WRL-Asheville along the Tennessee Scenic Highway

With the forsythia blooming golden against the Carolina blue sky, we set out from Asheville Sunday noon. Our first stop was the Sunny Bank Inn and retreat center in Hot Springs, NC where we found Elmer Hall pulling a load of laundry from the washer as other staff sat down to Sunday dinner. Elmer’s mountain Victorian Inn is famous with hikers on the Appalachian Trail, with as many as 800 a year stopping in for hospitality.

“I’ve been a member of WRL since the 1970s,” Elmer told us as we explained our mission to connect with activists and organizers in the S.E. and renew WRL presence on the ground. “Where has WRL been for the past ten years?” he asked. “It’s the veterans against the war that seem to be doing the most work.” He took some literature, and pointed out the WRL pie chart pasted on his kitchen door. Elmer’s not on the Internet but his Inn is a crossroads and his kitchen table a geographic mix of young people engaged in lively conversation. He’s interested in having his Inn serve as a “forward outpost ” for Western North Carolina mountain folks. He asked to be kept up with our work and supplied with literature for through hikers.
Our travels retraced my steps of a few years back on the Asheville to Oak Ridge Buddhist Peace Walk that will this year begin near Newport, Tenn. at the Peace Pagoda and walk to the gates of the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Cherry trees bloomed all along the Tennessee scenic highway and the graceful sway of willow fronds just greening along the river bank. A weathered gray barn cautioned, “Get Right With God,” and a Harley biker”s jacket read “Blood Brothers of Tennessee” sporting an embroidered angel with blood red wings holding crossed pistols with a cross bow slung over its shoulder.

Along the Purple Heart Trail on Highway llE into New Market we arrived at Highlander, the famous popular education center in late afternoon, just in time for a walk about with director Pam McMichael and a dinner at home with Guy and Candie Carawan, ground breaking musicians of the Civil Rights and social justice movements.

Look forward to reading about our Knoxville adventures next post…

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