Sunday, July 13, 2014

1000 Miles Down!

Standing atop misty Mount Mitchell: elevation 6684 feet
How did I actually come this far already?! These words are what resounded in my head the last few days on trail, as I began to see not only familiar names of towns and gaps along the parkway, but the mountains looming larger and further in the distance, and I drew more and more near to Asheville .

A view of the mountains en route to Mt. Mitchell
 I know my last post was brief and so I'd quickly like to run through where I have hiked since I left the little mountain town of Boone. Beginning on trail along the parkway, I hiked up to Moses Cone State Park, grazed the edge of Rich Mountain, then descended into the valley, meandering along the edges, fording, sloshing, and splashing through over a dozen creeks and a handful of rivers...

a foggy morning on the creek
... I climbed up to Rough Ridge which held true to name with its rock strewn ridge and boulders as large as houses, all the under the gaze of Grandfather Mountain, and crossing beneath the Linn Cove Viaduct that winds like a snake along an outside edge of a mountainside. I climbed the Chimneys, spending the Fourth of July here and having the absolutely magical experience of watching the fireworks burst like tiny colored flowers in the valley far below, the accompanying booms sounding like drums out of time....

A view from above the Linville Gorge
...I descended from Shortoff Mountain at nearly 4000 feet into the Linville Gorge and back up to the Pinnacle, once again at nearly 4000 feet where I had the pleasant surprise of finding a whole untouched watermelon some crazy person had lugged all the way up there...I looked around to make sure no one could claim it and then...I ate it....

Quite the find atop The Pinnacle on a hot sunny day
...I descended down to more creeks in deep gaps filled with Wood Nettle and Blackberry Brambles, clawing my way through the vegetation as I neared Black Mountain Campground, and then ascended up, up, up to Mount Mitchell at nearly 7000 feet. Although I it looks nice and warm in the photo above, it was far from it, as I stood socked in by cold fog. After spending nights in my tent at elevation wrapped in my rain jacket for warmth and my hair wrapped around my neck like a scarf, I bought a true tourist-esque Mt. Mitchell fleece at the summit gift shop and later found myself huddled and relieved in my tent as the rain pounded and wind blew from where I was camped in dark pine woods at 6000 feet just on the other side of the mountain...

Descending from the mountains...Asheville laid just below these clouds
Then beginning quite the downhill, descending to Craggy Gardens and then the equally craggy Lane Pinnacle and Wolf Den Rocks within just 12 miles of the city of Asheville. I camped at Rattlesnake Lodge the night before hiking into town. As I continued to descend in the early morning on my old familiar MST running routes, the above photo was my view on the valley...

Turk's Cap Lily (Lilium superbum)
 ...Along the way I met with the colorful faces of the Mountain Plants, such as Turk's Cap Lily (Lilium superbum), Michaux's Saxifrage (Saxifraga michauxii), Mountain St. John's Wort (Hypericum graveolens), Green-Headed Coneflower (Rudbekia laciniata), Pedicularis canadensis and various species of Monarda...

Basil Balm (Monarda clinopodia) - the individual florets are edible with a subtle minty flavor
Green-Headed Coneflower aka Sochan (Rudbekia laciniata) - the greens of which are edible, however traditionally require a couple changes of water to prepare.

Back in the abundant Mountain region, I feasted upon Common Wood Sorrel (Oxalis montana), Wood Nettle (Laportea canadense), Stonecrop (Sedum ternatum), Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum), various species of Violet leaves (Viola spp.), admired the Ramps (Allium tricoccum) that I wished I could have caught in leaf, and chewed on Birch twigs to freshen the breath...
A whole wheat pita with Cabot cheddar cheese, kalamata olives (I'm lovin' those new individual travels packets!) and a pile of Wood Sorrel (Oxalis spp.)
Virginia Waterleaf (Hydrophyllum virginianum)
And then once in Asheville...look at what I found sitting on the shelf amongst some of my most treasured books in one of my favorite bookstores, Malaprops....
A Guide to the Edible and Medicinal Plants of the Mountains to Sea Trail - found at Malaprops Bookstore - I must say it felt good to see it shelved with some of my favorites, such as Botany in a Day and Wildflowers and Plant Communities
Having once lived here in Asheville, and for nearly 10 years, it is always a thrill to hike into town. I've now been here since Thursday morning enjoying the company of amazing friends - thank you to Rachel for providing the home base and the sweet welcoming, and Amanda for joining me on my rounds down in Asheville and for hooking me up with the Black Mountain Farmer's Market. Thank you to ALL my ladies - Robin, Jodi and Noah (I know, not a lady but I'm including you here), Raeleen, Addy and Alex - I had too much fun to go through ALL the good stuff - however I must say dancing to ol' skool hip hop under the full moon and a yoga class with long time yoga teacher, Sierra,  were among the highlights! Thank you to Maria at Filo and Bob at Long Time Sun Yoga and Wellness for hosting me and also for simply being awesome. And thank you to EVERYONE that attended my events. Asheville was a hit! And I am quite pleased to say that I am quite nearly sold out of books...however, not to worry there is a second printing on the way!
Kori and Risi, two of my beloved yoga students I had the pleasure of seeing again, and myself while on an impromptu plant walk around the grounds of Long Time Sun Yoga and Wellness on Charlotte Highway in Fairview
Thank you to Asheville for peanut butter tofu and kale, spicy Indian food, salad by the pound, dark microbrews, dark bars full of people dancing, friendly day hikers on the trail, and for being the funky mountain town that you are!
And now...I kid you not...I have 10 DAYS LEFT TO GO until I reach my final summit atop Clingman's Dome. I am going to savor every sweet step (well, at least the ones that don't hurt). I will be taking the River Valley Route which is a one of two new routes in this section. This will be a combination of roads and trail, as I continue my journey through the mountains of Blue Ridge Parkway, then into the little towns of Sylva and Dillsboro, and finally into the wilderness of Great Smokies.
I should be able to get at least one more post in before completion, as I will be stopping in one of these small towns along the way to resupply and also very likely do a book event. Whoop, whoop! Here I come!


  1. it was SO GOOD to see you, dear sweet friend~ congrats on the wonderful success of your book and happy hiking these coming 10 days. xoxoxo

    1. Thank you woman!! It was indeed so nice to get to spend so much time with you during the short amount of time I was there! xoxoxo