When I moved to Waynesville in the spring of 1997, I was awestruck. The animal hospital where I took my first job had a window in the operating room, and it became a brief meditative ritual for me to watch the green leaves make their slow climb up the mountainside each day while I waited for the staff to prep my patients for surgery.
One of the assistants I worked with had lived in Waynesville all his life. “Do you ever get tired of watching this show every year?” I asked him one morning as I gazed out. “When you live here all your life, it’s sad but you don’t notice the mountains as much. People like you, who move here, remind me to pay attention…but you’ll probably stop noticing too if you live here long enough,” he replied. That stuck with me for a long time and I worried that I would grow immune to it as he had.
I’m happy to report that after nearly twenty years, if anything, I enjoy the transition to spring even more with each passing year. The wisdom of age and my life experiences have made me acutely aware of how we are all afflicted with a terminal disease. We would be wise to observe each and every season as if it were our last.
Now that I’m a mother, I want to foster this kind of appreciation in my kids. Will they become like my coworker, a bit jaded to the beauty? Time will tell, but my hope is that by becoming intimately acquainted with their surroundings, they’ll truly grasp how fortunate they are to call this region their childhood home.
One of the best ways I know how to galvanize that appreciation is through our hikes. They may not always be completely jazzed about going on one, but more often than not, they come home with a story they want to share–a memory which I hope becomes permanently etched in their hearts and souls.
With those thoughts in mind, I leave you with short treks here in Haywood County, just outside of Waynesville, really. No long drives, no need for much planning, no dangerous terrain, and simply no excuse to not to get out there and enjoy them for yourself!
Purchase Knob: One of our all-time favorite local hikes which I wrote about in this post, so I won’t cover it again, but you should definitely put it waaaay up on your list of to dos.
Cabin Flats: Follow the directions to Balsam Mountain Inn, but just before you get to the driveway of the inn, veer off to the left onto Cabin Flats Rd. Wind up and up this road for several miles (it eventually becomes gravel) until you reach the top where you’ll find a gate blocking the road. Beyond the gate is where the hike begins. I don’t know how far back this road leads because my family and I always end our journey at a stream crossing beside an old, dilapidated cabin (I wouldn’t recommend exploring it–it looks very unstable!). Round trip, the hike is 3.4 miles, and it’s very easy walking. It’s even jogging stroller friendly!
|Josie likes nothing more than to have a spa experience in a mountain stream|
|The cabin where we always turn around|
Chambers Mountain Lookout Tower: I recently discovered this hike on a blog I love reading to investigate all kinds of hikes in WNC–Smoky Scout’s Adventures. “Smoky Scout” has hiked every mile of trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in one year as a fundraiser for her daughters’ Girl Scout troop (that is a lot of hiking, folks–over 900 miles!), and she was the inspiration for my family starting our 1500K for Shining Rock effort! She has some great write ups of hikes both regionally and globally.
Aidan, Wogene, Josie, and I headed up one afternoon and the views did not disappoint! Granted, if you have young children, this might not be the best hike as it is 1.9 miles of constant uphill walking (not an unmanageable grade but steep enough to get your heart rate up). The good news? 1.9 miles of uphill can only mean 1.9 miles of downhill since it’s an out-and-back hike. 3.8 miles total and you’ll never look at Chambers Mountain in the same way when you see it from the highway!
|BIG sky on the way to the top!|
|You will likely see cattle, grazing and enjoying the view with you|
|Unfortunately, the view of the summit isn’t inspriring, but it gets pretty big “kid cool” points anyway.|
Lake Junaluska Walking Path
Given the number of people you can find on it at any time of day, it really doesn’t need any explanation of how special it is to all of us here in Haywood County; however, it’s charm extends beyond the beauty of the lake itself–where else can you go so close to home and experience the meditative properties of a labyrinth, architecture from a bygone era, and a walking path through a native garden?!
|My kids enjoy the labyrinth (although the meditative aspect of it is completely lost on them as they typically want to race through it). We always get a kick when we see the waterfowl walking its path too!|
|The landscaping alone around the lake is worth the walk. Love these bleeding hearts.|
|The Corneille Bryon Native Garden path is always a treat to walk up. Here’s an article from Smoky Mountain News about its history and location.|
All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking. –Friedrich Nietzsche