Business notepad

Mo better trails

“I may as well have driven to Australia,” says Betty Hurst of HandMade in America, talking about the 12,000 miles she drove through the North Carolina mountains in the course of updating The Craft Heritage Trails of Western North Carolina.

“But it was worth it,” she adds. “We revisited everybody’s place and added over 200 new listings — of craft studios, shops, restaurants and places to stay. As some indication of what’s happening out there, this book will be 100 pages longer than the last one.”

The first two editions of the guide sold 40,000 copies, says Hurst, adding that the book “stands as the definitive guide to open-studio art and craft in the mountains.”

The book details eight “blue highway” tours, all of them loops and most offering easy links to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

All told, the tours cover more than 1,000 miles of back roads and scenic byways from Murphy to Sparta, including the most mountainous counties in the eastern U.S. One tour, “Circle the Mountain,” literally encircles Mount Mitchell (the highest peak east of the Mississippi) and also includes a visit to the campus and studios of Penland School of Crafts.

“String of Pearls,” new in this edition, begins in Black Mountain, travels south to Lake Lure and Tryon, then north to Saluda, ending up in Hendersonville.

Each tour section includes an introductory narrative, a route map with stops indicated by symbols, and a collection of in-depth listings embroidered with photos and insights for the traveler.

“The fascinating thing about this book is how amazing each artist’s individual story is and how that story gets into his or her work,” says Jay Fields, who researched and wrote the guide with Hurst. “This book is really a testament to passionate lives well-lived.”

The third edition of the guide is available for sale at travel-information centers, chambers of commerce and bookstores throughout the region. It can also be ordered directly from HandMade in America by calling (800) 331-4154 or by visiting their Web site (www.handmadeinamerica.org). Individual copies cost $19.95 plus shipping.

To qualify for inclusion in the guide, studios must offer visiting hours, galleries must carry regional art, restaurants should serve foods and fixings from the area, and inns and B&Bs should be historic and architecturally significant.

Internet access for all

No matter where you live in North Carolina, you can now get free or low-cost Internet access. The e-NC Initiative recently announced that public Internet-access sites are now available in all 100 North Carolina counties The N.C. General Assembly has required the agency to make high-speed Internet access available to all North Carolinians by December 2003.

Additionally, e-NC has launched a searchable database to help citizens locate public Internet-access sites in their areas. Using the database, citizens can view the sites in each county or an alphabetical listing of the more than 450 documented sites across the state. For each site, the database lists such information as the address, phone number, hours of operation, type and speed of Internet connections available, and cost, if any, of using the site. Many sites also offer computer training.

“Public Internet-access sites are an essential component of bringing high-speed connectivity to all North Carolinians,” says Dr. James Leutze, chairman of the Rural Internet Access Authority, which is leading the e-NC Initiative. “At the sites, people are getting connected to the information, resources and services they need to improve their lives, their communities and their futures. The opportunities are unlimited, and now they are available to everyone.”

The Authority also recently announced more than $3 million in grants for Internet-infrastructure projects in Western North Carolina. This latest round of funding will serve 15 counties: Alleghany, Ashe, Caldwell, Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Swain, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey.

The money will go to six groups — both public and private — for seven projects in the region. Award recipients include AdvantageWest, DukeNet Communications, GetOnTheAir, the Mountain Area Information Network, New River Community Partners, and Verizon.

To learn more about the Rural Internet Access Authority, the e-NC Initiative, or public Internet-access sites near you, visit www.e-NC.org, call 1-866-NCRURAL, or send an e-mail to info@e-nc.org.

Body/mind/soul adventures

When it comes right down to it, Life Centering Adventures is all about relationships — with ourselves and with the natural world. It’s also about two people’s passions and the way they’ve combined them to create a unique approach to outdoor adventure.

Longtime mountain guide/rock-climbing instructor Joseph Anderson has climbed and backpacked all over North America, from Alaska to Mexico, as well as in the Indian Himalayas.

“It’s my passion; it’s what I love to do,” he explains. “I’ve worked with highly technical clients … and I’ve done a lot of easier, low-to-the-ground rock climbing. … I’ve loved it all. I love bringing adventure into people’s lives.”

His wife, Michelle Anderson, has been a certified Sivananda yoga instructor for many years and has studied throughout the United States and India; she’s also an experienced backpacker, having hiked throughout the U.S. and India.

“She’s good at it,” notes Joseph proudly. “I started to get involved in yoga [through] her.”

When the Andersons began to practice yoga before they went rock climbing or during backpacking trips, they discovered that “it just made so much sense,” explains Joseph. “It makes it so much easier to do these outdoor activities when you’re centered through yoga.”

The 5,000-year-old discipline, he notes, is about “gaining a relationship between your mind and your body.” The athletic world, continues Joseph, “is starting to find out about the benefits of yoga. Top athletes from all over the world — from rock climbers, mountain climbers to Olympic athletes to runners, all kinds of athletes — are starting to implement yoga into their training.”

Part of that trend, he explains, has to do with the links between the mental and the physical. “There’s a lot of research pointing towards the benefits of meditation in physical training,. [It’s] not just gritting your teeth and going for it. You actually need to do a lot of visualization and learn how to relax your body and get that mind/body combination before you set off.”

For the Andersons, starting their own outdoor-adventure business was the culmination of a long-standing dream. And when they launched Life Centering Adventures this spring, they knew they wanted to incorporate yoga.

That combination, notes Joseph, “is kind of new … so we’re not expecting that to take off right away. But it’s what we’re excited about.”

Even on a straight rock-climbing trip, he reports, “I would probably have everyone do at least a 10-minute yoga stretch before getting on the rock. It just makes things work better.”

A more yoga-intensive outing, he explains, “would entail a two-hour yoga session in the morning, and then we would hike into the climb. What that does is it causes the mind to more profoundly integrate with the body. … You learn how to relax, to focus, to shift your body around before getting on the rock. It’s actually pretty neat how it works.”

They’ll also offer multi-day yoga trips in midsummer “up on the balds, the grassy summits, of the higher Blue Ridge,” says Joseph. “Sometimes it can be as much as 15, 20 degrees cooler up there. It’s a really pleasant place to be. We try to re-create the feeling of an ashram, the peace and quiet, but in a camping environment.”

Each day will include two-hour yoga sessions in the morning and evening. The rest of the time, participants will be free to reflect, take walks, hike, read or do whatever they’d like.

And then there are the two- to five-day combination trips that offer backpacking, rock climbing and yoga. “

“That’s a fun, just really big, full adventure,” promises Joseph. “You have to be ready to do some stuff!”

The Life Centering Adventures Web site describes these expeditions as follows: “[An] activity or a combination of activities that brings the participants towards a deep sense of satisfaction and joy within themselves, with their companions and with the environment.”

Adventures can be tailored to fit the needs of individuals, groups, and families with children as young as 9 months. In fact, the Andersons will even provide support staff who can engage kids in other fun activities in addition to or instead of climbing and yoga.

The business holds special-use permits for the Pisgah National Forest which require insurance, guide qualifications, first-aid and emergency-response certification. The Andersons’ wilderness-camping and travel excursions embody a leave-no-trace philosophy.

Adventures range from one to five days and cost $85-$125 per participant per day (more for a private trip). The fee includes food, instruction and all camping, backpacking and climbing gear. Day hikes cost $110 for the first person, $45 for each additional participant.

For more information or a schedule of planned trips, call 712-4994, or visit the Life Centering Adventures Web site (www.lifecenteringadventures.com).

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