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SOURCE:  Karen Chavez, Columnist for Asheville Citizen-Times

“…It’s amazing what a little help from your friends can accomplish.  Case in point – the rugged, forested, exceptionally pretty area of Panthertown (near Cashiers, NC) found a lot of friends from all kinds of places who helped to buy a little chunk of land that will make a big impact.   The Friends of Panthertown and Mainspring Conservation Trust, both non-profits, teamed up to raise enough money to buy 16 acres of private property that borders the western entrance to Panthertown Valley and Salt Rock Gap in Jackson County.  Panthertown is part of the Nantahala National Forest, consisting of more than 10,000 acres of protected land with clifftop views, at least eight major waterfalls, trout streams, rare plants and diverse habitat for wildlife…open to hiking, fishing, camping, horseback riding and mountain biking.

Trails are NOT well marked (if marked at all), so you have to have a sense of adventure, a nose for finding true north and a good map and knowledge of compass reading.  But once you get out on a rock face, you can feel content in the world, savoring the rolling mountain views of evergreens that will stay exactly that way – forever green.  Saving these special places for posterity is not the easiest task in a land that for centuries has been privately owned.  People responded to the fund raising project, raising more than $82,.000 from groups and individuals of the $195,000 needed for the purchase from a private landowner.

…While the piece of land might sound small – 16 acres is roughly the size of 12 football fields – among the 10,000 acres of Panthertown and the half-million acres of Nantahala National Forest.  There are two main entrances to Panthertown – the Salt Rock on the west and at Cold Mo0untain Gap on the east.  Salt Rock access has no parking, so visitors must park on the shoulder of the side of Breedlove Road.

…Pantherotwn was nicknamed the “Yosemite of the East” decades ago by scientist and educator, Dan Pitillo, because of the geology of the rocks.

SOURCE:  Karen Chavez for Asheville Citizen-Times  IMAGE:  romanticasheville.com

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