I recently had the opportunity to participate in Road Scholar Program #17288, called "Nature Hiking in the Southern Appalachian Mountains". (Regular readers of this blog will know that I have completed over a dozen of these Road Scholar adventures, and direct links to the articles I published about them will pop up, if you type "Road Scholar" into the Search Box at the very bottom of the web version of my blog title page)
This particular program was being held in Hayesville, North Carolina, at The Hinton Center ( www.hintoncenter.org ). Some of you may recognize the Methodist Church logo in their entrance sign, and it is, indeed, a wonderful facility for their denomination, as well as any other organizations that want to make use of what it has to offer.
Our group stayed in the Joe Ervin House. It has three levels, with the main public space being on the middle floor, complete with TV, full kitchen, game tables, and lounge seating. When we had entertainment in the evenings, it was held on this middle floor public space.
When our group traveled to off-site locations, we had the very comfortable Hinton Center Mini-bus (shown in photo above), and/or a large van.
When you sign up for a Road Scholar week ( www.roadscholar.org ), you will be provided 8 guidelines to assist you in "Getting the most out of your program". Those guidelines are Tolerance for Ambiguity, Ability to be Non-Judgmental, Flexibility and Adaptability, Sense of Humor, Open-Mindedness, Curiosity, Self-Reliance, and Communicativeness. I think each program I have attended has helped me improve in a different area of development, and I can say with a certainty, that my September, 2017, Road Scholar program helped me develop in the area of "FLEXIBILITY AND ADAPTABILITY"! The "Trail Closed" sign in this photo is an illustration of why our group had to be flexible and adapt to a raging storm, known as "Hurricane Irma". Even though we were several miles inland from the Atlantic Coast, the high winds, downed power lines, downed trees, electrical outages, and never-ending rain were being felt in the area where we were located. Our leaders had a "Plan B" for us since we could not hike, so we took a drive through the Nantahala River, that is a popular rafting destination in western North Carolina.
We were told the river is usually crowded with rafters, but there was no one rafting at this location when we stopped here!
The boat access ramp leading down to the river was one of the nicest ones I have ever seen, and I hope to go back sometime and experience the Nantahala River, from the perspective of a river rafter! Even though the river was still roaring through the gorge, the high water mark on the concrete access ramp indicates it was lower than it had been a few hours earlier.
Our group continued on to Cherokee, North Carolina, where our leaders had put their "Plan B" into action, by arranging for a visit to the Museum of the Cherokee Indian. There we were able to learn the story of the Cherokee Nation from prehistory to modern times, with exhibits that included crafts, clothing and weapons. There was also extensive information on the tribe's resettlement to Western Reservations and the hardship endured along this "Trail of Tears". I found all this of particular interest, since I have distant heritage from the Cherokee lineage, and grew up in the area traversed by "The Trail of Tears".
In Cherokee, North Carolina, we stopped at a lovely park near the downtown area (Oconaluftee Islands Park), that had a covered pavilion, where we could enjoy the sack lunches we had prepared, without getting our sandwiches ( and our bottoms!) waterlogged from the drizzle!
The park has a stream that runs through it, and pedestrian bridges that provide access to the opposite shore, with additional PATHS to explore.
After lunch, the group went to the Qualla Arts and Crafts Mutual, Inc., that is across the street from the Museum of the Cherokee. The cooperative shop had all manner of handiwork made by Native Americans. For information on both the museum and the Qualla store, check out www.VisitCherokeeNC.com
The final stop of our "Plan B" Day took us to the Swain County Visitor Center and Heritage Museum. Since it also serves as an information center for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park ( www.nps.gov/grsm ), we learned while we were there that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was being totally shut down and closed, due to Hurricane Irma. Highway 441 that goes down the center of the park, through its entrance in Tennessee, to its exit in North Carolina, was completely closed! This made me EXTREMELY thankful I had been able to visit Cades Cove and Clingman's Dome the previous Saturday, before it was shut down!
Since I had not been able to get much exercise the previous day, I got up early on Tuesday morning, to walk down to Chatuge Lake, which the Hinton Center property adjoins, and has access to. ( Chatuge Lake is formed from a TVA dam across the Hiwassee River.) Although there was no sun on the horizon, at least I was able to make the quick jaunt without getting rained on!
On one of the days, our group headed south to Georgia, to hike a trail in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Because of the high winds, there were LOTS of trees across our "PATH"!! Adventure travel magazines tout advertisements for what they call a "Treetop Canopy Tour through the Rain Forest". Turns out, this Road Scholar program included a "treetop canopy tour" of sorts, because the tree tops had come down onto the PATH we needed to take to reach our destination! I think we burned off some extra calories breaking away tree limbs and climbing through tunnels of downed trees! And I know, we shredded a few rain ponchos!
However, the payoff we received for all our efforts, was experiencing this beautiful location, called High Shoals Falls. Needless to say, it was gushing with water from all the rainfall we had experienced!
On the drive back to the Hinton Center, we implemented a "Plan C", because one of the afternoon hikes the leaders had planned, got aborted because there was a tree across the only access road leading to the trail head. And, it was not a little tree that all of us could have moved---it was BIG! So instead, we stopped at the Chatuge Dam, and walked the wide asphalt "PATH" across the top of it.
This particular Road Scholar hiking program was like a "fashion show", designed to illustrate all the many different types of rain gear that hikers have available to them!
Both sides of this PATH into the woods are lined with rhododendron bushes, that are prevalent throughout the southern Appalachian Mountains.
This PATH into the woods shows why tree roots are NOT your friend when hiking a heavily forested area! They tend to rise up and grab your boot, causing you to trip, especially when you get tired!
Fortunately, everyone in our group followed the appropriate PATH, that took them to the top of Siler Bald, and we took this photo to prove it!
Wonder of wonders---there was a brief break in the weather, so that I could get a photo taken sans raingear!!
A nice thing about all that moisture was the opportunity to see several species of mushrooms I had never observed before. This very large specimen (note hiking boot in photo for scale), is called "Chicken of the Woods".
This photo is similar to the very first one in the article, except that it shows me hiking in what looks like a dress (It is actually a waterproof raincoat I always keep in my car). That raincoat turned out to be my "Plan B" attire, after ponchos got shredded from attacking tree limbs!
This photo shows Liz Domingue, a highly educated naturalist and guide, who was one of our two hike leaders. Besides her work leading Road Scholar hiking trips, she also operates "Just Get Outdoors" ( www.justgetoutdoors.com ) Phone 865-977-HIKE , which offers both scheduled outings, and custom adventures. Everyone in our group has a brand new appreciation of salamanders, after hiking with Liz! (She did advanced graduate study and research on salamanders, and was able to find SEVERAL in the rain-soaked areas we explored!)
The Group Leader for our week was Jack Loveless. He did an OUTSTANDING job making the week's activities proceed smoothly, in spite of the many adjustments made necessary, due to the weather and road/trail conditions!
Jack Loveless, our leader, is the one in this photo, who DOES NOT have on a poncho. Instead, he opted for a rain jacket, rain pants, and waterproof cover for his back pack. Note to self: Be like Jack next time!
Mrs. Foley took this photo of Jack with his "Three Muskateers", as we dutifully followed him down whatever PATH he took us on---having no idea where we were going! (I am the one with the yellow caution tape on my hiking sticks. I put it there to make them easier to spot, whenever I walk off and leave them, as I often do!)
On the final day, we visited the natural areas of the John C. Campbell Folk School, in Brasstown, North Carolina, a section of which is shown in the photo below. My week in North Carolina took me on many PATHS that were new to me, but I am using this photo of a STRAIGHT PATH in Brasstown, as the visual aid for one of my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verses that says, "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to Him, and he will make your paths straight." Proverbs 3:5-6. I can assure you that every single PATH I took on this Road Scholar hiking adventure in North Carolina, gave me "MILES OF SMILES"! Tricia