It's interesting to compare these places with the old standbys of Gatlinburg, Tennessee and Helen, Georgia. I haven't spent much time in Helen and as much as I like to visit Gatlinburg, the heavy traffic and large crowds can be a deterrent. In fact, after a recent trip to Blue Ridge I overheard someone say they are not likely to return to Gatlinburg after visiting Blue Ridge. It's also interesting to compare these places to Asheville, North Carolina. Asheville has long been featured as one of the top ten places to retire due to the relatively low cost of living as well as access to continuing education and the outdoors. I can foresee some of the small towns in the Appalachian mountains becoming mini-Asheville's for much the same reason. People from urban environments will chose to retire in these places to get away from it all and enjoy the beautiful scenery.
This will likely change these communities in some ways. For example, wine tasting is prominently featured and drop-in yoga studios are popping up. Several years ago in many rural areas selling alcohol was illegal and yoga would have been seen as part of a foreign religion. And while I came across one store on a recent trip to Blue Ridge proudly flying several confederate flags, I can remember previous trips through similar areas where the rebel flag seemed to be everywhere. Still, I wouldn't expect these places to become hotbeds of liberalism. As a tee-shirt I saw for sale in a shop in Blue Ridge said, "I just want to drink wine, save animals, and take naps." That is likely the retirement dream that many of us have. Do a little good and enjoy yourself. Oddly enough, I can't think of a better place to do that than the mountains of Appalachia.