Scouting the Film Location: A Drive Along the French Broad River

French Broad River Movie Progress Report

July 29, 2016.

Be sure to check out the video at the bottom of this post.

Since at the moment we four Torgs have plans to raft the entire length of the 149 miles of the French Broad River in sections, we decided to check things out by driving along the river from Asheville, North Carolina where we live to Newport, Tennessee.

French Broad River, rafting, kayaking, Asheville, things to do, movie, documentary, Rosman, river access, Grail Moviehouse

lunch by the French Broad River

This would normally be about a seventy mile drive from our house, but we lengthened it by criss crossing the French Broad as much as we could.

French Broad River, MountainTrue, Asheville, things to do, rafting, kayaking, tubing, Grail Moviehouse

Section 9 River Map from River Keeper’s Guide by Chris Gibbs and Hartwell Carson

I wanted to get a glimpse of what is called Section 9, the wildest part of the river. We stopped at as many access sites as we could to shoot some video and so we would have a general idea of what to expect when we make it this far north. We also talked with lots of people, a few of whom you’ll see in our video below.

The plan is to make the film about the community that surrounds the French Broad, and the social and political issues that surround it. What you’re watching know is just an update on our progress. Thanks for checking it out!





1,000 Miles for a Used Raft: Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway

The French Broad River runs right through where we live in Asheville, North Carolina and everywhere you go there are kayaks perched on top of automobiles. With daughters the ages seven and ten, my wife Megan and I thought we’d enjoy either tandem kayaks or maybe a raft. The typical tandem kayak in town went for around $800 and rafts like what I thought we’d need ranged from $2,500 to over $5,000.  Not knowing if we’d actually enjoy our time on the river (would it be too slow? too much of a hassle to get the boat in and out of the water and cars arranged at the appropriate geographical points) I thought I’d see if I could find anything used. There was almost nothing for sale. I took this to be a good sign. People were buying kayaks and rafts and liking them enough that they weren’t for sale. Check Craigslist for exercise equipment and a different story is told.

“I like the idea of us being together,” my wife Megan had said. And so we decided on a raft for the whole family and the best deal on a used one I could find was in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia. This is about 470 miles from where we live. I’d vaguely heard of the town as one where the Appalachian Trail passed through.

Would I really drive seven hours each way for a used raft?

Turns out, I was willing to drive even farther than that. First I thought if we added The Skyline Drive in Virginia and the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia and North Carolina, we could make a family trip out of it. Megan said she and her parents used to go on such trips as vacation. Now we wouldn’t be so crazy, going so far for a used raft. We were going on vacation!

The plan evolved and we decided we would also buy a tent and do our first camping as a family. Why not take our dog Indy too?  The following pictures show a little of how our pilgrimage went:



Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

loaded up and ready for take off


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, River Riders

destination #1: the nice folks at River Riders in Harper’s Ferry


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, River Riders

phase one of mission completed, raft purchased


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

ready for picnic dinner on the Skyline Drive


Not long after dinner, we saw our first bear. Actually we saw three of them, a mother and two cubs who’d climbed up a tree. We saw this from The Skyline Drive. There were several cars pulled off to the side of the road, and probably ten or so people pointing up into the trees. At this point, my youngest started keeping track of the wildlife we spotted.


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, wildlife, snakes, bears, deer, turkeys

My Youngest Kept Track of Our Wildlife Sightings


Not long after the first bear sighting, I hit one with our van. I was driving around a corner, my sight impaired from the sunset, when I could just make out a bear when it was only a few feet from our bumper. I hit the brakes and gently turned away from the bear as it rammed the front left of our car. With no shoulder to pull onto and because we were on a curve, we didn’t stop right away. The bear was not visible in the rearview mirror or the side mirrors. Looking back, it seemed to be gone, having run off into the woods. We stopped at the next pull off and inspected the car. There was a small scratch and the bumper was covered with bear slobber.


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

Our campsite at The Meadows on the Skyline Drive


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry, Bears

the first bears we saw


Torgerson, Asheville, Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Harper's Ferry

deer near our campsite


Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders

Now which way are the falls?



Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders

We made it!


Skyline Drive, Blue Ridge Parkway, Appalachian Trail, River Riders, Peaks of Otter

another good dinner spot: at Peaks of Otter Lodge off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Coming Soon:

Reports from our raft on The French Broad River

Bearwallow Mountain Trail

Asheville, North Carolina, hike, Gerton

lots of pretty flowers in early June

Bearwallow Mountain Trail is near Gerton, North Carolina. On Sunday, June 7, 2015 I went to hike the trail up to the top of the mountain with my wife Megan, dog Indy, and daughters ages six and nine. With temperatures in the 80’s where we live in Asheville, we were surprised to reach the mountain and find it 63 degrees on the dashboard temperature gauge. It was a cloudy day and the mountain was surrounded by a mist. The girls called it “magical” and it turned out to give the day its own unique feel. We plan to return on a clear day to check out the views.

Mackensy Lunsford, Asheville Citizen Times, Hiking, hikes, family, kids,  karen  Chavez

the steps on the way to the top of the mountain

The hike is strenuous, about a mile in length, and it took us about 30 minutes to reach the top. Our youngest has recently proclaimed that she wants to be a professional runner, and so she’s been running a half mile in our neighborhood. So our kids are active and they made it up and down the mountain without much complaining.

Mackensy Lunsford, Asheville Citizen Times, Hiking, hikes, family, kids,  karen  Chavez

noted by Mrs. T as a possible dwelling for fairies

We found out about the hike in an article published in the Asheville Citizen-Times by Mackensy Lunsford titles “5 Perfect Places to Picnic, and How to Create a Memorable Outdoor Meal.” Mackensy is @mackensy on Twitter and she was quick to credit @KarenChavezACT for the information in the article. I look forward to following both of these ladies for all things Asheville and the outdoors.

Mackensy Lunsford, Asheville Citizen Times, Hiking, hikes, family, kids,  karen  Chavez, Bearwallow Mountain Road, Gerton, North Carolina, Bearwallow Mountain Trail

even though our views were obstructed by fog, the top of the mountain was beautiful

a short video from the top

Short Documentary: Christopher’s Garden

Torg Stories latest project is a documentary film entitled “Christopher’s Garden.” The film focuses on Christopher Mello, an Asheville, North Carolina artist who has spent thirteen years hybridizing a new blue poppy.

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film trailer music by Jeremy Vogt


The film was created in collaboration with musician Jeremy Vogt, cinematographer Alex Arcara, photographer Cindy Kunst, and Asheville librarian Zoe Rhine.

Photograph of blue poppies in Christopher Mello's garden in west Asheville, North Carolina by Cindy Kunst.

photograph of Christopher’s Garden by Cindy Kunst


The short documentary of 11 mins and 30 secs is currently being submitted to film festivals. A longer cut of the film will also be sent to film festivals a day’s drive away from Asheville, North Carolina where the film was shot.


Christopher Mello

Christopher Mello of Asheville, North Carolina


As director of the film, I have also begun work on a piece of writing about Christopher Mello and his garden. Thanks so much for taking the time to read this post.


Bill Torgerson

Vacationing at Home

When I was thirty years old, my life was a mess.  There were things I wanted to do that I almost never did: read, write, and exercise were a couple of the big ones.  However, I did other things that I didn’t want to do:  drank a lot of alcohol, stayed out half the night, and watched a lot of television, primarily sports.  I felt like I was wasting my life and stuck in some destructive cycles.  No matter how many promises I made to myself that I would change, I didn’t seem to be able to break my bad habits.

Among the actions I took to try and change my life was that  I moved 700 or so miles to the southeast of where I was living in Indiana to Charlotte, North Carolina.  My move filled me with mental and physical energy to explore:  I hiked the mountains around Asheville, I went rafting, I drove to the Outer Banks, and I enrolled in graduate school.  Beyond that, I went out of my way to avoid routine and instead try new things:  I hung out in bookstores and I went to live acoustic shows to hear artists of whom I’d never heard.  I tried to run both literal and figurative new paths each week.

Life got better. I did what I intended to do, but I also began to think about all that I had not done back in Indiana.  I realized it was in my nature (a lot of our natures?) to go on vacation and explore, but I was apt to stay put in my routines and the places I knew when I was at home.  I’d been to Honolulu with the basketball team and trekked all over the island to be sure that I wouldn’t miss anything, but back home in Indiana, I had never even been up to Lake Michigan to spend the day at the sand dunes.  Thinking back on those experiences, I’m determined to try and get out with my family to see the places near where I live.