Located in neighboring Jackson County, Whiteside Mountain is said to be the oldest mountain in the U.S., perhaps the oldest mountain in the world. Geologists date the mountain to be around four hundred million years old. It is well known that the Appalachian Mountains are among the oldest mountains, so perhaps Whiteside is THE oldest. I should like to think it is. The mountain began under the earth as molten rock. Like many other "rock-faced" mountains in our area, it slowly came to life after thousands and thousands of years of erosion left the molten rock as a prominence.
At 4,930 feet, Whiteside Mountain is far from the tallest mountain in the Appalachians, but the dramatic white cliffs make it one of the most interesting. The mountain was originally part of the Cherokee Nation and lies within the Nantahala National Forest, which borders Pisgah National Forest in our county.
There are several hiking trails up Whiteside. One is strenuous, going straight up. Another winds around the mountain and was formerly a logging trail. This makes the mountain accessible by novice hikers and an acceptable challenge by experienced hikers as well.
Peregrine Falcons used to soar in these mountains, and now they are soaring again. Re-introduced in 1985, the Peregrines are thriving as they did when the Cherokee roamed these hills. The trails and rock faces near nesting sites are closed to hikers and climbers during Peregrine nesting season. Most people are respectful of this, and visitors are quick to report any violaters. We love the sight of Peregrines flying through our mountains.
Whiteside Mountain lies between two affluent communites; Highlands and Cashiers. Both have long been known as summer playgrounds for the rich (and famous). One method of spotting a tourist (as if you need one) is to hear them pronounce Cashiers. Almost universally they will pronounce the town "casheers." The locals know the town is pronounced "cashers."
----------The economy is affecting these communities just like others; it's just a little harder to feel sorry for the really rich people who have damaged a mountain for a view. Many of them are trying to sell their expensive summer homes and condos. Some are offering a free car and free golf memberships for a year to anyone who will purchase their homes. Who would have thought you would ever see the day? Discounted houses in Highlands and Cashiers?