Exploring your way to a new home in the mountains

October 10, 2017

By Bailey Stewart
Assistant Director of Admission

I love my home town of Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the years, the rapidly expanding city has taught me a lot, and I have learned to appreciate it.

So how did a city girl like myself end up settling in the rural mountains of Western North Carolina? Let me explain.

It’s no secret that the process of exiting high school and entering the world of college is equal parts scary and liberating. This is a new beginning, and perhaps in a vastly different location than at home with your family.

Therefore, when it came time for me to apply to colleges—between the campus visits, essays and applications—I really needed to sit down and decide where I wanted to live for the next four years. Not exactly an easy decision…until it suddenly became so clear.

The mountains. There was just something about it. Every time I visited the mountains, I found myself not wanting to leave.

Once I was in the mountains and starting a new life in college, I discovered that it was going to take me pushing myself out of my comfort zone to really settle in and enjoy everything a mountain life has to offer. Simply put, I learned a lot during my first year in the mountains.

Here are my three tips on how to find your place in the High Country, as well as a quick adventure guide to get your next mountain journey started!

Adventures don’t have to be day-long endeavors—make your next exploration work for you!

One of the best ways to make the mountains your home is to explore. Sure, that seems obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t! This doesn’t mean you have to summit entire mountains or spelunk in caves everyday—just get out of your comfort zone. Find something new whether it’s on campus or beyond. As you’re exploring, you may find your favorite spot on campus or your new favorite hiking trail. After a long day of classes, or after a killer exam, you will appreciate those places to disconnect.

Connect with events on campus and get involved

For me, I found it very important to connect with campus. You can do almost anything from attending an athletic event, joining a club or organization or just taking a teacher out to lunch at the dining hall. Whatever it is, it will help you become more involved with your family on campus. You may be asking, “how do I learn about events on campus?” and the answer is your smartphone. Check out the college events calendar, weekly emails and even social media.

Find your tribe

Not the type to go off on an adventure alone? You’re certainly not the only one. Beyond academics, college is about finding those people who share the same passions as you. No matter what hobby you’d like to take on in college, whether it be hiking, swimming, running, gardening, or biking (the list goes on!), you can almost always find fellow students, faculty or staff who love those things too! If there is no club, group or organization already centered around your passion, then make your own!

An adventure guide for explorers both new and pro

And now for the guide I promised. There is an adventure waiting to be had no matter how much time or resources you have. So grab your tribe, some comfortable shoes and head on out! I’ll see you out there.

So, you want to explore the outdoors and you’re wondering where to begin…

Start somewhere close! The beauty of Lees-McRae is the location. Take a walk through the trails behind campus or walk along the Elk River, and if you’re feeling adventurous, pick up a fly rod and try to catch some of our local trout. The best part—you can be back to your residence hall in time for a movie night with friends.

So you’re thinking, been there done that…

Go check out the ski slopes! Even when there isn’t snow on the ground, the slopes can be a fun destination for you and your friends. Hike or cycle the trails, or ride the ski lift and soak in the view. Campus is at the foothills of both Sugar and Beech mountains, so it is just a quick drive to take in the amazing views and shred.

Hop in the car and cruise on the Parkway. The Blue Ridge Parkway has many access points throughout the High Country. If you are looking to get active, pull off at one of the many hiking trails! Best part? There are trails for hikers of all abilities! Trails vary in distance from a short .2-mile hike (if you are trying to get a quick workout in before class) to a 5-mile hike (for those who are looking for more of a challenge) and beyond!

Grandfather! Oh, Grandfather Mountain. It’s one of my favorite places in the High Country. If you’ve spent time in the area, you’ve probably seen Grandfather Mountain as you are driving up Highway 105. If you are living in the mountains of North Carolina, you have to visit. Did I mention they have otters?!

OK, it’s a hot day in the mountains and you and your friends are looking to find some water…

Linville Falls is a beautiful gem hidden along Highway 221. Visitors can hike and enjoy the amazing waterfalls.

Did you know there is a lake behind campus? Wildcat Lake is available for students to swim, kayak and fish. It even has a beach area where you can soak up some sun.

Elk River Falls is just 20 minutes from campus. Grab a picnic and enjoy the breeze at the waterfall.

Enjoy the small town’s dining and shopping!

Sometimes you just want to walk around and enjoy the small town. Visit the local restaurants and stop in at some of the shops. Grab some ice cream from the Banner Elk Café and take a walk in the park! 

Media Contact:

Nina Mastandrea  |  Content Manager
Tel: 828.898.8729  |  Email: mastandrean@lmc.edu