Check out our new Shopify gift shop, and help support our conservation work while you shop! Purchasing items from our gift shop helps spread awareness about our work — and we have designed a variety of find quality, locally-produced items. Check it out at: http://shop.appalachian.org/
Ken and Lotta Murray have transitioned from the hustle-and-bustle of Washington, DC, to the quiet coves of mountainous East Tennessee, carving out an idyllic home and garden on a tract where Ken’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 160 years ago. Introduced to SAHC while managing one of our conservation easement properties, they have become committed philanthropic leaders and engaged members, frequently exploring the Southern Appalachians through our guided group hikes.
Ken Murray became acquainted with SAHC when his mother, Katharine Tilson Murray, had the foresight to permanently protect the family homeplace with a conservation easement in 1999. Since retiring to the land in Unicoi County, where he often vacationed as child, Ken and his wife Lotta have become passionate supporters of SAHC, joining our Gray’s Lily Leadership Circle and frequently participating in guided outings on our other protected tracts.
After Ken retired from the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, DC in 2011, he and Lotta hiked the Appalachian Trail together for six months.
“It was amazing, the most incredible thing I’ve ever done,” recalls Lotta. The timing was excellent. “It was a good transition, coming from the remote experience of hiking the Trail to live at the Tilson homeplace, which is also quiet and out-of-the-way. A simple lifestyle is what we wanted.”
Ken’s decision to return to the family homestead and enthusiasm for SAHC stem from summers exploring and adventuring in this wooded corner of TN. Throughout childhood, he spent time on the property during school vacations.
“When I was a kid, I couldn’t imagine why everyone in the world wouldn’t want to be here,” Ken said. He and a neighbor would trek through the creeks and cove. But it wasn’t all play — a framed photo in the farmhouse shows Ken as a youth, discing ground for the garden with a team of mules. “For a kid growing up in the suburbs of Connecticut this was a really cool place,” he added. The experiences sparked a passion for the land that has only gotten stronger over the years.
In 1977, Ken began making improvements and repairs to the family homestead, starting the process of land management. In recent years, he has worked to remove invasive species and address erosion issues on the property.
“We support the mission of SAHC because they’re helping us protect this land, and because of the very active hiking program,” notes Ken. We are grateful to Ken and Lotta for their ongoing support, and love seeing them on the trail!
The Tilson Homestead Farm, Unicoi TN
Growing up in a backwoods corner of Unicoi County wasn’t for the faint of heart – but having a main travel route run right by the doorstep could bring a new world of opportunity and excitement to the hearth.
With the main route between Jonesborough, TN and Asheville, NC, running right by the Tilson homestead, travelers – including influential politicians – would often stop to rest a for a night, sharing stories and perspectives of the outside world that nurtured the growing young minds of John Q. Tilson and his siblings. They grew up to have successful careers as doctors, teachers, a federal court judge, and leading US Congressman.
The subsistence farm had a springhouse, grain storage, and smokehouse familiar to many mountain homesteads from the late 1800s, all still standing. To assist with hardships suffered during the Great Depression, John Q., who had prospered as a lawyer, purchased the original homestead tract from his siblings. He often hosted gatherings for friends and family, and the land is now owned collectively by his descendents.
In the 1990s, his daughter, Katharine Tilson Murray, worked with SAHC to permanently protect the 377-acre tract with a conservation easement.
“Placement of the conservation easement on this property, and providing for SAHC in her estate planning, enabled it to be preserved,” said Ken Murray. “My mother had a vision, and we are very grateful for that.”
Ken notes that as families grow, they typically divide their homestead into smaller and smaller pieces over time. “The conservation easement alleviates a lot of pressure on future generations because it has to be owned as one parcel,” adds Ken. The family plans to own and enjoy this property for many years to come.
John Q. Tilson
John Quillin Tilson, or John Q. as he was frequently known, served as a US Representative from Connecticut for almost 22 years and House Majority leader for six. He spent early life on the Tilson homestead. With roots tracing back to the Mayflower, Tilson’s family had migrated to the Nolichucky River and then to a secluded cove south of Erwin, TN.
“In this house, humble though quite the best in the community, entirely without the aid of doctors and nurses, were born eight children,” he remarked in a published account of The Tilson Family.
They lived in the existing log cabin on the property, until his father built the 2-story white farmhouse in 1879. Moving to New Haven, Connecticut, in later years, John Q. frequently returned to his birthplace, and festive gatherings on the homestead attracted influential leaders from across the area.
Late this summer, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Highland Brewing Company were joined by The Aloft Hotel, Altamont Environmental, Traveling Chic Boutique and USA Raft to explore Lost Cove, where SAHC protected a 95-acre tract in 2012. We hiked into the gorge and rafted the Nolichucky River while learning about the historical significance of the area.
The day began with a hike, to the crest of Flattop Mountain, passing through abundant fields of milkweed spread across the upper elevation meadow — a hopeful sign for Monarch butterflies.
After taking in beautiful, clear views from the top, we descended into the gorge. Hiking down the trail was like hiking a ‘boulder-fall’ — it appeared a bit like a waterfall, but instead of water, massive moss-covered rocks and boulders rippled one after another. They blanketed the path with rich textures and varying shades of green.
Upon reaching the edge of the abandoned community, the trail leveled out and our group felt as if we were walking back in time. Imaginations soared as we pondered what it would have been like, ‘once upon a time.’ The remoteness of the place affected us deeply. We explored and imagined, talking about how it might have felt to live so removed from the outside world. Lost Cove provided a great space for reflection.
Last year, with help from USA Raft, we led a successful “Raft Out the Trash” volunteer day, removing over a ton of garbage from the cove. We were gratified, and pleased, to see that the cleaned up areas had remained mostly clear. This trip, we picked up and removed just 3 small bags of litter.
After exploring the area, we continued down the soil ‘road’ where the old-time moonshiners would have driven illicit goods to the river and railroad tracks. It was really just a crumbly soil path, strewn with boulders and hard to walk on. We couldn’t imagine navigating the route with any sort of vehicle. We reached the river and prepared for the final, waterborne leg of the outing.
The USA Raft guides were great — personable and capable — they definitely knew their way around the river. Even though the river was low, it was still a fun ride! We rafted down to take out at USA Raft’s outpost in Erwin, TN, where our Duke Stanback summer intern, Martha Dawson, had a picnic lunch spread and cold beverages laid out, awaiting our arrival.
What a great way to end an incredible excursion! We enjoyed fellowship with partners on the trip, reflecting back on the events of the day. Thank you, USA Raft, for providing the space — and for guiding us down the river!
About the “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Partnership
Highland Brewing Company has partnered with SAHC to support conservation and heighten awareness of the natural treasures of the Southern Appalachians. As part of the partnership, HBC names each seasonal release for a feature of our natural landscape. Their latest seasonal, Lost Cove American Pale Ale, is named for this area.
Special Thanks to USA Raft
USA Raft is based in Erwin, TN with another location in Marshall, NC. They offer whitewater rafting on the Nolichucky, French Broad and Watauga Rivers — plus some unique recreation opportunities such as wild caving, whitewater stand up paddleboard, kayak lessons and bellyak instruction. The Erwin location offers bunkhouse and cabin rentals, river frontage, stocked trout pond and Appalachian Trail access, all on the property.
“We are very proud of our relationship with such an active and wonderful organization,” said Matt Moses, USA Raft General Manager. “We specifically choose this group to support because it is full of people that are actively making our surroundings better for future generations. There have been many land acquisitions and projects close to both of our locations, including Lost Cove, that our staff and guests benefit from. We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of SAHC.”
Chancellor Emerita of UNC Asheville Anne Ponder and her husband Chris Brookhouse have protected their 102-acre property in Madison County with a conservation easement, preserving pastoral and forest land for future generations.
“A convergence of truly great Asheville folks led us to establish a conservation easement on our property in Madison County. Last year we were inspired by the creation of the McCullough Institute at UNC Asheville, created by the late Charles McCullough and his wife Shirley Anne to research conservation and sustainability. At an event announcing the Institute, financial advisor Michael Andry of Wells Fargo Private Bank introduced me to Carl Silverstein — and our conversations turned to action.
I worked with Carl, Michael, and Farmland Director William Hamilton to place 102 acres of our property, acquired in 1995, into a conservation easement. My husband Chris Brookhouse and I knew that if we didn’t protect our farm and forest land now, its beauty and proximity to Asheville could provide an irresistible opportunity for future development.
Born in Asheville, I have had the great good fortune to return to this remarkable place, becoming chancellor of UNC Asheville in 2005. The natural beauty of our mountains is an asset for the environment, for prolonging the biodiversity of flora and fauna in our region, for preserving farm land, and for the sanity and grace that a walk in the woods or a view of the blue hills gives us. Because we placed our property in a conservation easement, generations to come will have the advantages which this natural beauty affords.
We are grateful for each of the people we worked with along the way, as we pursue a stewardship plan for our conservation easement in the years ahead.”
— Landowner Perspective by Anne Ponder
Visible from the French Broad River, Ivy Creek farm is characteristic of Madison County’s rural landscape, with open pasture ridge tops and steep wooded slopes. The tract is approximately 30% pasture, grazed by cattle, and 70% forest, with a variety of forest types and mixed hardwoods.
The property contains seeps, springs, streams and water courses of high water quality, including Ivy Creek and unnamed tributaries of the creek, which flows into the French Broad River. Permanently protecting the tract preserves water quality, future agricultural use, open space, and wildlife habitat on a parcel that could otherwise have become a fairly dense development.
Concerned about this potential for future development, the landowners donated the conservation easement and made a gift toward future stewardship of the tract.
“We are grateful to Anne and Chris for their foresight in realizing the potential vulnerability of this property, and for proactively working with SAHC to protect the scenic value as well as water and agricultural resources of the farm,” said Executive Director Carl Silverstein.
Conservation of the Ivy Creek farm was made possible by a Mountain Revolving Land Fund Mini-Grant from the Conservation Trust for NC and a gift from private donors, to cover the transaction costs of the project. Anne and Chris will continue to live and farm on the property, with the peace of mind that it has been permanently protected from development.
“Black Soldier Fly” — the name resonates with fear and dread, and perhaps even conjures an image of winged, facet-eyed soldiers wielding guns. In reality, black soldier flies (Hermetia illucens) are useful native critters that chew through organic remnants, helping turn organic material into compost while producing tasty treats for chickens.
The black soldier fly is a non-pest tropical and warm-temperate region insect useful for managing small and large amounts of biosolids and animal manure. They are native to this region but do not like to come indoors — so you won’t find them buzzing around the dinner table. They do not feed as adults or spread disease like other flies. Although large and potentially scary-looking, since the females can be about the size of a large wasp, they do not bite humans or livestock. After black soldier fly residue is vermicomposted, it can be used as a soil amendment.
The total life cycle of a black soldier fly lasts just over a month. Black soldier flies lay 600 to 1200 eggs at a time, in dry crevices above or around moist waste material. After five days, the eggs hatch and white larva drop into the waste material and begin to consume it, growing to about ¾ inch over two weeks. Between day 19 – 33 of the life cycle, the larva turn into gray pupae and quit consuming material; this begins the migratory stage, when they crawl up and out of the bin to burrow. These pupae contain essential amino and fatty acids, which make them great food sources for pigs, chicken and fish.
Black soldier flies can reduce organic waste material by as much as 95%, depending on temperature and content. A medium-sized digester can process about 80 lbs. of bio material in a day. The Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently hosted a Digester Build Workshop on its Community Farm, to demonstrate how to construct a digester for organic material using black soldier flies.
Building a digester
For a regular household – for example, if you’re going to be feeding kitchen scraps, garden waste or small livestock manure – a 20-gallon tub is a good size to start. For a small vegetable farm, a 100+ gallon size would be best. During SAHC’s Digester Build workshop, we cut an olive oil tank in half and used it to construct a medium-sized digester. Both small and medium-sized digesters are modular, so you can add as many as you need over time. The basic construction is the same for each: a tub or container to hold the organic material; ramp for the pupa to crawl up and out; collection bucket to hold the pupa that crawl out; cardboard or similar medium for oviposition by the female black soldier fly; and lid or cover if the digester is not placed under a roof, to keep rain out.
Although you can build a digester with ramps that feed into a collection bucket located outside the digester, our design incorporates the collection bucket and ramps within the digester, which works well at a medium scale. The ramps should have a trough and or small sides so the pupa do not crawl off, and they must also be flexible so they can adjust to new organic material being added without becoming buried. Ramps could be made of PVC pipe, wood, old gutter, siding, etc. Place cardboard on the inside walls of the digester, so that the eggs laid by the female will be above the organic material. Locate your digester under an open-sided shelter, or place something over top to keep water out. When covering the digester be sure to leave enough room for the female black soldier fly to get to the cardboard to lay her eggs.
Starting your own colony
Because the Black Soldier Fly is a naturally occurring insect in our region, you can attract the female to lay eggs near a food source with a strong odor. Start a compost bin with a mix of kitchen scraps that are a couple of days old. The females will detect the chemical signal of a larval food source. It is important to give the female black soldier fly a location to deposit her eggs, so place a stack of corrugated cardboard on the inside wall of the container. Within two weeks, you should have black soldier fly eggs in the cardboard, which you can then transfer to the wall of your digester. The larva will hatch and fall into the organic material and start growing.
For more info, or to visit SAHC’s Community Farm and see a black soldier fly digester in action, contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 828.253.0095 ext 203.
We recently protected 267 acres in two separate conservation projects in the Newfound Mountains, near the area where Buncombe, Haywood and Madison counties converge. We purchased 31 acres at Doubleside Knob in Haywood County, and placed 236 acres into conservation easement at Haywood Gap, permanently protecting clean water sources, healthy forest communities, habitat, and wildlife corridors.
“These projects continue our decades-long commitment to conservation efforts in the Sandy Mush community,” says Executive Director Carl Silverstein. Over the past two decades, the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has protected over 10,000 acres in this area.
The Haywood Gap conservation easements, in two adjoining tracts, protect over 16,000 linear feet of stream corridor, including five tributary streams of Bald Fork, which flows into Sandy Mush Creek in the French Broad River watershed. The tracts also adjoin 600 acres owned by the Long Branch Environmental Education Center, which we protected with a conservation easement in 1995.
The 236 protected acres at Haywood Gap rise to 4,380 ft. elevation on the border of Haywood County. The tracts contain healthy forest habitat with high elevation rock outcrops, rich cove forest, and montane oak forest. The robust understory plant communities support a diversity of native species, including large & small mammals, birds, migratory species, amphibians and reptiles, and aquatic life.
“On a clear day, Haywood Gap is visible from downtown Asheville in the sweeping arc of mountains that frame the western horizon,” adds Silverstein. “This conservation project is particularly exciting because of the prominence of that view — as well as the quality of water sources, habitat, and connectivity to other protected lands. Large rock outcrops found at high elevations are rare. They are a priority habitat to protect because several rare plants and animals – such as the rock vole and the Alleghany woodrat – thrive within these communities.”
We are grateful for the vision of the landowners, private philanthropic leaders, and Buncombe County for the permanent protection of Haywood Gap.
Landowner Perspective: “We bought our share of Sandy Mush land back in the mid-late 70’s together with Jim and Susan who had the other portion; we were really part of the “back to the land” movement of the time – realizing how important nature and protecting it was. We were so struck by the gorgeous land in itself – and the incredibly beautiful valley we had to go through to get to it. For Bill, it connected to his past, growing up in Andrews, NC in the beautiful Snowbird Mountains. For me, it connected to my love of land and the wish to protect it. Also, my father was from Switzerland, and I lived there for 3 years as an adult and developed a deep love of mountains. Sandy Mush feeds that feeling and need in me. When I drive through the gorgeous valley before ascending our mountain area, I connect with our beautiful state, with Switzerland and with my love of nature, especially mountains. When SAHC approached us, we were so excited that the land would be even better protected. With developers encroaching everywhere, protecting land feeds the future, protects water and food supply, and feeds all of my senses. We are so fortunate to be connected to such a beautiful, peaceful and nourishing place, and we are thrilled that our daughter Thea and her husband Rachit are also excited about this area and its preservation.” — Evelyn Bloch, one of the Haywood Gap landowners
The 31-acre Doubleside Knob tract purchased by SAHC also contains healthy habitat, with Southern Appalachian oak forest, mixed hardwoods, boulder fields, and elevations reaching above 4,000 ft. at the top of the knob. The property is adjacent to an existing conservation easement and connected to a large network of protected land in Sandy Mush. Connectivity is important in conservation lands, helping to create wildlife corridors.
Part of a mountainous backdrop, Doubleside Knob is visible from the hiking/mountain biking trail in the Rough Creek Watershed. The 870-acre Rough Creek Watershed, owned by the Town of Canton, is publicly accessible for day use by hikers and mountain bikers. In 2002, SAHC worked with the Town of Canton and the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to place a conservation easement on the tract, protecting its unique forest ecosystem and natural resources. Today, the Rough Creek Watershed Trail System is open to the public and comprised of three trails of various distances, totaling 10+ miles.
Our purchase of Doubleside Knob protects water quality as well; the property contains the main branch of Long Branch, which flows into Beaverdam Creek.
Landowners Gloria Nelson and Mary Morehouse owned and enjoyed the property for many years. Mary was once Gloria’s teacher, and they became friends and remained close throughout their lives, often visiting each other to spend time on the land they love.
“For years we have walked this property and enjoyed the beauty of the trees, the animals, and the stream that runs through it,” said landowner Gloria Nelson. “For this reason we wanted this land to remain just as it is. We are very happy that the conservancy now owns it and will be able to preserve it for years to come.”
We’d also like to give a special THANK YOU to Mast General Store, for allowing us space in the Asheville and Waynesville stores to provide informative materials and talk to customers throughout the day. And thank you to our staff and volunteers who hosted tables at the Mast General Store locations: Michelle Pugliese, Sarah Sheeran, Caitlin Edenfield, Joan Worth, Leigh DeForth, and Cheryl Fowler.
This year, we also hosted two area hikes during Land Trust Day.
Community Farm Hike: We hosted our third annual Land Trust Day hike out on SAHC’s Community Farm. Each year the hike becomes more interesting and in-depth as new projects develop and old ones continue to grow. This year we were excited to have some neighbors of the farm on the hike, who were interested in learning more about the Community Farm and our Farmer Incubator Program.
The morning started off cool, as we gave a brief introduction to SAHC and our Community Farm at the trailhead. Our first stop along the hike was at Second Spring Market Garden, the first farmers in our Farmer Incubator Program. Second Spring provides one of the most dynamic stops along, as it is constantly growing (pun intended) and expanding. Growing on just an acre-and-a-half, they’re providing Asheville with its first 52-week CSA. Walking through in June was a great time to visit, as the farmers were in full production mode! After passing by Second Spring, we ventured in the woods and into the Stream Restoration and Short Leaf Pine Restoration areas. While these areas are slowly growing, the before and after pictures provided by the info boards along trail are proof of progress!
We made our way up the steep hill, onto the ridge, from which a view of the entire farm can be seen. It was a little hazy out, but still a breathtaking view and easy way to visualize what 100 acres looks like. The group continued on their way, down off the ridge and back into the Stream Restoration zone. The 1.5-mile Discovery Trail does a wonderful job of covering every interesting aspect and project on the farm. As we made our way back to the trail head, we caught a glimpse of the Piney Woods Cattle roaming the farm. In just a couple of hours, we were able to give the all-access tour of our Community Farm!
OM Sanctuary’s “Human Health and Connection with Nature”:
As part of a day-long open house and celebration of the conservation easement at OM Sanctuary, SAHC helped lead a hike on the tract, to explore the recently protected urban forest. Participants learned the benefits of urban forest, both to humans and to ecosystem health. We walked through chestnut oak forest and acidic cove forest, learning native trees and wildflowers in addition to how the history of the railroad affected OM’s current-day forest. Hikers also learned how to identify multiflora rose, Oriental bittersweet, and Morrow’s honeysuckle as non-native invasive species, and why Asian plant species are commonly invasive in our forests and, reciprocally, that our plants are invasive in their forests. The group was inspired at the end of the hike to pursue more naturalist-led hikes with SAHC and to volunteer with the invasive species removal project at OM Sanctuary.
Thank you to all who were involved throughout the day!
Tucked away in the hills of Black Mountain, NC, lies the headwaters of the Catawba River and the popular hiking destination, Catawba Falls. During the last week of May, we had the pleasure of leading a group of hikers to the upper portion of Catawba Falls, a rarely visited section of this favorite waterfall spot. Most hikers access Catawba Falls from the bottom and rarely see the upper portion of the falls, but we were able to gain access to this unique route by beginning the hike on a tract on which SAHC holds a conservation easement. This particular property in Black Mountain is a real favorite, for its incredible plant diversity, high water quality and most notably the headwaters of the Catawba River.
We met early in the morning, with dark storm clouds lingering on the mountaintops. Although not too concerned about weather rolling in, since we would be at a lower elevation for most of the hike, we certainly hoped the weather would hold out, since a creek stomp isn’t as fun in the driving rain. A local historian met us at the property and shared the historical significance of the land. We certainly weren’t the first travelers to set foot on this land! The group eagerly listened as tales of families traveling through the mountains and across this very property were told.
At the last couple of stream crossings, it became obvious we were getting closer to our destination. The stream had widened as more water flowed by. Then, the top of the falls emerged out of nowhere, popping up behind a row of rhododendron. At first glance, it seemed unimpressive. As the group climbed down the final steep descent, we could hear the water raging and knew we had arrived. The thick rhododendron made it difficult to the see the falls until the last bend in the trail, and as we come around, the view revealed the waterfall towering above, cascading over mossy boulders. “Oohs” and “aahs” were released at the sight of the massive falls. The group split off, enjoying the large exposed rocks and small beach area as the perfect lunch spot.
A sense of relaxation and relief seemed to come over the whole group. The only sound was that of the water falling over rocks and splashing into the pool below. We enjoyed lunch slowly, exhilarating in such a beautiful location. In between bites and conversation, folks explored the pool below the falls. A couple crawdads were spotted and some people even went for a swim! As everyone relished stunning beauty of the falls, hike leader – AmeriCorps Conservation Education & Volunteer Associate – Kana Miller highlighted the importance of conservation in Black Mountain and in particular this property. Protecting the water sources and land surrounding the headwaters and tributaries of the Catawba River has lasting impacts across the state. The group listened and was grateful – Catawba Falls provides a clear and obvious reminder of why protecting these precious water sources is so important!
Thanks to everyone who joined us for the June Jamboree this summer! As we prepare to bid adieu to our Project Conserve AmeriCorps Conservation Education and Volunteer Associate, Kana Miller (whose 11-month service term ends next week), we’d like to share her account from the day:
“Organizing the June Jamboree was like the grand finale of my experience with SAHC; it tested all the skills I’ve honed leading the outreach program. With five different hikes in one day on the Roan Massif, and close to 100 people participating, it’s a big event to organize — but for me, this year’s June Jamboree proved to be nothing but rewarding!
The Breakdown – This Year’s Hike Offerings:
Hike #1 Ed Schell Memorial Hike – From Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge
Hike #2 Birding Hike with Simon Thompson
Hike #3 Roll n’ Stroll in the Rhododendron Gardens
Hike #4 Salamander Scavenger Hunt
Hike #5 Challenge Hike
In addition to coordinating all the hikes and hike participants, I also led the Challenge Hike. A fairly new tradition, the Challenge Hike is notorious for being a long hike (12 + miles) with strenuous route and rewarding, beautiful views. This year’s Challenge hike was no different – I planned a 15-mile trek across the Appalachian Trail and Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.
I was eager to get on the trail as we gathered at Hughes Gap, and I could sense the rest of the group was, too. We had a long day ahead and thunderstorms threatening to hit Carvers Gap in the afternoon. After a brief introduction and safety talk we took off on the Appalachian Trail, heading up Beartown Mountain and Roan High Knob, a 3-mile climb with over 2,500 feet of elevation gain. It was early in the morning with a cool breeze as we headed silently up trail, enjoying the newly routed section of the AT. We could see where the trail originally went straight up the mountain and were thankful for the new, gentle curves along the contours and switchbacks. It didn’t take long for folks to splinter off into groups with different hiking speeds as we tackled the long climb.
After about two hours, the group made it to the top and the highest point along our route, the old Cloudland Hotel Site and Roan High Knob. We took a break here and could already tell the mountain was alive with visitors. During this break, we ran into our staff representative on the Roll n’ Stroll, SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. While a brief encounter, it made June Jamboree feel like a close-knit community event – it was rewarding to see my hard work and coordinating come together!
Although Roan High Knob was the highest point along our route, we had only traveled a few miles. We sped right through Carvers Gap and continued up Round Bald to get away from the crowds. Dark clouds were lingering on the horizon. My worst nightmare seemed like it might come true – getting stuck in a thunderstorm on the open balds. The clouds were rolling right over the grassy balds and folks were getting hungry. We pushed on to Engine Gap, making our way to a sunny spot out of the clouds. A lunch break seemed to be exactly what the group needed to re-energize. With a map highlighting SAHC properties in the area, I spoke about SAHC’s involvement in protecting and managing the Roan Massif before we made our way back on trail.
The Ed Schell Memorial Hike, from Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge, made their way down Jane Bald just as we were heading up. It was awesome to run into this group, especially since it constituted the biggest hike of the June Jamboree and had the presence of many current and former board members. As a light sprinkle began, I couldn’t help but notice that despite raincoats and clouds blocking our views, everyone was smiling and talking about enjoying the great day. The excitement and camaraderie on trail was exactly the pick-me-up I needed to motivate our group and power through the second half of our route. We made it past Grassy Ridge, Elk Hollow Ridge, the Stan Murray AT Shelter and onto Yellow Mountain Gap in good time.
Although we still had about 4 miles to go, the trail junction at Yellow Mountain Gap was an important one. Yellow Mountain Gap is the four-way intersection of the Appalachian Trail and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, and also marked our turn off of the AT. We had 11 miles under our feet and food and drinks awaiting us at the end of Hampton Creek Cove! Folks took a break as I gave a brief history of Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail. We were standing on the border of Cherokee National Forest, before rapidly descending into Hampton Creek Cove. The trail was overgrown and steep, but still very beautiful. We hiked though dense hardwood forest, crossing several small streams before popping out into cow pasture.
A slow drizzle started up as we finished our 15-mile day. We had endured a long, but fun, day of hiking. Our group was welcomed with ‘hoots and hollars’ as we made our way to the post-hike social. A delicious spread of fruit, crackers, cheese and refreshing beverages awaited us. Then the sun came out and a peaceful, rewarding sensation came across me as I sat back and relaxed. The day was done; June Jamboree 2015 was a success!”