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Zaloo’s Canoes (Canoeing in NC)

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Canoeing in NC

The New River is truly a treasure. It has been designated a National Scenic and Wild river and an American Heritage River. Tubing, kayaking or canoeing down the New is the best way to explore this remarkable natural treasure. The water is crystal clear (and cold) and with the exception of a small section of white water here and there, is smooth as glass. This is a great family getaway.

Strawberry Fields Forever!

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strawberries

strawberries

Strawberry Picking in Wilkes

Spring is a wonderful time filled with great weather (kinda rainy), beautiful nature and short sleeve shirts.  But each year as April arrives, the conversation at my house turns to…. Strawberries.  Yep, believe it or not, my wife and I begin to imagine the taste of locally grown, ripe to the center, red, delicious strawberries and strawberry pie.  As they say…. It is the simple things in life.

Guide to MerleFest

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MerleFest Group

It is difficult to put into words what MerleFest is and what the four days around the last weekend in April are all about, but here goes….

This year we get to enjoy again what many people consider to be the best outdoor Bluegrass/ Americana music festival in the world. Held annually on the campus of Wilkes Community College (Harvard on the Yadkin, as the locals call it), the festival that began on the back of a flatbed truck in 1988 has evolved into a campus wide, multi-stage music extravaganza. The festival is held in honor of Merle Watson, the deceased son of Doc Watson who was killed in a farming accident. Merle was a devoted musician who loved to play the guitar with Doc. For more information on Merle and the history of the festival, please visit www.merlefest.org.

Read more below the break!

Camp Harrison

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Camp Harrison

About

Camp Harrison is affiliated with the YMCA of Greater Charlotte and is a destination for many kids ages 6-16 each summer!  It is a place where new friendships are made, beneficial life skills are learned, and a deeper level of faith is gained.  Campers have the opportunity to choose the camp track that they are most interested in, which makes camp even that much more enjoyable and memorable!

Tracks 

Traditional- This includes a variety of land activities- ropes courses, sports, team paintball and crafts

Dude Ranch- Campers get to take care of animals and fulfill ranch duties.  They work with horses, goats, chickens and a pig.  Campers learn the value and satisfaction of hard work.

Sportsman- Campers learn fishing and hunting techniques at the private lake front base camp.  They have the opportunity to use the rifle range, clay target shooting, archery, and open water fly fishing.

Farm to Feast- This is great for campers interested in learning more about cooking!  Campers take part in farm to table practices for food prep, nutritional information and meal planning, while also learning culinary skills from chefs and counselors.

Beyond the Ridge- This is for the teen campers at Camp Harrison!  Campers get to camp in the woods, and cook meals over an open fire.  They learn to experience life with other teens and navigate through life’s tests.  This is a wonderful program that promotes leadership while growing in spirit, mind, and body.

CIT Program- Counselor in Training-  Campers interested in being a part of the future Camp Harrison staff, have a wonderful opportunity in this program to learn the leadership and supervisory skills it takes!  Through interaction in cabins, leading devotionals, team building projects, and teaching activities, campers learn through experience what it takes to be a leader and an example to fellow campers. (16-17 year olds)

Camp Harrison

Why Camp Harrison? 

  • Only individuals who are positive Christian role models are hired as counselors
  • Counselors give individual attention to campers and are there to teach and be an example
  • Camp allows kids to branch out of their everyday routine, make new friends, and learn new life skills
  • There is a spiritual influence at camp and each day is a new opportunity to grow closer to God and grow stronger in their faith and character
When?

There are 10 different weeks of camp each summer, all with their own theme!  Camp runs from June through the beginning of August.  Kids are always looking for something to do during the summer, and I’m sure mom and dad wouldn’t mind to have them out of the house for a week!  There really isn’t a better place for a kid to spend a part of their summer.  They get to be outdoors, experience some new things, make new friends, and enrich their faith.

Mission

The Mission of the YMCA of Greater Charlotte is to put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind and body for all.  Promoting the character traits of respect, responsibility, caring, honesty, and faith are all a huge part of what makes Camp Harrison such a wonderful place.

Becoming a Counselor

If you are a person filled with energy, adventure, and a passion for kids and Christ, Camp Harrison would be a great fit for you!  Each year, counselors go through in-depth interviews, must have multiple references, and a background check.  The highest quality staff is hired each summer, trained in First Aid/CPR and most are lifeguard certified.  If you think you are qualified, definitely apply online!  Each summer they count on hard-working, quality people to make camp the success that it is.

*Insider Tip- I was actually a counselor for one summer and it was the best summer of my life.  I was surrounded with individuals who encouraged and built me up every day, I was able to influence lives, and coach kids through new activities and challenges.  It was a ton of fun for not only the campers, but for myself as well.  I was able to try lots of new things I had never done before and was pushed outside of my comfort zone.  It was truly a joy working as a counselor that summer and I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a meaningful summer job!

Suggestions

1.  Sign Up!  Find the session and track that best fits your kid, and get them signed up!  This is a wonderful way to spend a week during the summer, try new things, and make new friends.

2.  Become a Counselor.  Spending a summer with the focus of enriching the lives of children, is not only rewarding to them, but is an even bigger reward to you.  Being a counselor at Camp Harrison is a meaningful experience and is worth it if you feel that you have what it takes!

3.  Send a Kid to Camp on Campership.  There are kids each and every summer that are only able to go to camp because of donations made towards camperships.  There are several different options and donation amounts that can be found on the Camp Harrison website.  Camperships are such a wonderful way to help send a kid to camp that wouldn’t be able to go otherwise.

Camp Harrison Website: www.campharrison.org

Light Up Downtown

Chritmas in Wilkes

Annual Light Up Downtown Celebration

Light Up DowntownLight Up Downtown is an annual celebration held in historic Downtown North Wilkesboro to usher in the holiday season. The celebration is kicked off with the lighting ceremony when the B Street Park Christmas Tree is light along with all of the holiday lights that line the town streets. Vendors gather from in and around the county to sell their goods on the streets as store owners stay open late to welcome in the crowds and to show off their holiday window displays. The celebration also features hay rides and dance performances and Santa!

 

Shopping at the festival…

There are always a few folks offering free snacks and drinks, while supplies lasts, but be sure to bring your wallet and a little cash. You are sure to find great holiday gifts in the shops or in any of the vendor booths. As you shop you may be tempted to buy a few goodies to eat. The smell of funnel cakes and fresh coffee are hard to resists. If you miss the festival don’t worry too much….you can enjoy shopping in Wilkesboro NC at any time of the year.

 

How to get there and where to park…

The festival is in the heart of Downtown North Wilkesboro and results in the closing of many of the streets, mainly Main St, 9th and 10th. The streets usually aren’t closed until about half an hour to an hour before the festivities. There is plenty of parking close to the festival most of which can be easily reached from the CBD Loop which borders the downtown area.

If you are coming from the east, I would advise you to take the NC Hwy 115 exit and turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into the festival.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.

 

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest

At Rendezvous Mountain you can enjoy winding trails, mountain top views and …Talking Trees!

Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Park is loads of fun for Family and school groups.  Here you can hike the trails, have a picnic and enjoy some of the many educational opportunities.  If you come on a good clear day you may even get to enjoy a hayride!  I first went to Rendezvous Mountain when I was just a little kid.  I remember taking a hayride from the parking area up the mountain where my family had a picnic.  My favorite part about the trip was the hike to see the Talking Trees!  My sister and I would race from one talking tree to the next and take turns pushing the button to hear what each tree had to teach us.  I still enjoy the Talking Tree Trail today but my favorite part now are the many hiking trails and the views. 

Tips for your trip

  • Call ahead.  You may not always need to call ahead but if you are going during the school year and want to avoid a school group it may not be a bad idea to check first. If you are taking a group of friends and family you may want to call and see if a ranger can give you a tour when you arrive.
  • Read the trail map before you get started.  Little ones may not have the energy to walk all of the trails.  Planning your hike will allow you see what you want to see first and not feel exhausted when you reach your favorite parts.
  • Take a camera!!!  The views are amazing and you are sure to see some wildlife.
  • Check the weather.  You won’t want to be there on a rainy day or during a lightening storm.  If the forecast calls for fog you may not get to see the long views until later in the day if at all.  Even if it is foggy there will still be plenty to see on the trails and at the educational sites.
  • Dress comfortably.  Anytime you travel in the mountains you will want to wear sensible shoes and dress in layers.  The weather is typically cooler at higher elevations and earlier in the morning.
  • Take a picnic! There is so much to see and so many great places to have a picnic.  Having lunch on the mountain will be a great way to take a break between hiking trails.

Things to see at Rendezvous Mountain

  • Talking Trees Trail
  • High Mountain Views
  • Fire Tower
  • Forestry Center
  • Hiking Trails
  • Waterfall Trail
  • Cabin
  • Picnic areas
  • Amphitheater
  • Forestry Education Trail 

Weddings and events at Rendezvous

With the picturesque views and calmness of nature all around it is no wonder that couples would chose to be married at Rendezvous Mountain.  One of the most popular locations for any event on the mountain is at the amphitheater, nestled below a tall canopy of foliage. The park has sheltered areas perfectly suited for a casual chic reception. To learn about how you can schedule your event at Rendezvous Mountain call (336) 667-5072.

How to get to Rendezvous Mountain

  • Drive from Wilkesboro towards Boone on US 421 North 
  • Turn right onto NC 16 North 
  • After about 3 miles turn left onto Boone Trail Road
  • In about 3 miles turn right onto Purlear Road
  • In about a mile Purlear Road will become Shingle Gap Road (just keep going)
  • In one mile turn left onto Rendezvous Mt. Road
  • Follow the drive up the mountain to one of the two parking lots

Herring Ridge

Camp Harrison at Herring RidgeHerring Ridge is located in the foothills of North Carolina a short drive from North Wilkesboro.  The camp has more than 2,000 acres of woods, streams, and trails centered around private, 140-acre Lake Broyhill.

Many things bring people from far and wide to Herring Ridge.  One of the largest draws is Camp Harrison, a summer camp for youngsters which offers numerous camping experiences for them to chose from.  Traditional Resident Camp offers over 21 land activities including: archery, paintball, ropes course, sports and crafts. Adventure tracks allow each camper can create their own personalized experience. Campers can spend the morning in their track and spend the afternoon with the entire camp enjoying water activities like kayaking, canoeing, water zip line, waterskiing, the “Blob” and the “Wet Willie”.

Click here to read our Camp Harrison Insider.

Founded on the YMCA’s Christian values, Camp Harrison’s goal is to give campers an amazing summer experience which they will forever treasure.

Events at Herring RidgeHerring Ridge

There is a lot more going on at Herring Ridge besides the summer Camp Harrison program.  Below is a list of some of the opportunities for fun at Herring Ridge.

  • Traditional Camp (kids 6-16)
  • Dude Ranch (kids 8-16)
  • Sportsman Camp (kids 10-16)
  • Farm to Feast Camp (kids 8-18)Herring Ridge
  • Beyond the Ridge (BTR) Leadership Program (kids 13-17)
  • Family Camp (different opportunities throughout the year)
  • Men On Mountain- Father Son weekend
  • Mother/Daughter Weekend
  • Women’s Wellness Weekend
  • Fishing
  • Weddings and More!!!

 Pricing for special events is as follows:

  • Weddings – Outdoor Chapel Rental $1,500.00
  • Family Reunions – $500 for up to 100 people
  • Birthday Parties – Start at $500 for 10 participants.
  • School Groups – Call for dates & pricing.
  • Church Groups – Call for dates & pricing.
  • Teambuilding – 2-3 hours $25 per person/4-6 hours $50 per personHerring Ridge (lunch can be added for a fee of $12 per person)
  • 1 Night/No meals/3 hours of programming – $88 per person (40+ guests)
  • 1 Night & 1 Meal/ 3 hours of Programming – $98 per person (40+ guests)

YMCA Members pay the Y rate on any programs offered. This applies to summer camp as well!  Call (336) 921-7067 to plan your Herring Ridge event.

How to get to Herring Ridge.

  • From US 421 North or South you will take exit 286A (towards Taylorsville and Lenoir) then turn right onto 16/18.
  • Turn right at 4th traffic light (located in front of the middle school) onto NC 18 South (towards Lenoir).
  • The sign for Herring Ridge will be in about 10 miles on your left.


Don’t miss your chance to enjoy the moments and make some memories at Herring Ridge!

A Leaf Lookers Guide to Fall in Carolina

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Leaf Looker’s Guide to Fall in Carolina

Each season brings a transformation to the Carolina landscape.  Winter brings white slopes. Spring buds with fresh green foliage and fields of wildflowers.  Summer is warm with sunsets that paint the sky.  Of all the seasons in Carolina, Fall is best of all.  As Autumn comes to the Blue Ridge Mountains each morning seems to reveal more and more change until all at once the mountains burst into vibrant color and leaf season is here!

Fall in Carolina

When and where to see the fall color

The show usually begins in the first days of October when the highest elevations are at their peak.  This is a great time to visit Grandfather Mountain where you can see how the mountains change color from top to bottom, from a hat of vibrant red and orange to a deep summer green skirt blanketing the foothills.  As the season progresses the color spreads down the mountain.  If you come late in the season, late October into early November, you will likely still find color in the foothills.  This is one of the main reasons why I think leaf lookers should begin their journey in the Key City (Wilkes) at the foot of the mountains.  From here you can begin a morning journey up the mountain (by way of HWY 421) and see every level of color.  With Wilkes County being so central, the hardest decision you will likely have to make from Hwy 421 is whether to take the Parkway North or South, drive on into Boone, up towards West Jefferson or down into Blowing Rock.  Each of these places has its own charm and you are sure to enjoy your experience there.

Fall Travel Tips

  • Take your camera!  The views will be beautiful and will also make for great backdrops with family and friends.
  • Take it easy.  Don’t get too caught up in the idea of going to one destination for one great view.  The views will be all around you as you go. Take time to enjoy what you see as you see it and be prepared to stop for some unexpected photo opportunities. 
  • Dress for comfort.  Wear your walking shoes and dress in layers.  The temperatures will change from morning to noon and as you travel from higher and lower elevations. 
  • Read ahead.  The color varies from year to year as do the best spots to see it.  Reading color watch reviews online will help you to know when to be where.  You can also follow us on Facebook (Visit Wilkesboro NC) where we will be sharing some of the best color in our area.

 

Where to start and where to stay

I prefer to start my morning in Wilkes County.  Wilkes has long been know as the “Key City” or the “Gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains”.  There are two very nice and affordable hotels just off of Hwy 421, the Hampton Inn and the Holiday Inn Express.  Leaf Lookers have been staying at these two establishments for years.  This means that the staff knows what your needs will be and will be able to answer any questions you may have.  There are places to stay up the mountain but the prices and crowds rise with the elevation. 


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Visit Wilkes and enjoy Carolina in the Fall!

Shine to Wine

Shine to Wine

The Shine to Wine festival gets bigger and better each year.  The festival is held in historic downtown North Wilkesboro.  The festival includes regional wines and beer for the tasting, live music and art. The festival lasts from 12 PM – 6 PM and is free to the public.  However, if you plan on sampling the wines, a wristband must be purchased. (Proof of age is required)

Wilkes County was at one time known as the Moonshine Capital of the World and for good reason. Nowadays, the region is becoming known for it’s variety of wines.  Ideally situated with the right precipitation and temperatures, the Yadkin Valley is a perfect region to grow grapes. (Who knew, right?)  So the name, Shine to Wine is a throw-back to the old days with an eye on the future of the wine industry in our community.

Several of the downtown North Wilkesboro restaurants join in the celebration and offer a “Downtown Wine Dinner”.  Be sure to visit 6th and Main and Branciforte’s. Both of establishments offer special entrees paired with signature wines.  Reservations for this special evening is advised, so call ahead and ask them to save you a seat.  The food is always delicious and the prices are reasonable, so enjoy.

The festival always has a great band to listen to while you sample the wines.  Enjoy the distinctive sounds of some of the regions best bands as you walk the streets of North Wilkesboro.  These groups have always provided a great backdrop to the entire event.  Vendor tent hopping and wine tasting to live tunes played with true talent is a great way to pass a Saturday afternoon.

Should you attend?  If you enjoy friendly people, great music and art and a sip of the fruit of the Yadkin Valley Winegrowers, then this is a festival for you.  Check out their website for all the ins and outs and make your s plans now before all the hotel rooms fill up.  Salute!  (www.shinetowine.com)

How to get to the Shine to Wine Festival?

The Shine to Wine Festival is located in Historic Downtown North Wilkesboro.  If you are coming from the east, I would advise taking the NC Hwy 115 exit and then turn right on 115. This will take you to NC 268, turn left on NC 268 and you will run right into Downtown North Wilkesboro where festival signs and parking will be easily visible.

If you are coming from the west on US 421, take “421 Business” into the downtown area. This left turn is the next left after the Taco Bell. Business 421 will take you directly into the down town area. If you are tech savvy, just enter North Wilkesboro into whatever device you have and hit the road.


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The Wilkes Heritage Museum

Wilkes Heritage MuseumMy first visit to the Wilkes Heritage Museum greatly exceeded my expectations. There was so much more to see than I had expected. I was fascinated by the wonderfully preserved architecture of the building and surprised at the quality of each exhibit. This may be a museum in a small town but it is not a small town museum. The Wilkes Heritage Museum serves to preserve the history and culture of an entire region.

The Wilkes Heritage Museum is home to numerous exhibits relating to industry, racing, music, folk-art, education and much more. It is also home to the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame. The building in which the artifacts are displayed was once the Wilkes County Courthouse and was built in 1902. Wilkes Heritage Museum, NASCARSeveral other buildings accompany the museum, including the Old Wilkes Jail, built in 1850, the Robert Cleveland House, built in 1779, and others. Some of the surrounding buildings are included in the museum tours and are also part of the Candlelight Ghost Tours. Among the most popular exhibits are the old schoolroom, Junior Johnson’s first racecar, and a moonshine still from the 1800s.

Wilkes Heritage MuseumEvents throughout the year include concerts, a Veterans Ceremony, book signings, theatrical performances, and a Christmas Open House each December. Candlelight Ghost Tours of the haunted sites in downtown Wilkesboro are given on scheduled evenings in the summer and fall.  The tour includes the Old Wilkes Jail, where Tom Dooley was held, the Robert Cleveland Log Cabin and much more!

The Wilkes Heritage Museum is a great place to visit for families, school groups and any who enjoy history, racing or music![divider] [/divider]

Wilkes Heritage Museum Hours and Admission.

The museum has a minimal entry fee and a gift shop where you can find great gifts, postcards and souvenirs.  The fee includes guided tours of the Old Wilkes Jail and Robert Cleveland Log Home. Guided tours are offered at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm Tuesday through Saturday. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 am to 4 pm and is closed on Sundays, Mondays, and major holidays.Historic Wilkes Heritage Museum

Admission is as follows:

  • Adults: $10
  • Seniors (age 55 & older) and students: $5
  • Children (age 4 & under): free

What to bring.

You will likely want to bring comfortable shoes as the museum is larger than it appears. Comfortable footwear may also come in handy if you chose to go on one of the ghost tours or want to walk the Yadkin River Greenway which has a trailhead beside the Robert Cleveland House. There are also several good restaurants and shops within easy walking distance from the museum.

How to get there.

The Wilkes Heritage Museum is located in Downtown Wilkesboro at 100 East Main Street.  Parking can be found on both sides of the museum and along the street.

The following video was uploaded by WXII in 2010 and much has been added to the museum since.  Don’t miss your chance to explore history at this great place!