Written by Chris Cavanaugh
The Industry Buoys Small Business & Brings New Connections
I have a confession to make: I’m a map geek. I’m one of those people who purchases a new Rand McNally road atlas every year—you know, the printed kind. (Yes, Rand McNally still produces them annually.) I love maps, and the ol’ Rand McNally is one of the reasons I first visited Western North Carolina.
You see, I’d stare at the map of the Old North State and fixate on the western region, wondering what it was like to visit or even live there. Just looking at that map, it became obvious that the region was so different from other places I’d lived and visited in the South: the massive swaths of area covered in green, signifying National Forest and Park Service lands; the twisting, winding nature of the roads; occasional little triangles showing mountain peaks with their elevations marked next to them; an entire National Park running north and south through the region. Many of the names on the map were captivating and sounded almost mystical, places like Sylva, Highlands, Blowing Rock, Tuckasegee, Maggie Valley, and Little Switzerland. I couldn’t wait to visit.
And eventually I did. Like many past and current residents of Western North Carolina, I first arrived in the region as a tourist. I hiked through forests, drove the Blue Ridge Parkway, ate barbecue, visited Biltmore, stayed in a bed and breakfast, went rafting, and walked the streets of small towns. I was fortunate to become a resident of Asheville a few years later, in 1995.
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