North Carolina's magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains have drawn people to the Swannanoa Valley since the beginning of time. Rivers and forests lured early hunters and gatherers; later inhabitants tilled the rich, fertile soil and logged the thick forests on the mountainsides. People also came to the mountains to enjoy the mystical beauty and enchantment of the area, the cool, crisp climate, and the sparkling waters of brooks and streams. Hiking, camping, and the tranquility of a woodland world provided escape from city life. The Swannanoa Valley is cradled between the Craggy Mountains to the north and the Swannanoa Mountains to the south. Mount Mitchell, the highest peak in America east of the Mississippi River, rises majestically nearby. Among the early visitors who decided to settle in the valley were those who purchased the land that later became the sites of the famous conference centers in the area-Montreat, YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, and Ridgecrest-and businessmen, who brought industry to the area.