Beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains

By Bonnie & Bill Neely

When we moved to Greenville, SC, we had no idea how popular the area has become since Bonnie was a child growing up here. Now the Upstate South Carolina area is in the top destination places in the United States for visiting and for living, with a tremendous growth in statistics of both.  The Upstate area, along with the southwest area of North Carolina and the northeastern border of Georgia are known for appreciating the natural beauty all around and working to preserve it. Upstate Forever and other organizations have worked for decades to add miles of preserved natural land, keeping the area Green and the natural environment thriving for those who have called it home through generations and for those who choose to live here now and in the future.

From Greenville’s busiest city streets we can look out and see the mountains in the skyline, the tallest of which is Sassafras Mountain at 3,554 feet. A new tower on the top of Sassafras Mountain is located within the 50,000-acre Jocassee Gorges, named among “50 of the World’s Last Great Places” by National Geographic Magazine. On a clear day the tower provides a three state, 360 degree view, which includes Georgia, while you stand on the border with one foot in each of the two Carolinas. An easy daytrip from Greenville has us in these mountains for a few hours’ retreat to the peaceful, clean air and lovely views, any time of year. And numerous accommodations and restaurants can be found for longer stays. 

When anyone looks at the mountains in the horizon you can easily see why they are so aptly named The Blue Ridge.  Layer upon layer of mountains of varying heights appear various shades of blue in the distance, depending on the light and time of day. Always there are evergreens to appreciate, and in three seasons the broadleaf trees abound to promise their colorful display in autumn. These peaks, which geologists say are 480 million years old, are of the earth’s oldest granite formations, and were not formed by volcanic activity or violent upheavals, but by plate collision during earth’s earliest times.

Our favorite days are spent walking to the many beautiful waterfalls, many of which are created by the natural Blue Wall, a dramatic 2,000 foot granite vertical drop at the foot of the Appalachain Mountain chain. The sudden change of elevation creates unique microclimates, making a sudden variation in temperature and flora/fauna. This unique situation saves migratory birds thousands of miles of flight and makes the Piedmont land at the foot of the Wall a haven for hundreds of species of plants, some found only here. Here are more species of trees than in all of Europe, as well as more kinds of ferns and salamanders than anywhere else known. These varieties are sought by botanists and bird watchers. And for the rest of us Nature Lovers, it is a place of respite, recreation, and appreciation of nature offering more contiguous green space than any other eastern coast state.

One of the inspiring waterfalls in the area just out of Greenville, SC, is Whitewater Falls on the line of North and South Carolina, near Cashiers, NC.  A trip to The Gorges or to Highlands, NC, along this highway is filled with beauty any time of year. In fall the many varieties of broad-leaf trees create stunning array of color. The pathway along the descent of the falls is made easy by the wooden staircase, and it is part of a 76 mile unpaved SC Foothills Trail.

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