WNC Travel Guide

It’s been just about 10 years since the day Joe-Ann McCoy, then living in Iowa and working as the national medicinal plant curator for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, got a life-changing call from her home region of Western North Carolina. 

It was the N.C. Arboretum in Asheville, and they wanted to know if she’d be interested in trading her secure government job for a position funded by grants and contracts, moving to the Asheville area, and starting up a seed bank.

Election season is right around the corner, as candidates begin filing paperwork to run for a variety of partisan offices from the federal level on down to state and local races in North Carolina.

For the past two centuries, local historians and writers in England have produced a large number of municipal and county histories, a project formalized in 1899 with the Victoria County History project, a massive undertaking that, more than 100 years later, is still unfinished. These detailed records have proven invaluable for historians and biographers writing on a grander scale, allowing them to compile data and statistics on topics ranging from deaths attributed to the plague to the impact of railroad revenues and services on country life.

In last week’s edition of The Smoky Mountain News we published articles about positive political and economic signs in two towns in our coverage area. Sylva and Canton both have a lot of momentum right now and were the towns we wrote about.

But for the most part, the entire coverage area of The Smoky Mountain News — Haywood, Jackson, Macon and Swain counties, along with Cherokee — is actually doing pretty well and beating the odds versus a lot of places in North Carolina. Unemployment is low, population is growing modestly, and the small businesses we deal with on a weekly basis remain optimistic about the future.

It was cold, but I was prepared. Leggings and Underarmour, sweatpants and sweatshirt, parka and hiking pants, an array of hats, gloves and scarves — it was safe to say I’d dressed for the forecasted high of 27 degrees.

I’d spent much of the past week indoors, wrapped in blankets against the single-digit chill that assaulted my apartment and dreaming of warmer days. But as the weekend drew near, a realization dawned — all this cold had surely created some beauty out of Western North Carolina’s abundant waterways. I made a decision: I would brave the cold, and I would go find a frozen waterfall.

Limiting the number of prescriptions written for addictive painkillers like Percocet and Oxycontin is definitely a good start, but addiction specialists say it is just the beginning of solving the opioid epidemic in this country.

Vaya Health has received statewide honors for its work to prevent fatal opioid drug overdoses throughout western North Carolina.

Last year it was still just a quaint, silly little term — fake news.

2017: Year in review

Before we ring in the New Year, The Smoky Mountain News likes to look back and reflect on the last year of news.

The headlines that have graced our pages in 2017 have had an important impact on the people of Western North Carolina, and our staff has taken its job of reporting and analyzing those issues seriously.

By David Belcher • Guest columnist

I had the privilege of presiding over Western Carolina University’s Dec. 16 commencement ceremonies and witnessing the great emotion and sense of accomplishment among the graduates. A point of pride at this December’s commencement was that nearly half of the fall graduating class hails from the 18 westernmost counties of our state, a reflection of WCU’s impact on Western North Carolina.

There is no bigger highlight in the university calendar than commencement day. Commencement signifies WCU’s ultimate purpose and the fulfillment of our fundamental responsibility: the education of our citizens across a broad spectrum of disciplines for thoughtful, productive leadership in our society.

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