While managing a bookstore in Kansas in the 1980s, Carolyn Sakowski noticed that a book about traveling the backroads of Colorado sold consistently well. When she returned to her native North Carolina, she decided to write a similar book about the mountains of North Carolina.
She began her research in familiar territory. She knew the backroads around the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, having grown up in nearby Morganton. She had an MA in history from Appalachian State University and had also taught a Burke County history course at Western Piedmont Community College, so she had some familiarity with the region’s history.
Sakowski spent long hours in the regional sections of local libraries looking for interesting historical trivia, information about local landmarks, and stories about eccentric characters who had lived in the area. Since the highways that connected early settlements were often bypassed when new roads were constructed, the sites of these historical tidbits proved to be on today’s backroads.
As her research progressed, each of the 21 tours that make up Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads took on a life of its own. By the time the book was published in 1990, Sakowski had written a popular history of the entire western section of North Carolina—most of which can be relived by driving some of the finest scenic byways in America.
Now, over 20 years later, Sakowski drove more than 4,000 miles to update the same tours for the third edition of what has become a classic travel guide for the area. Although some things have changed, such as the addition of four state parks at Elk Knob, Gorges, Chimney Rock, and Grandfather Mountain, much remained the same. Most of the historic sites still exist, and some previously endangered sacred Cherokee sites are now preserved. Despite dramatically increased development in the North Carolina mountains, the backroads remain intact.
Whether you are an armchair traveler, a history buff, or a motorist looking for an alternative to crowded highways, Touring the Western North Carolina Backroads will take you to unforgettable places and introduce you to memorable characters and events.