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6 Reasons to Be Thankful You Live in Western North Carolina

Although it feels like we were jumping into swimming holes and running through green mountain trails yesterday, the trees are bare, the earth is hard with frost, and the holidays are upon us.

Although our gratitude is never limited to one season, those of us lucky enough to live in Western North Carolina — encompassed by the beauty of the Blue Ridge — should take this time as an opportunity to slow down and appreciate all that we have at our fingertips. Here are six wild and adventurous reasons to be thankful that we live in the North Carolina mountains.

1. The Highest Highs

Sunrise at Mt. Mitchell.
Sunrise at Mt. Mitchell.
Kolin Toney

So we’re all aware that we live just 19 miles northeast of Mt. Mitchell, the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. But how often do we stop to consider how truly awesome it is to be able to stand on the observation deck, 6,684 feet above sea level, and bask in the assurance that everyone on the East Coast is below us? How surreal it is that we can sit and enjoy a picnic atop the very throne of eastern North America? Then we ride back into town for coffee, catch a movie, or continue with our backpacking trip on the Mountains to Sea Trail — knowing that for one moment we stood hundreds of feet above everything and everyone, even those in the highest skyscrapers in New York City.

Mt. Mitchell was one of America’s very first state parks and it remains one of the most spectacular. It casually encompasses Mt. Craig, the second highest peak on the East Coast, and several other peaks that reach over 6,000 feet. The trail options range from short summit jaunts to challenging ridgeline treks to drive by vistas and the views are sensational.

2. The Lowest Lows

If on Saturday you stood atop the highest point on the East Coast, then why not round out the weekend by spending Sunday exploring the lowest?  Linville Gorge, the deepest canyon in the east, is an adventurer’s paradise. Linville Gorge Wilderness is the third largest swath of wilderness in North Carolina and boasts 11,786 acres of hiking, top-roping, multi-pitches, bouldering, backpacking, backcountry camping, swimming holes, extremely difficult whitewater, and phenomenal views.

Catch a sunset at Wiseman’s View, one of the most breathtaking vistas in the Southeast. Be home in time to make dinner and watch a little Netflix before bed. That’s just a typical day for the Ashevillian. If you need just one reason to feel thankful this season, let it be the Linville Gorge — the “Grand Canyon of the East” — just over an hour away.

3. You Never Have to Leave

A winter ride through Richmond Hill City Park.
A winter ride through Richmond Hill City Park.
Melina Coogan

Those of us who live in the mountains of Western North Carolina never need to know the agony of the glacial, day-by-day countdown toward that one coveted vacation each year, nor the bleak return to work after your one week of freedom has passed. There are swimming holes in the summer. Foliage in the autumn. Skiing (and paddling and bouldering) in the winter. Hiking in the spring. Asheville is a year-round vacation destination for those inclined toward joyful pursuits in the wilderness.

We have our share of dreary February days, but there’s never a shortage of adventure. Why plan a pricey tropical trip when the rivers are pumping, the mountains are sparkling in white, and the cold holds at Rumbling Bald are grippy as ever? And if you do find yourself in need of a weekend away, just burrow away in a farm cabin or country cottage for a few nights.

4. Variety

If variety is the spice of life, then Asheville has a five-star rating. We can barely keep track of all our ranks, ratings, and raves. Singletrack says Asheville is “a beer town with a mountain bike problem.” Outside voted us one of America’s Best River Towns. We’re also included in Yoga Journal‘s Top 10 Most Yoga Friendly Cities in the Country. Diamond Brand Outdoor is frequently ranked among the top outdoor stores in the country.

Start your day with a brisk trail run through Bent Creek, sneak in a little afternoon SUP on your lunch break, and hit the nearby boulders for a post-work session. As for weekends, the broad range of adventurous opportunities can be overwhelming — whether you’re hoping for a relaxing float, a casual hiking loop, the white-knuckled gory glory of intense mountain biking, or the off-the-charts pucker factor whitewater.

This season, every time you see a Subaru Outback loaded down with a boat and a mountain bike, the trunk overflowing with ropes and harnesses, take a moment to be grateful that as adventure loving “multi-potentialites” in WNC, we can have it all.

5. Our Commute is in a National Park

The Blue Ridge Parkway in Autumn.
The Blue Ridge Parkway in Autumn.
Brian Leon

There’s nothing quite so frustrating as being trapped in traffic on the way out to the mountains. The irony of being stuck in gridlock when you’re trying to get off the grid is enough to make some city dwellers forgo their weekend plans all together. Asheville is the biggest city in Western North Carolina and, sure, we see a bit of stop-and-go at rush hour. But we never have to wallow in traffic too long. In fact, many of our favorite outdoor destinations are found alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s longest national park. Orbitz Travel ranked taking a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway as number one on their list of Seven Things You Absolutely Must Try in a National Park. No big deal, that’s just our daily commute.

6. Romance

It doesn't get more romantic than Black Balsam Knob.
It doesn’t get more romantic than Black Balsam Knob.
Melina Coogan

Can we all take a moment and be grateful of how completely effortless it is to find wild and adventurous romance in the Blue Ridge Mountains? Nothing is more beautiful than watching the morning mist rise over the Shining Rock Wilderness or viewing the lights of the city from Elk Mountain. There’s no quarrel that can’t be cured by sharing a sunset somewhere along the Blue Ridge Parkway, no deal that can’t be sealed by a box of local chocolate truffles and a picnic at Max Patch. From active dates in the great outdoors to funky neighborhoods filled with weird neighbors, love is always in the air in WNC. Love and gratitude — the two essential ingredients to a life well-lived.

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Featured image provided by Melina Coogan

Crew Picks: Trail to Town Gifts

Having spent the last 20 years working with wildlife around the world, DBO crew member Emilie has high expectations for her outdoor gear. She’s a fan of quality clothing that’s tough enough to handle everything she throws at it on the trail, but versatile enough for everyday life.

Her advice on getting outside: “Invest in good quality clothing and gear. Layer, Layer, Layer. Avoid cotton especially close to the skin. Just get outside and be in nature. I feel I learn so much about myself and the environment every​ ​time I ​get out in the woods!”

Below are a few of Emilie’s favorite things to have + gift this season.


Icebreaker Oasis Merino Crew – $90.00
This awesome base layer is moisture wicking, warm, and doesn’t smell – even after several days of use!

 

Arc’teryx Atom LT Vest – $175.00
The perfect outer layer for warmer winter days or strenuous hikes. It’s designed with less bulk on the sides for easy layering.

Marmot Minimalist Rainshell – $189.00
This waterproof/breathable shell is super lightweight and has a flattering fit.

 

Buff Lightweight Merino – $31.99
Buffs are super versatile for outdoor pursuits. I wear this as a neck warmer on chili mornings. As I get warmed up, I move it up to a head/sweat band.

 

Kuhl Mova Pants – $89.00
I use these for everything – from hanging out to hiking up Shortoff Mountain. They’re super stretchy, supremely comfortable, and look awesome on everyone.

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What You Need to Know About Attending the Asheville Outdoor Show

The Asheville Outdoor Show makes its annual appearance on September 17 from noon to 4:00 p.m. at Salvage Station. Since we’re at a new spot, we figured you might have some questions. We’ve got answers.

Location

Salvage Station is located at 466 Riverside Drive in Asheville’s River Arts District, in between Downtown and West Asheville.

Parking

There is limited parking at Salvage Station. PLEASE plan to carpool, bike, walk, or take an Uber or Lyft.

Who To Expect

We’ve invited a mix of local gear makers, national innovators, and nonprofit organizations. Check out the full list!

Family Friendly

Bring the kids to the KEEN Family Adventure Zone for face painting, sidewalk chalk, and Camp Cedar Cliff‘s AH-MAZIN’ Climbing Wall.

Giveaways + Raffle

The first 1,000 folks through the door will receive exclusive discounts at Diamond Brand Outdoors and Frugal Backpacker including a $10 gear card to each store! Other booths will have stickers, keychains, and other fine schwag to collect. Everyone will have a shot at winning a handsome reward in the form of our raffle packages.

Contests

Stop by the Asheville Trails and Trailful tents for your shot at taking the top spot in a contest to pack a backpack the quickest. Marmot will also have contests that test your speed when it comes to pitching a tent and getting in and out of a sleeping bag.

Food and Drink

The venue has a full menu featuring eclectic Southern and Appalachian inspired choices and food trucks, as well as a full bar. Outside food and drink is not allowed.

Music

Local legends The Blue Dragons will be bringing positive vibes to the Osprey Outdoor Stage throughout the day.

Yoga

prAna is hosting 20-minute riverside yoga sessions at 12:30, 1:30, 2:30, and 3:30. Just bring your own mat!

Pets

From Salvage Station’s website: “Service animals only. We have a large number of natural wildlife animals around our site that we are trying to be respectful of in the coming years. Also, we plan to have several high volume events that would not be conducive to having large groups of animals here. We apologize for the inconvenience in advance.”

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Donate Your Eclipse Glasses

As Monday’s total solar eclipse passed through Western North Carolina, it offered a rare moment for friends and families to collectively enjoy an unique outdoors experience. In the days leading up to the big event, eclipse glasses were the hottest item in town. Now that the event has passed, we’re collecting your used eclipse glasses and donating them to Astronomers Without Borders and local schools. The glasses do not need to be those sold by Diamond Brand Outdoors.

Bring in your solar eclipse glasses by Monday, August 28, and we’ll give you a coupon for $5 off any purchase of $25 or more. Astronomers Without Borders has announced a program to collect the used glasses and distribute them to schools in South American and parts of Asia, which will experience their own eclipses in 2019.

Since we’re local, we’re also working with local school systems interested in used glasses for astronomy activities and experiments. If you’re an interested local educator, shoot us an email.

The lenses on eclipse glasses expire after three years, meaning they’re not safe to use when the next solar eclipse moves through eastern Canada, the central United States, and part of Mexico in 2024. Many locals are framing or preserving them as souvenirs of the celestial experience. Paper frames can be recycled, but you’ll need to remove the lenses. Specialty recyclers like camera stores may accept solar filters for recycling. Glasses with plastic frames are likely not recyclable.

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Demo + Clearance Boat Sale

Kids are heading back to classes and Labor Day is on the horizon. That means it’s time for our annual BIG Boat Sale. Don’t miss out on the chance to score major savings! We also have lots of accessories on sale including 25% off our entire stock of Astral PFDs.

Our demo boats include just about every kayak model we carried this year. They’ve been fully tested at our demo days on Lake Julian and through our demo rental program, but still have lots of miles left in them. Choose from boats by Liquidlogic, Hurricane, Native Watercraft, Perception, and Wilderness Systems.

Clearance boats are brand new and include discontinued colors and closeouts. In many cases, we only have one or two left.

UPDATED on August 31: Check out the inventory and prices for available boats below. Just click on the icon.

Demo Boat and Clearance Sale 2017 Updated

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Win $100 When You Shop

Summer’s here and the time is right for you to check out women’s new arrivals! Over the past several seasons, top players in the outdoor apparel market have spent time into specifically designing clothing, gear, packs, PFDs, and hiking boots to better fit women’s bodies. Gone are the days of just shrinking the size of something and pretending it addresses the needs of females in the outdoors.

We’re very excited about the apparel collection we’ve curated for the summer, so we’re offering am incentive to try it out. For every women’s clothing or clothing accessory item you purchase by July 5, you’ll be entered to win a gift card. We’ll give away three: $100, $50, and $25. This includes hundreds of items from Prana, Marmot, Patagonia, and more.

You can start by heading to our store in South Asheville’s Parkway Center (1378 Hendersonville Road, across from Carolina Day School) or browsing online. You can even hold items online and pick them up at the store. Our expert team is ready to show off our new arrivals and get you outdoors because Adventure Is Local!

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Soar Above the Green River Gorge

We hear people like free stuff so we’re giving away more of it this year! Make sure you’re signed up for our super duper fly emails to make sure you don’t miss any contests. This month, we’ve got an awesome package from two western North Carolina Originals: The Gorge and WNCW.

THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED

Touted as “America’s steepest, fastest” zipline canopy tour, The Gorge offers 11 lines spanning over one mile that descend 1,100 vertical feet for a wild ride. It’s a great view of North Carolina’s Green River Gorge, high above the treetops. Like Diamond Brand Outdoors, The Gorge was voted Best of the Blue Ridge by readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors.

You’ll also receive of a pair of WNCW Gear Packages: an insulated string bag, handmade mug, and earbuds!

On Oct. 13, 1989, radio station WNCW, whose call letters stand for Western North Carolina Window, first signed on the air as a a public radio station “for everyone.” Since that time, the station has become synonymous with the region it covers, programming a variety of music — folk, blues, jazz, reggae, Celtic, world, rock, bluegrass, indie — and local and National Public Radio affiliated news. It provides distinctive programming that transcends cultural, educational, or socioeconomic differences.

THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED

 

 

5 Summer Things to Do in Western North Carolina

Our little corner of the world offers amazing access to the outdoors, music and art, picturesque mountain main streets, and the best friends and neighbors anyone could ask for. While you may be headed to the beach or out of town for a summer vacation, there’s plenty of local adventure to occupy a weekend or an afternoon in Asheville and Western North Carolina. Grab your kayak, lace up the hiking boots, and make your summer bucket list.

May

While May technically falls within spring, Downtown After 5 serves as an unofficial start to summer in the city. Celebrating its 29th year, this monthly concert series from the Asheville Downtown Association began as a way to draw locals into a largely abandoned city center in the late 1980s. The first DA5 concert featured a Mardi Gras theme and, in a nod to that history, the May 19 concert features dynamic New Orleans funk and RnB band the High & Mighty Brass Band and local opening the Josh Phillips Big Brass Band. Why not make a day of it and explore the city’s history on the Asheville Urban Trail, stopping at galleries and public houses along the way?

June

Summer officially arrives on June 21. What better way to celebrate than by participating in the Great American Campout? The National Wildlife Federation has tools that can help you host a public campout in your neighborhood or community. Buncombe County Recreation Services is planning a June 24 campout in Lake Julian Park with guided hikes, stargazing, morning yoga, s’mores, and campfire stories. Even if you don’t take a pledge to join the GAC, heading out with a group of friends is a great way to unwind and reconnect. Lake James State Park is just under an hour away from Asheville and offers scenic vistas of the Appalachian Mountain range, hiking, boating, biking, and hot showers.

Courtesy of RomanticAsheville.com

July

Thru-hiking for months on end is out of reach for many of us. Luckily, the Appalachian Trail offers plenty of shorter hikes that offer the same experience. Art Loeb Trail is just west of Asheville. This 30-mile-long footpath is a highlight reel of the Southern Appalachians with rhododendron tunnels, waterfalls, swimming holes, 360-degree views, and much more. There are plenty of spots to set up camp – or pick a spot in one of the shelters. Three to four days offers ample opportunity for side trips off the main trail. You can also beat the July heat with a stop at Sliding Rock on the way back.

August

Parts of WNC are uniquely positioned to witness the contiguous United States’ first total solar eclipse in 38 years on August 21. Graham, Macon, Swain, Jackson and Transylvania counties are a handful of places in the world that will be plunged into total darkness as the Earth, moon, and sun line up so that the moon completely obscures the sun for about two minutes. Mountain towns are bracing for ten times the number of guests as usual and Clingman’s Dome is hosting a special ticketed viewing, so it’s best to reserve a campsite or cabin as early as possible. Depending on where you end up watching the eclipse, it’s a perfect chance to explore towns like Murphy, Cherokee, or Brevard. Events are also planned at UNC Asheville and in Pack Square Park, but Asheville will only see a 99% eclipse.

September

Just as summer begins with a festival, it comes to an end with the Asheville Outdoor Show on September 17. Diamond Brand Outdoors and Frugal Backpacker host outdoor experts and leaders at this annual event that showcases everything new in hiking, camping, kayaking, outdoor clothing, and technology. With workshops, music, and the chance to chat with representatives from top brands like Patagonia, Prana, Mountain Hardwear, and Kelty, it’s a reminder that even as fall comes to the mountains, there are still plenty of ways to enjoy the outdoors in comfort and style with your favorite folks.

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Win a Pair of La Sportiva Shoes

2017 is the year of giveaways! We’re giving away awesome prizes every month and May’s giveaway is no exception.

La Sportiva was founded in 1928 by Narciso Delladio in Italy. He started his business by manufacturing boots and clogs for farmers and lumberjacks. In World War II, he helped to provide Italy’s soldiers with custom mountaineering boots. In the 1950s, he began to make ski boots and first introduced the brand name of La Sportiva.

Everyday, the mountains surround the people who handcraft La Sportiva’s innovative products. Being mountain based and family run allows them to draw on eight decades of experience handed down through the generations. With this heritage, they can focus on the future and meld new technologies, ideas and innovation with a rich knowledge of manufacturing to give you the most amazing products on the market. Products that let you go where you dream to go, do what you dream to do and live how you want to live.

Enter to win a pair of La Sportiva trail or running shoes before May 25.

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WNC Trail Triple Crown Challenge

April is Hiking Month at Diamond Brand Outdoors, and we want you to hike, run, bike, and explore the outdoors! We’ve partnered with our friends at Asheville Trails for the WNC Trail Triple Crown Challenge.

Visit any Diamond Brand Outdoors or Frugal Backpacker location to check out the awesome new Asheville Trails kiosks with dozens of local trails. We believe the outdoors are for everyone of all abilities, so you’ll find lots of good stuff at the kiosk, like directions and insider tips on easy, moderate, and difficult hikes of varying distance. Find a trail you like, and then snap a picture of the info sheet with your phone. And then visit the Asheville Trails website to get driving directions and more trail info.

Hit any three trails from the displays during April and we’ll give you 20% off up to five items, plus a free Asheville Trails sticker! Just post a pic to Instagram while you’re on the trail, tag both @diamondbrand_outdoors and @ashevilletrails, and use the hashtag #WNC3C.

Once you’ve hiked three of the trails, return to any Diamond Brand Outdoors or Frugal Backpacker location to receive your discount. A team member will take a look a look at your tagged photos — which we’d probably like to share on our feed if you give us permission!

Discount cannot be used for gift cards, boats, or special orders. See store for any other exclusions.

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