Have you ever woken up to your alarm in the early hours of a weekend morning and wonder what on earth is going on? It’s the same feeling you get years after being out of school and feeling like you have an assignment due.
Saturday morning at 6 am I awoke to the upbeat song on my alarm blaring next to my right ear. Eyes still closed my hand reached out to hot snooze. For the life of me I could not figure out why I was awake.
It’s not Monday yet? My sleep clouded brain thought as the cogs started turning, trying to make sense of what was happening.
This continued for another couple of seconds before things started moving currently. I was up before the sun because I was going hiking! Duh!
Mornings in North Carolina are starting to get just cold enough that the warmth my body has been emitting while I sleep is a welcome reprieve from the night chilled air just outside my covers.
The idea of being out on the trail- sun dappled and cool from the higher elevations- was the only thing that had me standing minutes later.
I headed out the door thirty minutes later, coffee in one hand, hiking boots in the other.
My plan was to head out and hike Calloway trail up to the Grandfather Ridgeline. However, due to some pretty severe storms last week the trail was closed. A fact I didn’t find out until it was staring me in the face 2 hours of driving later.
Determined not to let this put a damper on my day I hoped back into my car and started driving figuring I would just stop at the next trailhead I saw and take it from there.
Despite an unfortunate detour, this might have been my favorite drive through the Blue Ridge Parkway to date. I alternated between driving through clear stretches of sky that allowed me to see the mountains for what appeared to be forever, to fog so think I couldn’t make out what was on the other side of the street. There were a couple of times where I saw these tiny like puffs of clouds nearly at eye level. Those might have been my favorite, because it just looked like they weren’t supposed to be there- as if I had imagined them into existence through some sort of dream powers.
After driving for about 20 minutes I came across the parking lot for the Boone Scout Trail. The sign said that the hike was 5.2 miles. My previous hike was meant to be 6.6 so this felt like a pretty close deal. Happy to have found a trail that was open I laced up my boots and slung my backpack over my shoulder.
The first mile of the trail meanders through several campsite areas and would make for a fantastic place to set up a home base for a weekend of exploring and doing some shorter hikes.
I had my trekking poles at the ready but ended up carrying them since they really weren’t needed!
You have to cross a street to get to what I called the “actual” trailhead. There’s a second parking lot after crossing the street that will take you to the beginning of the forested start of this trail at mile 299 of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Because I was doing a loop it made sense for me to start where I did, but if you were looking to do an out and back or connect to the Mountains to Sea trail, I would start here.
Mile 2 of this particular trail was magical. Last night’s temperature drop had brought tiny droplets of crystalline water to hang from the spider webs I passed.
The appearance of cotton wisps covering the surrounding fields making it look like the spiders were decorating for winter.
If you have any interest in spiders (or if you’re like me and they’re not your jam but you’re kind of fascinated anyway) then this is definitely a spot you want to check out! I saw several spiders but couldn’t get a picture without getting too close for comfort!
Sometime between miles two and three the trail goes from somewhat open fields to a tunneled forest.
Everything about this trail made me feel like I was going on my very own lord of the rings adventure. There’s almost no elevation gain on the trail and I thought to myself several times during this section that if I were a distance runner this would be the perfect spot for a weekend run!
At the beginning of mile three I got my first inkling that this route might have some sort of water aspect to it. A steadily flowing stream surged along the trail leading me over what would be the first of many stream crossings.
When I look for hikes to do one of the first things I filter is the elevation gain, because I prefer summit views over waterfalls. That being said, after this adventure I think I may need to reevaluate.
Wandering along the constant sounds of streaming water brought on a sense of calm akin to that of a white noise machine before sleep pulls you under.
That paired with the little puzzle presented with every necessary river crossing made for an incredibly fun hike!
Since starting this blog I’ve noticed myself stopping more. Instead of racing to get to the non-existent finish line that lies at the top I slow down and stop to take photos of a particularly pretty bend in the trail. I notice the little waterfalls that would have been previously ignored in favor of pushing forward.
My average hiking pace is 18 minutes a mile. To put that into perspective, the average person walks 3 miles an hour. So, I hike faster than the average person walks. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion. Really it just is what it is for me. I never thought of myself as a particularly fast paced hiker, but upon coming to this realization it’s occurred to me that there’s nothing wrong with slowing down.
That old saying stop to smell the roses, I’m trying to take it a little more literally.
With this in mind, when I saw an unmarked trail that would bring me down to river level I wandered down without question.
Sitting on the cool rocks as the sun revealed itself for the first time that day felt like a wonderland.
There is a wooded area near my childhood home that I spent a lot of time last fall running to as an escape. Fallen trees- older than I’ll ever be- creating bridges across a small river which I would cross feeling as if I were a character in a movie. Sitting by this river brought the same sense of calm over my body. The river pulling falling leaves away from the trees form which they had spent the summer.
I have heard a lot of talk about how fall is a reminder of how beautiful letting go can be. Sitting in this oasis that was all my own it felt like I had permission to release my own fears- my uncertainties following the yellowed leaves down the river, and out of my awareness.
I don’t think I would have experienced this same moment had I done the out and back hike I had originally planned for, as I would have been so focused on getting to the top. This hike was great because it felt playful. The end of it was- in my mind- the parking lot, so extending my time on the trail by looking for off shoots was really fun!
When you get just past mile 3 there’s a sign that leads to some falls. I cannot recommend highly enough making your way to the bottom of these falls and then following the path up alongside time.
If your boots don’t have the tread for them take them off and climb barefoot. I’ve always felt more surefooted without shoes anyway, so I took my boots off immediately.
Sitting on a boulder in the middle of the falls eating an apple was a guy who looked to be in his mid 20s. As the only other person around I picked my way over to ask if he wouldn’t mind taking a photo. He agreed and took a couple before I made my way back and took a seat next to him.
One of my favorite things about hiking is the people you meet along the way and the conversations that end up taking place. Tyler and I realized that we had the same backpack and took it from there, chatting about what we do and what we want to do.
An hour later when it was time to move on he offered to show me how to get to the connecting section of this trail so that I wouldn’t have to retrace my steps.
This involved picking our way through 100ft of waterfall elevation gain and crossing a large stretch of river on two separate occasions.
The climb went well, but the first river crossing did not. The rocks at the area we had to cross were fully submerged under water from same rains that had put my original trail out of commission. Trekking poles in hand I tried to place my feet on the lease water covered rocks.
The first step went really well- when I went to take my next step however, my foot slipped and plunged straight into the river.
It would have been really easy to get upset about the fact that my socks had realistically doubled in size in my boot from water absorption, instead I found myself laughing.
The sun was shining, providing a comfortable warmth on my shoulders, and I was having fun on this unexpected adventure with a new friend.
It was liberating to have gotten my boots wet. This “mishap” allowed me to walk freely through the rest of the river crossing, and when I got back on the trail. I wasn’t concerned about the mud anymore, my boots were already covered in water, so who cared about a little mud!
When we got to our final crossing Tyler and I said our goodbyes and I pushed forwards while he stayed behind to do some fishing.
Spirits high I finished up the final two miles of my hike. Aside from a couple of ladders and more bridge crossings the trail is well groomed and pretty flat.
This hike takes a while, because of the distance, but it’s the absolute perfect trail if you’re looking to take it easy and have a little fun! I would happily do this adventure again and maybe next time bring my bathing suit for a little swim!
Question: Do you prefer waterfalls or summit views?