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It’s hard to believe it’s already August, and everyone is talking about back-to-school plans. Even so, there’s still time to check off a few more items on your summer bucket list. Just in case you’ve already completed yours, we have a few suggestions for you to consider adding.

□ Learn to Can

GreenBeans.jpgHave you always wanted to learn how to put up a run of beans or to make your own salsa, but you don’t feel comfortable doing it yourself from a book? Add a class taught by your local Cooperative Extension office to your bucket list. The Watauga County Cooperative Extension Office in Boone, NC is offering Food Preservation Classes on August 23, 24, and 25. Each one has a different focus and is hands on, so you’ll be learning by doing. Here’s a LINK for more info. You can sign up for one or all, and there is a small fee. 

Maybe you want to expand your knowledge of cooking with what’s in season right now. The Forsyth Cooperative Extension in Winston-Salem is partnering with Forsyth Community Gardening and the Second Harvest Food Bank for garden tours and cooking demonstrations. These tours are free. The next one is August 21 at 6 p.m. Follow this LINK to find out more. 

□ Go Stargazing

Eclipse hub-bub is everywhere, and that is leading to more interest in astronomy. There are several places where you can explore the night sky, or if you are lucky, look at bright planets during the daytime.

The Roper Mountain Science Center is located in Greenville and exists through a unique public/private partnership. It offers learning labs to Greenville school students and also has public programs like Friday Starry Nights and Second Saturday Public Days to experience the whole facility. You can check Roper Mountain’s schedule HERE, so you can plan to head out…and we mean way out in outer space! 

The Dark Sky Observatory is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Ashe County. A project of Appalachian State University, the observatory hosts at least one public night each month where those interested in gazing at nebulas, double stars, and planets can learn from professors and students in the Astronomy Department. This LINK goes to their Facebook page where they announce their public nights. Get your tickets quickly because there’s limited space at the facility. 

□ Go to a Great Festival

Mast Store’s home communities have many great festivals and venues to enjoy throughout the year. Late August and early September feature a few marquee festivals you might want to plan to attend.

The Dirty Dancing Festival in Lake Lure, NC is celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the coming-of-age movie. Yes, you can do a Lake Lift, tote some watermelons, and learn a few dirty dancing steps while at the festival. While you’re having fun at the event on some of the same locations where the movie was filmed, you’ll also be helping raise funds to fight pancreatic cancer. The festival is August 18, which incidentally is Patrick Swayze’s birthday, and August 19. Follow this LINK to learn more. 

Gather ‘round for two evenings of the region’s best banjo, harmonica, and washtub bass players, along with big circle dancers and cloggers at the Smoky Mountain Folk Festival. The Lake Junaluska Conference Center near Waynesville provides a beautiful backdrop for mountain music and dance. You’ll enjoy a variety of music from old-time to gospel. Learn more HERE

Knoxville plays host to the East Tennessee History Fair on August 19. History comes to life in music, storytelling, demonstrations, and hands-on activities. There’s even an old-fashioned Tennessee Checkers Skirmish where youngsters compete in a checkers tournament for prizes from the Mast Store. To make history a little more fun, head on down to the History Hound Competition at Krutch Park to observe costumed dogs depicting historic figures from East Tennessee’s past. You’ll likely run into a few suffragists and perhaps even Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln during your visit. For a full list of what’s on the docket, click HERE

The North Carolina Apple Festival in Hendersonville celebrates all things apple over the course of four very full days. From apple pancake breakfasts and the Apple Festival 8k to the Buddy K Big Band and Apple Tasting, if it can be made with or feature an apple, you’ll find it here. There’s kiddie rides, sidewalk sales, apple orchard tours, and more fried apple pies than you can shake a stick at. It all culminates with the King Apple Parade on Monday. The Festival has celebrated the loveliest of fruits for more than 60 years and is a premier family-friendly event. Get the full schedule of events HERE

□ Visit a Museum

Museums are filled with interesting items and activities for everyone. The South Carolina State Museum is housed within the museum’s largest artifact. Constructed in 1894, Columbia Mills was the first totally electric textile mill in the world. Today, inside its walls, you can learn about dinosaurs and view pre-historic fossils, find out more about the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, and view historic telescopes dating back to the 1700s. A 4-D theatre provides an interactive experience that complements the museum’s current exhibits (now showing is the Lego Movie). A Friday Night Laser Light Show to soundtracks by Pink Floyd, the Eagles, and Michael Jackson sure sounds like fun! You can plan your visit with a click HERE

□ Take the Hike of the Year

Your plans might not include a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, but there are so many options that are perfect for anyone of most any ability that they should not be missed.

Hike.jpgThe Mountains-to-Sea Trail in North Carolina is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It has many entrances between Clingmans Dome, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Jockey’s Ridge, a North Carolina State Park along the Outer Banks. Remember, if you are hiking the trail in sections, it’s an out-and-back trail or you might want to have a second vehicle waiting at the end of your route. To learn more about the trail, visit this WEBSITE

The Tanawha Trail stretches from Julian Price Park to Beacon Heights and parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain. The length is 13.5 miles, but there are a number of overlooks where the trail can be accessed. One of the most popular is Rough Ridge. From this parking area, the trail is at its most strenuous navigating several stairs and a boardwalk before summiting on Rough Ridge and heading down the backside via stairs against a rock wall. The view from the top and at the boardwalk is beautiful of the Linn Cove Viaduct, Grandmother Mountain, and the Parkway below. Please keep to the trail or on the boardwalk because many of the plants in this area are delicate and some are endangered. Visit this WEBSITE for more information. 

Strike out on another kind of trail – a canoe trail. The Congaree National Park has a marked canoe trail that allows you to explore many different habitats. As you paddle along, you may see turtles and snakes sunning themselves on fallen logs, a bald eagle nesting in high branches, or even an alligator calmly waiting for the right time to strike its prey. Start planning your canoe/kayak outing with a click HERE

Graveyard Fields is near Waynesville. This trail is popular because it takes you by two of the most photographed waterfalls along the Parkway. Graveyard Fields got its name from the moss-covered stumps left behind after a windstorm that resemble headstones. At three miles long, this loop is easily accessible with steps and bridges where needed, but there are places along the trail where erosion has taken its toll. Please stay on the trail to reduce the effects of erosion and also be careful along the creek banks where rocks can be very slippery from mist and moss. Get ready to hit the trail with a visit HERE.

In the Knoxville area, take a short drive to the city’s favorite “hometown” trail – House Mountain. From the highest point in the Knoxville area, you can see other mountain ranges including the Unakas and the Cumberlands. The trails can be a little strenuous because of their steep climbs, but please don’t be tempted to cut the switchbacks. The area is a wonderful place to enjoy birdwatching and the sounds of nature. To plan your visit, click on over to this WEBSITE

Let us know what you’d suggest for others’ bucket lists. You can leave your suggestions in our comments below.

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