We hiked on the Bartram Trail, since I am still plugging away at the miles to complete its length. I chose a notoriously difficult section of the trail, so I left earlier than the rest of my family to hike seven miles before meeting them at a road crossing at lunchtime.
|I started my Saturday hike at Nantahala Lake and quickly rose above it on the trail|
|Not 100% sure about this one–I think it’s a False Hellebore. No matter the name, it was lovely. (chime in if you know what it is and especially if my guess is incorrect!)|
When I met up with the family at Sawmill Gap, we hit the trail….except we took the wrong trail! I’m convinced Larry has some bad trail karma chasing him after his last experience finding a trail, and now it’s carrying over to me! We hiked for about 10 minutes, me on auto pilot, scanning the trees for yellow blazes that indicated we were on the Bartram, with no success. Finally, we came across a couple hiking who told us where we’d missed the turn off. Unfortunately, the back tracking did not bode well for Paige’s mood, and when the “real” trail immediately started climbing relentlessly, so did her frustration level. She dug deep and conquered the climbs without too much drama involved, but I could tell she just wasn’t feeling it on this particular day in the woods.
We arrived where the Bartram Trail meets the Appalachian Trail and they travel the same path for the next two miles. Stopping at a spring to refill our water bottles, Paige was enjoying her “pack off” break immensely. When one of the kids spotted a baby salamander in the stream, I knew the hike was over for the day.
We were supposed to continue on another two miles until our campsite, but sometimes the best plan you can make on a hike with children is to be willing to change the plan and embrace your new course. There were great campsites nearby, so the tents went up, the fire was started (to fend off the relentless bugs!), and the card games were pulled out. Three happy kids were the result of all the “hard work.”
|Uno Dare was a hit!|
|These two are completely smitten with each other–I dread the day when someone else takes a piece of her heart!|
Since we were camped next to the A.T., we guessed how many thru hikers would pass by the rest of the afternoon. Larry guessed the closest at 20 (we saw 22)! A couple eventually camped next to us, and as they sat around our campfire with us, we learned that they were on their honeymoon with plans to hike the entire trail!
We turned in after the sun went down and woke the next morning to another beautiful day. I headed out a bit earlier since I needed to hike further than anyone else (they came to pick me up in the car where I finished). Larry and the kids finished up what we were supposed to hike the previous day with a detour to the Wayah Bald Lookout Tower. The tower has a fascinating history, and it’s a fun day trip to use it as a jump off point for a hike on the A.T. or Bartram Trail (history and directions in the link).
|The Wayah Bald Lookout Tower|
The terrain was as strenuous as I had been warned it would be by other hikers–steep calf-burning ascents, coupled with equally steep, knee jarring descents, mixed in with a healthy dose of fallen trees across the trail that I had to maneuver through or around. There is a term in the hiker world called PUDs, which stands for “pointless ups and downs” and this stretch of trail wrote the book! I enjoy a difficult physical feat though, so there was a part of me that loved the challenge.
What I loved, without a doubt, were the countless species of wildflowers I encountered; the three wild turkeys who abruptly flew out from some trees as I passed by, startling me for a moment, then finding myself laughing out loud at myself and them; the constant breeze which accompanied me–not too strong but just enough to keep me cooled off, and reflecting on my dear Mama’s love which I continue to carry with me every step of every day.
I could write volumes about how much there is to learn in the woods while hiking, but what is impossible to quantify is the magnitude of the memories made with the people you cherish–whether it’s coaching your daughter through a tough stretch of climbing, reminding her the only way anyone has ever climbed a mountain is one step at a time, then watching her do just that, laughing with your boys around a campfire while they play a silly game, or getting a big, warm hug from your husband as the day unwinds. These experiences are, simply put, the best education of all.
| Spring Beauty
The starchy tubers of spring beauty are eaten by black bears–glad I didn’t come across any foraging!
|Thyme-Leaved Bluets are one of my favorites.|
|Squawroot has no leaves or chlorophyll because it doesn’t need them. It is a parasite and its roots penetrate those of oak trees and draw food. Black bears also feed on them–again, glad I didn’t come across any foraging!|
|Wake Robin–They say spring may begin when this trillium blooms, as its appearance is supposed to wake up the robins!|
|Mountain Bellwort–such an unassuming little flower|
In ancient times, Persians considered a similar species so poisonous it could foul the air. They often held their breath when passing this plant!
|On the last tenth mile of my hike, I walked by this beautiful scene. The perfect ending to a perfect hike!
“To see the World in a Grain of Sand And Heaven in a Wild Flower…” –William Blake
1500K for Shining Rock Update:
Miles hiked on this trip: 54.9
Miles remaining: 779.2
To date, we have reached 72.6% of our $25,000 goal for Shining Rock Classical Academy’s experiential programming!! THANK YOU to all of you who have contributed!! In order to fully fund our school’s experiential programming, we’d love to raise the entire amount for them! If you’d like to contribute, you can:
1. Send a check to 222 Methodist Drive, Lake Junaluska, NC 28745, made out to Shining Rock Classical Academy.
2. Click on this link and you’ll be taken to Crowd Rise, an online fundraising website, where you can donate with a credit card.
All contributions are tax deductible and we will send you a receipt with our 501c3 information.