to enjoy, a symbolic national treasure adorning a young nation that was growing quickly and prospering abundantly. read on....

Black Bears of the Blue Ridge Smoky MountainsLong before any man ever set foot on the North American Continent, the Black Bear of Northeastern America could often be seen standing upright on its hind legs surveying its territory from horizon to horizon. Masters of their domain, the great Black Bear enjoyed the prosperity of all that the earth had to offer. When the first Native Americans began to appear, they found benefit in revering the Black Bear both as a source of prey and as a spiritual guide. As brothers often do, they disputed over territory. Even with the loss of a bear's life or the life of a native hunter, they chose to live in continual respect of one another, developing a close relationship both in the physical and spiritual on...

Foxfire Museum and Heritage CenterFoxfire Museum, Heritage Center and Literary Organization. The deep lines in their faces tell of hard times, like memories carved into the very fabric of their being.  The language of their ancestors, the very accents of their kinsmen sound out like a recording on a vintage Victrola.  Their traditions and culture reflect the cycles of the seasons like the circular rings of the internal tree lines.   Their personal marks are everywhere, on the lands, in the homes, at the church and in the history laid down for generations to come.  They revered the land, their families and their persistent faith.  They tamed a wilderness, capturing a land that they dominated for nearly 200 years.

Giants of the ForestGiants of the Forest.....Scraping the sky beyond the mountains they grace, stand the giants of the old growth forest. Pressing upward, they pursue their life’s goal, to live beyond the common practice of time always reaching towards the sky. Obsessively they chase the cycle of seasons, round and round until their internal structure displays an intricate circle of rings. Rings similar to the working order of a great clock, preserving and telling its story along the way.   read on.....

Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest - Slickrock Wilderness AreaJoyce Kilmer Memorial Forest......Located just 15 miles from Robbinsville, in Graham County North Carolina, tucked away deep in the Nantahala National Forest and partly in eastern Tennessee, is a rare living national treasure. An ancient, old growth forest of giant trees, untouched by the logging saw. A sanctuary protected and preserved under the Wilderness Act for the enjoyment and the posterity of a people and a great nation..... read on....

Joyce KilmerJoyce Kilmer,.Patriot Poet...Born Alfred Joyce Kilmer on December 6, 1886, this creative soul and devout Christian became a journalist, poet, literary critic, and an editor at the New York Times. Yet, a single poem catapulted Kilmer to notoriety, a 12-line poem expressing his dearest affection for “Trees,” written in the year 1913.  Joyce Kilmer’s poem was published in 1914 in a collection entitled, Trees and Other Poems.

History of Joyce Kilmer Memorial ForestHistory of U.S. Forest Service and Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest

Prior to the founding of the U.S. Forest Service, around the turn of the 20th century, many natural forested landscapes in North American were to be lost due to uncontrolled exploitation and abuse of their natural resource.  Most forestlands in America were either owned or leased by individuals, mostly lumber companies whose model was “the only good tree was a cut tree.” Entire forests were falling at an alarming rate for decades before the word “environmentalist” ever existed.

Kings of the Mountains

For over two hundred years, we the hierarchy of the royal family of the Ursus Americanus, have been in conflict with the invaders of the outer realm. For many generations, it has become a war that we have been losing against a most formidable alien on...

Smokey Bear....Bear on a Mission!“In the year of 2008 CE, the United States experienced 8,856 wildfires burning 1,862,477-acres that were caused by an Act of Nature or natural order attributed to lightning strikes. Also in 2008 there were 70,093 wildfires caused by human activities burning 3,429,991-acres throughout the intercontinental US.  An amazing fact to consider is that 58% of human caused wildfires and 58% of acres burned from human caused fires were located in the South and Southeastern United States.” on...

Black Bears Icons of the Mountain ForestThe Black Bears are the beloved icons of the Southern Appalachian Mountains, more regionally known as the Blue Ridge, Smoky Mountains. Black Bears are indigenous to North America only and are also known as the American Bear...Ursus Americanus.

They represent what is wild, beautiful and free, a symbol of the good life in its natural on...

Pursuit of the Black BearsAs I stated in Black Bears, Icons of the Mountains, my prior knowledge of Black Bears was quite limited. Here in the 21st century, we're no longer dealing with the same Black Bear that once dominated the wilderness lands of the eastern United States.

When Mrs. Highlander and I set out to discover more about Black Bears, it brought us into a greater awareness of the challenges Black Bears face daily in their continual pursuit for on...

Characteristics of the Black BearBlack Bears, also known as the American Bear (Ursus Americanus), are the most common single bear species. There are 80 different North American Bear species; many of these are considered variants of the brown and grizzly bear. Though most commonly considered black in color they are actually color phases of the blue-black, cinnamon or blue-gray glacier on....

Cherokee Myths and LegendsMyths and legends tell tales filled with symbols and images that have helped man explain and understand more about the natural world we live in, as well as the supernatural world that lies just beyond our comprehension.

The innate desire to search beyond the natural has challenged many a soul, drawing them into uncharted territory on an enchanted quest to peer into the other side. on...

Hugh and Mildred at Grandfather MountainsHugh Morton could be regarded as a patriarch of the Blue Ridge Mountains. He touched so many lives as an accomplished preservationist, wildlife lover, a naturalist at heart, and a remarkable photographer. Hugh was a dedicated advocate in getting the North Carolina "Ridge Law" passed. Hugh was also a respected community leader, and was the sole owner of a giant of a mountain rightfully known as, "Grandfather Mountain."

This special tale of Hugh's life, begins unbeknownst to him and his family when Mildred the Bear was born February 7, 1966 at the Atlanta Zoo in Georgia. Two years later, needing a wilderness home of her on...

Knoxville Zoo - Great Smoky MountainsIn our pursuit of the Black Bears of the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains, we decided to take an interesting little side trip. Mrs. Highlander and I headed for the Knoxville Zoo to see how the other half (rather part) of the bear world lived.

The Tennessee entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just southeast of Knoxville and the Knoxville Zoo, which is about an hour away with good traffic flow. It was mid-afternoon when we arrived and the warm sun was glaring overhead that autumn on....

To the Rescue

For years we wanted to create a section within the Highlander entitled "Kings of the Mountains, In Pursuit of the Black Bear." As with all of our feature stories we do a lot of research and whenever possible, we get involved so that our readers can hopefully feel our first hand experiences. Until now, I have held back on what made this particular journey so special. This unique experience was more than Mrs. Highlander and I had expected, and one we will always on...

Appalachian Bear RescueThe ABR orchestrates both the release and medical care for the black bear cubs with the cooperation from the Tennessee Wildlife Resource Agency (TWRA), the National Park Service and the University of Tennessee's School of Veterinary Science. The Appalachian Bear Rescue support, in-part, is provided by other non-profit organizations such as Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Alcoa Foundation and other generous grants, sponsorship and private on....

Bear and Human Conflict

By nature, wild bears prefer solitude within the wilderness, it's the natural way and safer for both bear and humans alike. In the 21st century the presence of the Black Bear is less apparent than it was 30 to 40 years ago. Before the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, there were only 200 Black Bears inhabiting the national park region, due to logging and over hunting. The creation of the national park allowed the wild bears an opportunity to live a more natural existence in their wilderness on...

Biltmore Estate in Asheville North CarolinaWelcome to Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. I'm not sure exactly what was going through George Washington Vanderbilt’s mind when he visited Asheville, North Carolina in 1888.  The historical facts state that he fell in love with the mountains while on a visit with his mother Mrs. Maria Louisa Vanderbilt.  They were drawn to the breathtaking scenery, hot springs and the mild mountain climate that brought in a steady flow of tourism and summer residents. It was the Gilded Age, a time when wealthy “Victorian Era” Americans were living for social fare, travel and leisure.

Keeping the Art Alive - John Campbell Folk SchoolJohn C. Campbell Folk School...Keeping the Art Alive. We are all born with an innate creative instinct. Self expression excels in those who are aware of their creativity. Although there are some who are not aware of this inner resource. They might be afraid to delve into themselves, into the unknown. Worried that they may not have the creativity that they have seen in others, they don't open the door apprehensive over what they may find, wondering if it will be good enough. These people are locking away a treasure, a wealth of growth, accomplishment and self-discovery.

Whitewater on the OcoeeAncient Waters, Thrilling Ride ...The best part of a whitewater trip is in the raft, so you'll want to stay in the raft. If you do get thrown out of the raft and into a hydraulic, ball up your body and the rapid will spit you out. If you're in less turbulent waters, lie back, straighten out your legs and flow with the river, this maneuver keeps your backside from hitting most rocks and keeps your legs from getting caught behind or between rocks. Proceed to ride the river, bareback until someone pulls you back into the raft. If the raft flips everyone, passengers should ride the river to a gentler stage and get out on the bank. The guide will gather up the group and find the're not done whitewatering yet.

Ocoee Whitewater White Water in the Morning!...the Ole Blue Swimmin Hole....Mid-summer heat on a dog day afternoon... visibility fades into a heavy mist hanging densely over the mountains of the southern Blue Ridge...the summer season is at its height.

Deep within the Cherokee National Forest of southeastern Tennessee's Polk County, is an ancient gorge lined with steep rock walls twisting along the cutting path of the Ocoee River's white water paradise.

Monarch - Nature's Pilgrimage
Nature's Pilgrimage...the Monarch...The autumn season begins their celebration of life as they pursue a natural innate spiritual sense that drives them along a pilgrimage that will eventually carry them across a continent. Before their great journey begins they must partake in a fertility ceremony essential to their future on....

John C. Campbell Folk School Fall FestivalFall Festival....As the morning fog dissipates under the rising sun, the broad open fields surrounding John C. Campbell Folk School begin to disappear with the arrival of visitors…the Fall Festival is back and well worth the journey.

The Fall Festival at John C. Campbell Folk School is held the first week of October.

Art and Artists in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains

Artists are spirit-driven creatures imitating life into art as an external expression of their internal impression.  It’s the nature of this creative spirit that longs to emerge and present itself in the form of natural magic, seeing that which isn’t as though it is, bringing that inspired vision into manifestation. There is an internal craving for creative souls to express themselves in whatever medium inspires them, to share with others a sense of who they are through their art.

History of the Ocoee

History of the Ocoee....In the upper reaches of the highlands, mountain springs release pure natural water down the mountain slopes. These waters gather themselves into streams that find their way to creeks, flowing along until they merge with mountain rivers as they journey across the land and out to sea.

Blue Ridge Province

The Blue Ridge Province....Mountain summits, lush valleys, raging white waters, pristine lakes, hidden waterfalls, wildflowers, hardwood forests, and wildlife are the heart of the Blue Ridge Province. These natural wonders have a majestic appeal, captivating the mind with their presence.

Nathanael O. Smith Storyteller

Tears of Fairies ...Howdy! I'm Nathanael O. Smith. I've lived in these mountains all my days, wouldn't ever dream of leaving here, my ancestral roots are here to stay. I've been telling tales and hearing tales all my life, its what my family and neighbors have been doing in these parts for generations. Tales about pioneers and the folks that arrived here directly from the "Old World." Some of my fondest tales have been about the Cherokee people, they're really the first mountain people, and they lived here longer than time will tell.

Blue Ridge Mountain Mist
Dream Visitors ...
When I hung up my worldly footwear for a pair of pathfinder boots, I began a journey that would lead me through the deepest recess of my mind, body and soul. These early years of my search for enlightenment were exciting times of untold wonders.

Blue Ridge Mountains
The Hands of Time...Mountain poem,
They roll across the heavens like great gray and white sails, suspended on masks held up by the wind. Bolts of white line fire, collide with the earth, forming a flag's insignia against the ominous sky.

Playground of the Gods...Play Ground of the Gods... Under enormous pressure they burst upon the scene in a succession of earth shattering rumbles. Climbing higher than any known surface under the ancient firmament, they towered above the horizon of the prehistoric world in a dramatic precession. Born of greatness and driven by internal forces, these wonders of His creation accumulated into a land mass higher than the mountains of the Himalayas.  As a living force and physical presence they establish themselves as a cornerstone of the earth, shaping the destiny of the antediluvian world of the "blue planet."   In time they would be decreed as the first vertical "Gods of the Earth".

Fire in the Sky...Cherohala Skyway
Fire in the Sky
...Journey into the heart of a natural wonder set ablaze by the power of nature. The fires came late that autumn, but they came just the same. Beyond a time long forgotten, lies an ancient mystery within familiar flames that are destine to accomplish a goal, set by an eternal clock.

Above the Clouds...Cohutta Wilderness
Above the Clouds
...Steam rose swiftly, while the lingering smoke stung my eyes. One more douse of water and the camp fire was out. Feeling quite stuffed from a breakfast of pancakes, honey and three patties of Nantahala Pork Sausage, I was ready for what I knew would be an exhilarating hike over a mountain ridge.

Earth Day in the MountainsEco Friendly - Green Friendly - Earth Friendly

I remember when this nation celebrated the first Earth Day; it was back in the peace, love and hippy days of my youth. That day a great unified and organized call went out to stop polluting our environment.

People envision these mountains as pristine, an oasis of beauty, unspoiled by mankind's dark on

Signs of Spring in the Mountains

Birds of the Blue Ridge Mountains

They paint the skies with their beauty and grace. Both mysterious and elusive they dwell within the confines of a complex and diverse world of mammals, humans and marine life, set apart and classified by their uniqueness.... click for the rest of the story.....

Gardens of the Blue Ridge and Smoky MountainsMountainsGardens of the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

The reawaking of spring in the high country of the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains is quite unique.  In the lowlands of the mountain interior, the first signs of spring follow a horizontal path across the valley, growing ever so slowly as it makes its journey upward along the mountain on...

Fishing in the MountainsIt pains me that some children don’t experience nature as I have. A recent book by Richard Louv, called Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, has brought into the national dialogue the condition of today’s children and in particular their poverty of outdoors experiences. 

The Cornell study of 2,000 adults by professors Nancy Wells and Kristi Lekies revealed in the journal, Children, Youth and Environments, that kids that fish and have unstructured time outdoors grow into adults who care more about conservation and the environment.

by Dr. Mamie Parker, Assistant Director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in Washington DC, an avid angler, and member of the Arkansas Outdoor Hall of Fame.

Planning a Butterfly Garden
Creating Butterfly Gardens...the perfect nectar menu for butterflies fluttering about in the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains can be created in an existing garden area or in a spot you choose for new on...

Article by Lynda Gougler

Scenic Highlander Driving ToursUntold Riches • Roadways thru the Highlands, like a great key that unlocked the mysteries and wonders of a fantastic treasure, so rich in fable and resource, so vast in its expanse, that for centuries it denied all but modest extractions from the mighty grip of its impenetrable stronghold. Held within its firm grasp it bore upon its mountainous shoulders and concealed within the depths of its valleys and gorges an incomprehensible beauty, locked away like a time capsule awaiting the arrival of a new age.  An age when exploration and discovery would usher in scientific and engineering achievements, a time when leisure travel to exotic location would open gateways into the natural wonders of nature’s very own creation.

Cherohala SkywayCherohala Skyway.....From heights nearing 6,000-feet, are views of the rugged rolling mountaintops of the Unaka Mountains with the Great Smoky Mountains to the northeast and the Tennessee River Valley to the west. What you will find along the route are lots of great mountain overlooks, camping areas and numerous hiking trails leading off from the scenic byway.  The mountain and valley views along the 36-mile stretch are spectacular.    read on.....

Unaka Mountains - Unicoi Mountain WildernessUnaka - Unicoi Mountains Scenic Byway.....Some of the largest mountain wilderness lands in the nation lie on the fringes of the eastern Tennessee Valley’s mountain region and along the western boundary of North Carolina’s mountain country. This wilderness of over 1,154,000 acres has been divided into three separate mountain ranges.  The Upper Unaka Mountains, the Lower Unaka Mountains and bridging the two of them together in the middle is the Great Smoky Mountains.   read on.....

Blue Ridge Parkway Scenic TourThe Blue Ridge Parkway stretches 469 miles from the southern end of the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia to the Qualla Boundary of the Cherokee People on the southern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains Park in North Carolina. The majority of the Blue Ridge Parkway travels across the spine of mountain ridges.

Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Scenic Driving TripBlue Ridge Parkway in the Fall...As with the Hierarchy of Nobility, the crest of the ridge tops along the Blue Ridge Parkway are among the first to receive the colors on their regal crowns in the high country of the Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains.  Studded with jewels of crimson reds, deep purples, flaming oranges and golden yellows, they grace the skyline as the first signs of autumn swiftly descend their royal robes along the slopes of the majestic mountain ranges.  read on...

Blue Ridge Parkway Cherokee to AshevilleBlue Ridge Parkway from Cherokee North Carolina to Asheville North Carolina. The highest point along the Parkway lies just above the southern end of the Haywood County, you can not only drive this extraordinary scenic drive you can also stop and hike the high country to take in unusual sites and natural wonders true to the great Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains Province.

Forest Heritage National Scenic BywayForest Heritage National Scenic Byway definitely lives up to its namesake. The 79-mile loop tour will take you deep into the heart of the Pisgah National Forest with mountain peaks reaching more that 6,000 feet above sea level. Beginning in Waynesville take US 276 to the town of Woodrow, it’s the next town east of Waynesville. At the intersection of US 276 and State 215, head south on State 215.

Union County Georgia Scenic Driving TourUnion County Scenic Driving Tour, takes you on US 19/129 and GA 180.  Driving tours are probably the most popular way to see and experience the beauty and wonders of these ancient Blue Ridge Mountains. Union County not only has natural beauty it also has some of the finest highways and road systems the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.

Haywood County Scenic DrivesHaywood County Scenic Drives this drive covers both the section of the Blue Ridge Parkway that goes through Haywood County and Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway from Haywood County. The Forest Heritage National Scenic Byway is a 79-mile loop tour will take you deep into the heart of the Pisgah National Forest with mountain peaks reaching more that 6,000 feet above sea level.

Rutherford County Scenic DrivesRutherford County in Western North Carolina has 3 popular driving tours, Cherry Bounce Trail, Drovers Road By-Way, and South Mountains Scenery By-Way that offer opportunities to discover the beauty of its mountains, foothills, lake, farmlands and river country, each sharing their own unique topography, communities and history.

Southern Highroads Trail

Aye'll Take the Highroads a ribbon of asphalt, gently gliding across valleys and over mountain gaps, while occasionally following along the shore of a beautiful lake. We will cross the Appalachian Trail twice, zig-zag over the Eastern Continental Divide, do switch backs up and down mountain slopes, hug the curves of a high mountain gorge and ride the banks of a whitewater river rushing down a steep mountain gorge, all in one trip.

Blue Ridge Georgia and Gateway to the MountainsGateway to the Mountains...This story begins hundreds of miles to the north, at the very upper tip of the Blue Ridge Province. A solitary mound of earth rises from the ground to a modest height, its own roots, are bound deep into the earth, reaching back in time to the days of the first turns on the Great Potter's wheel. At the southern most tip of the Province is a valley that extends approximately 25 miles across, point to point crossing, with several small mountain ranges, rivers and a continuous flow of rolling hills. It's from this advantage point, as you enter the valley that the inner corridor gets its name..."Gateway to the Mountains."

Senic Drives in the Blue Ridge and Smoky MountainsFoothills Parkways...If you can’t get enough the Great Smoky Mountain’s scenic drives or you just want to view them from another perspective at a much lower altitude, then your going to love the Foothills Parkway. The views from these lower mountain ridges are spectacular. The Foothills Parkway takes visitors above the treetops and foothills from the valley below, offering incredible mountain vistas across the entire face of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Cherohala Skyway in Western North CarolinaNorth Carolina's Cherohala Skyway transverses the entire width of the Lower Unaka Mountains; also known as the Unicoi Mountains.  The Lower Unaka Mountains are more than half the have the size of the Smoky Mountains with mountain balds (peaks) nearing 6,000 feet high.  A vast mountain wilderness so isolated that it was nearly forgotten.

New Found Gap in the Smoky Mountains of Western North CarolinaNorth Carolina's Newfound Gap Road or US Highway 441 dissects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the two-lane roadway crosses thru the heart of the park and over its highest mountain gap.  Newfound Gap Road follows rivers, climbs steep slopes and offers incredible views from the rooftop of the eastern United States.

Gold City Tour - Dahlonega to Blairsville North Georgia MountainsGold City Tour, Dahlonega to Blairsville in the North Georgia Mountains. It all started here and the rush was on.  Discovery of gold in Northern Georgia ended decades of broken treaties and unscrupulous land deals with the Cherokee People. No more wars, no more debates the Cherokee had to go and the beginning of the Trail of Tears was put into effect.

Russell Brasstown Scenic By Way in the North Georgia MountainsRussell-Brasstown Scenic Byway is best described as going to the rooftop of North Georgia Mountains.  This 38-mile trek ascends the very heights of the Georgia’s mountain country and brings you into contact with some of the most spectacular natural wonders the North Georgia Mountains have to offer.

Cherohala Sky in the Tennessee MountainsTennessee's Cherohala Skyway transverses the entire width of the Lower Unaka Mountains; also known as the Unicoi Mountains.  The Lower Unaka Mountains are more than half the have the size of the Smoky Mountains with mountain balds (peaks) nearing 6,000 feet high.  A vast mountain wilderness so isolated that it was nearly forgotten.

Newfound Gap in the Smoky Mountains of TennesseeTennessee's Newfound Gap Road or US Highway 441 dissects the Great Smoky Mountains National Park the two-lane roadway crosses thru the heart of the park and over its highest mountain gap.  Newfound Gap Road follows rivers, climbs steep slopes and offers incredible views from the rooftop of the eastern United States.

Ocoee Scenic Byway in the Tennessee River ValleyThe Ocoee Scenic Byway once known as the Old Copper Road, was the first designated National Forest Scenic Byway in the United States. This 26 mile two lane road trip connects what’s referred to locally as Upper and Lower Polk County. The Ocoee Scenic Byway also includes the Chilhowee Mountain Drive on Forest Route FR77 just across from Ocoee Lake in the Cherokee National Forest.

Southern Highroads Trail in North Georgia Mountains, Western North Carolina, Eastern Tennessee and South Carolina Up CountryThe Southern Highroads Trail is a 364-mile National Scenic Byway that travels through 4 states of the southern Blue Ridge Mountain highlands.  The 364-mile byway will take visitors thru the mountainous regions of the Chattahoochee National Forest of North Georgia, the Sumter National Forest in northwestern South Carolina, the Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina and the Cherokee National Forest in southeastern Tennessee.

Survival Skills in the 21st CenturyThe physicality of satisfying our essential needs today is virtually effortless – like strolling through the aisles of a grocery store or turning a knob to heat an oven. So why turn back history and roam forest and field to dig up edible roots? Why twirl a stick in your hands to near exhaustion in the quest for fire? Isn’t all that ancient lore out-dated? No. And here are three reasons why...

Hemlocks, The gifts of the forest are legion. Today those gifts are thought of as arcane anecdotes to a fast and furious culture disconnected from its environment. Just five centuries ago, the lore of plant foods and medicines and craft materials was the mainstay of the everyday. Every man, woman and child held this knowledge with an intimacy born of pragmatic use and reverence.

Primitive Survival Self Made Shelter by Mark WarrenThe earth giveth. And the earth taketh away - especially when it comes to body heat. The cold ground saps a mammal of its precious warmth. When you need to stay overnight in the wild unexpectedly, you need to know how to protect yourself from hypothermia. The materials necessary to accomplish this are abundant, waiting in the forest. So once again, the earth giveth.

A Light in the Forest"A Light in the Forest ~ Seeking the Company of Fire" On the list of what to do in an emergency wilderness survival situation, building a fire is often assigned a low priority by survival experts. Here in the Southern Appalachians, two factors have convinced me to change my mind about that. One, the humidity. And two, the lowly chigger..

The Lost Instinct of Knowing what to Eat"Lost Instinct of Knowing What to Eat" Have you ever heard that old adage: watch what the animals eat and you'll know what to eat, too? Well, forget it. It's simply not true. The fact is that there was a time when no one had to teach us what to eat..

Mark Warren's Survival Series number 6Purity, your second most immediate need in a survival situation. Sixth in Mark Warren's series on Primitive Survival. Can you name the three physical intakes - in their order of immediacy - necessary to keep the human body functioning and alive? read on....


A New Beginning...the PromiseA New Beginning...the Promise ...There are signs of greater life all around. I find myself continuously being drawn outdoors, not just for the sake of working in the yard, but a chance to explore and experience. Spring is a time to reflect on new hopes and dreams, a time to plant new seeds. Although, it takes more than skilled hands and a sharp wit, to plant these seeds.

Breaching the DarknessThe quiet of the darkened night was disrupted by the sound of two metal doors shutting. A turn of the ignition key sent a charge to the combustion chamber of our private chariot as Mrs. Highlander and I fasten our seatbelts and settled back anticipating a new adventure within our beloved Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains.

Easter Sunrise Service at Chimney Rock and Chimney Rock State ParkThe caravan of night travelers rolled into the small tourist town of Chimney Rock, sparse streetlights lit our way as we slowed down and began to form a line. It’s about 5:30 A.M., Easter Morning, up ahead two figures holding flashlights moved their beams from right to left guiding the traffic thru the entrance of the park, I wasn’t surprised to see every vehicle on the road entering the gate.

In the Name of LoveTo embrace the true meaning of Christmas you must embrace pure unconditional love itself. Although, the nature of unconditional love and its purpose often confounds the logical mind.

As mere mortal beings, we did not create love instead we are the product of love's good intention. We all strive to be embraced with the warm and nurturing qualities of love, yet often it eludes on...

Hope, Faith and the LightThis is a message of Hope for the upcoming year and beyond. In our quest for a relevant story we were quite perplexed because of the current times.

Inspired by an abstract thought to ponder on. "There is light at the end of the tunnel" a cliche, but one with meaning, and something we do believe, we were inspired to write this story, one that we got more response than any for yourself....and gain your own sense of Hope, Faith and the Light at the end of the Tunnel.

Santa on the ChimneyChimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park's Annual Christmas Event inspired our second Christmas story for 2008. What a great event, we had a blast. Read our story, it will truly make you laugh and laughter is contagious and heals what ails ya.

Where does Santa go to train for his Christmas Eve journey down chimneys all over the world?

Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park in Western North Carolina... of Course!

A Merry Humble Mountain ChristmasThis Christmas tale is several stories in one, our purpose is to take you back to the true essence of Christmas.

Christmas can be the most wonderful time of the year where truth and love can set you free, as the fictitious character George Bailey of Bedford Falls discovered in, "It's a Wonderful Life."   Like ole' George found out, the holidays can be trying for those who are burdened with heavy responsibilities, challenges or troubles.

We know that this is a very busy time of the year for everyone, but if you take the time to read the entire story, you will be happy you did.   It might just change how you view the holidays and bring a new light and joy to your life. read on...

Christmas at the Front
The Christmas program at Fort Loudoun offers us a vintage look at “Christmas Past.”
A view of a more simple and humble time for those isolated far from home and country. No light shows, no fancy decorations, no grand hoop-la just the Spirit of a sacred time, a time of giving and reflection.

Living history makes Fort Loudoun not only a unique historical stage but also an educational theater concerning the lifestyles of Early Americans.

Smoky Mountain Lights - Gatlinburg - Pidgeon Forge - SeviervilleSmoky Mountain Lights....Traveling north on highway 441 we leave the valleys and mountain ranges of the Blue Ridge interior behind.  Drifting along the pavement, we wind our way close to the banks of the Oconaluftee River.  It was nearing midnight when we entered the Smoky Mountain National Park in Western North Carolina and too late for sightseeing. 

The wonders and beauty of the Smokies were shielded from us by the night’s darkness with only the highway as our guide, the road was lonely of travelers, we spotted just a couple of vehicles during our half hour climb up the steep mountain slope.  Reaching the Newfound Gap at the crest of the Smokies, Mrs. Highlander and I glided into the observation parking lot and took a midnight break.

Santa by Dr. Ellen K. RudolphThe first thing Santa said to me as we warmed our hands in front of the fire is that he does the Christmas thing to keep children believing. "Yes," he said in a somber voice, "without hope for the future and a bit of joy in their lives, children suffer."

He worries that the world is not always a hospitable place for children; that Princes and Princesses and Kings and Queens and Presidents are all failing to buffer children from the discontents of their elders. 

Article by Dr. Ellen K. Rudolph, photojournalist, public speaker, and family therapist.

The Grove Park Inn, a Holiday JourneyThe Grove Park Inn, a Holiday Journey...As I strolled across the cobblestone driveway, I found myself imagining the sounds of horseshoes clicking down the uneven red pavement’s gentle slope. A mountain of boulders stood before me, obstructing my view of an endless horizon. This must be a monument, placed here by giants. The crudely cut boulders were stacked and fashioned into what appeared to be an enormous building that seemed to have risen out of the imagination of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Christmas at Biltmore EstateChristmas at Biltmore a rare journey back in time, the opulence of the Gilded Age taking the idea of a festive holiday seasons to even greater heights. Biltmore Estate is the largest private owned residence in America, which makes it the perfect showcase for this expression of Christmas past.

The celebration at the Biltmore House flows from day into night with the Candlelight Christmas Evenings. Guest may view decorations by candlelight with a backdrop of holiday music preformed by choirs, quartets, and other musicians throughout the house.

Winter Solitude...a holiday tale...Winter Solitude...a Holiday Tale...It's late December, a time when peace becomes a focus to reach for, yet seldom achieved. I like to do a little wood carving during these quiet times, nothing fancy. It helps me reflect on the months that seemed to have passed by so quickly. A time to take my thoughts away from a world of material goods and a chance to look into the spirit of the human soul, its goals and purpose.

Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains
Sign up for the Blue Ridge Highlander Newsletter, Messages from the Mountains
to find out first about our new feature stories, road trips and special offers

Your e-mail addresses will not be sold or given away to anyone.

Highlander Privacy Policy

Let our visitors tell you about the Highlander...

Click the feathers to go to the Highlander site map...
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountain Highlander



The Blue Ridge Highlander logo, all photography, design, graphics, artwork, writing, digital images, etc are the Copyright ©
of C. Wayne Dukes and Sherry Bell Dukes. 1996 - 2014, except where otherwise stated. All rights reserved, reproduction,
downloading, and/or duplication of any sort is strictly prohibited, all violations will be prosecuted. Legal Policy.
If you have any questions, or comments, regarding this site, e-mail the Highlander.
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountain Highlander