You would think that crossing three counties in one day would be an impossible task. Nay, with this grizzled group of veteran hikers, Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC) and land owners Carl and Holley Merschat were able to summit the top of Maney Fields where Buncombe, Madison, and Yancey Counties converge. Despite only having to hike 1.5 miles to the top, the group gained over 1,200 feet of elevation, climbed through cattle gates, and avoided high voltage fences. Truly, a successful day!
For over thirty years, Carl and Holley Merschat have lived in their home tucked away in Barnardsville, NC. There, they raised two kids, and gradually buffered their home with additional land to explore and enjoy. They bought their house in 1974 and the next year bought 58 more acres. Over the next 30 years, the Mershats were able to tack on an additional 60 acres. They heat their home every winter from the wood on their property, grow Shiitake mushrooms, and continue to cultivate a strong relationship with their land.
So earlier this fall, when they were able to put their land under conservation easement it, “It just felt right,” says Carl Mershat. “We are pleased and proud to protect this property and help maintain the integrity and spectacular beauty of the mountains of Western North Carolina for perpetuity.”
Carl, a retired geologist, knows these mountains like the back of his hand and can easily identify several of the prominent peaks of the Blue Ridge landscape, such as Mount Mitchell, Mount Pisgah, Roan, or Grandfather mountain. When the group made it to the top of Maney Fields, everyone was impressed when Carl pointed and named every mountain top on the horizon, including some recently protected SAHC projects such as Snowball Mountain and Spear Tops. Carol hiked 100s of peaks in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee as a geologist, giving him a unique opportunity to memorize the landscape.
After the group’s mountain peak identification skills increased tenfold, everyone enjoyed a picnic lunch on top of the meadows and a visit from a local four-legged friend named “Little Dog.” It was a beautiful December day for a hike! The Merschats were wonderful hosts and the hikers were keen and excited to learn. Thanks to everyone who came out. Stay warm and keep an eye for a hike or two in January or February.