West Jefferson, NC – a gem in the middle of the mountains

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Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrew 10:23-25

West Jefferson, NC

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This past week Rebekah and I certainly enjoyed the hiking, the views, the fall colors, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and so much more in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains. But the gem in the middle of it all, the delightful core of Ashe County, is the community of West Jefferson.

West Jefferson – celebrating its 100th anniversary this year – has a bustling downtown, a vibrant arts community, a strong small business core, active civic life, and several healthy churches.

It’s not one of those touristy towns, stuffed with arcades, cheap souvenir shops, and fake “attractions,” but rather a genuinely interesting community with a life of its own. Tourists certainly enjoy visiting West Jefferson, but there’s nothing “kitschy” about it, not even a hint of the “tacky” that dominates towns like Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge.

IMG_3298We thoroughly enjoyed not just the picturesque town center, but the authenticity, the sense of a real town filled with interesting people involved in meaningful pursuits.

Saturday we visited the downtown farmers’ market, where we found some amazing heirloom apples; then we enjoyed lunch at Black Jack’s pub, walked through a couple of very cool antique and art shops, and made our way back to the serene cabin on Bald Mountain.

Finally, Sunday morning, the ultimate test to see if a town is somewhere we’d enjoy visiting more often: worship at the local Presbyterian Church. Mount Jefferson Presbyterian Church is welcoming, full of people of all ages, overflowing with life, heavily engaged with the community, and sitting right there in the middle of the town.

mural downtown
mural downtown

I have to be honest, we’d never even heard of West Jefferson before this past week. But now it’s on our radar I know we’ll be back if at all possible. Hiking the mountain trails; cruising the Blue Ridge Parkway; exploring the forest paths; perusing the art collections and the antiques; sipping coffee at a downtown venue; worshipping with God’s good people at the Presbyterian church.

I wrote the following in this week’s Wake Forest Today column:

“We’re not so much here in the mountains to power down, but to power up…” (Click to read the entire column).

Today, back at my desk in Wake Forest with a lot of work waiting for my attention, I can only hope that proves to be true!

Check out more photos of West Jefferson below, and at “more fall images…

– DEREK

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