Love and Learning in Southern Appalachia

By Mike Budd
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On June 26th, fifteen family members ranging from 8 years old to 80 years old descended on Burnsville, North Carolina, on the edge of the Pisgah National Forest, 35 miles northeast of Asheville. We gathered to celebrate my father-in-law’s 80th birthday, expedition style. No, not your typical birthday party, but for this active and curious group, a five day adventure unlike any other.

I could tell you about the delightful bed and breakfast we called home for a week, their fresh squeezed orange juice and warm sausage rolls, and their flower gardens bursting with color. I could tell you about Open Ridge Farm where we ate our wonderful dinners under the stars each evening and played charades around an open fire. I could tell you about tubing down the crystal clear South Toe River, and the pure and refreshing joy we felt. I could tell you about the ooohing and ahhhing as we created fire by friction in a primitive skills workshop. I could tell you about the awe-inspiring views from the top of Mount Mitchell, with raptors floating on the thermals. I could tell you about the origin of chipmunks (a confrontation between a bear and a squirrel, according to our storyteller). I could tell you about the outdoor physics playground and its mesmerizing pendulum wave demonstration with sixteen bowling balls. I could tell you about the live music and dancing at the historic Orchard at Altapass. I could tell you about horseback riding and the thrill of ziplining through the canopy.

So many stories, so many pictures, so many memories. But it’s the hand-blown glass heart that says it all. Created in a small studio tucked in the forest, this simple but beautiful symbol represents why our family chose to spend a week together exploring the Black Mountains. Love. It also represents the energy and passion of the Southern Appalachian people, the many who opened their doors and introduced us to their crafts, their lives, and their community. And finally, it represents a company that was able to build such a genuine, immersive, and well-balanced experience for a group of fifteen, 8 years old to 80 years old. Thank you family, thank you Celo Community, and thank you Chill Expeditions.