The Appalachian Mountains are some of the oldest in the entire world, with a rich history, diverse plant life, and people dedicated to keeping the land beautiful for generations to come. I have had the privilege the past two years to live in this region of East Tennessee and North Carolina, and it is truly a place unlike any other.
Through my time here, I have come to love three places in this area, and believe they show what we should be doing to keep this Earth clean and beautiful.
Townsend, Tennessee is a small town located just outside of the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a haven for outdoorsmen and women with a beautiful river and hundreds of miles of hiking trails. I am biased toward this place, as I spent every summer of my childhood driving from Nashville to the Smoky Mountains to hike and explore with my parents. One would hardly guess that Townsend is in proximity to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, two places that the Smoky Mountains are most known for, and while they are wonderful, they are not what such a wonderful place is about.
Townsend remains “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies,” as that is the quote they have under the “Welcome to Townsend” sign upon driving in. It is not full of mini golf and shopping options, but local artisans, museums displaying the history of the land, and, of course, the entrance into the National Park. The residents of Townsend only want to keep their side of the mountains quiet and peaceful, like it was before thousands of tourists began to flock to the area. Local restaurants here serve some of the most delicious and fresh food imaginable, a true statement of their clean living, keeping their small piece of paradise as natural and peaceful as possible.
Cades Cove Loop is a ten-mile stretch of road through the Great Smoky Mountains, with some of the most breathtaking views of the mountain range. Lining the one-lane road visitors can enjoy the preserved cabins of the early settlers in the valley before the land became a park, observing how the people lived and spent their daily lives. Cades Cove serves as a wonderful representation of the people today, as many outside of larger cities still live off the land, raising their families in the old, dense forests across the region.
I have seen first-hand how much these people rely on their land. Speak with any local you find in this area, they will tell you about the gardens they plant to have canned vegetables through the winter, and how they help their friends and neighbors through any time of struggle. It is truly a representation of natural, green life—a life that still remains from the first settlers in the cove.
The last area of the Appalachians I have come to love lies nearly a two-and-a-half-hour drive East of Townsend and Cades Cove; Roan Mountain hugs the Tennessee and North Carolina state line. Part of the famed Appalachian Trail, it is an area of the region unlike any other. Roan Mountain, or Carver’s Gap hiking trail, has some of the best views from its highest peak of about 3,000 feet. The area can easily be reached from Johnson City, Tennessee if you are traveling from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The people who live in the town of Roan are the same as those in Townsend, displaying a deep love for the mountains and surrounding forest. Without question, this entire region is one that we should look to when wanting to live green and cleaner.
For the past two years, I have called this place home, East Tennessee’s natural beauty reminding me to do my best to live a green and natural life.
Should you ever visit any of these places please remember to take your time, nothing can be rushed here when there is something beautiful around every corner. While I know that this green, lush region of the United States will not be home forever, I do know I will carry all I have learned wherever I go next, as I hope every visitor does as well. I have learned one very important thing while living here: our lives, bodies, and minds should revolve around nature, with the changing of each season and all the good things it gives us. There is a much slower way of living in this place, something unlike anywhere I have lived before.