Right Place, Right Time: Lake Lure has a lot to Offer

By Claire Gaskill

        Along the winding road of Highway 64 lies Lake Lure. This small town is known for its parks, historic landmarks, and, as denoted by its name, winding lake. Lake Lure is not vast in size, with a population just shy of 2,000 people, but it’s landmarks cannot be missed during a journey down Highway 64. When traveling from the west, you will first stumble upon the grand entrance to Chimney Rock State Park. A quick turn in will lead you through a tree lined climb up to the state park entrance. The road, which is surprisingly wide enough to fit two-way traffic, is a difficult drive. However, the clearing at the top that houses the Chimney Rock entrance is a welcome surprise. The entrance is home to a guardhouse that must be passed through before being admitted into the park. While waiting in line to speak with the park guard, the view is incredible. You can see Chimney Rock and the hike up along with a beautiful blue sky and autumn leaves if you, like us, visit on a clear October morning. Be advised, however, that admission into the park is not without cost. At a rate of $13 per adult and $6 per child, tickets to this unique experience can be purchased both online and at the park entrance gate. This seemingly steep admission cost caught us by surprise. As a result, we turned around and braved the treacherous drive once over to see what else Lake Lure had to offer.

            Suffering from car sickness from the windy drive along Highway 64, the Lake Lure Beach and Water Park was a welcome sight. This park was not only beautiful, but it was free.  A small information building sat just beyond the parking lot as the first stop in the park before venturing beyond to find basketball courts and grassy fields, each leading to Lake Lure. Sitting down a hill, the lake, which is the namesake for the town, can easily be confused for a river. Its narrow and winding path is home to docks and boats, and its shoreline is fairly undeveloped beyond a smattering of houses. The public access to the lake’s beach is free of charge and full of outdoor resources. We were not alone on our early Saturday morning visit: a pick-up game was taking place with children on the basketball court, locals were walking along the lake, and families were enjoying a picnic breakfast on the park picnic tables. That being said, just driving through, there was not much to do at the lake beyond enjoy the much need fresh air to settle sick stomachs. After an enjoyable walk, we once again piled into the car in search of our next destination.

            Lucky for us, the next destination was right across the street. Upon pulling out of the beach parking lot, we were shocked to see what appeared to be a village of tents, especially so early on Saturday morning when the rest of the town appeared to still be sleeping and store fronts were closed. We were eager to park and see what all the excitement was about. To our thrill, we had lined our trip up perfectly with the bi yearly Lake Lure Arts and Crafts Festival. The festival happens each year for two days during a weekend in October and for three days during Memorial Day weekend. For more information on the fair, read For Lovers of Crafts and Good Times by other student visitors that also experienced the Festival. As fans of soaps and candles, we were beyond impressed by the offerings of this festival.  With rows and rows of vendors as well as a few food trucks, the over 60 artisans presented their homemade creations under white tents.  Their work ranged from fairly expensive pottery to more unique homemade dolls and children’s toys.

We were first attracted to the candles at the Fresh Scent Soy Candles booth. The Spains, an outgoing and friendly husband and wife duo that run the business, educated us on their products, associated benefits, and the creation process. As we smelled all of their unique candle flavors, they were thrilled to share a detailed account of what differentiates their product from candles sourced from stores. Each soy candle is sold in a glass, mason-like jar and priced at $10. We were so impressed by the candles and their maker that we collectively purchased two. After walking around and fully immersing ourselves in all the festival had to offer, our final stop was Bully Bites. Attracted to their tent by their bulldog mascot, this homemade, all natural dog treat vendor was a great end to our visit. After chatting with the baker, we learned that although these dog treats rival their store-bought competitors, they are very different. They are fresh, meaning they either need to be refrigerated or frozen, and contain ingredients that contend with human food. Creating these treats is an effort to make dogs healthier; only wholesome ingredients are used and preservatives are omitted for a high-quality product. Excited by the healthy differences in these dog treats, we bought two unique $10 bags to bring back to our pups. As we paid with our credit cards, we were surprised by the connectivity of such a remote event. Although it took a second to load the Square app due to minimal internet service, it was fairly common to accept credit cards at the festival.

After a successful stop and multiple purchases, we headed back towards the car. Fulfilled by our time in Lake Lure, we were excited to get back on the road.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, An Essay Review

By Jenny Kane

In 2012, Cheryl Strayed, formerly Cheryl Nyland, published a memoir of her personal account hiking the 1,100-mile-long Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) when she was a lost and broken 26-year-old in the summer of 1995. The title of the book, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, in itself represents the purpose and direction of the book as an archetypical, travel inspired memoir. Since its publication in 2012, Wild has become a New York Times bestseller and can be found in most book stores today. The hardcover edition is 336 pages—seemingly lengthy, but overall reviewers agree that it’s a fast read. It was published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a small, American firm that has been around for over one hundred years. Although it retails for $11.29 from stores like Books a Million and Barnes and Noble, I was able to access it used for $3.99 off of Amazon. The accessibility of the book expands even further with its movie debut in 2014 starring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl and Laura Dern as her mother. Reese Witherspoon produced the film as a spark to her movement that focuses on reshaping the image of women in the United States. Regardless of its multimodality, in both the memoir and the movie Wild captures the fear and vigor of one young woman pushing against all odds on a journey that hurt, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. That personal journey with self is what makes this book the perfect travel writing example. Her key point is that life doesn’t wait for anyone, and the book’s main purpose is to motivate all of her readers to keep moving no matter how unfair life may seem. Without the will to continue moving, travel is lost, and so is hope.


In several interviews with the New York Times and The Guardian, Strayed comments that the seventeen-year interim between those events in her life and publishing this book was crucial to the rhetorical effectivity of her writing and “ability to grow and reflect”. The aging of her field notebooks and journals are what strengthened the life story she had to reconstruct through writing this memoir. Inherent to the writing process for this particular piece of travel writing was rhetorical reflection on some of the most painful and powerful points of her experience and picking apart her psyche to portray the events as they actually happened. Through this style of anecdotal storytelling, Strayed successfully lends the audience the ethos, pathos, and logos necessary to emote the blunt truth of her situation. Before she hiked the PCT, Cheryl was working as a waitress, separated from her husband, and helplessly mourning over the premature loss of her mother to lung cancer. It was only when she hit her absolute low—her addiction to heroin—that she knew she had to make a radical change. The fake surname that Cheryl developed, “Strayed,” speaks a lot to her identity and life experience as a woman who overcame injustice and failure through physical and mental isolation as a function of travel. Today, Cheryl is an American essayist, podcaster, traveler, and soul-searcher. She has now written four best-selling books and has published many of her essays in popular magazines such as the New York Times, The Boston Globe, and The Washington Post. Wild is her most profound book to date, as it represents her own account of her life as it really happened, not withholding any of the detail.


Strayed says the goal of her journey was to find “radical aloneness,” a mental and physical state in which no other program, job, therapy, or place could give her. In Wild she states “alone had always felt like an actual place to me, as if it weren’t a state of being, but rather a room where I could retreat to be who I really was” (Strayed, Chapter 8). This example is enough to show how impressive of an author Strayed is. It’s personally inspiring to me that a woman with little to no writing experience could produce such profound and poetic diction that has now reached millions of readers. Another personally impactful line from the book was: “I knew that if I allowed fear to overtake me, my journey was doomed. Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. Nothing could vanquish me” (Strayed, Chapter 4). In my own experience with travel, I find it hard to be vulnerable with the culture and with aspects of my identity that I usually hide away. After reading Wild, I am newly inspired to let the geography and culture shape me more and bring out those vulnerabilities. Strayed is pleading with the reader that overcoming a fear is the first step to growing as a traveler and individual.


Her book starts similarly to how her journey started, with a series of beginnings. One was her decision to hike the PCT after finding a book about it “with a blissful waterfall on the front,” a second was to actually follow through with that decision and purchase all of the gear she would need and conduct research, and a third was to actually put herself at the foot of the trail in the middle of the Mojave Desert. However, it wasn’t until after her hike that she realized that her true beginning was the day she discovered that her mom had cancer. After laying out these pieces of her journey, Strayed uses the remainder of the book to take the reader through a loop of rhetorical analysis and reflection of the past events of her life as they relate to her journey on the trail. No one could prepare her for the news of her mother’s passing when she had already battled so many personal feats throughout her short life thus far. But it was this news that first sent her down a meek road, full of disappointment. Hiking the PCT for Cheryl meant escaping the source of heartache that she was familiar with and being forced to confront it in an unfamiliar landscape. Thus, Wild is an example of travel being used as an outlet to explore identity and individuality, and that is what Cheryl was able to harness through her own journey.


After doing some research of my own on the Pacific Crest Trail, it becomes clear pretty quickly that it is no place for a novice hiker. Cheryl was exactly that at the beginning of the summer of 1995. She had no idea how she would complete the journey from the Mojave Desert to the forests of Washington State, as the trail is loaded with untouched and awe-inspiring biodiversity that most people never get the chance to experience. The people on the trail are usually either experts on the geography, skilled hikers and outdoorsmen, or hunters, all of which Cheryl was not. However, when she did interact with any of these groups, she at first approached them with her appropriated reaction of fear and distrust. By the end of the trail, and book, she meets a group of hikers and spends the night with them. It is then, at the end of her journey, that she is able to let down her walls and allows herself to be vulnerable, something she hadn’t done in a long time. Both the close-knit culture and the dangers of the trail forced Cheryl to challenge her previously formed identity, and to look at life through an open lens.


Very little of the book is actually devoted to Strayed’s childhood and the actual event of her mother’s death. Strayed uses a theme that reminisces the life that aligns with various events and hardships she faces on the trail. The emotional scenes she does give about her past are incisive and full of pathos: “crying in a public bathroom after her mother receives a diagnosis of incurable cancer, her mother crying in the next stall over, neither saying a word to the other”. This is the only paragraph she gives but it is enough to bring the reader to that moment and empathize. Most of the book is subtler and focused on the details of life hiking the Pacific Crest Trail. She states “the wanting was a wilderness and I had to find my own way out of the woods,” before diving into tales of enormous backpacks, friendly fellow hikers and treacherously icy mountain paths (Strayed, Chapter 2). The audience also begins to realize here the deeper meaning of this “wilderness” as a more complex, psychological metaphor. Although nothing was particularly extraordinary about her hike along the PCT, her travel writing is relatable and motivational to all readers who may be going through similar events in their lives. Cheryl Strayed purposes this book as a means for readers, especially women, to empower themselves as individuals through travel, and synonymously through soul-searching. 


This memoir has had a personal impact on me as a novice to both life’s hardships and travel. It has inspired me to address both the mental and physical obstacles in my life and to not let those obstacles define who I am. Furthermore, my values and upbringing have helped give me a perspective of my own and, thus, the impact this memoir has had on me is individualized, as is every other reader’s. I first had watched the movie and was extremely inspired by the message and emotion within the film. While reading, I had the tendency to picture some of the scenes from the movie, but I do not see this as an impairment to the significance of the book itself. Instead, the movie acts as a guide for my mind to explore the author’s journey. I feel a personal connection to the author and her message in that I understand how embracing and isolating oneself in nature can act as a therapy for some of life’s hardest moments. As a fellow woman, Cheryl Strayed represents an amazing role model for me and other women as she motivates her readers to empower themselves through travel in nature—bringing herself down to the bare bones of her identity.


The primary research I conducted before reading this book involved understanding the Pacific Crest Trail, its landscape, its dangers, and its culture. Similarly, to follow up on some of the fine details Cheryl Strayed describes in her memoir, I made sure to look into each stop along her journey to help bring a real image to the words on the page. The PCT is more than just the geography. There is an entire association that surrounds itself on the ideology of ecological preservation and community—something that Cheryl found inspiring and uplifting when before she had never even thought to be a part of such a culture. Next, I researched Cheryl, her interviews, and as many reviews as I could possibly find on her book and the movie. I found that her personal interviews and book reviews were pretty spot on with the film, which was surprising and impressive. Overall, I discovered an author who has successfully written a multifaceted book that takes travel writing and places it at the heart of the human psyche and life as a human being. Each reader gets their own experience in reading the book and watching the movie and is effected in a different way. Cheryl herself is trying to show her readers and the public that life is hard, but it is the only life we are given so it is important to embrace it and enjoy it; and more importantly, that some types of extreme travel can cure even the most painful aspects of life.

Micaela Soucy

Micaela is a senior English major at Elon University with a concentration in Professional Writing and minors in Communications and International Studies. In the future she hopes to be living just outside of a major city working as a book agent or editor. In her free time she enjoys discovering new music, escaping into a new book and playing with dogs that aren’t hers.

Jamie Angle

Jamie Angle is an Elon University senior. She has a double major in political science and English with a concentration in professional writing and rhetoric. She is Vice President of the Elon martial arts club and a member of the service fraternity, Alpha Phi Omega. Outside of class, Jamie enjoys running, drinking way too much coffee, and reading a good book.

Roanoke River- National Wildlife Refuge

By Andrew Scott

Leaves of red and gold fell slowly down from the tree tops to the watery ground of the Roanoke River. The cool fall wind wisps and bites at the neck as one walks along the boardwalk and trails of the wildlife refuge. Regional birds chirp in the distance. The movement of the leaves in the wind haunt the otherwise silent forest ecosystem. The leaves drift down the slowly moving river, meandering across the flooded coastal plain toward the great release of the ocean. The scene here in Williamston is much like the rest of the coastal plain, swampy and wild.


North Carolina has a large tributary system that dumps a variety of rivers into the Atlantic Ocean up and down the coast. While these rivers may gush and flow frantically in the mountainous and piedmont regions, they alter their path drastically when they get to the coast. They ease their way into the ocean, creating seas of swamp land, maritime forests, and transportive ecosystems. One can easily image Native Americans and colonists traveling up and down these maze-like systems. The rivers slow to almost a lethargic halt, yet are more alive than ever. Some of the most abundant wildlife in the state can be found in these flooded refuges, giving off an almost otherworld affect. Kin to the Everglades or the Bayou of Louisiana, the Roanoke River and the greater Dismal Swamp area distinguish this area of the state from the others.


The sandy beaches and barrier islands of North Carolina play a huge role in the tourist interpretation of the region, but the clear majority of the region is haunted and founded on these traditions born in the swamps. The region is established on a vast habitat for animal life and human interconnectivity with the environment. The colonists had to accept these harsh terrains and find a way to survive in them, knowing that beating Mother Nature isn’t an option. The same rings true today, with the smaller coast plain communities bending to the will of the river systems. Adjusting to the flooding and movements of the environment, living off the land, and a disappearance of much of the modern essence of life takes place in these small towns. Highway 64 itself bends and flows with this land to create a seamless ecosystem. The protective services of the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge are a major part of that. 


Protecting the “219 birds, 33 mammals, 37 reptiles, 39 amphibians, and 59 fish” different species is critical to the environmental survival of the area. Without these foundational citizens of the waterways, the system would crumble. The current Roanoke River refuge contains around 20,978 acres of land protected; however, expansion of the park area is up for proposal. In this proposal, the National Wildlife Refuge tries to incorporate the members of the community into the act of saving the ecosystem. They additionally, look at the situation from a climate change viewpoint and a rapid urban development projection. All in all, much like other environmental pieces the Roanoke River National Wildlife Refuge is an essential region of North Carolina heritage that is in danger of elimination.

Treasures of Tarboro at Off the Main

By Jennifer Grant

Tucked away on a side street of unassuming downtown Tarboro stands a beige Victorian style home. If not for a sign in the front yard, the average passerby would just chalk it up as another sweet, southern home and not give it a second thought.


That passerby would be missing out on the hidden treasures of Tarboro. Open the door to that Victorian, and you’ll step into Off the Main, a co-retailing boutique that rents out storefront space to local businesses. The name Off the Main refers to the store’s location off of Main Street, but to me it also references the unique offerings that the boutique brings to Tarboro. In this small town, there’s nothing else quite like it.


Walking from room to room of the house, I took in everything from shirts to fuzzy socks printed with Tarboro, NC to jewelry to toys. Brooke Phillips, the owner of Off the Main was kind enough to speak with me when I visited, and explained some of the thought process behind the items she sells. She told me she looks for distinctive products that have meaningful stories behind them. For instance, a single mom from Columbia, NC makes some of the children’s clothing she sells. Some of the proceeds from a few of the dainty jewelry pieces I admired go to a local animal shelter. I was drawn to purchase Thai Basil scented wax made by a small business owner. The smell reminded me of Mike and Ike’s candy.  


Phillips is passionate about what she does, and told me opening a boutique had always been her dream. She grew up in Tarboro, but left for several years to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. Upon graduation, she knew she had to come back to her hometown to open a store. At the moment, Phillips works with ten vendors to stock the boutique. The connections she builds with these vendors and with Tarboro residents are at the heart of her business. As we spoke, the front door bell kept ringing, indicating another visitor had stopped by to view her new items. I found myself wishing I could be one of those regulars, just stopping by to chat and smell the candles.

An Essay Review of Wild by Cheryl Strayed

By Dani Halliday, 2016

Cheryl Strayed’s life was thrown for a loop when her mother died. She could not deal with the pain of being alone, that she seemed to be the only one in her family at all distraught, and sought out some unsavory ways to cope with her pain. She cheated on her husband, leading to a divorce (a very amicable one though). She got a new boyfriend, Joe, who got her into using heroine as another escape from reality. Finally, after getting away from Joe, Cheryl found a book on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and so began her journey to walk the entire thing.

Cheryl was lost in her life and the PCT gave her some direction. Her worries and stresses had a reason and she met others who were going through the same physical journey as her. She was able to do what many thought was impossible for her, yet she proved them wrong. She completed the PCT and found peace with her mother’s death through her journey.


The hike itself was probably my favorite part of the book. It was funny, full of energy, and you could feel her healing throughout her journey. As a woman, I was very interested in her solo hike and her ability to struggle through it alone. Granted, she wasn’t alone. The hikers had her back and she always found people to help her, whether it was giving her a meal, a new book to read, or a ride to the next leg of the trail. All of the hikers had a reason to be on the trail; no one just hikes it just because they can. Cheryl notices immediately that Doug has been through something difficult, but we don’t learn what. Albert, who was hiking with his son, wanted to hike it before he died as a lifelong dream. Having a reason, whether a dream or as an escape, is a main aspect of hiker culture on the PCT.

The hiker culture in this book shows the amount of comradery you can feel with someone whom you’ve never met before. Cheryl felt so much pride when Greg passed her on the trail and already knew her name. It validated her as a true PCT hiker. I loved the aspect of trail names: the Preppies for Doug and Tom, the Statistician for Greg, Matt and Albert were the Eagle Scouts, and Cheryl herself was the Hapless Hiker, due to her lack of experience. She even named her backpack, Monster. The hikers knew it as Monster as well.

One aspect of the hiker culture I was fascinated by was the women on the trail. Stacy and Trina were two women that Cheryl traveled with for a while. There were other women who she met, but they traveled with their husbands/boyfriends. Stacy and Trina hiked together for a while and split up, leaving Stacy to finish by herself. Stacy and Cheryl were very different, and I think that Stacy was more of the “real PCT hiker.” Cheryl was more concerned with how the others viewed her the entire time, while Stacy was focused on the hike. After my first trip abroad, to the Andes Mountains in Peru, I have wanted to hike the whole Inca Trail. I did two days-worth, but the whole thing is something I feel I must do. I don’t know if I could be like Cheryl and do it alone, but I would like to think I would be more like Stacy in how I cared more about the trail and the hike, rather than how I look to the world around me. There is not too much out there about solo female travelers on a rigorous hike. I feel as if the best way to research it is to do it yourself. Maybe I will join their ranks one day.

Cheryl Strayed is not her real name. Yes, she changed her name after her divorce, but Strayed is one that she chose. There is so much symbolism in her name. She had strayed away from her old life and was looking for a new path. The irony of people reading the necklace her friend gave her as “starved” instead of her last name gave it a little humor, but the relevance of her name is significant. Names are of great importance in this book. Cheryl needed to change her name to become a new person after everything she had been through in her pre-PCT life. She had strayed away from who she really was after the death of her mother and needed to find herself once again, and the PCT helped her do that.

Cheryl needed to travel alone so she could really reflect and figure herself out. Being alone does that to you. Being alone in a forest or barren desert must be even more difficult. There is no hiding from yourself when you are alone and Cheryl recognized this. This was a personal journey to prove that she was still capable of accomplishing things and that she could be without her family. She needed to be alone to prove it to, not only the people around her, but more so to prove it to herself.

The overall point of the book is to show how the journey on the PCT healed Cheryl of all of her woes and problems, but this was not the case. Yes, she came to terms with the death of her mother and that she and Paul would remain friends, but nothing else, but Cheryl did not change nearly as much as I had expected. Throughout her journey, she always had to be seen as pretty and desirable to the men she met. She wanted to be one of the PCT hikers, but then she also wanted them to want her sexually. She mentioned her minor sex addiction at the beginning of the book, but she did not grow out of this while on the trail. I expected more from her. At the music festival in Ashland, she immediately got dressed up and found a man to have sex with, whom she would never see again. She brought an entire roll of condoms on the trail with her. Even though the other hikers took them from her, there was no way anybody would have used an entire roll while hiking. At the end of the trail, of course a man came up to her to give her his number, and she never called him. Cheryl had to be desirable all the time, she had to fit in all the time, and she had to have people thinking about her all the time. She did not grow up nearly as much as I had hoped for throughout her journey, which is one huge criticism I have for the book and the author in general.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail showed the personal journey and the physical journey that Cheryl Strayed went through on her hike. Four months alone exposed the inner strength that she was unaware that she had. Even though she destroyed her feet, lost almost every one of her toenails, and came out of it flat broke, Cheryl accomplished what many thought was an impossible feat for her. I strive to have this inner strength and the emotional and physical journey that she went through made this a good piece of travel writing worth reading, especially for a young women who feels she may be straying away from who she is.


Chery Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail, Vintage Books 2012, 315 pages, $15.95

An Afternoon in Tarboro

By Ciara Corcoran


The aftermath of Hurricane Matthew was present in Tarboro as we tried to drive into the town. Sections of Highway 64 were blocked due to flooding from the Tar River and the National Guard stood by the blocked sections, advising drivers to take detours through town. We followed the line of cars into downtown Tarboro with the cloudy weather accentuating the gloom that hung over the town.


The cloudy weather became cloudier until rain ushered us into a coffee shop. The Tarboro Coffee House sits at the corner of East Church Street and North Main Street in downtown Tarboro. Stepping into the shop, I was surrounded by the comforting smell of freshly brewed coffee and the buzz of families stopping by for hot chocolates or scoops of ice cream. I opted for some ice cream myself and ordered a scoop of the Hershey’s Cappuccino Crunch to satisfy both my coffee craving and need for something sweet.


Lauren, Abbey, and I chose a seat near the front of the store, overlooking the rain on Main Street. I flipped through the local paper, which brought the extend of the flooding into new light. Hurricane Matthew didn’t just close off a few streets; a number of homes near the river had been destroyed by the flooding. Tarboro hadn’t even been hit the hardest. Towns all along the Tar River suffered damages due to the flooding caused by the hurricane. Tarboro High School became a refuge for the residents of nearby Princeville and American Red Cross Shelters had been set up across the town. The hurricane had occurred almost two weeks prior, but the communities were still feeling the impacts. The Tar River Times reported the damages to be over $1 million dollars in order to repair the nearly 50 condemned homes and the destroyed roads along the river.


I finished my ice cream and looked out at the rain that now seemed to be only a drizzle. I could see flyers posted about fundraising for the families impacted by the hurricane. We hadn’t been nearly as affected back at Elon, 135 miles to the west. The few days of rain were an inconvenience at most.  We had nowhere near the damage that Tarboro was facing. After the coffee and ice cream, Lauren, Abbey, and I drove back to see the damage near the road closure. The National Guard didn’t seem too keen on us slowing down to survey the road, but we could still see places where the road had broken off and water still remained.


To continue on our journey, we had to drive on one section of road that was cracked in half across both lanes. We had passed this crack on the way into town, thinking it was almost chasm-like. Now, it didn’t seem like any more than a fracture in the road.

Searching for the Elusive White Squirrel

By Dani Halliday, 2016


White squirrel in mural descends upon Dani.
White squirrel in mural descends upon Dani.

There was a heavy chill in the air that clung to our bones. A thin fog hovered above the ground of the Brevard College campus, making the empty campus feel abandoned and creepy. We were here for a reason and would not leave without seeing the elusive white squirrel of Brevard.

Images of white squirrels were everywhere in the tiny mountain town of Brevard, NC. There was a white squirrel store, white squirrel statues in the hotels, white squirrel forms on the traffic lights, and even a giant mural of a white squirrel diving into a pile of nuts painted on the side of a restaurant.

The white squirrels weren’t residents of the town initially, but according to the Transylvania Times (the local newspaper of Brevard and other towns in Transylvania county), a carnival truck overturned in 1949, releasing two white squirrels with gray streaks down their backs into the wild of the Great Smoky Mountains. The squirrels were found by Mr. Black, who found them eating in his pecan grove. Black passed these squirrels to H. H. Mull, who subsequently passed them along to his niece, Barbara, to attempt to breed them, which failed. Eventually, one of the squirrels escaped and then Barbara released the other. Breeding apparently was easier in the wild of the mountains because now there are significantly more white squirrels than the original two. In 1986, the white squirrels became a protected species in Brevard with a vote by the Brevard City Council stating that is “shall be unlawful for any person to hunt, kill, trap, or otherwise take any protected squirrels within the city.” This law does not extend to the non-white squirrels of the area, though. While there are other white squirrel sightings in other states, such as Kentucky and Illinois, only Brevard holds a White Squirrel Festival every May.


Main Campus of Brevard College.

The receptionist at the Holiday Inn we had stayed in the night before recommended the college campus as the place where we would most likely find these rare creatures. We set out into the brisk 35-degree air at 9:00 am to begin our search.

We scoured the campus, which housed only 729 students, seeing beautiful brick buildings, massive trees, and copious amounts of brown squirrels, yet no people or white squirrels. Brevard College is a private, four-year institution, home to the Tornadoes. It stands on the outskirts of downtown Brevard, a prime location, and is about 120-acres. These are 120 acres that white squirrels can roam free on without any fear for their safety.


White squirrel poses for his picture.
White squirrel poses for his picture.

We passed underneath a clock tower which was built with bricks engraved with names from back in the 1900s. The brick buildings, white pillars, and trees scattered around campus reminded me of Elon on a much more rural scale. We wandered aimlessly around campus scanning the ground and the trees for a flash of white. We knew they were out there. We would find one.

Finally we saw it. It hopped around the ground, standing out a stark white streaked with gray against the fallen yellow and brown leaves and the dark green grass. It looked just like any other squirrel: same tail, same twitching nose, same large dark eyes—except for the white fur of course. We had to wonder as we followed the creature, much too close for its liking, whether the white squirrels were treated differently by their brown squirrel brethren. Were they allowed near the other squirrels? Did the white squirrels act as an exclusive group and not let the brown squirrels into their white squirrel club? These were questions only the white squirrels could answer for us, yet our friend had darted up a tree, out of sight.