An Appalachian Country Rag--Appalachian Scenes
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Our national parks face threats that jeopardize delicate ecosystems and precious historical and cultural sites





Pave the parks: Commercial development and urban sprawl are sacrificing our natural and historic treasures for the sake of unnecessary roads, railroads, and utility lines; Killing the silence: The excessive noise and dangerous pollution of Jet Skis and other personal watercraft threaten park ecology and visitor enjoyment; Wildlife in retreat: Magnificent creatures, from Yellowstone’s majestic bison to the Everglades’ mysterious panther, face threats from outside users and development; Trouble on the wing: Noise from low-flying sightseeing aircraft shatters the natural serenity of more than 50 national park units, including Grand Canyon in Arizona and Haleakala in Hawaii; Alien imports: Non-native species, such as wild hogs in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Brazilian pepper trees in Everglades National Park, threaten natural ecosystems and native wildlife; Poisons in the air: Acid rain is degrading lakes and forests in national parks from Maine to the Deep South, while pollution from industry and motor vehicles affects 90 percent of natural vistas in national parks nationwide. -- National Parks Conservation Association


States comprising Appalachia are defined by the Appalachian Regional Commission as the mountainous sections of New York [Binghamton], Pennsylvania [Scranton, State College, Pittsburg, and Cumberland], West Virginia [Wheeling and Charleston], Ohio [Portsmouth], Kentucky [Ashland and Middlesboro], Virginia [Bristol], North Carolina [Winston-Salem and Asheville], Tennessee [Knoxville and Chattanooga], Georgia [Rome], Alabama [Huntsville and Birmingham], and Mississippi [Tupelo]. Some other sources include the remaining states through which the Appalachian Trail runs: Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and South Carolina.

Video below: Beloved regional musician/songwriter Ed Snodderly, creator/owner of the similarly popular and reknowned Down Home performance venue in Johnson City TN







artdepot

A Few Favorite Places

"In a real sense, the fierce preservation of Appalachian culture has created a kind of large village in the midst of a good number of other cultures that have either been wiped out or completely homogenized." -- Red Slider
Abingdon, VA -- The area of this historic town, chartered in 1778, was regarded by Native Americans as ground so sacred for its natural beauty that they neither hunted nor settled it. Restored 18th and 19th century buildings now house fine art studios, shops, galleries and museums. Historic Abingdon is home to the union's famed and longest-running professional residence drama center, Barter Theatre. The town's Arts Depot, encouraging excellence in literary, dance and graphic arts throughout Appalachia, features open work studios and gallery exhibits - regional books, original and print artwork available for purchase. The William King Regional Arts Center encourages pariticipation in the arts by providing regional workshops and competitions, and world-reknowned exhibits. Inaugurated in 1948, those sites plus others, including downtown Main Street, host the mid-summer Virginia Highlands Festival, celebrating regional music, arts and crafts, antiques, cuisine and theatre.

All Over Appalachia -- The mountains and valleys are alive with traditional crafts and startling new artforms, represented in a dizzying variety of exhibits and shows and fairs. Schedules are available through specific Chambers of Commerce and State travel organizations, and from specialized media like Carolina Arts, a hardcopy and on-line publication of reviews and listings.

pasture Asheville, NC -- A unique metropolitan area of Appalachia, this city offers sky-high amenities from haute cuisine to cutting edge galleries (check the Art Gallery Guide for complete listings and links) like Blue Spiral 1, cosmopolitan shops to funky backstreets, worldclass museums and hotels, open spaces for community gatherings and public performances. Bele Chere, a mid-summer street festival since 1978, features dance and musical performances throughout the blocked-off downtown area. Welcome to Western North Carolina provides comprehensive on-line info, including up-to-date event schedules and tourist guides.

Bristol, TN/VA -- The Birthplace of Country Music Alliance Museum was established in 1999, after the U.S. Congress proclaimed that Bristol is the official "Birthplace of Country Music" (H.R. 214). Celebrating native folk music from origins as diverse as the inhabitants of Appalachia, the Museum schedules regular performances by country and bluegrass artists in settings evocative of the music's derivation in everyday experiences of life in this region.

Canaan Valley, WV -- This unusual mountain valley, over 3000 feet above sea level, surrounded by spectacular peaks of up 4,200 feet, provides year-round activities for skiers, horseback riders, anglers, hikers and hunters. Gift and antique stores, fitness centers, rental chalets and cottages, camping sites abound. Monongahela National Forest preserves wildlife and natural vegetation within its 901,000 wilderness acres.

dreamcatcher illustration: dreamcatcher (utsanati, Cherokee for rattlesnake), artist Susie Ricker -- "This is a Western Rattlesnake, symbol of wisdom, and not endangered. According to Native American tradition, the Dreamcatcher is hung in the vicinity of one's sleeping place. Dreams are attracted to the Dreamcatcher and enter it. Bad dreams become entangled in the web and remain there; good dreams follow the dreampath downward through the feathers and into the mind and memory of the person who is sleeping. When the first light of dawn touches the Dreamcatcher, bad dreams are erased. And one remembers only the good dreams!" -- Jane Blair, Eagle Feather

Cherokee Indian Reservation, Western NC -- An immersion in primeval spirits that move and haunt 21st century Appalachian country life. Ascend Smoky Mountain heights to hike, fish or raft within the "Land Of The Blue Mist," territory roamed and settled by native peoples for thousands of years. Called the "Qualla Boundary," this 56,000 acre tract invites visitors to explore traditional Ani-yun-wi-ya crafts and culture, most particularly in artistic preservation of artifacts within the refurbished Museum of the Cherokee Indian. Shops, outlets, and restaurants also provide a ground source for tribal regional/national hardcopy and internet news and music.

ruffed grouse Coraopolis, PA -- Appalachian forests support a somewhat diminished variety of plant and animal life including, most notably perhaps, bear, deer, turkey, woodcock and grouse. The Ruffed Grouse Society, along with other non-profit organizations, dedicates research, resources, and legislative lobbying efforts to preserving wildlife and natural habitat for native species.

Rivers and canyons of Appalachia's Cumberland Plateau stretch between Kentucky and Tennessee. Numerous national forests, parks, and commercial recreation facilities provide trails and protected areas for enjoying mountain vistas and observing wildlife behavior in varied natural habitats.

Franklin, TN -- Virtual Tour of Franklin, ranked one of the 10 best small towns in America, a Tennessee Main Street Community under the National Trust for Historic Preservation, near Nashville. The 15-block original downtown area dates from 1799, and is graced by beautiful, renovated 19th century homes. Art galleries, New Age and specialty shops, antique stores, and restaurants line its intriguing main street, while the public square accommodates additional retailers and residents, bankers and attorneys.

river Greeneville, Tennessee, founded in 1783, is the beautifully restored hometown and burial place of Andrew Johnson. Once capital of The Lost State of Franklin, it is the state's second oldest town. Comfortably landscaped Richland Creek, with its miniature islands and falls, runs by brick pavillions and a memorial statue of our 17th President. Its centrally located Visitor's Center includes both Johnson's original tailor shop and his first Greeneville homestead, preserved as a dioramic museum of American life and history.

"...I was born in East Tennessee, on the banks of the Watauga, which in the Indian vernacular means beautiful river, and beautiful it is. I have stood up on its banks in my childhood and looked down through its glassy waters and beheld a heaven below, and then, looking upward, beheld a heaven above, reflecting, like two mirrors, each in the other, its moon and planets and trembling stars. Away from its banks of rock and cliff, hemlock and laurel, pine and cedar, stretches a vale back to the distant mountains as beautiful and exquisite as any in Italy or Switzerland. There stand the great Roan, the great Black and the great Smoky Mountains, upon whose summits the clouds gather of their own accord, even on the brightest day.
"There I have seen the Great Spirit of the Storm after noontide go and take his evening nap in his pavilion of darkness and of clouds. Then I have seen him aroused at midnight, like a giant refreshed by slumber, and let loose the red lightnings that ran along the mountain tops for a thousand miles, swifter than an eagle's flight in heaven. And again, I have seen the lightnings stand up and dance like angels of light in the clouds, to the music of that grand organ of nature whose keys seemed to have been touched by the fingers of Divinity in the halls of eternity.

"Then I have seen the darkness drift away beyond the horizon, and the morn arise from her saffron bed like a queen, put on her robe of light, come forth from her palace in the sun, and stand tip-toe on the misty mountain tops, and while night fled before her glorious face to his bed-chamber at the Pole, she lighted the green vale and beautiful river where I was born and played in childhood with a smile of sunshine. O, beautiful land of mountains, with thy sun painted cliff, how can I ever forget thee." -- Speech excerpt, Landon Carter Haynes (1816-1875)

Highlands, NC -- Located atop Little Scaly Mountain on a 4,200-foot-high peak of the Blue Ridge, the Mountain Retreat & Learning Center is an Audubon Society Wildlife Refuge and one of "Ten Great Places to Renew the Soul" (USA Today). The Unitarian Universalist Conference Center in Western North Carolina hosts an extensive program of Appalachian culture, music and history as part of the not-for-profit Elderhostel, Inc. Milestone Learning Center, Inc. provides programs "To Incite People to Contribute to a Just and Ethical Society," particularly for young people "to emerge as leaders in pursuit of socioeconomic justice." Lodges and private cabins, nature walks.

Hightown, VA -- Endless Mountain Retreat Center Secluded getaway above 4,000 feet, surrounded by mountain wilderness and located at the headwaters of three rivers. The retreat provides a unique and sacred space for people to visit who are interested in the natural world, the relationship of earth to spirit, and the appreciation for environmental responsibility and harmony with all relations.

Jackson County, NC -- For mountain lovers there may be no more alluring area than the rolling crests of the Smokies where myth and mist have cohabited for millenia. The small towns encompassed here reflect traditions and modernizations of native and settler culture. From cafe book shops to stage productions reflecting regional folklore and history, constructions of the Smokies attract visitors, and new citizen/landowners, from around the world. "I beheld with rapture and astonishment a sublime scene of power and magnificence, a world of mountains piled upon mountains." Explorer and Botanist William Bartram, 1775

quiltfest graphic: Quilts flying from Tennessee's historic Chester Inn for Quiltfest 98.

Jonesborough, TN -- Tennessee's First Town Founded in 1779, the state's original capitol has been charmingly preserved. Cozy restaurants, antique and crafts shops occupy vintage buildings that face the cobblestone main street. Plump, protected, variegated ducks paddle a village stream bordering the ample, hidden public parking area. The region was first explored by Daniel Boone; Davey Crockett's birthplace is nearby. Presidents Jackson, Polk and Johnson all stayed at the restored 1797 Chester Inn.

Kingsport, TN -- A 3,000 acre wilderness preserve that encloses a 44-acre lake and includes a fascinating natural history museum, Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium provides habitat for wildlife, including wolves which can be observed on-line through the facility's Wolfcam. In good weather, visitors may tour the lake via park barge.

Lenox, Massachusetts -- Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health is located in the Berkshire Mountains. A non-profit sanctuary for exploration and renewal of spirit, the Center on-line offers programs and events, a message mailing list, and links to retreats, ashrams, yoga, hinduism, buddhism and holistic health on-line.

Marshall, NC -- Prama Institute, a holistic seminar and retreat center offering varied programs, lodgings and meals, is located on 150 acres near the Blue Ridge Mountains and the French Broad River. Its areas of interest/exploration are spirituality, environmentalism, sustainable economics, holistic health, and other intellectual and artistic fields that contribute to human development and social change. Prama means "dynamic balance" in Sanskrit. Individual prama means harmony between body, mind, and spirit; collective prama means balance between people, community and environment.

Museums Large and Small -- From multi-ethnic traditions and visionary constructions, a rich heritage of creativity adorns visitors centers, libraries, restaurants and coffee shops, shopping malls and village shops throughout Appalachia. In addition, exhibits on loan from fabled museums worldwide rotate through formal regional institutions of learning and culture. South Carolina's Greenville County Museum of Art is one outstanding example of extraordinary collections available at no cost for public enjoyment, education and awe.

New River Gorge National River -- West Virginia's awe-inspiring 53-miles of white water flows north through 70,000 acres of steep canyons. The Visitors Center includes a dioramic museum of the area's industrial and cultural history, most notably a 19th century church that rotated in natural tolerance and interest preachers of differing Christian persuasions from one Sunday to the next.

North Carolina Performing Arts -- On Stage Presenters Consortium coordinates varied presentations through "a member-based resource network, forged in a spirit of non-competitive cooperation and dedicated to enhancing the availability, quality, variety and affordability of professional touring arts and entertainment attractions" throughout the Tar Heel state.

chapel Prestonburg, KY -- Jenny Wiley State Resort Park is one of numerous regional forests set aside to preserve natural habitat. The "crown jewel" of Kentucky's park system is located deep in the Appalachian Mountains. Named after an early European settler, it surrounds 1,100 acre Dewey Lake where water skiers mingle with houseboats touring from docks aside a professional theatre that features broadway plays. The ample wilderness park offers secluded camping areas, nature trails, formal lodging, and a skylift up Sugar Camp Mountain.

Roan Mountain, TN -- Roan Mountain State Park "contains 2,006 acres nestled in the footslopes of Roan Mountain. High mountain peaks, such as The Roan, with an elevation of 6,285 feet, form a backdrop to the park." A winding road affords spectacular views ascending to the peak straddling the North Carolina/Tennessee border and intersecting the Appalachian Trail. Amenities for visitors include cabins and campground, trails and shelters, a lodge and swimming pool.

Western NC -- The Mountains of North Carolina lure artists, educators and entrepreneurs. Among its many special towns along the Blue Ridge Parkway and high amidst the rolling Appalachians are Asheville (with the rambling magnificance of Biltmore Estate), Boone, Banner Elk, and the elegantly remodelled and restored village of Blowing Rock. Off "the beaten track," restored and updated Burnsville combines old traditions, country stores and restaurants, with upscale galleries and coffee shops.










Appalachian universities offer myriad annual study tours -- available for their alumni, faculty, students and community -- to explore wonders of the world.
Drilling virgin wilderness





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Original material © A Country Rag April, 1996, 2011. All rights reserved.
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