Life in Our Foothills - April 2024

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Champions for Wildlife

Teaching Nature

Through Art

Nurturing Healthy Habitats in the Foothills

Gardening for Life Project

Thermal Belt

Rail Trail

Making an Impact

Seen Around Town

Paws in Landrum Pet Expo

April 2024 Life in Our Foothills $4.95
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Mark Levin, Writer and Photographer

Mark is retired from a career in education, both in and outside of the classroom. He enjoys traveling in his campervan and finding stories about the people and places encountered along the way. You can follow his blog at as well as at TheCountryLifeWithColumbusMark.

Emily Williams, Writer and Photographer

Emily Williams is a recent graduate of North Greenville University with a Bachelor of Arts in English. She is currently pursuing her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing while working as a substitute teacher. In her free time, Emily loves to explore Western North Carolina, try out new coffee shops, and write fiction and nonfiction alike.

Clay Johnson, Writer and Photographer

Clay is an award-winning documentary producer and writer as well as a contributing producer for PBS NC’s “North Carolina Weekend” show. He also produces educational videos and writes magazine and newspaper articles. Johnson and his wife Debra moved to Tryon in June 2021 and enjoy exploring the outdoors. He can be reached at cj@

Claire Sachse, Writer and Photographer

Once the editor of the Tryon Daily Bulletin, Claire Sachse now manages several freelance side-hustles in the public relations and publishing arena. She’s also working on writing a mystery novel in which an editor solves crimes in a fictional (maybe) mountain railroad town. Raised by a painter and a diplomat, she considers herself immensely lucky to have a home full of weird and wonderful art, and a passport full of stamps.

Storme Smith, Writer and Photographer

Storme Smith is a writer who lives in the Foothills of North Carolina. He is the co-founder and publisher of Buno Books, and has a passion for the arts. He also enjoys writing about the history, sports and unique people and places of our area.

Pebbles, Writer

Pebbles is the “spokespony” for HERD, or Helping Equines Regain Dignity, a local nonprofit that saves equines from dire conditions and in many cases slaughter. She dictates her monthly columns about her adventures, and what a rescue organization does, to Heather Freeman. Pebbles and Heather can be reached through

MARCH 2024 5



April has arrived, bringing with it springtime showers, budding flowers, breaks from school and just a hint of the warmth of summer. Now is the perfect time to celebrate nature’s wonders, outdoor recreation and the joys of spending time with friends and family!

This month, we learn about a wonderful program that uses art and other fun activities to teach children about local wildlife. Champions for Wildlife, a nonprofit organization founded by Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, takes a creative approach to helping students learn about some of nature’s most misunderstood creatures.

Next, with all the buzz about the proposed Saluda Grade Trail that would run through Polk County, we thought it would be interesting to visit our neighbors in Rutherford County and hear about a similar project, the Thermal Belt Rail Trail. We’ll also hear about a grassroots movement, the Gardening for Life Project, that is educating locals on native plants that can be used to attract pollinators, and helping to preserve the environment for future generations.

We’ll also catch up with our resident spokespony, Pebbles, see the turnout out at the inaugural Paws in Landrum Pet Expo, and learn about the Charters of Freedom display in Columbus!

You’ll find all of this and more in this month’s edition! We hope you enjoy what we’ve put together for you this month, and as I do each month, I encourage readers to reach out and help us share your story. Email me at with any thoughts or ideas for upcoming issues. As always, thanks for reading!

Gardening for Life Project

(Story on page 32)

Story by Storme Smith

Photos courtesy Gardening for Life

Nurturing Healthy Habitats in the Foothills
April 2024 Life in Our Foothills $4.95 FOOTHILLS life IN OUR Champions for Wildlife Teaching Nature Through Art Thermal Belt Rail Trail Making an Impact Seen Around Town Paws in Landrum Pet Expo
Jeff Allison General Manager Nurturing Healthy Habitats in the Foothills Gardening for
Life Project

General Manager

Jeff Allison

Graphic Design

Caitlin Schlemmer Marketing

Kevin Powell

MJ Parsons Distribution

Jamie Lewis

Alex Greene Administration

Sydney Wilkie

MARCH 2024 7
Our Foothills is published monthly
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CONTENTS 10 Calendar of Events 12 Seen Around Town Paws in Landrum Pet Expo 16 Foothills Discoveries Charters of Freedom and Veterans Memorial Park 18 Nonprofit Teaching Nature Through Art Champions for Wildlife 26 Making An Impact The Thermal Belt Rail Trail 34 Nurturing Healthy Habitats in the Foothills The Gardening for Life Project 34 26
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Pebbles Black and White 48 Quick Bites A Better-for-You Way to Begin the Day 49 Marketplace
Ad Index


Reimagined Realities: UP/REcycled Art

Through April 11

Tryon Arts and Crafts School 373 Harmon Field Rd., Tryon

Yoga @ Your Library

Mondays in April, 6pm Landrum Library 864-457-2218

All Members Exhibit: The Story Begins

Through April 27

Tryon Painters & Sculptors 78 N. Trade St., Tryon

Exhibits: “Concerning Being,” “Like an Epiphany,” and “Scenes from Alice in Wonderland”

Opening Reception April 6, 5-7pm

On display through May 24

Upstairs Artspace 49 S. Trade St., Tryon

Free Yoga Fridays

Fridays in April, 10:15am FENCE Center

Columbus Winter Market

April 6 and April 20, 10am

Iron Key Brewing Co. 135 Locust St., Columbus

Drumming Class

April 7, 4pm

Adawehi Wellness Center 828-290-7523

Saluda Library Speaker Series: Creating an Ecologically Sustainable Landscape

April 9, 2pm

Saluda Library 44 W. Main St., Saluda

TFAC Film Series: “As Good as it Gets”

April 9, 7pm

Tryon Fine Arts Center


76th Annual Block House Steeplechase


Green Creek Race Course, 828-278-8088


Tryon Concert Association presents Calefax Reed Quintet 7:30pm

Tryon Fine Arts Center


Healthy Living for Your Brain and Body: Tips from the Latest Research

April 10, 12pm

Landrum Library

111 Asbury Dr., Landrum

Hike with Foothills Humane Society

April 13, 10am

Saluda Winter Market

April 13 and 27, 10am

Saluda Center

64 Greenville St., Saluda

Asheville Jazz Collective

April 14, 4pm

Tryon Fine Arts Center

Conserving Carolina

Speaker Series: Old Indian Paths and a Revolutionary Battle Site in the Landrum Area

April 16, 6pm

Landrum Library

111 Asbury Dr., Landrum

Friends of Ag Breakfast

April 17, 7am

Green Creek Community Center 25 Shield Dr., Tryon

1950’s Americana Music with Chris Wayne April 18, 6:30pm

Landrum Library

111 Asbury Dr., Landrum

8th Annual Pig Pickin

April 20, 12-7pm

Parker-Binns Vineyard

Plant & Labyrinth WalkSpring Ephemerals

Coming Home: A

Reunion Concert to Benefit Steps to Hope

April 20, 7pm

Tryon Fine Arts Center

2nd Annual Hempfest

April 21, 2-7pm

Back Alley Boutique & Bud Bar

28 Oak St., Tryon

Landrum Quilters Quilting Bee

April 22, 9:30am

Gowensville Community Center 14186 Hwy. 11, Campobello

Tryon 4th Friday

April 26, 5-7pm

Trade St., Tryon

Community Campfire

April 26, 7pm

Tryon Depot, Depot St. Sponsored by Kiwanis

FENCE 40th Anniversary Bash

April 28, 12-4pm

3381 Hunting Country Rd., Tryon APRIL

April 20, 3pm

Adawehi Wellness Center

93 Adawehi Lane., Columbus


Tryon Fine Arts Center

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of the Page Poetry
Dasan Ahanu


The first annual Paws in Landrum Pet Expo, a community event hosted by P3 Animal Assistance Foundation, was held on March 9. An appreciative and huge crowd showed up, many with their own pets in tow. The event was sponsored by the City of Landrum along with Claussen and Walters LLC, Bonnie Brae Veterinary Hospital, Love Your Critter Pet Sitters, All Seasons Veterinary Hospital, The Southern Pet, Cardinal Cafe and Bistro, Love on a Leash, All Good Things Bakery, and various other amazing individual P3 Partners. Ten local rescues were on hand to discuss their amazing work along with several food trucks, face painting, carnival games, and around 25 pet service, supply or themed vendors. This was a “friend-raiser” to bring awareness to our community for P3, local rescues and businesses and the City of Landrum.

Photos by Mark Levin Yvonne Bebber, Kelly Vinesett, and Tricia Taber were thrilled with the first-ever Paws in Landrum Pet Expo. Marcy is surrounded by a parcel of love, as in Labor of Love Transport Rescue. Rebecca Rice and Ruby were representing Pet Tender Angels. With the help of some surgery and a lot of love, the organization hopes to help Ruby free herself of the wheelchair. Roger Atkison and Celo.
Verna Wilkins with Minikin and Lani Hasselbring with Oreo were representing Forever Dream Senior Dog Sanctuary. Lisa Clements (Thurman), Liz Skomra, Scott Butler (Pickle) and Kim Plemmons (Nemo) were representing Small but Mighty Dog Rescue from Campobello. Camryn Anderson with Walen. They are with the Canine Healing Project. Canyon and Carla Raffield and Pepper. Holly, Gunner, and Berkley Revan along with Dolly. Leslie VanHoy, Stephanie Aull, and Ellen Golda were representing Red Bell Run, a local sanctuary for rescued equines. Paula Drake, Gail Benner, Emmy Summers, and Veronica Hassig helped spread the word about Paws, Prayers, and Promises.
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Kaydence Cole had just finished up a game up ring toss being run by Lauren Winterrowd, a volunteer with P3 Animal Assistance Foundation. Lori Jewell with Gus and Kelly Bollinger were on hand to discuss their work with Pet Tender Angels. April Shires and Joann Romer with three striking dogs who all happen to be named after Harry Potter characters: Hermione, Dexter, and Gryffindor. Dana Mayer, founder of Paws, Prayers & Promises. Dana is usually holding a feline but couldn’t resist picking up this cutie. Anthony and Amy Sakovich brought their pet crew (Watson, Demelza, and Amyas) along for the fun. Stephanie Bakanosky, owner of The Southern Pet in Landrum, was one of the event’s sponsors. David and Laura Dickson from Campobello and handsome Jaz. Tim & Gwen Ryan of Columbus are professional drone pilots and offer a service to help find lost pets by using thermal imaging from above.
Shyla, Joy, and Jaxon Dorsey of Landrum with Koda. Volunteers with Pet Tender Angels: Ensley Karow (Gus), Kendall Gossett (Roy) and Hunter Shifflett. Kendall also happens to be Teen Miss Inman. Mayor Bob and Debbie Briggs along with great-grandson Asher. Liz Charak and Kate Price were helping raise funds for P3 Animal Assistance Foundation. Annabelle McKierman of Tryon would love to take this adoptable puppy home. Alyssa Mossburg and Whisper (an American Hairless Terrier) from Campobello.
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Ginny Plume and Sarah McDonald were proudly on hand representing the Foothills Humane Society.


Each month you’ll be introduced to something in our area that’s worth some exploration. Some of these will be familiar, but perhaps you’ve never been or haven’t been in years. And others might be things you have never heard of or thought to visit. All of these will be family-friendly and either free or inexpensive. Get out there!



Each year, about a million people visit the National Archives in Washington, DC to view the “Charters of Freedom.” These documents include the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. But did you know you can view these documents right at home in downtown Columbus?

The Charters of Freedom installation was dedicated in Polk County on Constitution Day in 2019, and you’re invited to see it any day of the year. These documents are cherished by Americans and envied by much of the rest of the world. They represent the principles of democracy that make the United States the great country that it is. These documents secured the freedom and rights of the American people.

The actual installation was provided by Foundation Forward, Inc., an educational non-profit that builds these displays across the country. Ours in Polk County is the twenty-third of these to be installed in the US. The documents are life-sized reproductions etched in brass. The installation itself is so well-built that it is meant

to last for 500 years. And if you take a quick walk behind the displays, you’ll see a door that hides a time capsule locked inside a waterproof safe. Stay tuned as it will be opened in 2087.

The Charters of Freedom landed in the perfect location for Polk County. It’s on one side of Veterans Memorial Park which is also worth a visit. Here, you’ll find a fountain surrounded by the names of hundreds of local citizens and others who have been honored by loved ones and friends by the donation of a brick used to help build the fountain. Additional pavers are located behind the Charters of Freedom. There are plaques for each war America has been involved in — starting with the American Revolution. Other historical markers are located around the park. Flags representing all the branches of our armed forces fly regally on a windy day.

A couple of picnic tables and a covered stage round out the park facilities.


Located across from the Columbus Post office at the corner of Ward and Gibson Streets.

Compiled and Photographed by Mark Levin
Hundreds of bricks commemorate the military service of family and friends around the fountain in Veterans Memorial Park. Three generations of the Wilson Family take a break from the Columbus Fourth event to enjoy some moments at Veterans Memorial Park. The Charters of Freedom display at Veterans Memorial Park.


Take a 30-second walk to the House of Flags Museum, right next door at 33 Gibson Street. It’s the only museum of its kind in the United States. Their motto, “Where Patriotism Lives,” is more than just a phrase. Inside you’ll see hundreds of flags and each one of them has a story to tell. Admission is free, donations appreciated. Check the website for days and hours at:

House of Flags

Add another short walk and check out the Polk County Historical Association Museum located just a block away at 60 Walker Street (entrance at lower level). This museum will help you appreciate Polk County’s fascinating history. Museum is free, donations appreciated. Check the website for days and hours at:

The dedication of the Charters of Freedom display attracted some dignitaries from the 1700s. The dedication of the Charters of Freedom display attracted some dignitaries from the 1700s. The Declaration of Independence.
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Polk County Historical Society Museum

Nonprofit Teaching Nature Through Art


When Loti Woods and Dale Weiler met in their sixties, they never expected their future to include teaching children. Life is an adventure, though, and the most fulfilling and joyful experiences of a person’s time on

earth often come in unexpected ways. After a few years of marriage, the couple started a nonprofit that promoted the conservation of endangered species by sharing their knowledge with the public. Following a presentation they

gave on conservation at a Polk County teacher orientation two years ago, teachers began to ask Loti and Dale to teach wildlife lessons to their students. Within two months, the couple had taught lessons on the endangered

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Story and photography by Emily Williams

American Red Wolf to over 500 children in Polk County.

Loti and Dale, as well as one of the nonprofit’s teachers, Alexis, reflect on the past two years of their organization, Champions for Wildlife. They share about the growth of their nonprofit, the impact their lessons have had on children, and the ways in which art can connect families not only with nature, but with each other.

Champions for Wildlife does not have a brick-andmortar space or hundreds of established teachers across the country, nor does the nonprofit need it. The organization simply has a PO box, a website, an associate director, two traveling teachers, and an undeniable passion for educating local children about wildlife through art. Dale Weiler had been a sculptor long before the establishment of Champions for Wildlife, so he Sculpture

of a hellbender by Dale Weiler

knew from the beginning that he wanted their lessons to include an art element.

“Art touches people in a very special, deep way,” shares Dale. “We wanted to use that art element to reach kids. We are finding that it crosses all kinds of barriers—language barriers, age, backgrounds. Kids just relate to art. When we go into the classrooms, we like to give them some education, but we also want them to get involved in an art project so they can really immerse themselves and get closer to the animal that we’re talking about in class.”

The art aspect of the lessons is what makes this organization so unique to the area. Loti refers to this piece of their teaching method as their “secret sauce” because, “whether they are gifted, special needs, or they don’t speak the same language, every child has done the art project.” Students feel

included and accomplished when they can create something with their own hands.

Alexis Hinchliffe, who teaches art lessons for the organization, has seen firsthand how powerful their method can be. Within an hour-long lesson, Alexis has seen students’ entire perspectives on certain species change from disdain or disinterest to love and reverence. Alexis believes the forty-minute art portion of the lesson is what “solidifies the love of the animal for the kids, to take what they’ve learned and then create something to showcase it. Art shows appreciation, and so for them to create something and talk through why they put certain details in their art, they get to show what they learn in a way that’s not a standardized test, but they also get to create something beautiful.”

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Students posing with their hellbender sculptures

After the lesson, the students get to take what they create, be it a clay sculpture of a hellbender or a collage of a butterfly, home to show their families. Alexis, Loti, and Dale constantly hear stories within the community of how kids are sharing their newfound knowledge of wildlife with their parents and siblings through the artwork they create. Dale claims that “these children are finding a voice, and we want to inspire and empower them to get out and make a difference. Our megaphone has gotten a lot bigger and a lot louder with all these kids spreading the word.”

The children are certainly using their voices to promote wildlife conservation in their relational spheres.

“We’re trying to not only reach the child but also the family,” says Loti. “Parents right now feel like they don’t have any power or control over what their kids are

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Second graders participate in a lesson

learning. By involving them in what we’re doing, we’re giving them some of that control back.”

Champions for Wildlife is both connecting families with their child’s learning and inviting families to become ambassadors for local wildlife.

“We want everyone working together—just like it does in nature,” Dale says. “Everyone has to be working in harmony. We’re going through this period in society where there is a polarization of ideas and mindsets. The more that people can work together, the more common ground they can find. We’re working to that point to bring teachers, students, and families together.”

Teachers, students, and families are not the only ones impacted by the work of this organization; staff and volunteers have been changed as well. Numerous volunteers have shared with Loti and Dale that working with the

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Student adds details to her hellbender

children has invigorated them and given them a new lease on life.

Alexis has also been touched by the experiences she has had teaching for the organization. While she has only been working for the nonprofit for less than a year, Alexis has already grown so much as a person. One way she has grown is by slowing down to appreciate nature. “As you start appreciating things more, whatever it is, you start allowing yourself to slow down and observe it,” Alexis shares. She finds beauty “in slowing down and seeing how people, animals and plants are all engaging with each other. I tell kids all the time that the scientists who are learning about animals can’t just go out one time and know what’s happening with the animal. There’s this patience, and the more they see this animal, the more they

know about it and fall in love with it.” Alexis is learning to practice what she preaches, going against the grain of fast-paced society and falling in love with her natural surroundings.

A community’s natural surroundings are vital to the flourishing of that area, which is why Champions for Wildlife wants to keep children curious about the wildlife in their own backyard. “Our mission is to inspire kids to be champions for wildlife, using art and education, with the idea that children are the future of our planet,” states Loti. “If anybody is going to save our planet, it’s going to be them. But if we don’t instill that love of wildlife in them early, then we’re in trouble.”

Loti and Dale have amazing plans in store for their organization to continue instilling a love for wildlife

Alexis working with a student


in the hearts of local children and kids across the country. They plan to teach their free lessons to 200 classes in Polk and Henderson counties during the 2024-25 school year. Throughout the spring and summer, they also plan to host free events for families in the area, including a hellbender event on May 4 at Harmon Field. More information on their events and registration are included on their website.

In 2025, Champions for Wildlife will also launch an education portal so teachers and parents across the country can access lesson plans on American Red Wolves, hellbenders, pollinators, birds, and other species for free. Alexis is enjoying prepping the materials for this portal because “the need is there. Teachers see power in our programs and see the power for the students. We’re not going to be the kind of

organization who doesn’t share our programs because we created them. If we share it, the more people are being reached to protect our animals and our planet.”

Champion for Wildlife’s goal is not to duplicate other wildlife organizations or keep their program to themselves. The nonprofit’s purpose is to enhance the conservation efforts already taking place, partner with other organizations, and spur the next generation to care for the planet. In the words of Dale Weiler, “Everyone can make a difference.” The organization Dale and Loti founded is a testament that everyone can have a positive impact on this world, no matter their age.

To learn more about Champions for Wildlife, schedule a lesson for your classroom, make a monetary donation, find information on upcoming events, or register to volunteer, visit www.

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The founders of Champions for Wildlife, Dale Weiler and Loti Woods


The Thermal Belt Rail Trail

There’s been quite a buzz around our foothills about the proposed Saluda Grade Trail, a 31-mile multi-purpose paved trail that would follow the old Norfolk Southern railroad corridor from Inman, South Carolina, to Zirconia North Carolina, passing through the towns of Landrum, Tryon and Saluda.

If you want to get a taste of what the SGT might be like, head over to Rutherford County and take a bicycle ride or stroll on the Thermal Belt Rail Trail. It’s a 13.5-mile, 12-foot-wide paved multipurpose trail that follows an old Norfolk Southern railroad corridor from Forest City northeast to the community of Gilkey, passing through the

towns of Rutherfordton, Spindale, and Ruth.

“It’s had an enormous impact on our communities,” says Jerry Stensland, executive director of the non-profit Rutherford Outdoor Coalition which manages the trail. “Every sector of our community is using it.”

The old railroad corridor that’s now the Thermal Belt Rail Trail

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Story and photography by Clay Johnson

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used to serve textile mills that lined the route, but when the textile industry moved much of its production to other countries, the mills closed.

“The local businesses wanted to keep the railroad here when Norfolk Southern was going to sell it, and they actually created an entity and bought the corridor locally and kept it going for a while as a railroad,” says Stensland.

That venture eventually fizzled leaders with the county and four towns along the route decided to convert it into a rail trail. Planning and surveying began in 2016, and the rails were pulled up and gravel put down. The RHI Legacy Foundation, a non-profit that promotes health and wellness in Rutherford County, provided a $4.25 million grant for paving the trail and creating infrastructure such as parking and signage. The newly paved trail opened in 2019.

According to the

Rutherfordton Outdoor Coalition from June 2022 to June 2023 more than 112,000 people used the trail, an average of about 307 people a day.

Jimmy Poole comes from his home in Shelby to cycle the trail about twice a week.

“I actually officiated basketball for about 20 years, and I retired, and I was looking for an opportunity to continue some cardio and to kind of somewhat stay in shape and spend some time with my family, and this track just kind of gave me all of those answers that I was looking for,” says Poole.

The trail is mostly flat with only slight elevation changes along the way. The northwest section of the trail from Gilkey to Ruth is rural and pastoral and passes by the Bechtler Mint Site Historic Park. The southeast section from Ruth to Forest City is more urban, passing by many businesses that seem to benefit

Map board, located at the Ruth parking area
MARCH 2024 29
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Poole and grandson on trail
“I’ve been to parking lots on the trail, and I don’t see a car from North Carolina sometimes. A lot of people come from two hours or more away just for the day. We’ve got these main street communities that are perfect to visit.”
Jerry Stensland, Executive Director, ROC

from having the trail close by.

“This trail stayed open during the pandemic, and I think it’s helped a lot of these businesses stay afloat because of the trail users coming and spending money here,” says Stensland.

“We’ve seen a lot of increase of cyclists,” says Eric Reid, assistant manager at Barley’s Taproom and Pizzeria, which is across the street from the trail in downtown Spindale. “Yesterday we had a group of ladies that came in that drove all the way from Charlotte just to come and ride the rails to trails.”

While Stensland says the ROC has no concrete data on the trail’s economic impact, there’s lots of anecdotal evidence from businesses like Barley’s. A new bicycle shop called “Grumpy’s” has opened in Spindale and offers sales, service and rentals. A new restaurant called Flyboy Pizza and a brewery called Flygirl Brewing have both recently

opened along the trail, and Stensland says a housing development near the trail is tripling in size. He says the trail helps promote tourism too, attracting many out-oftown visitors.

“I’ve been to parking lots on the trail, and I don’t see a car from North Carolina sometimes,” he says. “A lot of people come from two hours or more away just for the day. We’ve got these main street communities that are perfect to visit.”

The Thermal Belt Rail Trial has also sparked a $2 million investment to develop a new skate park and bicycle pump track that will connect directly to the trail. The Town of Spindale is leading the project in partnership with the Methodist Church and has received funding from half a dozen public and private organizations.

Since the trail opened, the ROC has overseen some beautification efforts

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Poole and his grandson enjoying the trail

including tree plantings along the corridor and fence artwork to screen out some of the less attractive industrial sites along the route. The ROC also has plans for expanding the trail. It’s done a feasibility study to lengthen it 18 miles to the north from Gilkey to Marion where it would connect with another rail trail. A new feasibility study is about to begin that will examine lengthening the trail another 6.4 miles to the east from Forest City to Ellenboro.

Improvements and expansions will no doubt delight trail users like Poole who appreciate having a place to cycle without worrying about traffic.

“It’s very family-oriented, somewhere that’s very safe where I can bring my grandson and my family, and we can come and enjoy the track and not worry about looking over our shoulders,” says Poole.

Jimmy Poole, a cyclist who frequents the Thermal Belt Rail trail with his family
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A cyclist
the trail Poole

Nurturing Healthy Habitats in the Foothills

Gardening for Life Project

When you get a group of gardeners together, good things tend to grow. This is true of the Gardening for Life Project, an all-volunteer group of community members on a mission to nurture healthy gardening habitats in the

Foothills and beyond.

The initiative began with just a few members and has grown to include a dream team of talented and dedicated volunteers. The leadership team consists of Vard Henry, Corrie Woods, Donna Wise, Karen Bird, Donna Younkin

and Anita Saulmon. The expanded leadership team includes Vivian Cheek and the entire Green Blades Garden Club, Clyde Younkin, Jay Lichty, John Vining, John Lane, Denny and Skip Crowe, Pam Torlina, Nick Fischer and many more.

Together, they aim to make native plants more readily available to the community, promote more pollinator and habitatfriendly gardening and encourage a shift in thinking from “the problems are too big” to “we can make a difference.”

The Gardening for Life Project was launched in partnership with the Creation Care Team of the Congregational Church in Tryon and Conserving Carolina. The project team is focused on bringing people together to discuss healthy habitats and explore ways to put Doug Tallamy and others’ teachings into practice.

They also support and spotlight organizations and services that protect nature and improve habitats. One of the highlights of the project’s focus areas for 2023 was bringing NY Times best-

selling author, entomologist and champion for healthy, biodiverse habitats, Dr. Doug Tallamy, to Polk County as a keynote speaker at an event held at Polk County High School. The event quickly sold out.

“It was very gratifying to hear someone say, after hearing Doug Tallamy’s presentation, that they finally got it,” said Anita Saulmon, a leadership team member. “They’ve gained a better understanding of the food web, the critical need for caterpillars to feed baby birds and the importance of native host plants.”

The project is not just about ripping out all the landscaping and starting over. Everyone can make a difference simply by ridding their properties of invasive species and adding some keystone plants, even if it’s only in containers.

The project’s website

Scenes from the 2023 Gardening for Life Celebration at PCHS.

offers many resources, including tip sheets, examples of folks putting this all into action and a Q&A section. By working together, the Gardening for Life Project hopes to positively impact the local ecosystem and inspire others to do the same.

“Our focus is to raise awareness about the ways we can all make a difference to support the biodiversity and beauty of the Foothills by making smart choices right in our yards and neighborhoods,” said Corrie Woods of the Gardening for Life Project Leadership Team. “Conservation begins right at home!”

The Gardening for Life C elebration 2024 was recently held in March. This year’s keynote speaker was Jim McCormac—a botanist specializing in wildlife diversity projects, a conservationist and a renowned photographer. His

MARCH 2024 37 54 McFarland Drive Hwy. 108 Tryon, NC 28782 (828) 859-9341
2024 Gardening for Life Celebration speaker Jim McCormac

talk focused on gardening for moths and their vital role in our local ecosystems.

The Gardening for Life project has experienced a seachange in both the mindset of their neighbors and their willingness to nurture biodiversity in our area. “The remarkable thing about the GFLP is how the community has gotten behind it in just 12 months,” said Donna Younkin.

“We could sit around for only so long wringing our hands doing nothing regarding our region’s invasive species and the resultant destruction of habitat and loss of biodiversity,” said Saulmon. “The Gardening for Life Project founders planted the seeds and are gently educating our community via events and website resources.”

The project’s website,, serves as a learning center where folks can discover The founders of the Gardening

Live the life you love. Find out how at or call (888) 380-2561 PASSION + PURPOSE + COMMUNITY Live ARTFULLY
Doris, painter for Life Project

helpful links to resources on everything from invasive species to backyard ecology to what native plants grow best where.

“Our gardens can be a source of food and shelter for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife. By planting native plants, we can create healthy habitats that support these essential creatures,” said Corrie Woods. “We want to help people make informed decisions about their landscaping and gardening choices. By making smart choices, we can all make a difference.”

The Gardening for Life Project is an excellent example of how a small group can positively impact their community and the environment. It is proof that small actions can create change and that by working together, we can make a difference for future generations.

Native Plant Sale at the high school

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Scenes from the Native Plant Sale in downtown Tryon

Black and white

The Rescue of Deco, Domino and Jasmine

Some choices in life are fifty shades of gray, while others are pure black and white. There are snap decisions made with no variables and no question about the eventual outcome.

This was so true with the pinto pair, Deco and Domino, along with sister filly, Jasmine. Born in

Kentucky, Domino was the fourmonth-old son of Deco. Jasmine was the three-year-old daughter of Deco, sired by the same pony stallion. The trio left the only home they had ever known to be sold at a livestock auction in neighboring Tennessee. The highest bidder for all three was a kill buyer. He

was sending 18-year-old Deco to slaughter along with her daughter, Jasmine.

Why would this happen, you may ask? Well, Deco was a senior mare. Jasmine was halter broke and sweet but had no training or registration papers. Deco was also blind in one eye. She also possessed

a large calcium deposit on one knee from an old injury. Oh, she moved beautifully despite the injury, but at the auction, she appeared skinny and worn down from years of birthing foals. And of course, Deco was pregnant yet again. Bred back to the same stallion that produced her pony colt, Domino, and her filly, Jasmine. I forgot to mention that Jasmine was sick and coughing as they attempted to show her to the bidders.

People felt extremely sorry for the pitiful mother and son pair. Domino was tiny and nursing. He clung close to his mother. The innocent colt was seeking comfort from her with every step he took. He was fearful of this new, unfamiliar situation.

Many individuals commented about the sad fate of all three horses. How terrible that they ended up as a family at this doomed crossroads. Yet the final

day came, and no one was stepping up to help any of them out of this dark situation. It was a black-andwhite moment.

Should we turn a blind eye towards them? We could avoid all the work required to change their fateful outcome. We could let Deco and her daughter Jasmine ship to a sad and painful ending in Mexico and hope that the colt would find mercy and a way to survive on his own. Domino was too young and small for the kill market. He could not endure the long journey in a crowded livestock trailer of full-grown horses to Mexico. He would surely be trampled to death. We had a choice to make quickly. And without hesitation, we decided to get all three of them to safety in HERD rescue and change their futures.

Observant a pony as I am, what I find amazing is that each of these horses

ABOVE: Deco and Domino enjoying their new shed and alfalfa hay

BELOW: Domino and Emily Holden in quarantine


is so striking and similar in appearance. They possess big, bold splashes of white over black on their bodies. They all have some form of white on their faces and tall stocking legs. Black is not a visible spectrum of color, as all colors reflect light except black. Black is the absence of light. Unlike white, which is made up of all hues of the visible light spectrum, pure black can exist in nature without any light.

The word pinto, which means “painted” in Spanish, became a common English language term to describe a horse with large spots. The first pinto horses came to America thanks to the Spanish conquistadors. These equines often escaped to form Mustang herds. A pinto is a color type, not a breed like the paint horse. Many different breeds can sport pinto markings and coloration. Even knowledgeable equestrians often confuse the terms

MARCH 2024 45
Black and white of Deco and Domino on arrival

pinto and paint horse in conversation.

Without the help of our rescue, these three pintos would have quickly ceased to exist. They could disappear from the light of life altogether. They would be in the black, finding total darkness, the absence of light. While “in the black,” has a positive meaning as far as finances go, in this case, it would mean an untimely meeting with the Grim Reaper. Throughout history, the color black has also been attached to fearful and mysterious things, like black magic, black holes in space, and the devastating black plague.

This was not happening on my watch as the spokespony for Helping Equines Regain Dignity, (HERD.) We would bring them into the light of our rescue to find a positive outcome for the three horses. Let me correct myself right

here. We were helping four lives escape the darkness, as Deco was confirmed pregnant.

After purchasing these horses, transport arrangements were made to bring them into our fold in North Carolina. Jasmine was painfully thin and suffering from a bad respiratory infection. Although brighteyed, baby Domino also showed signs of illness. Then in short order, Deco also became sick with a cough and nasal discharge. So, the horses were kept in quarantine for two full months. Kailey Greene at Shingle Hollow Farm in Rutherfordton took excellent care of our pintos for us. They were finally veterinarian-cleared to receive new Coggins tests and their annual vaccines.

Spring delivers longer days, with emerging green grass and warmer weather, making it the ideal time for

Jasmine arriving from the kill pen

Deco and Domino to relocate to our ranch. Domino will be gelded soon. He can grow up with other colts similar in age that reside here with us. We have Sloan, Jupiter, Clayton, and Mia. They range in age from seven months old, to becoming yearlings in April. Deco can deliver her new foal in the safety of HERD. Volunteer Bill McClelland built Deco a lovely new run-in shed so she will have a haven, out of the summer sun and thunderstorms, to shelter her new baby.

Jasmine did not join us. She remains with Kailey to begin training this month. She is old enough to start under-saddle work to assist her in finding a career and a loving home. Overall, things are looking rosy now for this family of pintos.

“The World is black, The World is white, it turns by day, and then by night.”

MARCH 2024 47 We welcome chronic, complex & challenging health conditions. 31 S. Trade St. | Tryon, NC | 828.817.9883 LIFE GETS BETTER, THE BETTER YOU FEEL!
Domino’s first hoof trim with Valerie Lowe holding him


Starting a journey toward better health and wellness can begin the same way you can (and should) start each day: with a nutritious breakfast. A morning meal loaded with nutrient-boosting flavor provides the foundation you need not only for the day at hand, but for a sustainable


Recipe courtesy of Tessa Nguyen, RD, LDN, on behalf of the North Carolina

Sweetpotato Commission

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Servings: 12

long-term eating plan, as well.

Consider this Sweetpotato Breakfast Bake as a budget-friendly way to feed your family with plenty of leftovers for days to follow. Full of eggs, bell peppers and turkey sausage, it’s a surefire crowd-pleaser that’s also loaded with


•1 cup sweetpotatoes, shredded

•1/2 cup cooked turkey sausage crumbles or cooked turkey bacon

•1/4 cup green onions, sliced

•1/2 cup bell pepper, diced

•9 eggs, beaten

•1/2 cup cheddar cheese,


shredded sweetpotatoes. According to the American Diabetes Association, sweetpotatoes are a “diabetes superfood” because they’re rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber, all of which are good for overall health and may help prevent disease.

•1/2 teaspoon black pepper

•Nonstick cooking spray


•Heat oven to 400 F.

•Spray 13-by-9-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

•Evenly spread sweetpo-

tatoes, sausage or bacon, green onions and bell peppers in dish.

•Pour eggs carefully into baking dish. Sprinkle shredded cheese and black pepper over eggs.

•Bake 15 minutes.

•Slice into 12 pieces and serve hot.



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ADVERTISER INDEX Biltmore House 2 Carolina Storage Solutions 24 Carruth Furniture 32 Cason Builders 25 Clover Acupuncture 47 Congregational Church of Tryon 31 Dr. Jonathan Lowry 45 Farm Bureau 50 Foothills Movement 15 Habitat for Humanity 29 Highland Design & Construction 40 Isothermal Community College 28 JB Trees 36 McFarland Funeral Chapel 37 New View Realty 4 Penny Insurance 47 Polk County Transportation 44 Prince Gas Company 30 Red Bell Run 9 Rosecrest 33 Rutherford Regional Health 20 SG Power & Equipment 39 Southern Pet 32 St. Luke’s Foundation 46 St. Luke’s Hospital 3 Stone Setting and Design 7 Strauss Attorneys 21 Tryon Builders 23 Tryon Estates 38 Tryon Fine Arts Center 52 Tryon International Equestrian Center 22 Tryon Little Theater 7 Tryon Painters & Sculptors 50 Tryon Presbyterian Church 29 White Oak Retirement 41
veh stage Mountains to the Sea Jazz Series Asheville Jazz Collective Quintet: Will Boyd, Josef Butts, Bill Bares, Alan Hall, Christian Howes Sunday, April 14 • 4  pm Jazz & Poetry featuring GRAMMY winner Quentin Baxter and Charleston Poet Laureate Marcus Amaker Sunday, May 19 • 4  pm for more info & online ticket purchase jazz series sponsors 34 Melrose Avenue, Tryon NC 28782 828-859-8322 tr Live Creative

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