Inns of the Southeast: The Monte Vista Hotel

Dreaming about a short getaway in 2021? The Monte Vista Hotel in Black Mountain, North Carolina is a classic inn, laden with history - and adjoining a local art gallery and studios! We visited last week, and were impressed by their great safety protocols and cozy spaces, indoors and outdoors - as well as their beautiful Christmas decorations!

Join Caroline on location to learn the story of this lovely boutique hotel, and take a look around . . .

For more travel inspiration and Southeastern stories, become a member of our Corps of Discovery! 

Posted on December 31st in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: The Major of Saint-Lô

Today, our Virtual Travel video focuses on the story of Major Thomas Dry Howie - the Major of Saint-Lô. This native South Carolinian stormed the beaches of Normandy, and continued to inspire his men, and the world, after his death. 

Thomas Howie was born in Abbeville, SC in 1908, descended from the French Huguenot community who established themselves in South Carolina before the Revolution. They named the town Abbeville, in honor of their French town they left behind. 

Over 150 years later, one of their descendants would return to Normandy to liberate France in World War II, and is buried on French soil in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer. Thomas Howie is one of South Carolina's heroes - and today, we wanted to share his story. We'll also show you the moving memorial in his honor that is located in Abbeville.  

Click below to join Khal, and let's explore . . . 


Here is a link to the famous photograph of Major Howie's flag-draped body in Saint-Lo, published with the following caption:

"25 Jul 1944, St. Lo, France --- Under Old Glory, the body of a U.S. major identified only as "Major Aowie" rests atop the ruins of St. Croix Church in St. Lo, France. The major was killed leading an assault on the town... His last wish being his desire to lead his men into the German stronghold. His troops, fulfilling his wish placed his body among the ruins as they fought to drive the enemy from the area."


For those of you who are fascinated by the poignant history and sacred spaces of this beautiful part of France . . .

We invite you to take a look at our 2021 small group adventure: Normandy + Brittany: France's West Country.

Posted on November 1st in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: The Linville Gorge

It's a wilderness adventure into the "Grand Canyon of the East" - North Carolina's Linville Gorge!

Enjoy a preview of Khal's backpacking adventure into this historic wilderness area below - and become a Corps of Discovery member to view the entire video! 


Posted on September 4th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Cape Fear Water Taxi

Welcome to this week's Virtual Travel experience!

In today's video, Chumley visits one of only three inland river ferries that still function in the state of North Carolina. He's not exactly up the creek without a paddle, but he is at the river without a ferry. Click below to hear our on-location story of the week, featuring the historic Elwell Ferry in Bladen County, NC.


Posted on July 31st in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Mount Mitchell

Welcome to this week's Virtual Travel experience!

In July of 1857, Professor Elisha Mitchell of the University of North Carolina fell to his death, on the northwestern slope of what was then commonly known as "Black Mountain."  He was miles from the highest peak on the long ridge, that boasted multiple peaks over 6500 feet, including the highest point east of west Texas and west South Dakota.  Mitchell died while walking to meet a guide whom he hoped could verify that he had identified the highest peak in the range some 22 years earlier.

Join Chumley on location . . . and take the eye test yourself:  Can you identify the highest point on "Black Mountain" that is now known as Mount Mitchell?

Posted on July 24th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Junaluska

Welcome to this week's Virtual Travel experience!

Join Chumley on location in Robbinsville, North Carolina, where he uncovers an under-the-radar memorial to Junaluska -- a Cherokee leader who named himself, after going through a great struggle.

Posted on July 10th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Tapoco Lodge

Welcome to this week's Virtual Travel experience!

Join EUC founder Chumley Cope in the newest chapter of our Friday Video Series. Chumley is still "on location" near Cheoah Dam in North Carolina's Graham County . . . to tell you more of the local story. This week, we feature a video and photos of the beautifully-situated Tapoco Lodge.

Posted on July 3rd in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Cheoah Dam

Welcome to this week's Virtual Travel experience!

This week, EUC founder Chumley Cope has ventured into the Great Smoky Mountains of western North Carolina. The Little Tennessee River flows north and west from its sources into Tennessee, framing the southern boundary of the Great Smoky Mountains en route. The river's swiftness made it a prize for electricity developers, beginning early in the 20th century. Join Chumley on location beneath the Cheoah Dam -- where a famous movie star went missing in 1993.


Posted on June 26th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Sunburst, NC

We invite you to enjoy today's virtual travel experience!

For today's Virtual Travel experience, we're exploring some of western North Carolina's lumber heritage. Join us as we visit the historic Sunburst community -- a model lumber mill town not far from Waynesville, NC. Join Explore Up Close founder Chumley Cope on location to learn more!

Today's video witnesses Chumley traveling beyond the border of South Carolina for the first time in the new Explore Up Close virtual travel series. His trek north of the border takes him to the lovely Bethel Valley, just south of Waynesville, NC. Tune in, as Chumley recounts the story of Sunburst -- one of North Carolina's prettiest place names, and today just a "ghost community" where a lumber mill town once thrived.


Posted on June 19th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Mary H. Wright School, Spartanburg, SC

We invite you to enjoy today's virtual travel experience!

For today's Virtual Travel experience, we're exploring some of South Carolina's mid-century Civil Rights history! Join us as we visit the Mary H. Wright School, in Spartanburg, South Carolina -- one of the state's best examples of an Equalization School. What's an Equalization School, you may ask? Join Explore Up Close founder Chumley Cope on location to find out!

These were South Carolina's last-ditch efforts to stave off integration in the public schools, by funding state-of-the-art schools for African-American children. It was an attempt to prolong the entrenched concept of "separate but equal" public facilities -- including schools -- established by the Supreme Court in 1896. But by 1950, a bundle of court cases (including Briggs v. Elliott, from Clarendon County, SC) was making its way to the land's highest court, challenging the idea that "separate" was indeed "equal." Our latest video includes photos of education pioneer, Mary Wright, and a circa 1925 school for African-American school children in the rural Carolina Piedmont.

Posted on June 12th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Limestone Springs, South Carolina

Our latest Virtual Travel video focuses on the story of Limestone Springs in Cherokee County, South Carolina

Limestone Springs was located in the Piedmont region, in what's now the town of Gaffney, SC. Throughout the 19th century, it attracted many people from the Lowcountry and Midlands due to its medicinal springs and mild climate. The area was also home to a limestone quarry, which would eventually play a role in building one of our nation's most distinctive monuments.

In 1849, a request was sent throughout the United States asking for rock to aid in the construction of the Washington Monument. In South Carolina, this request was answered by Thomas Curtis, the president of Limestone College (located, of course, in Limestone Springs). Founded in 1845, the college was the first institution of higher education for women in the state. Curtis owned the nearby limestone quarry, from which a large slab of limestone rock selected. This stone was engraved with the state seal, and sent on to Washington. If you visit the Washington Monument today, some of these stones with commemorative seals can be seen from inside the elevator shaft! 

Click to join Chumley, and let's explore . . . 


Posted on June 5th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Northern Ireland's Presbyterian Heritage in SC


Our latest Virtual Travel video focuses on the story of a community of early Scots-Irish Presbyterians in Chester County, South Carolina

William Martin was a Presbyterian minister who fled religious persecution in Northern Ireland in the 1770s, and brought his congregation of around 500 families to live in what's now Chester County, South Carolina. Martin and many of his parishioners worshiped at the Catholic Presbyterian Church - an intriguing name, which we'll explain!

During the American Revolution, Reverend Martin became what the frustrated British called a "sedition preacher" - a man who effectively stirred Patriot support in his community from his pulpit. Since churches served as key gathering spots for rural colonial communities, local preachers were often effective recruiters for the cause. Men from William Martin's congregation would ultimately form two entire Patriot regiments! 

Click below to join Explore Up Close founder, Chumley Cope, and let's explore . . . 



Interested in more Scots-Irish history? Browse our upcoming trips!


Posted on May 29th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Due West + Erskine College

Our latest Virtual Travel video takes you to the picturesque campus of Erskine College, a private liberal arts school of about 800 students. 

Here, we'll uncover the origin of the little town of Due West, formed at the crossroads of the European and Cherokee trade in colonial South Carolina. Later, this crossroads became the beginning of a new life for Scots-Irish Presbyterians, fleeing religious and political persecution. 

Click below to join Caroline on location, and let's explore . . . 


Posted on May 15th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Historic Glenn Springs, SC

Our latest Virtual Travel video explores the historic resort community of Glenn Springs, SC. Though it all but disappeared during the Great Depression, this was once a popular resort for wealthy 19th century visitors, who traveled from far away to "take the waters." Thanks to local preservation efforts, several historic buildings still stand proudly - and are even being freshly renovated for the community to enjoy.

Join Explore Up Close founder Chumley Cope, and let's go! 

Posted on May 8th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Porto and the Douro Valley

Join Caroline on a virtual voyage in Northern Portugal, as we discover the city of Porto, and the storied Douro River Valley. 

Click below to watch the video, and let's explore . . . 

Posted on May 1st in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Rosemont Plantation & Ann Pamela Cunningham

Join Explore Up Close in Laurens County, South Carolina, as we delve into a fascinating tale of early historical preservation in the United States - the story of how George Washington's Mount Vernon was saved by a South Carolina lady. 

A Laurens County native, Ann Pamela Cunningham established one of the country's first preservation organizations, when she formed the Mount Vernon Ladies Association in 1853 and spearheaded efforts to preserve Mount Vernon for future generations. 

Her letters wryly describe her negotiations with George Washington's great grand-nephew, John Augustine Washington: 

"I shook hands with Mr. Washington; told him it was leap-year, women were bound to have their way. He might resist with all his might, but I knew I was to be victor, and must counsel him to follow the example of his illustrious ancestor, who never acted on a grave affair without having slept on it." 

Join us in Laurens County on the site of her family's ancestral home, Rosemont Plantation. The house burned in 1930, but the fascinating story of Ann Pamela Cunningham and her Mount Vernon Ladies Association remains. 

Click below to watch the video, and let's explore . . . 


For further reading:

Posted on April 24th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Conestee Mill + McBee Chapel

Join Chumley and Caroline with Explore Up Close, as we explore two historic sites in Greenville County, South Carolina: Conestee Mill, once known as McBee Manufacturing, and an intriguing chapel built for its workers, both established by one of Greenville's most influential early figures, Vardry McBee.  

Click below to watch the video, and let's explore . . . 

Exploring Conestee Mill + McBee Chapel from Explore Up Close on Vimeo.


Posted on April 17th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Cokesbury College

It's Friday, and we're back with another Virtual Travel video!  So far, we've been featuring snippets of "hidden" history that surrounds us, and today is no exception.

Join Explore Up Close founder, Chumley Cope, as he shows you one of his favorite buildings in the South Carolina Upstate: a beautiful 19th century women's academy, known as Cokesbury College, in Greenwood County. 



Posted on April 10th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Exploring Oconee Station

This week, we are featuring some of South Carolina's early frontier history in Oconee County.  Join our founder, Chumley Cope, and let's explore . . . 


Posted on April 3rd in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel Video: Spartanburg's Daniel Morgan Monument

Announcing - militia drumroll, please - our very first Virtual Travel Video! 

This week, we wanted to share a snippet of local history with you, about a monument that some of you may have strolled by in downtown Spartanburg's Morgan Square. 

This 1881 sculpted monument depicts Revolutionary War hero Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, known for leading the Patriots to victory in the Battle of Cowpens. This was a decisive turning point in the American Revolution, hastening the events that led to the British surrender at Yorktown. 

Today, we're sharing the surprising story behind the monument itself, which was put up post-Reconstruction. Join our founder, Chumley Cope, and let's explore . . . 

Virtual Travel with Explore Up Close: Video 1 from Explore Up Close on Vimeo.


Posted on March 27th in Virtual Travel Series

Virtual Travel: The TVA and the Clinch River

Mystery Photo Reveal: March 23, 2020

As many of you correctly guessed, this photo was taken in the Volunteer State -- Tennessee. The railroad bridge spans the Clinch River, which was the site of the TVA's first impoundment: Norris Lake and Dam, named for Nebraska Senator George Norris (pictured). 

Norris (a Republican, perhaps in name only) was a great ally of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal legislation. Described by FDR as a "knight of American progressive ideals," Norris introduced the Senate version of the TVA Act, which became law in May 1933. (Monday's email incorrectly linked Norris to the Ways and Means Committee -- untrue; that committee only exists in the House of Representatives. That's our corrected testimony!)

The Norris Dam would ultimately power the "Secret City" of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which played a key role in the Manhattan Project.

The Manhattan Project was the secret work of the United States government during World War II to create an atomic reaction, and, ultimately, weapon. State-of-the-art laboratories, along with accommodations for 30,000 employees and their families (though the population was over twice that by 1945), were tucked away in the sparsely populated, mist-shrouded hills of Tennessee. (The other secret cities established were Hanford, Washington, and Los Alamos, New Mexico).

Finally, an interesting connection to our region . . .

The TVA constructed an entire town to build and administer Norris Dam and Lake; this new town was called Norris. A TVA staff "landscape engineer" named Earle Sumner Draper drew up the design for the town, which featured curvy, winding streets, and large wooded lots. Draper's earlier landscape design work can be seen today in some of our region's most famous (and charming) residential neighborhoods: Druid Hills (Hendersonville), Myers Park (Charlotte), Hayes Barton (Raleigh), Sequoyah Hills (Knoxville) - and the layout of the hotel and "resort" complex at Lake Lure, NC.

Posted on March 25th in Virtual Travel Series

Announcing . . . Virtual Travel with Explore Up Close!

Greetings Explore Up Close friends, 

We're happy to announce a fun and intriguing "virtual travel" series that we'll send to you by email every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We're excited to continue to bring our exploration to you, in the comfort of your home! It's our hope that this will keep our minds and hearts traveling, even while we stay in place right now.

Here's what to look forward to in your inbox each week . . .

Each Monday, we'll share a mystery photo from our travels - and it's up to you to guess where it is! Stay tuned for our first photo, coming later today . . .

On Wednesdays, we'll reveal the location of our mystery photo, along with snippets of stories related to this place. We'll also engage with questions that we receive via email, so if there is something that you've been wondering - from our favorite places, to travel logistics, we encourage you to ask away!

Each Friday, we'll spice things up with a fun travel video from our team. Now . . . where did I put my movie director's beret?!

If you aren't currently on our mailing list, but would like to receive our Virtual Travel series, simply click here to join our mailing list. 

We could all use a bit of an escape right now, so we warmly invite you to join in the fun, and share this series with your friends. Here's to past and future adventures!


Chumley Cope
Explore Up Close Founder

Posted on March 23rd in Virtual Travel Series

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