Summer view of Lake Junaluska
Earlier this summer, Visit NC Smokies held a “Selfie in the Smokies” Facebook contest where the winner was invited to write a guest blog for our website. We are happy to announce that the winner of the contest was Kim Gardner of Waynesville! She shared some of the many reasons why she loves Haywood County and why you should come experience it for yourself! We hope you enjoy reading her post as much as we did! Congratulations and great work, Kim!
Small Mountain Town the Perfect Home
By Kim Gardner
I never imagined I’d live somewhere other than Florida.
Born and raised in Florida, the mountains of western North Carolina were a flicker of awareness in my mind. My grandparents left Florida for Hayesville when I was quite young and I visited the area several times. But my heart belonged to Florida, until 2006.
That summer, we vacationed at Lake Lure. We used the time share as our base while we explored the region. We visited waterfalls, walked around downtown Asheville and enjoyed a visit with my half-sister, Sherri, and her family at their home in Haywood County.
On our second night in the mountains, my husband, Matt, and I looked at each other and said, “We need to move here.” Since my background is in journalism and Matt works in construction, we decided it would be easier if I found a job first. I logged onto the computer immediately, set out resumes and met with several businesses, only to experience disappointment. We left with North Carolina on our minds but no clear plan of when we could move.
A year later, we were preparing for a trip to Wisconsin to visit family. On a lark, I got on a website for journalism jobs and discovered three newspapers hiring in this area. I asked Matt if he still wanted to make the move and with his encouragement, I emailed my resume to the papers and off to Wisconsin we went. I had two phone interviews while on vacation, and the weekend after our trip my mom and I hopped in the car and headed to the mountains.
I ultimately chose an offer from the Mountaineer in Waynesville. Excitement, nerves and giddiness kept the adrenalin flowing as we packed up to move in three weeks. We had a three-vehicle caravan to Haywood County – my mom and our daughter in one car, myself driving my minivan and Matt bringing up the rear with the moving truck. About two hours into our drive, my car blew a head gasket. My mom and daughter continued on to Clyde to stay with my sister. Matt and I found a tow (after waiting several hours for the rental place to open) for my van and back on the road we went.
Our bad luck didn’t end there. A friend of mine from high school offered his vacation house in Maggie Valley to use as temporary housing. He bailed on us when we were in Georgia. Matt and I finally made it to Haywood County and spent the first two days living in the Days Inn in Canton. Then we decided camping would be more economical, so off we moved to a campground near Jonathan Valley Elementary.
Kim’s husband, Matt, and their son, Charlie, take advantage of the snow.
Freshly picked local blackberries
Kim’s daughter, Madi, at a Waynesville Block Party in 2011
That was eight years ago and we never looked back. Since our move to Waynesville, a little boy has joined our family. With two kids, one couldn’t ask for a better place to raise a family. We love Waynesville and it is the perfect place for us.
We live in a neighborhood near downtown Waynesville. It’s a wonderful place to live, where we know our neighbors. There are plenty of kids of various ages and they all spend their days outside making forts, jumping on trampolines, riding bikes or playing in the creek that runs through our back yard. Our neighborhood is one where kids can be kids.
We love Waynesville’s festivals and block parties. These events give us an opportunity to visit our favorite downtown stores and meet up with friends. While I love our various festivals, my favorite is the block party. There is something for everybody, from live music to kids’ play area, and we get a chance to visit with friends and neighbors. The block parties tend to have a “locals” feel to them, whereas the other festivals are typically packed with tourists.
Speaking of knowing people, we love our small town because everyone knows each other. A trip to Ingles or Walmart becomes a social visit since you are bound to run into at least one person you know. Small talk with everyone is the norm, something you won’t find in a big city.
Waynesville has such wonderful small businesses and restaurants that we love to support. I can walk to one of our farmers’ market and love Christopher Farms. I love our school system and our daughter has made wonderful friends. Our son attends a great daycare and I know every teacher truly love each child in their care.
We came from a city of 165,000 in South Florida, full of traffic jams and rude people. What keeps us in Waynesville is our love for such a unique, small town. We feel safe here, we know and like our neighbors, and everyone is friendly. I couldn’t image living anywhere else. Waynesville, along with the rest of Haywood County, provides a plethora of activities. I think this sets Haywood County apart from the rest of the region. We’ve got hiking, swimming, fishing, snow skiing, horseback riding and so much more to offer residents. Cataloochee Valley is a true treasure with elk roaming and vacant buildings to explore that once housed settlers.
Since I grew up in Florida, I didn’t experience season changes. Having four distinct seasons is something I really love. Flower buds provide dabs of color as the grey winter eases into spring. Summer is a great time to hike our many trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway and cool off in a brisk, mountain swimming hole. Fall is brilliant with all the colors as the trees preparing for winter. It’s also a great time for bon fires and corn mazes and the Apple Festival. Winter is a magical time. It turns the town white and pristine, and adults get the chance to be kids again. I love sledding and building snowmen with my family. It’s fun experiencing nature’s changes, in which I’m still in awe.
Now I can’t imagine living anywhere else but Waynesville.
View from the top of Devil’s Courthouse