IN THE BEGINNING: Reputed to be the third oldest river in the world, the French Broad has gone from a polluted industrial dumping ground to a key cog in Western North Carolina’s outdoor and tourism industries. This renaissance is a result of government, nonprofit, and individual efforts to improve water quality throughout the watershed. Photo by Mike Belleme; courtesy of Transylvania Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Development Authority

Communitie­s along Upper French Broad work to restore water quality

In this two-part series, Xpress invites you on a guided a trip down the river as we examine the work of various communities to write the next chapter in the French Broad’s history, beginning with Transylvania and Henderson counties.

IT'S EVERYWHERE: A view of Chimney Rock surrounded by kudzu. Photo courtesy of Chimney Rock State Park

Krazy with Kudzu looks at good and bad of invasive vine

While pretty much everyone agrees kudzu is a big problem across the South, there seem to be as many philosophies for dealing with it as there are leaves on the vines. At Chimney Rock State Park’s Krazy with Kudzu event on Aug. 12, park visitors can learn about a variety of approaches to living with — or destroying — the pervasive plant.

LIVING THE DREAM: “It’s a wonderful thing to wake up and stand in your underwear overlooking the mountains,” says van-lifer “Mr. Wolf,” embracing the great outdoors beside his van on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Hokey Pokey

Van life: What happens when the road leads to Asheville?

Rising housing costs, a longing for travel, the opportunity to leverage technology to work remotely: It’s not any one trend alone that’s driving a resurgence of interest in life on the road. Our correspondent looks at the van life phenomenon through the lens of its connections to Asheville and Western North Carolina.

FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME: John Stevenson has been hand-crafting his Penobscot 14 sailboat named "Sweet Dreams" since 2005. He's seen here, nearly two and a half years ago, celebrating the point of construction in which he rolls the boat over--a rollover is a major milestone in the life of a wooden boat, as they're typically built upside down.  Photo courtesy of John Stevenson

Setting sail: Launch of hand-crafted sailboat to follow 11-year build

The launch ceremony for John Stevenson’s hand-built wooden sailboat will take place at 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 29, at the Asheville Sailing Club at Lake Julian Park, 406 Overlook Road Extension, Arden. The ceremony is free, open to the public and non-alcoholic drinks will be provided. Stevenson recommends coming early to inspect the boat pre-launch and staying later for an opportunity to sail.

FOOD OR FAMINE: In the event of a natural disaster that disrupts commercial food supplies, Western North Carolina will need to develop alternative ways to grow nutritious and diverse crops, such as community gardens or neighborhood greenhouses. Photo by Cindy Kunst

Local food resilience programs plan for future disasters

A coalition of local food activists, resilience planners and city of Asheville staffers are asking a hard question: In the event of a major disaster that disrupts the food supply for more than a few days, what will people in Western North Carolina eat? A recent workshop looked for answers to that question and brainstormed strategies for collaborative solutions for securing the region’s food supply in hard times.

FROM THE TOP: While geocachers are usually looking for small containers stashed in precise locations, this group of local geocachers scoured an area above the Beaucatcher Cut to remove trash from the area a few years ago. The photographer, geocacher Graeme McGufficke, notes that the area is no longer accessible by foot. Photo by Graeme McGufficke

Geocaching community finds its way to Waynesvill­e

Less than 20 years old, geocaching is a new sport that’s gained a lot of ground in its short existence. Western North Carolina is prime territory for geocachers, who use GPS devices to find and hide containers stashed in precise locations around the world. The Haywood County Fairgrounds will host one of the country’s premier geocaching events on Saturday, May 27.