I am enjoying my summer so far. Walking every morning with my neighbor, reading a ton of new books, teaching summer writing classes, and eating chocolate ice cream has been very relaxing. But now that August is here, I’m thinking about planning a mini-vacation to a destination that sounds fun. I want to try new experiences so that I can write about them for future columns.
I’m contemplating a long weekend type of trip. Europe is out. So is the West Coast. I’ve visited the South on numerous vacations over the years. One road trip from Eastern Tennessee to Western North Carolina with my friend, Ellen, was quite memorable. Toward the end of that trip, we stayed at a bed and breakfast in Brevard, N.C. The nights were so quiet that you could hear cows mooing in the adjacent farm fields. During the day, we hiked in Pisgah National Forest, famous for its natural waterslide.
On our last day, we drove just over the border towards Greeneville, S.C. to find a hiking trail to a waterfall. The day was hot and cloudy. No other cars were parked at the trail entrance. We hiked for about 20 minutes enjoying the forest sounds of crunching twigs under our hiking boots and the whine of mosquitoes. In the distance, a low roaring sound grew louder. We could hear the roaring of the falls before we could see anything. After another 15 minutes, we looked up from the dirt path to see a majestic cascading waterfall. We climbed onto a wooden viewing platform to take in the spectacular sights and sounds. Paradise!
Greeneville was recently named a top “foodie” destination. In addition to dozens of restaurants and a quaint walkable downtown, Greeneville is home to the 355-foot Liberty suspension bridge in Falls Park with views of gorgeous waterfalls. Are these the same falls that we had discovered on our hike years ago? I decided to search online to see if anything else was happening in Greeneville in August.
Googling around on my computer looking for “unusual festivals in the U.S.” brought several possibilities. While Greeneville will be hosting the annual Danish Festival in August at Falls Park, two other Southern festivals seemed more intriguing. On Aug. 18, Austin, Texas, will host the 14th annual Bat Fest. At this unique tourist attraction, visitors gather on the Congress Avenue Bridge to await the emergence of more than 1.5 million Mexican free-tailed bats. The largest urban bat colony in North America resides underneath this bridge. At dusk, the bats begin their nightly flight into the sky. The bat colony is so huge that it can take up to 30 minutes for the flapping, swirling horde of bats to emerge and head out into the night sky.
In addition to the live horror movie experience of staring up at an endless black roiling cloud of bats, Bat Fest features music, food vendors, bat trinkets and souvenirs. Bat Fest is a prime example of the unusual and quirky happenings that Austin is famous for, as proudly proclaimed by those “Keep Austin Weird” T-shirts.
If I wait until September, I can head down to Marlinton, W.V., for the annual West Virginia Roadkill Cook-Off and Autumn Harvest Festival. This two-day event, Sept. 28 and 29 in Pocahontas County, features West Virginia crafts as well as mouth-watering selections including bear chili, deer sausage and squirrel gravy over homemade biscuits. Since I am a vegetarian, food tastings are out, but I bet the festival will be awesome for people watching!
Kim Kovach is always on the look-out for story ideas. Most of the time, you don’t even need to travel too far to find them! Please visit her website at kimkovachwrites.com.