SALUDA, N.C. (WSPA) – Those looking for a day trip, as well as, those looking for a weekend getaway can head to Saluda, North Carolina. While the town may be small, it’s full of fun, historical facts, and some pretty good eats.
You need to be at least 42 inches tall to go tubing down the Green River. There are four different tubing locations close to each other along the river: Green River Cove Tubing, Wilderness Cove Tubing, Silver Creek Tubing River Location, and Living Waters Tubing.
At Living Waters Tubing, Ruvim Leontyev and seven of his friends decided this year’s annual outdoor guys trip would be perfect for tubing down Green River.
“It’s a little bit adventurous. The water levels are little high. You know, it’s been raining a little. So, that’s fun too,”Leontyev said.
Leontyev explained he and his friends always try to do activities that take them outdoors so that way they’re safe, can easily social distance and stay active. He said they’ve hiked the mountains, gone fishing, kayaking, anything else that’s fun and mobile.
Leontyev added why he chose Living Waters Tubing, because last year his sister came to visit and wanted to go tubing. But, it was later September, many of the businesses had closed for the season. However, businesses co-owner Ricky Lee Henderson, who goes by Rick, was willing to open up for them.
“I don’t have a set close date. I shut down when they stop coming,” Rick Henderson said.
Living Waters co-owners Rick and Lorie Henderson, his wife, said Green River isn’t a lazy one and that’s what makes tubing fun even late in the season.
“Behind me this is what they call Big Corky and on the lower end, where people tube. There’s a Big Corky and a Little Corky below it. This is a class two rapid. The one down is a class one rapid. These are the only rough rapids on this river,” Henderson noted.
You are encouraged to bring your mask, but since the entire experience is outdoors, social distancing for groups will be much easier.
Henderson said he only charges $10 dollars per tubing experience, no matter if you float down the river for two, or up to, six hours.
“There’s relaxing parts where you can just float and and talk and then there’s, you know, fast pace parts where there’s rapids and give you a little adrenaline,” Leontyev said. “It’s fun. You know, best of both worlds.”
Lorie Henderson said the water can be soothing, it’s one of the reasons the couple decided to call their business Living Waters Tubing.
“When you’re upset, just get in the water and that takes all the fears away and all the anxiety away,” Lorie Henderson said.
Of all the tubing businesses in the area, Living Waters is the newest, having just opened five years ago. Before tubing, Rick Henderson said they welcomed tubers to relax on their beach and sold them ice cream and other foods.
Rick added he was tired of work that kept him on the road, away from his family. Once he quit, he and Lorie decided to take full advantage of what the river offered. Since they raised their kids on the river, the couple knew they wanted to make a family friendly business.
“You can come down and tube. You can come down and beach, get ice cream. You can get some food and drinks,” Rick Henderson said. “Basically you’re in whatever you want to do.”
Once you’re done tubing, grab your mask and head into downtown Saluda. Along Main Street you’ll find Thompson’s Store & Ward’s Grill, owner Roy Clark Thompson, he goes by Clark, said you can find almost anything you need at North Carolina’s oldest grocery store.
“History is something that should be preserved and to say that you’re the oldest grocery store in the entire state, that’s quite a statement,” Clark Thompson said.
While the store is historic, don’t assume since it’s old it lacks groceries.
“A lot of it is local, especially the honey, jellies, and jams and stuff like that,” Thompson said. “We try to buy as much locally as we can.”
There’s also crackers, hummus, beers, hats coffee mugs and a lot more local small businesses.
Thompson explained that his family had been in Saluda since the 1800’s working as builders, carpenters, and masons. Then in the 1890’s the Thompson family opened this grocery store.
Lola Thompson, a late relative of Clark’s, married a Ward and in the 1950’s got the building next door and turned it into Ward’s Grill.
Clark grew up in his family store and fondly remembers memories of customers interacting with his family. One of his favorite stories involves the family matriarch Lola Thompson and the famous singer Perry Como on her birthday.
“Perry Como started singing happy birthday to her. Now you have to understand her humor. When he got through, she said, ‘Who is this?’ He said,’Lola this is Perry Como. I’m calling from Jupiter Florida to wish you a happy birthday.’ She says, ‘Well Perry, I didn’t know you could sing.’ ” Thompson laughed.
As time went on, Thompson left Saluda, the family continued to run the store until there was no one left to take over. It was then sold to another family and then briefly went out of business.
Thompson, who career involves buying old and historic buildings and keeping them running, heard about his family store, came back and purchased it. He said he’s proud of that choice nearly 11 years ago to re-open it.
“It’s good to see it stocked and as lively as it is. It’s just a good feeling to bring it back to life,” Thompson explained.
You can even taste test some of the groceries , like the Famous Charlie’s Sausage, just head next door to Ward’s Grill.
The restaurant’s huge 1950’s menu showed what customers would have been able to get years ago from the grill, goose liver and oyster stew. Today, not so much, but the food still comes highly recommended. That’s especially true for Thompson’s favorite.
“A greasy cheese burger!” Thompson exclaimed.
There are many other notable stops in Saluda, North Carolina, click here for more.