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Pilot Mountain Trail Review | Hiker Thoughts

I’ve been in a funk lately. The last 2ish weeks I’ve been missing Vermont, I spent way too much time around people, burnt myself out and then completely over corrected and over isolated myself; and I’ve been just plain tired and maybe a little sad. So, this weekend when my alarm went off at 7am for my 8-mile Asheville bound hike I looked at my phone and just went nope. Then I rolled over and went back to bed until 11.  When I woke up the second time around I almost called it a day before the day had even started. I felt like I had wasted my day and it was too late.

Instead, I walked into my kitchen and made myself some eggs and a cup of coffee. And then I changed course, looked up a 6-mile hike instead, and cut an hour off of my drive so that things felt more manageable. I was a little worried about over heating in the North Carolina summer heat and humidity, but I really didn’t want to let my excuses override my actions. So, I got in my car at noon and I drove out to hike Pilot Mountain.

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I got to the mountain around 2 and started hiking immediately. I hadn’t really looked into the trail before heading over to it, because I knew that it was in the top 10 elevation gain mountains for North Carolina and I wanted a view. I didn’t realize that the mountain was literally 30 minutes from a city and I was honestly a little disappointed that I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere.

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The trail was really well marked. It was actually almost aggressively well marked, you could see one trail blaze from the next and at most they were located maybe 50 feet apart. The three miles up took me an hour and the last 30 minutes are where I really hit my grove. I was looking at the scenery and felt really in awe of how different it was from all of the other hikes I’ve been on lately. The terrain felt almost desert-y at times and that was really cool.

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A lot of the trail was sand covered, and the trees were sparse and somewhat dehydrated in appearance. I loved it!

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When I got to what I thought was the summit I sat down next to a woman who I started chatting with. I’m going to get really candid here because I think there’s a lot to be said about honesty and connection. I’ve been feeling sad and alone and really un-fulfilled lately. I like my job well enough but it’s not my passion, I’m not changing the world as much as I feel like I should be, and I’m really missing Vermont for reasons that I’m just not totally sure about. Usually I can identify why I’m feeling sad and then work towards changing that, and I was really banking on hiking to help create that clarity.

Here’s the issue, I know that a lot of this has to do with a lack of job satisfaction. I like my job, and I’m really lucky to have it, and I’m learning a lot in it. But at the end of the day I’m not excited about it. What I am excited about is channeling what I’m learning in my job into this blog. I’m excited about helping to create content about hiking, backpacking, health, and my thoughts. I’m driven by the idea of creating a resource and community for people passionate about nature and exploring. But I’m still new to the job I’m currently in and being real with myself means that I can’t jump ship right now. I’m not a valuable asset to companies yet and I’m going to have to keep grinding away at my job for a little while if I want to land a job in an outdoor industry that lights me up (unless any of you want to get me a marketing/events job in that field??). So, while I am working towards my goals, it does mean that I have to sit tight for a little while and follow my bliss in my spare time.

The point I’m trying to make here is that while hiking was a really amazing tool for reflection it isn’t a bullet proof method for solving your problems. This just illuminated what was getting to me and now I can try and create a world that makes sense for me. I think it’s okay to sit in the emotions that we don’t always view as positive; it’s important to acknowledge them and not assign them into a category of good or bad, but rather to understand where the feeling is coming from and act accordingly.

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Anyway, now that I’ve gone on a complete tangent I’ll get back to the woman I met at the top of the mountain. I arrived at my “summit” view (it wasn’t actually the summit, that was about 20 yards away) and noticed a tripod sitting on a rock with an iPhone attached to it and immediately thought: that’s genius and I need one so I can stop propping my phone against my backpack and hoping for the best!! So, I walk over to this tripod and see a woman probably 3 years older than me walking back towards it. I tell her that I love her tripod and ask where she got it and she tells me amazon! We get to talking and I discover she also over slept this morning and wasn’t going to hike originally but wanted to get something in since it was such a nice day.

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She’s kind enough to take my picture and I tell her that it’s a really great summit view and how happy I am to chill out and enjoy it. “Oh, this isn’t the summit, it’s just one of the views.” She tells me. We keep talking for five more minutes, put our packs back on and proceed to hike to the summit. Maybe half an hour I realize I haven’t introduced myself, and just blurt out as we’ve begun our decent “I’m Carey by the way!” She informed me that her name was Tiffany and we proceeded to hike down together until we got to our cars.

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There was never a moment where we agreed to finish our journeys together. No spoken pact or invitation, our steps just fell into place together as we talked about our hopes for the future and our favorite hiking food and gear.

I don’t have her information and that’s okay, because while this wasn’t how I usually hike, having that companionship on the way down and a sense of comradery with a stranger was really special. I’m still not feeling perfect as I sit and write this during a lunch break at work, but I didn’t feel sad anymore while I was hiking, and that meant a lot.

I liked my hike over all with Pilot. There wasn’t a lot of technicality to it and the view at the top was amazing. The moderate rating seemed fair, though I would say that with how well loved this trail is it trends more towards the easy side. Either way, if you’re ever in the Winston-Salem area I’d say give it a go and then check out the vineyards nearby as a reward! That’s my plan the next time I’m up there!

Question: Have you ever met someone on the trail who changed your experience?

4 thoughts on “Pilot Mountain Trail Review | Hiker Thoughts”

  1. Lovely recount. I think the urge to hike, to be alone can often stem from a desire to get away from something that is somewhat hidden to our consciousness – and that the solitude can illuminate that for us.

    I remember walking Mount Solitary in Australia – (a hike of about 10-12 hours all told) with a man who just sort of appeared on the trail. Sometimes I would pass him, othertimes he would come past me. Apart from a brief “G’day” (being Australian, yes we really sometimes talk like that!) we didn’t really chat, just did our own thing and passed each other a few times.

    When I got to the summit and rested he eventually came, and sat beside meand we watched a storm push across the valley ahead. The most we said was just a few things like “Wow” and “Beautiful.” We shared some food with each other – I had some biltong, he gave me some amazing trail mix blend all mushed into little clusters. I left first and we said a quick “See you later.” and that was it. Never saw him again.

    But somehow we shared a great experience with very few words. We knew a lot about each other, because we were both there, walking in the bush alone, in the stormy summer heat. Conversation seemed…redundant I guess.

    That was a unique experience, and nothing like that has really ever happened again, but it was kind of wonderful.

    1. Thank you so much! I love your username! My family is originally from SA so it’s great to see how far I’m reaching and the connections we’re able to make!

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