Late this summer, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Highland Brewing Company were joined by The Aloft Hotel, Altamont Environmental, Traveling Chic Boutique and USA Raft to explore Lost Cove, where SAHC protected a 95-acre tract in 2012. We hiked into the gorge and rafted the Nolichucky River while learning about the historical significance of the area.
The day began with a hike, to the crest of Flattop Mountain, passing through abundant fields of milkweed spread across the upper elevation meadow — a hopeful sign for Monarch butterflies.
After taking in beautiful, clear views from the top, we descended into the gorge. Hiking down the trail was like hiking a ‘boulder-fall’ — it appeared a bit like a waterfall, but instead of water, massive moss-covered rocks and boulders rippled one after another. They blanketed the path with rich textures and varying shades of green.
Upon reaching the edge of the abandoned community, the trail leveled out and our group felt as if we were walking back in time. Imaginations soared as we pondered what it would have been like, ‘once upon a time.’ The remoteness of the place affected us deeply. We explored and imagined, talking about how it might have felt to live so removed from the outside world. Lost Cove provided a great space for reflection.
Last year, with help from USA Raft, we led a successful “Raft Out the Trash” volunteer day, removing over a ton of garbage from the cove. We were gratified, and pleased, to see that the cleaned up areas had remained mostly clear. This trip, we picked up and removed just 3 small bags of litter.
After exploring the area, we continued down the soil ‘road’ where the old-time moonshiners would have driven illicit goods to the river and railroad tracks. It was really just a crumbly soil path, strewn with boulders and hard to walk on. We couldn’t imagine navigating the route with any sort of vehicle. We reached the river and prepared for the final, waterborne leg of the outing.
The USA Raft guides were great — personable and capable — they definitely knew their way around the river. Even though the river was low, it was still a fun ride! We rafted down to take out at USA Raft’s outpost in Erwin, TN, where our Duke Stanback summer intern, Martha Dawson, had a picnic lunch spread and cold beverages laid out, awaiting our arrival.
What a great way to end an incredible excursion! We enjoyed fellowship with partners on the trip, reflecting back on the events of the day. Thank you, USA Raft, for providing the space — and for guiding us down the river!
About the “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Partnership
Highland Brewing Company has partnered with SAHC to support conservation and heighten awareness of the natural treasures of the Southern Appalachians. As part of the partnership, HBC names each seasonal release for a feature of our natural landscape. Their latest seasonal, Lost Cove American Pale Ale, is named for this area.
Special Thanks to USA Raft
USA Raft is based in Erwin, TN with another location in Marshall, NC. They offer whitewater rafting on the Nolichucky, French Broad and Watauga Rivers — plus some unique recreation opportunities such as wild caving, whitewater stand up paddleboard, kayak lessons and bellyak instruction. The Erwin location offers bunkhouse and cabin rentals, river frontage, stocked trout pond and Appalachian Trail access, all on the property.
“We are very proud of our relationship with such an active and wonderful organization,” said Matt Moses, USA Raft General Manager. “We specifically choose this group to support because it is full of people that are actively making our surroundings better for future generations. There have been many land acquisitions and projects close to both of our locations, including Lost Cove, that our staff and guests benefit from. We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of SAHC.”