Being an Appalachian native, I'm sure you've rafted the Ocoee before but if you haven't, do it before heading west. The Ocoee is my favorite river even if it's a wild ride through those class V rapids. You're close enough in northern Georgia for a day trip, or there's an awesome B&B nearby on the NC side.
How great you have the flexibility to live/work where you want. I can't imagine going back to work for a company or university now that I've spent years working for myself now. I know the time will come when I will need to head to Arizona to help my own mom out. She's lived there for 25 years and completely unwilling to move, so I think I'll be back in the desert again in the future. G-d willing it's not too soon.