Say hello to our lovely new Explore Up Close logo!
Why did we make this change now (of all years!), and what’s the story behind that feather?
Well. We’re glad you asked . .. because if you haven’t heard, we love a good story.
Explore Up Close was founded by Chumley Cope in 2004 - born out of his love of history, storytelling, and travel to places that often took him well off the proverbial beaten path.
He drew the logo for his new company by himself - inspired by a downy woodpecker feather he picked up on a walk near his home. He'd picked up the feather as a curio, as a token of the day's exploration. It symbolized the wonder of place and the spirit of discovery that he would bring to his travel.
The original Explore Up Close logo
For nearly 15 years, Chumley ran every aspect of the company by himself - dreaming up itineraries, leading small groups from Spartanburg and Greenville and Asheville and Bluffton on hand-crafted adventures.
A few years ago, he tripled the size of his team, by hiring his daughter Caroline and her husband Khal. Explore Up Close continued growing in new and exciting ways: expanded trip offerings, new clients, and partnerships with diverse organizations across the Carolinas.
And then, suddenly we found ourselves in untested waters in March 2020. Our travels had taught us to expect the unexpected, but a global pandemic that put a freeze on travel of any kind . . . well, it felt like we’d been dashed out of our snug little boat into icy water. And yet, once we’d absorbed the initial shock . . . we knew how we were going to get through this. By relying on our bond as a family and as a team, through the support of our community, and by reimagining everything that Explore Up Close could be.
Explore Up Close launched our first Virtual Travel series in late March 2020 - an email newsletter designed to bring the outside world and engaging stories to our clients, in the midst of isolation and lock-down. We dove into our archive of photographs and experiences, and took to the backroads to film short videos in remote locations across our region.
One surprising effect of the pandemic was that it quickly revealed the strengths of a type of travel we consider our bread and butter: small group exploration of lesser-known places and stories of the Southeastern United States.
By the end of the summer, our “Virtual Travel” took a new shape: the Corps of Discovery membership program. Our membership program was designed to keep Explore Up Close afloat and connected with our community, and it centers on sharing the same thoughtful exploration that our travelers know and love.
Amid the uncertainty of 2020, it was thrilling to see Explore Up Close grow in new directions - a silver lining that we never anticipated. We began dreaming up a new website that would allow us to better showcase our expanded offerings in 2021: storytelling through words and photography, our growing membership program, and the future of our small group travel. Looking at our faithful logo of over a decade, we felt that it was time for a refresh - in celebration of the new paths that have opened up for us this year.
We collaborated with talented graphic designer Julia Bridgforth on our new logo and branding - and we’re so glad that we did! Julia honed a fresh look that captures our mission: to help curious explorers uncover hidden stories and places, and to foster deeper connections with the world and each other. A mission that felt more important than ever, this year.
The downy woodpecker feather that Chumley drew in 2004 had new life breathed into it - and remains a central part of our logo. It symbolizes our appreciation and fascination with the details of place.
Our updated color palette was inspired by nature. It’s a modern take on our original periwinkle blue, and draws on tawny yellow and cool blues and grays.
If you’ve been on an Explore Up Close trip, you must know this - we like old things, full of character. Historic hotels, ancient landscapes, stories and legends - and wine - that have only gotten better with age . . . our love of the historic was melded with vintage passport stamps for a fun variation of our logo.
Finally, another defining love at Explore Up Close - maps and landscapes. These topography elements are drawn from maps of the Appalachian Mountains, where we have our roots - an ode to the place-based and map-oriented travel style of Explore Up Close.
So here we are, at the end of a year full of reflection, growth, dark and light moments, and irrepressible exploration. We can’t wait to see what’s coming in 2021, and beyond.
We warmly invite you to join us as our journey continues.
Introduce your friends to Explore Up Close - send them a complimentary copy of our 2021 Travel Catalog.
Referrals are the #1 way we grow, and we are so grateful to each person who has mentioned us to their neighbor, shared our emails or Facebook posts, or invited a friend to travel with us. To request a catalog for a friend, it’s easy: contact us by email or phone to make the arrangements, and we will mail them a copy of our 2021 catalog. You can even include a personalized note to them, if you’d like!
Posted on December 2nd in Small Group Travel
[Above the din and smoke enveloping the plains of Waterloo, rose the steady clear lilt of a solitary bag-piper, dressed in his Gordon Highlanders tartan . . . and the melody of "Johnnie Cope, Are Ye Wakin'?" flooded into the valley and into the hearts of the troops.]
This is Chumley, founder of Explore Up Close, writing with some words of encouragement. (As for the above passage . . . sometimes, only the music of the Scottish Highlands can capture a particular feeling.)
We're obviously experiencing a lock-down on all travel and routine activities, which will stretch on for several weeks. There will be updates from officials and experts about the specifics of the lock-down, and the duration -- so we, like you, will monitor and reassess our world of travel possibilities as those updates roll through.
Here are a few notes that I hope are comforting to us all.
First of all, on the personal side: If any of you who live in our immediate area (i.e. the Greenville / Spartanburg areas) need anything -- a grocery store run, help getting to an appointment, toilet paper from my wife's stash -- please contact us. Call me, leave a message, and I'll respond.
Related to our scheduled travel during the next month or so:
We are taking the approach of wanting to reschedule trips that fall between mid-March and mid-April. As I said above, we'll keep monitoring developments about the virus and safety restrictions, and make smart decisions about later trips -- and whether we can take them as scheduled or need to reschedule. So, if you're signed up for a spring trip, we'll be in touch with details about our plans.
We will also take this unexpected free time to share some wonderful travel photos, and snippets of great stories from our archives, which we hope will help lift your spirits and normalize your lives.
Among the true joys that we've found during our years of Exploring Up Close are the friendships we've experienced along the way with our fellow travelers. So, in our present dislocation, we'll continue to keep in touch . . . and we'll look forward to some great backroads exploration in our future!
Explore Up Close Founder
Posted on March 16th in Small Group Travel
As this year comes to a close, we're reflecting on our favorite memories from 2019 . . . and from the past decade. It's been a big year for our small family company, and we couldn't be more excited as we look ahead to 2020!
Here's 2019, by the numbers . . .
Over the past decade . . .
Posted on December 31st in Small Group Travel
This Southeastern Trip of Discovery took us through the scenic backroads of South Carolina's Old 96 District, with a stop in Edgefield, South Carolina, before crossing the Savannah River into the Georgia Piedmont. We then visited the beautifully decorated private homes and historic buildings of Washington, Georgia, as part of the town's annual Christmas Tour. Holiday fun at its finest!
The Thomson, Georgia home of Thomas Watson - prominent Southern Populist politician and lawyer.
Our group enjoyed a private tour of the impressive Edgefield County Archives, which contains some of South Carolina's rarest historical documents and best preserved records.
The stately Chantilly at Brookhill, a former cotton plantation and dairy farm.
Keeping warm with some hot cider.
Does anyone else love vintage Christmas decorations like we do?
Posted on December 15th in Small Group Travel
- Inns of the Southeast: The Monte Vista Hotel
- Our 2020 Holiday Gift Guide
- Introducing our new logo!
- Virtual Travel Video: The Major of Saint-Lô
- Virtual Travel Video: The Linville Gorge
- Virtual Travel Video: Cape Fear Water Taxi
- Virtual Travel Video: Mount Mitchell
- Virtual Travel Video: Junaluska
- Virtual Travel Video: Tapoco Lodge
- Virtual Travel Video: Cheoah Dam