The "Shadow of the Bear"
Near Cashiers, in Jackson County. 800-962-1911; www.mountainlovers.com.
Activities: One of the unique leaf-looking experiences in the North Carolina mountains is slowly creeping back into view.
The Shadow of the Bear, located near Cashiers in southern Jackson County, will be visible for 30 minutes, toward sunset, mid-October through early November.
During this period, the bear-like shadow comes out of hibernation when the sun sets behind Whiteside Mountain. The mountain (elevation: 4,930 feet) boasts sheer rock cliffs that are among the highest in the eastern United States. It provides a splendid setting for viewing leaves throughout autumn, especially during the emergence of the bear.
In Cashiers, take U.S. 64 West about 0.4 miles to Rhodes Big View Overlook. Park there and take a look; on a clear day, "Shadow of the Bear" usually comes into focus around 5:30 p.m.
Remember to bring your camera.
Cashiers, pronounced "CASH-ers," is a popular area for summer vacationers. A venerable inn - the High Hampton (www.highhamptoninn.com) - is on the National Register of Historic Places. Besides the dining room at High Hampton, Cashiers has more than a dozen restaurants - despite a non-summer population of roughly 160. For something exotic, it's the Gamekeeper's Tavern (828-743-4263). The specialty is elk, bison and other wild game.
Target audience: Leaf peepers, photographers.
Directions: Interstate 85 South to U.S. 74 Bypass West (at Kings Mountain); at Columbus, take I-26 North to Hendersonville exit 49B; follow U.S. 64 West to Cashiers.
Travel time from Charlotte: 3 hour 25 minutes.