Fall is a double-edged sword. The leading edge sharpened by the fiery beauty of fall foliage and the other coldly honed by winter’s call back to hearth and home. This double-edged duality creates a desire in us all to be fully present and celebrate this season like no other. Witnessing a deciduous leaf fluttering around until it hits the ground is one of the more fleeting, yet most beautiful happenings in our known universe. Each leaf represents an entire growing season worth of work and dedication which is ceremoniously cast into the wind like a floating funeral pyre set ablaze in the orange, red and yellow hues of autumn. At fall’s peak, particularly in Southern Appalachia, we are surrounded by so much beauty that we are left with an unmistakable sense of awe.
Fall is by far our favorite season at The Appalachian Adventure Company, so this year, we decided to celebrate properly by going back to our roots and hosting a Fall Festival with our friends from Visit NC Smokies up at The Cabins at Sandy Mush Bald. This grouping of rustic mountain top cabins is situated high on the Newfound Range (right on the tri corner of Haywood, Buncombe and Madison counties) and offers guests an opportunity to turn back the calendar to the turn of the nineteenth century and experience life as it once was. Sleeping quarters are constructed from logs which were felled hundreds of years ago and firewood is collected directly from the front yard. There are kerosene lamps and wood stoves which light your way and heat your home. Meals are slow cooked, often on or in said wood stove, and they are always enjoyed together at the table. There is no power and cell service is negligible enough to forget that it—and the modern world—exists.
This type of mountain living was not easy but it was dreamy. Homes were hewn from the hillsides, harvests were picked by hand and eternal bonds were formed between humans and the land. Those types of bonds between humans and the land are still being formed today, but instead of taking root in an agrarian manner they are often cultivated by adventure. Haywood County is home to some of the biggest adventures in the Southeast as it is surrounded by the highest mountains in the entire Appalachian Range. The mountains of Haywood County form a distinct crown around the perimeter of our 555 square mile freshwater oasis. Over half of our land is protected/preserved through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and the Pisgah National Forest including the infamous Middle Prong and Shining Rock Wilderness areas. Due to our elevated location, fall arrives here first. The Beech, Buckeye and Blueberries on the higher mountains turn in early October and are followed by a cascade of color which flows down the hillsides in waves of inexplicable beauty. Although many folks have tried to extrapolate the science behind and explain the beauty of fall they always seem to fall short of an exact explanation because certain things can not be described with words and instruments, they can only be witnessed.
Lucky for us, though, what can not be described in copy, can be captured on camera! In essence, that’s what we do at The Appalachian Adventure Company—we curate and capture magical moments and teach our guests how to do the same. This fall, we rambled around chasing sunrises and sunsets. We went on wild adventures with friends and family and worked with clients who quickly became family. The undeniable highlight of our season, though, was our Fall Festival—it was one of those golden moments in time—where we gathered together for a shared experience that won’t soon be forgotten. We celebrated this year’s wins, learned from our losses and captured the experience on camera. We fully embraced our Appalachian roots at this homage to Haywood County by cooking up classics like tater soup, fried green tomatoes and mountain berry pies! Without doubt, the biggest takeaway from the experience, though, was to be intentional about enjoying the little things, because like fall, they won’t last forever. The next time you see a leaf floating through the air, let it be a reminder that in the grand scheme of things our lives are little more than a single leaf falling from a 1,000 year old tree. Learn from and emulate that humble leaf. Work tirelessly toward a goal that is bigger than yourself and add your own fleeting beauty to this world!
The Appalachian Adventure Company is proud to be rooted in Haywood County, NC! If you would like to explore the area with us, please visit www.theaacsite.com and follow along on Instagram and Facebook.
Photos & blog submitted by: Steven Reinhold of The Appalachian Adventure Company