Navitat Canopy Adventures
Asheville, North Carolina
The iconic Blue Ridge Parkway in the Appalachian Mountains is a great place to get back to nature in North Carolina, and Navitat Canopy Adventures helps visitors explore the area above, below and in the treetops.
The experience is reminiscent of canopy tours in South America: Visitors ride zip lines, traverse sky bridges, rappel down trees and take hikes in the exploratory adventure.
Groups have several activity options: The Moody Cove Adventure is a hands-on experience where visitors learn new skills like steering and braking while on the zip line. For a more low-key experience, visitors can go on the Blue Ridge Experience, which includes an automated braking system, leaving time to see magnificent views of the surrounding mountains. A new tour opening this month features three side-by-side racing zip lines, the longest of which is 3,600 feet long.
Abby Burt, the branding and marketing leader at Navitat, said the tours offer a “minimally invasive, low-impact way to communicate to guests how to enjoy and preserve nature.”
Burt said visitors love the guides. One guide is appointed for every four guests, and all are trained in safety measures and educated about the forest. They are very passionate in talking about the 240-acre site, a rich cove environment that has some of the most biologically diverse plant species in Appalachia.
Everyone is encouraged to come out and experience this well-rounded adventure and, as Burt said, “feel like you’re in the Swiss Family Robinson.”
Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine
Franklin, North Carolina
In the Cowee Valley of North Carolina, the Cherokee Ruby and Sapphire Mine is an all-natural mine, not one that is “salted” or enriched with gems from outside the area. Guests are guaranteed that the gems they find are native to the area, whether they be rubies, sapphires, garnets, moonstones or other gems.
“The theory is that the mine is on the site of an ancient volcano,” said owner Raymond Montoya. “The highest quality gems come from here because they’re natural.”
The mine boasts a very old flume line that has been in operation since the late 1800s and that can seat more than 100 people. Visitors are educated about the native gems that are found in the area, including their historical and geological significance. Each visitor then gets a specialized screen and gravel to wash in the flume line, and assistants help them go through the cleaned rocks looking for precious pieces.
Hundreds of years ago, Native American children used the gems as ammunition for their slingshots, and Tiffany and Company owned the entire valley at one point, finding stones that were equal in quality to those found in Myanmar. Whether you find a $3 million ruby, as someone once did, or simply a few beautifully colored stones, the mine offers a sense of discovery for all ages.