In today's overly connected 24/7 society, it can be difficult to find quality time with your spouse, kids and friends — let alone yourself. But carving out some quiet “me” time should be on everyone’s priority list, and even a few minutes flying solo can deliver big benefits. 

“Solitude is an intentional period of time set aside to reconnect with yourself,” says Rachel Astarte, psychotherapist, certified life coach and author of Celebrating Solitude: How to Discover and Honor Your Highest Self (Green Oracle Press, 2012). “Ideally, it is designed to recharge your batteries so that you can give back to the world.”

. Oxygen Magazine

For some people, however, solitude is uncomfortable. Maybe you have FOMO (fear of missing out) or feel guilty prioritizing yourself over others or equate being alone to being punished — e.g., being sent to your room as a kid. Regardless, Astarte recommends giving it a go. Here’s why.

You'll gain clarity. Solitude allows you to clear your mind of mental chatter and get to the root of a problem or issue without distractions from the outside world, according to Astarte.

You'll boost creativity. “In true creative mode, the only voice we need to hear is our own,” Astarte says. “It is this clarity of mind that allows us to open ourselves to the vastness of possibility.”

You'll reduce stress. “Stress causes our bodies to enter into the protective fight, flight or freeze mode, which is regulated by cortisol,” Astarte explains. Intentional solitude, wherein you practice what gives you joy, keeps you in a safe state of calm so your stress hormones are not triggered.

You'll connect with your spirituality. “Solitude allows us to rediscover the most elevated, most spiritually evolved self we can be,” Astarte says. “It gives us time to re-familiarize ourselves with the innate spark carried within us.”

You'll renew your energy. Giving to others all the time — while rewarding — also can be draining. “It’s like having a party and filling everyone’s glass with an empty pitcher — there is simply not enough to give,” Astarte says. Giving to yourself can help replenish your energy stores so you can return to life with a full tank.

How to Go It Alone

Solitude might not come naturally to you, but you can improve with practice. Start with five minutes a day and gradually work your way up to 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. Here are some tips from Astarte for additional guidance.

  • Go offline. Put down your phone and disconnect from social media. This severs the continual inundation of others’ energy and allows you to properly connect to your own.
  • Pick a place. Create a space for your solitude practice such as a spot outdoors where you can reconnect to nature or a quiet room in your home.
  • Find your joy. Do what you love to do most during this time with yourself, whether it’s reading, dancing, sketching, meditating, taking a bath or going on a long walk.
  • Write it out. Journaling is a powerful tool for self-connection. It holds all your thoughts and feelings and can become an extension of you.
  • Release your guilt. Take this time for you and feel good about it, knowing that ultimately it will make you a better mother, wife, friend and work colleague.

Written by Jill Schildhouse for Oxygen Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Oxygen Magazine









Hello friends and supporters, it is a heavy time that calls for drastic measures in order to ensure the safety of our community and beyond. In our little mountain town we very much rely on our out of town visitors and are eternally grateful for their support year after year. The downtown businesses, events, charities, & organizations that we all love thrive on such outside support. Please stay united in these efforts to protect our local community while practicing social distancing. We are looking forward to the day when we can ALLenjoy the beauty our area has to offer, but in the meantime, we urge everyone to stay home as much as possible. Maintain social distancing, stay put, and wash your hands.
The sooner we accomplish this together, the sooner we can all get back out there.

Please read this message from our friends and partners at Friends of DuPont State Forest and feel free to reach out with any concerns or help you may need. Stay safe everyone!
-Your friends at D.D. Bullwinkel’s Outdoors


DuPont State Recreational Forest is temporarily closed effective March 24, 2020.

Like many other public lands in Western North Carolina, DuPont Forest got hammered with visitors over the weekend. There were too many people unwilling to follow the social distancing guidelines putting the health of our community at risk.

We want to stress that the NC Forest Service did not take this decision lightly. They explored every option to keep the Forest accessible. They know how much we rely on our public lands and understand how important getting outside in the woods can help in a time of crisis. Given the crowds (and lack of social distancing) the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus in our community was just too high. We applaud them for taking the necessary steps to protect the community, staff, and first responders.

Friends of DuPont Forest has spent the last 20 years encouraging everyone to get outside and explore DuPont Forest and other public lands. Right now we encourage everyone to stay home, explore your backyard, and stay safe.

Please see the press release for more details. We’ll keep you updated and when this is all over we can’t wait to welcome you back!

Dear friends and supportive community,

This situation is ever changing. What we considered prudent yesterday, doesn’t feel the same today. For that reason, we are implementing changes immediately in order to help keep our employees and our community safe.

After careful consideration, we are temporarily closing our retail stores, D.D. Bullwinkel’s and MooseTracks Footwear at 6:00pm today. We believe that this is the right and ethical decision to help keep one another safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

We will be closed to the public until April 1st. At that time we will reassess the situation and make a decision on our next steps.

What does this mean?
Our store will have limited staffing available, on an as needed basis for picking up orders. You may make inquiries via Facebook messaging. Please give us adequate time to respond and assist you. We want to be able to help take care of your needs as much as possible, but we also want our staff and you to be safe.

This is a difficult decision for any business, and we know it’s impactful for our employees and their families. We are doing our best to stay focused with their best interests in mind.

We appreciate your trust and your business. We hope that you will remember that is a stressful time for everyone, so please be patient and take a little extra grace as you communicate and interact with your family, doctors, care providers, service clerks and all humans that you engage with during these difficult days.

We are selling gift certificates that can be used at a future time. 100% of all proceeds from gift certificate sales will go directly to support our employees and their families.
You may call Rocky’s to make this purchase, at 828-877-5375; 11am-5pm.

Our other location, Rocky’s Grill & Soda Shop will continue to be open for to-go meals, curbside pick-up, and deliveries.
Rocky’s will be open 7-Days a Week, 11am to 5pm for now.
When and if this changes, we will use social media and email communication to let you know.
The state of NC has mandated strict rules for us to follow.
No one can come into the restaurant.
We ask that you call in your orders to 828-877-5375; make your payment on the phone; and when your order is ready, we will deliver it to you curbside. We have reserved spaces in front of the store for you.

We will get through this together, and we all need one another. We continue to be ever grateful that we are a part of your community family, and we want you to know that you matter to us.

The Perkins Family

Long days of sunshine are returning to Blue Ridge Mountains, and a thousand shades of green are returning to the forests, growing brighter with each day. Spring is a beautiful time to live in Asheville, as the surrounding mountains burst to life with wildflowers and roaring rivers. You might find yourself with what feels like an unending reserve of energy, wanting to sprint to the summit of Mount Mitchell and back again before you’ve even had your morning coffee. Here are five active and exhilarating ways to welcome the new season.

1. Mountain Bike to Bridal Veil Falls

Behind the Veil at
Behind the Veil at David Clarke

There are a few ways to access the impressive, 120 foot granite slide of Bridal Veil Falls, but the one we recommend is Corn Mill Shoals Trail. Because of a precarious river crossing, this trail is guaranteed to never get too crowded. You will wind through picturesque Eastern Hardwoods with some brief but trying climbs before taking a moderately steep, straight downhill to the base of the falls. The trail is rutted with roots, rocks, and patches of mud, but nothing near as technical as you would find in neighboring Pisgah.

Enjoy the quiet and solitude that you will find on this 2.75 mile trail (one way), as Bridal Veil Falls is a very popular destination. Curtaining down a steep hillside of pure rock, they are a spectacular site to behold, something you might expect to find out West instead of tucked away in Appalachia. You may recognize them from The Last of the Mohicans and, more recently, The Hunger Games.

The good news, however, is that of all the waterfalls in DuPont, this one requires the most hiking to access, saving you from the carnival-crowds of the roadside Triple Falls and High Falls.

Park your bike at the base of the falls—racks are provided and we highly recommend locking them up—and then scramble up the sun warmed slab till you've reached the ten foot drop. Here, provided the water is not too high, you can actually climb behind the veil and explore the falls from the inside out.

2. Sip a cider at Westside Fest

A sunny day cider at Urban Orchards in West Asheville.
A sunny day cider at Urban Orchards in West Asheville. Melina Coogan

What better way to celebrate the arrival of spring then a good old fashion neighborhood block party? West Side Fest is the annual West Asheville craft beer and craft cider festival, held on May 24 th in the courtyard of Urban Orchards Cider Company . A ticket includes unlimited cider and beer tasters from the neighborhood breweries of Oyster House, Wedge, Altamont, and New Belgium.

Customize your brew with a mobile flavor infuser, featuring fruit, spices, and French Broad Chocolate. Heaping plates of local BBQ and ice cream from the HOP—including the brewery inspired flavors of creamy porter, sweet malty IPA, and cider sorbets—will be available as well.

3. Hunt for Wildflowers at Graveyard Fields

Asheville in bloom
Asheville in bloom Bobistraveling

When long sunny days return to Western Carolina, oceans of wildflowers bloom throughout the Blue Ridge Mountains, carpeting the forest floor and painting the fields with vibrant hues. In April, white Dogwood and Painted Trillium will be in full bloom, along with the delicate pinks of Redbuds, Pinkshell Azaleas, and Pink Lady Slippers and tiny blue Phacelia. May brings Mountain Laurel, Flame Azalea, Violets, and Wild Cherry.

Graveyard Fields, located off of milepost 418.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, is one of the most popular hikes in the area for wildflower hunting. This moderate, 3.4-mile loop trail cuts through open grassy meadows of a high, flat mountain valley that bloom knee deep with wildflowers. Wrap-around views of rippling Appalachian peaks and the unusual appearance of mossy, overgrown stumps create a gorgeous and unique experience for hikers in any season.

4. Take a plunge at Midnight Hole 

The icy waters along the Big Creek Trail
The icy waters along the Big Creek Trail Steven Reinhold

Hit the reset button and wash off the last remnants of winter by taking a dip at Midnight Hole on Big Creek . Named for its dark, sparkling water, this classic Southeast swimming hole is located on the Tennessee/North Carolina state line, just inside the boundaries of Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

An easy 1.4- mile hike on an old railroad grade will lead you to the pool, fed at one end by a cascade of water tumbling through rocks. The water stays very cold even throughout the summer, but the surrounding boulders are so perfect for climbing and jumping off—you won’t be able to resist taking the first plunge of the year. Afterwards, when you’re feeling refreshed and revived, continue a half-mile up to the trail to see the spectacular, 45 foot Mouse Branch Falls.

5. Do Yoga at Max Patch

Warrior Pose on the grassy summit of Max Patch.
Warrior Pose on the grassy summit of Max Patch. David Clarke

Do a little spring cleaning of your mind and soul by taking your yoga practice to the summit of Max Patch . This grassy, flowering bald is the ideal place to lie in Savasana and recharge your battery after a dark and rainy winter. Mountain views roll out in all directions, including the Black Mountain Range and Smoky Mountain National Park.

The summit is a quick ten minute jaunt from the parking lot, so pack your yoga matt, a water bottle, and a book and stay all day. Max Patch is a popular destination especially on the weekends, but a brief sojourn on the Appalachian Trail in either direction can award you 360 degrees of sunny, green solitude.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Jeff Bartlett

It's hard to deny the lure of mountain fire towers, with their place in history as guardians of the forest, and the intrigue of the solitary, beatnik existence of the watchmen who were once posted within them. Like lighthouses, these imposing structures still hold a certain element of mystery and nostalgia, and nowhere can you find a more spectacular view of the many mountain ranges that make up the Southern Appalachians. Here, five fire towers to explore in Western Carolina.

1. Shuckstack Firetower

Western Great Smoky Mountains

Looking out Shuckstack Fire Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Looking out Shuckstack Fire Tower in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Zachary Andrews

Standing at the top of Shuckstack Lookout Tower is easily one of the most dramatic and alluring experiences that you'll find on any mountaintop in the Southeast. Sixty feet in the air, swaying gently but perceivably in the wind, you feel as if you're standing inside a fixed mountain gondola. Through wraparound picture windows, you can spot the deep blue waters of Fontana Lake nestled inside the Smokies, as well as the full breadth of the Unicoi, Nantahala, and Blue Ridge Mountains.

Shuckstack Tower is located on a spur that juts off of the Appalachian Trail. The hike ascends a total of 2,100 feet in 3.5 miles, with the bulk of the steep terrain covered in the first 2.4 miles. After that, the trail evens out for an enjoyable mile, before turning sharply upwards again for the final scramble.

Take caution as you make your way to the top, as the tower has fallen into disrepair. A couple of broken steps and a section of missing railing are precarious illustrations of how the modern era has abandoned these dignified structures. Shuckstack is one of only three fire towers still standing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When they eventually succumb to weather and age, there will be no way for visitors to climb straight into the sky, and the views from the top will belong once again to the birds.

2. Greenknob Lookout Tower

Northern North Carolina Blue Ridge Crest 

Looking down from Green Knob Lookout Tower.
Looking down from Green Knob Lookout Tower. Michael Sprague

The Green Knob Lookout is a quick dash from milepost 350.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, just north of Mt. Mitchell State Park . The half-mile trail is overgrown and nearly hidden, which saves it from the crowds that often gather at notable points along the Parkway. If you're looking for a more substantial hike, begin at the Black Mountain Campground. From here, the trail totals 6.6 miles out and back.

Built by the USFS in 1931, the Green Knob Lookout is included in the National Register of Historic Places. It is located along the Eastern Continental Divide, perched atop the 5,080 foot summit of Green Knob Mountain. On a clear day, the tower affords breathtaking views of the Black and Great Craggy mountain ranges and the Piedmont of North Carolina, with the distinguished profiles of Table Rock and Grandfather Mountains rising in the distance. Due to its height and convenient proximity to the parking area, Green Knob is a fantastic spot to catch a sunset.

3. Mt. Cammerer

Eastern Great Smoky Mountains

The majestic Cammerer Lodge.
The majestic Cammerer Lodge. McDowell Crrok

It's a burly 5.5 miles to reach the octagonal lookout tower on the summit of Mt. Cammerer , a mountain that straddles the state line of Tennessee and North Carolina. Your journey begins with three miles of steep switchbacks on the Low Gap Trail, ascending 2,000 feet before intersecting with the Appalachian Trail. The terrain then levels out along a scenic ridge line, with tantalizing views of the Cosby Creek and Toms Creek Valleys to keep you motivated. The final leg involves a scramble up a rocky spur as you approach Mt. Cammerer's rugged summit.

This particular tower was constructed in the Western style, meaning that instead of rising above the trees on wooden stilts, the cab sits on a sturdy foundation of massive, hand-cut stone. Until the 1960s, rangers inhabited the tower in two week shifts from October and December, and again from February till May. It must have been a peaceful existence for the watchmen, observing autumn descend and spring bloom over the Pigeon River Gorge.

You can claim a few moments of tranquility for yourself inside the glassed-in cabin, with a panoramic view that includes Snowbird Mountain, the tower-topped summit of Mt. Sterling, and the Great Smoky Mountains unfurling in the Southwest.

4. Wayah Bald

Nantahala Mountains

Dramatic views from Wayah Bald.
Dramatic views from Wayah Bald. US Forest Service – Southern Region

Until 1945, watchmen would inhabit the old stone lookout on Wayah Bald for two months at a time, sleeping in narrow, drop-down beds fixed to the wall and cooking over a wood stove. Their regiment involved walking the second-story wooden catwalk that surrounded their sparse dwelling, searching day and night for the flicker of flames or the dark halo of smoke rising above the mountains.

Of course, the human history of this area dates back long before the tower's construction in 1937. Waya is the Cherokee word for wolf. Red wolves used to roam across the mountain's bald summit, and spear points dating back longer than 11,000 years have been discovered scattered in the ground.

Today, the upper stories have been removed, and the stone structure that remains looks like something that was lifted from a mediaeval landscape and dropped in the Southern Appalachians. A wrap-around staircase descends from the top of the tower to a wide stone patio, providing panoramic mountain views that span all the way into Georgia. It's not unusual to see a bride and groom gleefully posing for photos on the patio, taking advantage of this spectacular vista.

Wayah Bald rises 5,342 feet out of the Nantahala National Forest, just outside of Franklin, NC. The tower is accessible via the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail, which stretches for 115 miles between North Georgia and Cheoah Bald in North Carolina. You can park very near to the trail for a quick jaunt to the summit, or begin at Wilson Lick Ranger's Station for a lovely 3 mile hike on the AT.

5. Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

Great Balsam Mountains

At 70 feet tall, the Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower holds the distinction of tallest USFS lookout in Western North Carolina. The summit of Fryingpan rises high in the Great Balsam Range, topping out at 5,340 feet. As one might imagine, the view from this combined height is unparalleled—so far reaching, in fact, that the tower was actively used for fire detection well into the 1990s!

The top tower is locked, but five flights of steel stairs will bring you just below the platform where you can savor the spectacular vista. The mountains in the distance, including Cold Mountain and Mt. Pisgah to the North, feel right up close and personal. The Great Smoky Mountain National Park and the Shining Rock Wilderness are also visible to the North and Southwest, an incredible payoff for a quick and easy hike (1.5 mile round-trip) on a gravel road.

Written by Melina Coogan for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Featured image provided by Andrew Piazza