Head to head: Visit mountains over spring break

Illustration by Kate Benn / The Daily Gamecock

If you are getting together your last minute plans for spring break, the nearby mountains are not only beautiful but also a great place to get out into nature, shop artisanal and historical souvenirs or just disconnect and relax. Consider opting out of the typical spring break beach trip in favor of a vacation to the Blue Ridge.

According to the Britannica, the Blue Ridge is a section of the Appalachian Mountains that runs through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas and Georgia, including peaks such as Grandfather Mountain and Sassafras Mountain. Named for the blue hue that colors the mountains from a distance, the Blue Ridge plays host to various overlooks, waterfalls and lakes. 

Robin Jarvis’ post “11 Places to visit in South Carolina When The Mountains Are Calling Your Name,” on the website Only in Your State, lists Falling Waters Scenic Byway, Caesar’s Head State Park, Devil’s Fork State Park and Jones Gap State Park for their beautiful views and scenic mountain waterways you can't find in low country South Carolina.

The Blue Ridge mountains are home to many great hiking and biking trails, which normally culminate in an overlook where visitors can reflect on how far they’ve come and admire the view. These unparalleled views are unique to each perspective you look from, whereas looking at the sea on a beach trip is much the same from any direction you look at it. Travis Hall’s post “6 Must-Do Hikes in the South Carolina Upcountry” on Blue Ridge Outdoors highlights some trails with absolutely picturesque overlooks and waterfalls.

The Blue Ridge mountains play host to various artisans and their shops if you are looking to admire woodworking, art or antiques. The Blue Ridge Travel Guide’s list of shops includes a good mix of rustic artisanal products, specialty repair shops and souvenir and gift shops, which give an altogether quaint, but rugged, small town vibe. Many of these towns also have various artisanal restaurants and breweries.

For those of age willing to go the extra mile, Asheville, North Carolina, is called the “The Brewery Capital of America” by the Travel Pulse website. The article talks about “The Downtown Brewery Triangle,” where there are 10 breweries within walking distance that cater to a wide variety of tastes, both in beer and in atmosphere.

The Blue Ridge’s rich history heavily informs its art scene. The communities there were created by people who were willing to build their lives away from the creature comforts shipped in from England. Their imaginative, strong-willed spirit remains in the region. The Blue Ridge National Heritage website lists 18 galleries, including the Asheville Art Museum and the Stecoah Valley Cultural Arts Center, that display the proud traditions and artistry of the region. 

To me, the mountains have always been nostalgic, peaceful and inspiring. I remember going up there as a kid in the summer with my family. We would listen to an audiobook on the way up and just take a weekend to disconnect from our busy lives and visit family members. Whenever we went to the beach, we seemed to be rushing around, but when we visited the mountains, we got to relax and spend time together without a lot of extra distractions. 

Because cell phone signals can be spotty in the mountains, visitors can take the opportunity to turn off their phones, find an isolated spot and really engage with their friends and the environment around them without the normal distractions. Where crowds are almost ubiquitous at the beach, the mountains are the best place to find a peaceful retreat.

For college students who are just getting off studying for exams and writing discussion posts, taking a trip to the mountains is the perfect opportunity to read that book you’ve been holding onto for the longest time, or sketch or do whatever you’ve been passionate about doing but haven’t had the time to do in Columbia.

The mountains of South and North Carolina are a great place for college students to escape the constant busyness of student life while embracing nature and history.

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