Our last trip of the expedition was our most adventurous and most unique of the summer. The 800 mile trip took us through the enchanting Blue Ridge Mountain Parkway and the Cherokee Reservation to the fabled Asheville. Everywhere we went on our trip people talked about Asheville as the place that got it right, the place that manages to survive while the rest of southern Appalachia is struggling. People mentioned that Asheville has colleges and state parks to bring in people and money. But everywhere we went had a school and parks. I really feel that Asheville works because of it’s location; simply put, it is easy to get to from outside the Appalachian region. This is dire news for the areas that are in distress, and I wish there was a magic bullet but from our 3,000+ mile trip it seemed the more centered in Appalachia, the worse economically things seemed to be.
That said, the entire area seems to have taken advantage of the fortune of Asheville. The Blue Ridge mountain Parkway and surrounding areas was steeped in attractions, mostly based on history, from the heartbreaking history of the native Cherokee to the triumph of the Civilian Conservation Corps.
We intentionally did not schedule a place to set up the booth to see if spontaneity would foster different results. We spent a day driving around Asheville looking for spots. Honestly, every place seemed to its own groups -from the dreadlocked hippies at the weekly downtown drum circles, to college kids milling around the pubs -and with the sheer amount of time to set up and run the booth, we had to find a place that brought a wide range of people that best represents the area (i.e. hippies, college kids, working folks, etc all together). It turns out that our original arrangement of setting up at a state park is a great place to find a representative slice of the area, and Sliding Rock (in Pisgah Forest) was just the place. We had such a good time that we planned on staying longer to take more portraits but the steep mountains of North Carolina did a number on our van, and the engine cracked, stranding us in the middle of nowhere for 3 days until we had the van towed back to Louisville. It was perhaps a slightly disappointing end to an amazing trip and we had also hoped to add another trip back to Lee County Virginia that was never realised but overall I feel the trip was an amazing experience that I would gladly do again in a heartbeat.
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