The monolith of Black Rock Mountain imposes an early twilight on Mountain City (pop. 1,088), the community that stretches along US-441. Tucked away on the west side of US-441 just south of the turnoff to Black Mountain State Park, the modest Foxfire Museum (706/746-5828, Mon.-Sat., $6 adults) is part of a radical cultural and educational movement that began here in the mid-1960s when local schoolteacher Eliot Wigginton, frustrated in attempts to motivate his uninspired high-school students, assigned them the task of interviewing their elders about how things were in “the old days.” The students, inspired with the newly discovered richness of their Appalachian heritage, assembled the written interviews into a magazine, which they named Foxfire after a luminescent local fungus.
The magazine expanded to a series of Foxfire books, and more than eight million copies have been sold worldwide. The program’s twofold success—educational innovation and folk-life preservation—further broadened as the then-emerging back-to-the-land movement seized upon these books as vital how-to manuals for subsistence farming and generally living off the grid. The Foxfire organization still runs classes and summer programs on a 110-acre campus in the hills above town.