Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Mountains Here I Come!

View from atop Balanced Rock in Hanging Rock State Park
By the end of today I will finally be really, truly be in the Mountain region of North Carolina, sleeping just on the edge of Stone Mountain State Park. Hard to believe that there are 400 and some miles left to this trek. Folks, I'm tellin' you, 750 miles goes a whole lot faster than you'd expect it to! At the same time, to think just a month ago I was in the tourist town of White Lake surrounded by the Carolina Bays, seems impossible, as if I've hiked several states since then.

Two days ago, I was returned to Pilot Mountain State Park after my lil retreat into the mountains surrounding Asheville. I got a sneak peak...and it was heart wrenchingly beautiful. The time with friends was incredibly uplifting and the wedding was a true hiker friendly wedding with camping, hiking, guests taking outdoor showers and changing in their tents and lots of delicious food. Oh and dancing, lots of dancing...I don't know if that would qualify as generally hiker friendly as my body took a lil while to warm up, but when it did this hiker shook her booty happily. Each night the fireflies winked like a show of Christmas lights up in the treetops. Breath-taking.

Chris, Raeleen, Ailse, Me, and Ernie the Dog (picture taken by John). Ailse and John were the friends that suggested they pick me up en route from their house in Durham to Asheville. Ernie and I shared the backseat (by the way, he is only 13 weeks old). Thank you John and Ailse!
Jodi and Noah with Jodi's father officiating. As if this scene weren't lovely enough, they stood beneath an arching canopy of bamboo.
Suddenly back in the quiet of the woods, no cell reception, no internet, and all by myself, I wondered if the weekend had been merely a dream. The next day, I hiked 25 miles, sleeping at a church in the farming community of Jenkinsville, and yesterday hiked another 10 miles into the historic town of Elkin. The ten miles into town was a snaking and steep mountainside road, the edges of which were abundant in ripe Blackberries and Daylilies perfect for brunch-time nibbling.

Daylily (Hemerocallis fulva) - The flowers are edible, tasting sweet and crisp. The tubers are also edible however I have yet to have personal experience with this underground part. Although these are beautiful flowers, they are non-native and invasive, so eat away! Each flower only lasts a single day anyhow, thus one of the attributes that contributed to its common name as a lily. However, this flower is actually a member of the Xanthorrhoea family.
Upon entering Elkin, I paralleled railroad tracks and was greeted by an enormous old grain mill and several many-floored, many-windowed, closed down brick factory building. Industrial, yes, but really an intriguing way to enter town, the contrast between the rolling fields bordered by thick woods and the constructs of iron, wood, and steel. The wild always creeping to reclaim, vines ran up the sides of the brick walls, trees sprouted wherever they could, and grass snuck in from the cracks in the pavement.

But what really made Elkin memorable were the people and the shining enthusiasm these folks have for their portion of the trail. I had the largest attendance I've had yet here at the local library...and mind you this book talk was set up one day in advance! Not only was the library welcoming, but the local bookstore, Diana's Books, and the Soda Shop where I had lunch. Following the book talk, I was whisked out to the 1 1/2 miles of trail that has already been completed through Elkin. Right now the designated trail passes through town via Main Street and then carries me out on Rt. 21, where I pick up various country roads that will lead me to Stone Mountain. However, when this trail is complete, the hiker will be able to reach Stone Mountain 22 miles away without ever leaving the woods, the creeks crossed by sturdy bridges. Of course, we conducted an impromptu plant walk while here as well. Thank you Pamela and Donnie! I even had the opportunity to bang the gong that has been placed one mile in on trail!

Bangin' the gong - the sound of which reverberates throughout the surrounding woods - along the soon to be MST in Elkin!
While in town I stayed with Martha Smith and her pooch Zoot. Martha is the librarian at the Elkin Library who made sure that my presentation went smoothly. Thank you, Martha for orchestrating the presentation on such short notice and for hosting me in your home! My stay was truly restful, in a big ol' fashioned bed, fresh air pouring in the open windows, and a big porch with a rocking chair to sit in in before bed where I could think "deep thoughts."

Martha and Zoot
 And I'm off!! I will quite literally be in the woods without resupply for the next four days and hiking up into the Blue Ridge Mountains...I'll check back in as soon as I can!

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