Comings and Goings…It’s the year of the trail – take a hike

Back in the day when our family spent a lot of time camping, we also spent a lot of time hiking during our week-long annual vacation. I must admit we weren’t the most serious hikers in the campground, but we did take nice long walks along marked trails to see more of the beauty of the Smokies. This was way before backpacks, water bottles and snack bags or even high dollar walking shoes.

Once while hiking in the Smokies, Daddy was leading the pack and he decided he’d take a short cut and walked off the trail and into a bee’s nest. Moral of that story – stay on the trail and in your own lane. 

As you probably already know 2023 is the Year of the Trail in North Carolina with emphasis on all trails and encouraging all people to get out and hike.

Her the years I’ve hiked trails in Chimney Rock at Chimney Rock State Park many times. 

I’ve taken my little ones there through the years, but the most memorable  for me in Chimney Rock Park was my first one to the upper Hickory Nut Waterfalls and returned on the Cliff Trails to the parking lot.

That was at least 40 years ago when I hiked on the Park trails  with then Public Relations Manager Mary Jaeger-Gale. I dreamed the night before our hike that I got stuck between some rocks and there I was for life.

 I shared my nightmare with Mary before the hike. She thought it was funny, and promised me it wouldn’t happen, so off we went. 

It was one of the best hiking days ever. It took a little while, but it was so worth it to get to the top and see the views from the highest peak in the park. Arriving at the Hickory Nut Waterfalls was also amazing. 

By the way, the Park has recently been voted one of the best in the nation. Go hike and take advantage of this amazing place right here at home. 

Our family also hiked to the top of Mt. Mitchell more than once while visiting the Parkway. When hiking that trail not too many years ago with my sister – we were in our late 50s,  it was tougher than I remembered. But we made it to the top. There are so many photographs of nieces, sisters and my parents at the Mount Mitchell sign post.

Our family hiked all the trails we could find.

I was 50 year old when a friend and I ventured to Hawaii. I just thought I could hike.

The first morning there we decided to tackle Diamond Head. It is only a 0.8 mile hike from the trailhead to the summit, but it is steep and strenuous, gaining 560 feet as it ascends from the crater floor.  So there was obviously a lot of huffing and puffing going. There were a lot of steps — maybe 900 —  and a lot of resting places.

We had talked about taking the hike before we made our trip and once there we figured if we didn’t go our first day we’d chicken out. It is one of the top things to do on the island of Oahu and “is one of the best for beginners..”

Well, if you’re 50 and not in the best hiking shape, it is not for beginners. I think it took probably 6 hours to get there and back. We stopped a lot, talked with people and were encouraged to keep going. It would be worth it, we were told.

The view from the top was absolutely magnificent.  Probably the most incredible view on the island and one of the most beautiful sites I’ve seen.

We later hiked through the botanical gardens, in several rainforests and other areas that were absolutely gorgeous. 

Then there was hiking to Linville Falls, a long time ago when I was in the Youth Group at Bethany. We convinced our youth leaders to take us to the  Linville Falls campground and we made that long hike to the waterfalls. That moderate hike is a 1.6 mile round-trip walk with at least four overlooks.

It became extremely memorable for me going back down the mountain. I decided I’d start running, which I did.

 Next thing you know, the stumbling and rolling started and I came down that mountain like a roaring lion, scraping the skin off my legs to the point I couldn’t hardly make it the rest of the way. 

One thing about running down a hiking trail. Do not do it. You will stumble. You will fall. You will regret it.

You may not be heading to the Great Smokies or the Parkway or to Linville anytime soon, but there are hikes and walkways right out your front or back door in Rutherford County.

Make North Carolina’s Year of the Trail special for you. Choose one of the trails listed in the story and get going. 

The Walking Path at the Senior Center is ideal for those of us a little older. But I promise there are trials for every member of your family. 

There are short and easy hikes and then there are strenuous and long trails. 

Choose one that best suits you. Make it your special trail. Make memories with your family and friends. Get outdoors. You’ll be glad you did, and remember from one who knows,  don’t run downhill if you  don’t have strong brakes.

Now back to that 0.8 mile, 6-hour hike to the top of Diamond Head in Hawaii. I made it and I have pictures to prove it.

By the way,  the Thermal Belt Rail Trail, the nearly 14 mile trail from Forrest Hunt Elementary School to Gilkey, was just voted one of the top 10 trails in the state of North Carolina.

Go Rutherford County and thanks to the hundreds who made this possible.

Happy trails and take a hike. You’ll be glad you did.

Jean Gordon is an award winning journalist, spending her career in the newspaper business in Rutherford County.

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