An integral part of my earliest memories and inspirations comes from the vacations we spent in Appalachia during my childhood. We traveled regularly to the Poconos in Pennsylvania, and also down to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina. These mountains give me a deep sense of place.
The ancient rolling hills of the Appalachian mountains just feel like they know something bigger than us. They are among the oldest mountains on earth. They are gentle and curving; worn smooth yet still wild. And they are full of waterfalls and caves.
One of my earliest waterfall memories was a day trip to Bushkill Falls in the Pocono Mountains. The park is a series of falls cascading over 300 feet. I have a vivid memory as a young child of walking beyond the park borders, deeper into the local forest. We eventually turned back, but I was imprinted by this early experience of hiking in nature. We returned to Bushkill Falls year after year to spend a day hiking the trails in the surrounding area.
When I was a young tween my grandparents retired from Washington DC to a home in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Trips to see them always included a day hiking in the Pisgah National Forest, the land of 1000 waterfalls. Our favorite was Sliding Rock, a natural rock water-slide landing in a pool of freezing mountain water. We also explored caves in the area, but the waterfalls were always my favorite.
Another spot that left an impression on me as a girl was the view from the top of North Mountain Rock near Orkney Springs, West Virginia. We spent several long weekends at Shrine Mont during my teenage years, and my parents still travel there several times a year.
If you haven't spent any time in the Appalachian Mountains I highly recommend making a trip there. There are so many hidden gems along the entire range, I've only listed a few here that we visited year after year. There are also many artisans who make a living making their handicrafts nestled within the mountains, sharing with me the concept of living as an artist inspired by the natural world.