Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In Bloom: A Hike Up Cheoah Bald

Last Monday the entire staff of N.O.C. had their seasonal orientation at the main campus in Wesser on the Nantahala River. It was a mild affair. We took a complementary trip down the Nanty with some of the founders of the company and this was the true highlight. Most of these guys had been on these southern rivers for over 40 years. The wisdom and insight they had was deep and fantastic. I hope to spend some time in the near future getting some interviews for my "history of southern paddling" post. ( I do feel that may be a long time coming)

Following the exhaustive second day of orientation, filled with talks about policy and behavior, I decided to hike north bound on the Appalachian trail for 8.1 miles to Cheoah Bald. That was a good decision.

I hit the trail by 1:30pm and reached the summit by 6:30. It was a pitiful hike on my part. This was my first hike with any major elevation gain (3200ft of gain) in months so I couldn't be too upset with my physical ability. I spent the night on the summit at 5200' with only three other hikers and descended in the morning. Sunset was fantastic and so was sunrise. I highly recommend this summit should you ever get the chance and time while visiting North Carolina.

The best thing about the hike though was all the wild flowers. Many were in bloom and as I gained elevation what was in bloom and wasn't changed.

Of all the flowers the most spectacular, and classic, was the Flame Azaleas. In the 1700's William Bartram (whom the Bartram trail in these very mountains is named after) stated:

"The epithet fiery I annex to this most celebrated species of azalea, as being expressive of the appearance of its flowers; which are in general of the color of the finest red-lead, orange, and bright gold, as well as yellow and cream color. These various splendid colors are not only in separate plants, but frequently all the varieties and shades are seen in separate branches on the same plant; and the clusters of the blossoms cover the shrubs in such incredible profusion on the hillsides that, suddenly opening to view from dark shades, we are alarmed with apprehension of the woods being set on fire. This is certainly the most gay and brilliant flowering shrub yet known." 

I could say it no better if I tried.


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