When I say “WNC,” where and what is WNC? Skip this post if you already know.
While chatting with a friend in the U.K. about the flood that inundated her little farm just the other day, I realized that I didn’t know exactly where she was, where her part of the world fitted in with the rest of the world. Yorkshire? Derbyshire? I know these names only vaguely, and exactly where they are on the map of England, I do not know.
Did my friends in Europe, Australia and Asia feel the same way about my place, Western North Carolina?
For all of you, here is where I am:
North Carolina (abbreviated as “NC”) is one of America’s 50 states. American states divvy up and label territory just like Australian and Indian states or English counties do. North Carolina is located on the eastern coast (the Atlantic side) of the U.S., halfway between Florida and New York City. Either one is a day’s drive away. To put the breadth of America in perspective, driving from coast to coast takes three days, driving all day.
We have all four seasons here and the scenery is famous, especially in autumn when people come from all over the country to look at the mountains, which turn red and gold with the coming of fall. WNC holds part of the Appalachian mountain range, one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world. Unlike the steep, rocky Alps or the Rocky Mountains of the American West, the Appalachians are rounded and green, more like the Pennines. WNC is not as wet as England or Ireland, but we have a similar green lushness of vegetation (when we are not having a drought), especially in spring.
(Click the thumbnail to see some beautiful NC scenery. It really looks like this here.)
As well as mountains we have rivers, waterfalls, lakes and streams. Native wildlife includes black bears, whitetail deer, rabbits, foxes, squirrels, snakes and even native panthers called mountain lions.
WNC’s true human natives are the Cherokee, a Native American people.
Cherokee people still live here (in fact the headquarters of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee nation is just a few hours away), and plenty of white people here have Cherokee ancestry. The first Europeans here were Spaniards with Hernando de Soto. The Native American population suffered from disease brought by the Spaniards and, most notoriously, from the infamous government-sanctioned forced relocation to Oklahoma called the Trail of Tears. European settlement — mostly, to my understanding, by the Irish, the Scottish and the Germans — began in the 1700s.
WNC is a mountainous, geographically isolated area. Which, unfortunately, always means a vein of isolationism and ignorance. If you’ve ever heard of the “hillbilly” stereotype (or of the hillbilly’s more modern cousin, the redneck), both are commonly applied to some NC natives.
Obviously people aren’t stupid just because they’re from Appalachia, but in years past geographic isolation did indeed confer ignorance. The stereotypes remain today, with geographical isolation as their root cause. Unfortunately a lot of ignorance remains as well.
According to Wikipedia, my town of Asheville is about 78% white (including a growing immigrant Ukrainian community), 18% black and 4% Hispanic, with people from all over thrown in. (Currently Asheville is less than 1% Native American.) About 16% of the population of Asheville lives below the poverty line. The population is about 72,000, and we have a state university and (yes) an airport.
WNC is known nationally as an adventure destination due to its rivers and mountains, which offer skiing, fishing, hiking, whitewater rafting…the works. This is a truly wonderful place to live, which is why I post sometimes against the overdevelopment that threatens it.
If you want to tell your own readers about where you are in the grander geographic scheme, consider yourself tagged — and if you do, please, please leave a comment with a link!