It has been SO LONG since my last Sunday Stroll post! No joke, it’s been almost a year since my last Sunday Stroll post on Adams Tract in Carrboro, eek!! And while I’ve been hiking and running, that’s a fair representation of how long it’s been since I went on a Sunday Stroll with my dad. We’ve only ever been on one other Sunday Stroll since then at Clemmons forest, and I just haven’t posted about that. (Also my bad.) But I’d been talking a big game about reviving our Sunday Stroll tradition, and I even texted my dad to check his availability for a recent Sunday morning, only I never actually followed up with him on when or where or how far.
So fast forward to Sunday morning. I’m lying in bed being a lazy bum, and my doorbell rings. It’s my dad. Asking, “Hey, where are we going hiking this morning?”
That awesome close-to-home hike that beginner and experienced hikers both love
How do I organize a hike that is both interesting for experienced hikers and isn't overwhelming to new hikers? That's a hard balance; I remember being a new hiker when 2-3 miles felt like quite a hike, and I also remembered thinking recently how now my definition of a "hike" is vastly different than what it was a few years ago. How do I reconcile the two and find something that would appeal to everyone?
There was one obvious answer: Hanging Rock.
Standing Indian Loop on the Appalachian Trail: How a myth, a storm, and friendship can electrify your perspective
A long time ago, in the area where Franklin, NC now sits, local Cherokee told a story of a winged beast that swooped down from the skies and stole children. Heartbroken and desperate, the local villagers sent a warrior to the highest mountain to keep watch for the winged monster and to discover its lair. The warrior found the lair, but it was in a place in the mountains inaccessible to humans, so the Cherokee villagers prayed to the Great Spirit for assistance. The Great Spirit heard their pleas and sent thunder and lightning to destroy the winged monster. The lightning scarred the surrounding mountains but the warrior, afraid for his life, tried to abandon his post. To punish his act of cowardice the Great Spirit sent a bolt of lightning to the mountain summit, leaving a bald and turning the warrior to stone. From that day forward the mountain was called Yunwitsule-nunyi which means "where the man stood."
Today we call it Standing Indian Mountain. The bald is still there, as well as the rock scars on the sides of the nearby mountains, but the rock shaped like a man is crumbling, forgotten to all except those that know to look for it.
Clingmans Dome to Jockey's Ridge: 680 miles of trail and over 500 miles of connecting roads
It's always a surprise when I stumble across the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This summer I will have lived in North Carolina for twenty years and through this whole time the Mountains-to-Sea Trail has been like an old friend who keeps popping up again - someone I knew and liked throughout my life but never got to know intimately even though we share interests and keep rubbing elbows over the years.
The Risks and Responsibilities of Writing about the Outdoors
My post on Wednesday was originally intended to provide information about long distance trails - specifically the Appalachian Trail and Mountains-to-Sea Trail - as an introduction for those unfamiliar to long-distance hiking, but a post just vomiting facts and metrics is no fun. Hence, the post on Wednesday turned into a passionate romanticization of long-distance trails. But as much as I wax poetic about the outdoors, I also feel a bit of guilt: I wonder if romanticizing the outdoors does it a disservice - that I am dismissing the dangers of the wilderness, downplaying the difficulty of the trail, or even encouraging others to find these beautiful spaces and disrespect or even defile them - intentionally or not - with cairns, graffiti, trash, or even just a proliferation of tourists with selfie sticks. An influx of people chasing selfies in exotic places for the sake of social media likes frequently brings up the debate regarding sharing the location of scenic spots - do you share the secret and risk it being overrun, or do you risk being a snob and keep your favorite places hidden?
How long distance trails can become embedded in our psyche
I don't know when I first heard about the Appalachian Trail. It seems like I've always known about it, like it was some seed of knowledge that was embedded deep in my psyche before I was even born, but I must have learned about it at some point. Most likely I was just exposed to bits and pieces of information about the trail and so I learned about it piecemeal. Even the first time I set foot on the trail - on a day hike in Virginia with one of my best friends from college - I hadn't quite grasped the true meaning of the trail. I understood it existed and I understood you could hike it. I even understood that you could thru-hike it if you were crazy enough to love mountains and pain and you disliked showers and soft beds, but I certainly didn't grasp that there was an entire culture of people who lived and breathed the trail.