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3 adventures in North Carolina: Natives, gold miners left their marks, and mustangs run free

Judaculla Rock

Explore a bit of Cherokee legend with a detour off the beaten path to the Judaculla Rock, a soapstone slab etched with Native American symbols. Archaeologists believe the drawings date back as far as 3,000 years, and the Cherokees have long considered it a sacred space dedicated to the god of hunting. Located at the base of a mountain, the rock is accessible by car. An elevated viewing platform provides a perspective for photos.

552 Judaculla Rock Rd., Cullowhee 28733. 828-293-3053,

Reed Gold Mine

This state historic site near Midland claims the distinction of being the first place in the country to document a gold discovery, in 1799. The gold rush was on, and it remained steady until the late 1840s when the spotlight moved to the West. Today’s visitors can hear the story of the first owner, John Reed; take a tour of several underground tunnels, or try their luck at panning for a piece of the prized metal. A picnic area and trails are on site. Admission is free.

9621 Reed Mine Rd., Midland 28107. 704-721-4653,

Wild horses in Corolla

A seaside safari can give you a glimpse of the Outer Banks’ wildest attraction: herds of Spanish mustang horses that roam the beaches and nearby woodlands. These feral creatures have been part of the habitat for almost 500 years, believed to have been left behind by Spanish explorers. Today, it is illegal to feed or approach them, but several tour companies in the area conduct tours in off-road vehicles that can get you within excellent photo range. During the busy summer months, tours are often booked well in advance. The Corolla Wild Horse Fund maintains an educational museum that explains how the group cares for and protects the animals and offers the chance to meet a rescued mustang.

1129 Corolla Village Road, Corolla 27927. 252-453-8002,

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