By Lisa Whaley

This will be my first summer spent in Erwin.  And though rain is pouring down as I write this, I can’t help but be full of anticipation.

There is no summer, I believe, like a small town summer.

I grew up in a tiny town of 300, and I still love to think back to those lazy days of childhood. Of course, lazy definitely applied more to the mood than an actual lack of activity.

Instead, summer meant up and out, exploring neighborhoods, forging friendships and enjoying family.

Divided in the middle by a highway, Touchet (that really was its name) had one K-12 school, one grocery store, one restaurant, two churches, Rusty & Myrt’s grill and a “watering hole,” actually named  “The Watering Hole.”

In addition to beverages, they were known for their wide selection of candy bars. Rusty & Myrt’s had great ice cream treats.  (All these details were vitally important to a child in the warmer months of June, July and August.)

Each summer, in this tiny town,  my friends and I would climb aboard our bicycles and set out in search of adventure. Wind blowing in our hair, we cruised down Gardena hill with what seemed to be supersonic speeds, waded in the cold waters of the Touchet River, uncovered hidden tunnels in fields of wild shrubbery and discovered treasures on the site of the old town mercantile.

There were precious days at Vacation Bible School and family cookouts complete with games of badminton or croquet. And there were those moments simply to enjoy the warmth of the sun and the joy in being alive.

Now, I have a whole new town to explore for the summer, and I can’t wait to get started. I’m also intrigued by the Valley Beautiful’s wealth of waterfalls, parks and historic sites.

I want to walk along Main Street savoring an ice cream cone from What’s the Scoop, enjoy a summer movie at the Capitol Theater, and find the freshest produce at Tuesday’s Farmers Market.

And that is just the beginning of my plans. If you have any suggestions for the list, please email me at lwhaley@erwinrecord.net. I would love to hear from you.

I also encourage you to make your own list to help you savor the season. Though I’m just beginning to sample a Unicoi County summer, I am convinced this may be one of my best summers yet. After all, all the ingredients are here — a beautiful location, a plethora of opportunities and, most important of all, some of the warmest and most welcoming people I have ever met.