I’ve only gotten to go paddling a few times this spring so far, and both were on the Little River in Montgomery County. Both trips though revealed to me how much the river has changed as a result of the two hurricanes we had last year. It is really remarkable how the small trees on the edges are all pushed down, and dirt and sand have shifted around and filled in areas and opened up other areas.
The first trip, a friend and I put in at the Smitherman access off Troy-Candor Road. We met a father and son paddling shortly after we got on the water, but did not see any one else on the water the whole time we were out there. This is a flat-water section, due to the dam on the southern end by Capelsie, and we paddled all the way to where we were in sight of Capelsie Road before turning around and heading back.
Everywhere along the trip there were small trees on the banks that had been pushed over by what must have been a tremendous amount of water rushing through here during the previous year’s storms. I remembered one area from paddling there last year that a tree was almost across the river, and that must have been washed away by the flow.
The second paddle trip of this year was on Little River putting in at Pekin Road. A friend and I paddled upstream about an hour to see a large sycamore she had seen on a previous trip. My friends who are big tree hunters are coming back into town in a couple weeks and we’re looking for a place to paddle where we might spot a large tree, so I was eager to check this one out. Unfortunately, though the base of the tree was extremely large, the tree broke off into three stems shortly up from the base. My friend told me that if there are multiple stems on a tree, you can only measure the largest stem, so this one was not a contender. However, it is still a very nice tree and I was excited to get to see it.
Just like the first stretch of the Little River, the smaller trees along the banks had been pushed down and many washed away entirely. One area shortly after you leave the put-in I’m pretty sure used to have a divided area, where you could paddle either side, but that had filled up with sand. It looked like some of the two old bridge pilings before you get to that spot had washed away as well. Paddling this area in the past, I don’t remember hitting rocks so close to the put-in, but there were a few spots along the way where I ran into them with my boat. It may be that the water was just low, but it could be that the storms moved some of those around as well.
On the way back, there were a few folks near the put-in chain sawing some trees making a campsite. They were grateful there were still some trees left in that area for shade, as much of the river they had been washed away entirely. I look forward to paddling other sections of Little River and other rivers in our area this spring and summer and seeing how they may have changed from last year’s hurricanes and related flash floods. It’s amazing how much power nature has and to see the visible impacts really drives that home. I’ll report back on other findings I make while kayaking other stretches in the future.
Last Wednesday, I was fortunate to get to join a private tour of Bluff Mountain Nature Preserve. The Nature Conservancy owns this site and they host tours in spring and fall but they fill up quickly. A friend of mine attended one of these hikes the previous weekend and learned that he could arrange a private tour for 10 people for $150. Fortunately, he included me on his email invitation and I was able to join the group for a tour of this amazing place.
The Nature Conservancy’s website says that Bluff Mountain is located in the heart of the New River headwaters and is one of the most ecologically significant natural areas in the Southeast. The natural communities here are diverse, everything from Carolina hemlock forests to dwarf red oak-white oak forest to a rare southern Appalachian fen and a unique flat-rock community. The website further states that Bluff Mountain is home for over 400 species of plants.
I drove my Jeep up the steep road to where the hiking trails began, and as soon as we got parked we were greeted by pink lady slippers just off the trail. We would see about a hundred more on our hike, some of which were growing right in the path, so we had to watch our step. Our hike began and we quickly came to an open area full of bright orange Indian paintbrush. There was also the rare yellow version in bloom here too. After stopping for some pictures we continued on.
All along the side of the trail were other plants in bloom, including trillium grandiflorum with its light pink to white bloom, lily of the valley with its cream-colored bell-shaped flowers, black cohosh and blue cohosh (the latter not in bloom though), Clinton’s lily, and many others. This mountain is also home to Gray’s lily, a rare plant that blooms later in the summer. It is also the only place in the world where Bluff Mountain reindeer moss grows.
Our guide asked us if we wanted to go see the yellow lady slipper, which would add about 20 minutes to our hike, and we all eagerly agreed that we did. We found one a little past bloom, but shortly up the trail there was a huge grouping of them. Needless to say we all took a lot of pictures before continuing on. Yellow and pink lady slipper are probably my favorite wildflowers, so the trip had already been made for me.
We climbed up to a rocky outcrop, and though it was a foggy day, which obstructed the view, it didn’t matter to me – I came to see the flowers. From there it was downhill the rest of the way. We came to an old cabin with a pond in front of it. The family that sold the tract to the Nature Conservancy has lifetime rights to use that cabin. I could imagine spending an evening in that botanical paradise sitting around the fire ring taking in the splendor of my surroundings.
The hike was not over yet though. We hiked to another viewspot, with an even steeper cliff on the side of the mountain, and could hear but not see a waterfall from that vantage point. There was a bit of a break in the clouds at that point and you could see the surrounding forested landscape.
We came to a hemlock forest with some large, old hemlock trees. Some of them had died from the hemlock wooly adelgid, but others were still healthy. From there we went to a very unique glade community, where the reindeer moss grows. This area is very rocky with thin soil and a variety of unique plants grow here. The trees here were all small and stunted from growing in the difficult conditions.
Shortly after that we found ourselves at the natural fen, a unique wetland area. Our guide said this is the southernmost fen in the United States. There was more Indian paintbrush and also sundews – a carnivorous plant with sticky drops of liquid on it to attract and trap insects. Someone had laid out a small pathway of rocks that allowed us to walk around in the fen community without damaging it.
Not long after that we found ourselves back at our cars. Our guide asked if we wanted to hike just a short ways away to see a bunch of cinnamon fern, which we did. They were a vibrant green with their bright brown cinnamon stalk-like parts in the middle. Behind them was the back side of the fen we had just walked through. From there we went back to our cars and made it back down the mountain to West Jefferson in time to eat at my favorite bakery there, which just capped off a wonderful trip. If you get an opportunity to hike at Bluff Mountain don’t pass it up. I promise you’ll have a one-of-a-kind experience to see so much diversity in one place. I can’t wait for my next trip to see what else blooms at this natural wonderland.
On May 9th, Three Rivers Land Trust, formally, The LandTrust for Central North Carolina, partnered with Salisbury Academy through the Land Trust’s Leopold Society Program to bring 75 children in grades 6-8 out to the Land Trust’s Point Property in Davie County to enhance wildlife habitat.
The students, led by Shea Overcash, a middle school science teacher at Salisbury Academy, and Land Trust staff met on the property from 10:15am to noon. The students helped plant sunflowers by scattering the seed over five acres of field that had previously been disked. Planting sunflowers benefits wildlife in the form of songbirds, butterflies, and other pollinators.
The Land Trust owns approximately 1,400 acres where the Yadkin and South Yadkin Rivers confluence, and the property is managed to house a diversity of landscapes. Portions of the property contain hardwood forest, some of the property is in pine plantation that is frequently burned to enhance wildlife habitat, and other areas of the land are in agriculture. “Providing a diverse matrix of habitats on one property allows a wide variety of wildlife to use the site,” states Conservation Lands Manager, Cody Fulk. Students took a walk over the property after the sunflower planting to see the various habitats present on the landscape.
The Land Trust’s Leopold Society is designed to enlighten youth participants from grades 6 to 12 on the natural world and conservation issues. Participants learn conservation techniques, outdoor skills, and hands-on natural resource stewardship and service. They engage in outdoor recreation and skill-building activities. Many of these activities are completed independently with the intent to bring families together in the outdoors. The long-term goal of the program is to instill a lifelong love of nature in youth participants that will translate into positive action as adults.
To learn more about how you can get your school involved in the Leopold Society, or how you can support Three Rivers Land Trust, contact Michael Nye Fulk at 704-647-0302 or email@example.com
“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”
President John F. Kennedy
To say that agriculture is important in North Carolina would be an obvious understatement. Agriculture and agribusiness, including food, forestry, and fiber, is the number one industry in North Carolina, contributing $87 billion to the economy. North Carolina ranks first in the nation in farm cash receipts for tobacco and sweet potatoes; second for poultry and eggs; and third for pork and trout. North Carolina also has a diverse agricultural industry, with more than 80 different types of commodities being sold each year.
Unfortunately, the number of farms in North Carolina continues to decrease. As of 2018, there were 46,400 farms in North Carolina, which is 5,600 less than there were in 2012. These farms were operating on a combined total area of 8,400,000 acres in size in 2018. The average individual farm size is 181 acres, which is up from 168 acres in 2012. That translates to the fact that many of our smaller family farms are disappearing.
The average age of a farmer in North Carolina in 2018 is 59, and the average farm income was $57,042. Less than 13% of the principal operators of farms are female. Less than 6% identify as a race other than Caucasian. Only about half of those who identify themselves as farmers list farming as their primary occupation. Add to that the fact that only 43 percent of farms in the state recorded any net economic gains between 2007 and 2012, and it’s easy to understand why fewer and fewer young people are choosing farming as a career.
Fortunately, we do still have a lot of farming communities and successful farm families in the central Piedmont. Many of our farms have multi-generational families that all participate in the farming enterprise. Some of these farms have expanded their facilities to include nontraditional agribusinesses, such as serving as venues for weddings, and offer seasonal and school-group tours and activities.
Our state has invested more money in farmland preservation in recent years as well, through the North Carolina Agricultural Development and Farmland Preservation Trust Fund. Providing farm families with income from sale of conservation easements allows these families to continue their operations by purchasing new equipment and additional properties whereby they can expand farming activities and become more sustainable businesses.
Three Rivers Land Trust, the organization I work for, works hard to assist local farmers to both apply for grant funds to purchase conservation easements and to take on donated conservation easements, for which farmers can receive tax benefits. In our 24-year history, we have helped conserve over 13,000 acres of local farmland here in the central Piedmont.
The loss of farmers and farmland is not only detrimental to the economy of our state, but without them we would also not have fresh, safe and local food for our families. Consider supporting farmers and farmland preservation efforts in your local community today.
Three Rivers Land Trust held our 8th annual Uwharrie Naturalist Day on May 4, 2019. We hosted a birdwatching event on our Smith Branch Longleaf Preserve. This is a property that The Land Trust bought in 2017 and is 104-acres and houses some old growth and some restored longleaf pine forest. The prior landowner had owned this tract for 25+ years and implement restoration efforts including a rigorous prescribed burning regime, which has created a utopia for wildlife and plants.
We met at the property at 7:00am and were led by Brian O’Shea, Collections Manager for Ornithology at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh. Brian has a B.A. in Biology from Reed College and a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from Louisiana State University. Brian has led a hike for us this weekend for several years in a row, and is an expert birder. He catalogued a bird list of 45 species from our morning walk, pointing out many of them to us as we hiked. We stopped and played a playback of their calls to try to lure them in close enough to see and photograph.
Most of these birds are neotropical migrants who fly thousands of miles from Central and South America and nest in our forests in the spring and summer, because we have longer hours of daylight than their tropical homes in which they can catch prey for their young. The males are quite territorial and will fly in to investigate when we play their call.
The first bird we heard and called in was an Orchard Oriole. We saw both the male and the female. The male is orange and black and the female was a pale yellowish-green color. We then spotted several field sparrows. The next bird we heard was a blue-gray gnatcatcher that came in to the call and let us get a good look at him. An indigo bunting called next but he didn’t come in close enough for me to get a picture of him. We then heard a prairie warbler and he was very attracted by his call and I got an excellent picture of him on a longleaf pine tree with the needles in the background. A scarlet tanager came in to our call next but the lighting wasn’t great for a picture.
We crossed over the railroad track that bisects this preserve and spotted a blue grosbeak atop a longleaf pine. We then found a garter snake that posed gracefully for us, flicking his tongue in and out. We then encountered a box turtle nearby and were able to get some pictures of him as well. A white-eyed vireo came in to a call and as we were looking at him a ruby-throated hummingbird stopped briefly on a branch. I was not quick enough to get a picture of him but one of our other attendees got a great shot.
We continued on to the powerline and there we found a rare plant known to be on this property in bloom, blue flag iris (Iris prismatica). Also in bloom in the powerline were Barbara’s buttons, also a showy flower this time of year. We made our loop back to the start of the property and saw a few more birds along the way, but nothing that came in very close. We called to a black and white warbler a few times but he wasn’t very interested.
It was slightly overcast and pretty humid, but still a great morning to venture outside, and we were rewarded with a huge variety of intriguing birds we spotted. This was our first year doing the event at the Smith Branch Longleaf Preserve, and we had a great time there and will likely go back again, so if you missed it this year, make plans to join us next year around this same time.
With springtime comes the return of field season, and I’ve been taking every opportunity I can to get outside and visit some beautiful properties. Many of the grant agencies we apply to want to come out and see the tracts we have asked for funding to protect, and sometimes they send biologists and botanists to see these sites as well. Occasionally I get to tag along.
I was off last Monday, which was Easter Monday and also Earth Day, and in tribute to the day, I decided I would venture out in the afternoon to the Badin Upland Pools on US Forest Service Land way back on Moccasin Creek Road in the Badin Recreational Area. This time of year there are hundreds of atamasco lilies around these upland ephemeral pools, and they did not disappoint. Their delicate white flowers are so graceful and to see them en masse is a true treat. They only bloom for a few weeks, so I was glad to have a day off to hike up there and enjoy them with a friend.
While there, I also spotted a painted buckeye (Aesculus sylvatica) that had a distinct pink hue. Most painted buckeyes I have ever seen have been yellowish green to faint orange, but this one was definitely pink in color. I asked a botanist friend of mine, and he said he had also seen pink and reddish ones by the Cape Fear River in Harnett and Cumberland counties, supposedly from former interbreeding with red buckeye (Aesculus pavia). That one is more of a coastal plain species, so I was interested to see a pink one in Montgomery County. However, this same upland pool area is where we found a spadefoot toad a few years ago, a classically Sandhills species. Montgomery County is definitely a mishmash of species that can basically be found all across our state.
Later that week, I visited a tract in Davidson County that we are working to protect with a natural heritage biologist. We found two neat and rare plants there, one of which is known as the native barberry, Berberis canadensis, and an unidentified species of Isoetes. The botanist wasn’t sure which of two species it was, but both of those species are rare. That species looks a bit like a juncus and floats in the water in a beautiful little creek on this property. We’re going to have to go back and collect some more and send to an expert to get a definitive ID.
Also on that tract and another I visited later that week, I saw fringe tree in bloom, or old man’s beard, as it is sometimes called. This beautiful whitish green bloom looks very similar to its namesake, and has a delightful fragrance. At the upland pools there was some sweet bubby or sweet shrub in bloom too, another species with a pleasing scent.
This week I ventured to a few land trust properties along Grants Creek, which is a beautiful stream that flows through Salisbury and Spencer in Rowan County. I haven’t ever heard of anyone paddling it, but it certainly looked wide enough to be tempting. Three Rivers Land Trust protected a number of tracts along Grants Creek in its early years thanks to a corridor grant from the NC Clean Water Management Trust Fund. At that time the creek was on the 303d list, but it has since came off that list as water quality has improved. We hope to protect additional lands along that creek later this year or early next year.
Whether I’m visiting new properties yet to be conserved or tracts already protected, it’s great to know there are still undeveloped and unspoiled tracts with scenic beauty and abundant wildlife for us all to enjoy.
This past week I was fortunate enough to get to tag along with Mike Schafale with the North Carolina Natural Heritage Program to visit the newly conserved Dassow Property in the Birkhead Wilderness Area. Three Rivers Land Trust purchased this 100 acre tract just a few short weeks ago.
This site houses half a mile of the historic Uwharrie Trail, and a similar amount of frontage along beautiful Talbotts Creek. We walked in along the creek and spring was bursting everywhere. Painted buckeyes, pinxter azaleas, foamflower, dwarf crested iris, and more were in flower along the creekbanks.
The Dassow Property was almost timbered before the land trust bought it, but thankfully the landowner gave the land trust a chance to buy it before it was cut. Mike Schafale was mapping the natural communities on this visit which included Dry Oak Hickory Forests and Piedmont Monadnock Forests.
These high quality habitats are home to a huge variety of wildlife. We found a box turtle and a black racer on our walk, but we also heard a number of neotropical migratory birds, including wood thrush, red eyed vireos, black and white warblers, ovenbirds, Louisiana waterthrush and more.
Mike had a second stop in mind on our trip as we ventured toward what he had been told was a unique glade community off the land trust property in the wilderness area on US Forest Service land. This neat spot is part of Cedar Rock Mountain, aptly named as there were flat rocks and cedars growing out of the thin soil. This rare community elevated the significance of the whole natural area around the Dassow Property as well, Mike said.
Glade communities often house rare plants that can outcompete other plants given the somewhat harsh conditions of growing out of thin soil with rock underneath. We found flame flower, a succulent, as well as a lot of moss and native grasses including little blue stem. This natural area is definitely off the beaten path, and it’s remote location has helped protect it from being destroyed by trampling.
After GPSing the perimeter of the glade, we hiked back over to the Dassow tract and went upslope to the western side where the trail is located. There were nice native plants on the slope as well including bellwort and Solomon’s seal. We reached the trail on the ridge line just before it intersects the old Forrester Road. This road is almost entirely contained on the Dassow tract, and the Uwharrie Trail parallels it for its length. The old Forrester Road ties back in to the trail near the northern boundary of the tract. From here we took the trail back to our cars parked at Tot Hill Trailhead. I am very glad this property was able to be conserved and that the trees will now remain uncut and the natural communities intact. It was great to get to go out with Mike and hear from him that it was a very special place. Next time you hike the Uwharrie Trail south from Tot Hill, take a minute to enjoy the beautiful hardwood forest of the Dassow tract and know that it will now stay that way for all the wildlife that use it and for future generations to enjoy on their own jaunts through the woods.
This past week, I spent a couple of days looking at potential conservation projects in Moore County. As a result of the impending merger of the Sandhills Area Land Trust with Three Rivers Land Trust, the organization I work for, we have begun taking on some projects in the new service area. As a local girl born and raised in Robbins, Moore County is not foreign to me by any means. However, looking at land – especially in southern Moore County – is definitely a new venture.
Although much of northern Moore County is very similar to the Uwharries where I already have been working, southern Moore County is definitely Sandhills habitat. For conservation of riparian areas, this in many cases means we are looking at Sandhills swamps. Though there are wetlands in the Uwharries, certainly bogs, there aren’t a lot of what I would call swamps. There are a few in Anson and Stanly Counties, but not quite the same as where I was this past week. I’ve been in some thick places, but the locations I was at this past week were a different kind of thick. My arms and legs show the scratches and scraps of dense underbrush and briers with more thorns than I am accustomed to for sure.
Making it through this brushy area to the swamp in the middle was no easy task. But the beautiful wetland that emerged and seeing the tea-colored black water of the Sandhills was a surprisingly worthwhile experience. Our what must have sounded like thunderous approach solicited a response from a barn owl even in midday, who hooted at us several times to get out of his hideaway.
There are some great water resources in what I would call the Sandhills portion of Montgomery County and in Moore County. Drowning Creek is a fantastic stream with high water quality. Much of this stream still shows you that you are on the dividing line between Uwharries and Sandhills, with longleaf pine mixed among mountain laurel on the same property. Rocky outcrops along the stream can even still be found on the same site that has predominantly sandy soils in the uplands. Mill Creek and McDeeds Creek are also high quality waters and feed into Crystal Lake near Vass, an area you may remember that I paddled last summer. This lake in the upper end has a fantastic swamp forest you can paddle through.
I did spend a couple of days last week in the Uwharries as well, along the Uwharrie and the Little Rivers, where many favorites are in bloom. Tiarella, Catsby’s trillium, dwarf crested iris, spring beauties, atamasco lilies, bluestars and more are showing off their pinks, purples, whites and blue hues right now. I’m still learning some of the species of the Sandhills, as we found a nice little white violet of some sort on our exploration, but I wasn’t familiar with what species it would be. The Sandhills swamps did house another familiar flower we have in the Uwharries in bloom – golden club. It’s a great time of year to be outside, and though I know I will always spend time in the Uwharries, I look forward to exploring more of the Sandhills area as well.
The past two weekends I have hiked starting at the Highway 24/27 trailhead outside of Troy. Both times I started on the old road to Lawrenceville that goes to the east just out from the parking area, and connected to the Wood Run Bike Trail from the location of the old house that used to be there – where there’s a monument that talks about the dedication of the property to The LandTrust for Central NC (now Three Rivers Land Trust), who protected the site and then transferred it to the US Forest Service.
This section of the Wood Run Bike Trail is relatively new. You used to have to walk up Wood Run Road to get to where the trail started, but now you can hike from the parking area. Two Saturdays ago a friend and I met and hiked in from that trail to the Keyawee Trail just past the Wood Run parking area and then hiked north on the Uwharrie Trail for about a mile. We were hoping to meet up with some friends who had started at Yates Place, but our timing was off.
We got to a campsite about a mile from the intersection with Keyawee and sat down and rested for a bit. While there we took pictures of the lovely creek beside the camping area, and I heard a black and white warbler. They sound like a squeaky wheel. I “pshed” at him until he came closer and I was able to get a few pictures. Some boy scouts came along on the trail then and the bird took off. I also spotted a yellow violet in bloom and snapped a couple of shots of it before we headed back down the trail.
We hiked the Uwharrie Trail back all the way to 24/27. We ran into some mountain bikers who clearly did not know that the Uwharrie Trail was not a bike trail, as they were trying to hoist their bikes over the large rocks that lace Wood Run Creek. We directed them back to the Keyawee Trail, but I’m not sure if they found their way to the right bike trail or not, as our other friends saw some mountain bikers who fit their description coming down River Road later that day. That day’s trip was about 7 miles in total for us.
The next Saturday we set out on the same route to begin with, taking Wood Run Bike Trail to Wood Run parking area. We also took Keyawee to the Uwharrie Trail and hiked north a little ways before we came to a campsite and creek. Here we took off on a trail that was a little difficult to see because of some recent tree blow downs, but it soon connected us to Wood Run Road, which we took back to the Wood Run parking area. From here we went back on the Wood Run Bike Trail to Highway 24/27.
The second Saturday’s hike was a much different hike though, as the US Forest Service had just carried out a prescribed burn on a good portion of the land where the trail went through on the way to the Wood Run parking area. There were still a few stumps here and there that were smoking, and you could easily pick out the trail from the burnt area around it. The smell of smoke and ashes was not overpowering but it was there. It is always interesting to walk through a forest after a fire though, and its also surprising to me how quickly new grasses and plants shoot up from the blackened forest floor.
Prescribed burns are good at generating that new growth that is so important for wildlife like deer and turkeys. Removing the duff layer of leaves and pine needles and allowing that new growth to come up is one of the main reasons prescribed fire is such an important land management tool. It’s also good for hazard reduction, as you’re much less likely to have a wildfire once that fuel is already used up.
Our second Saturday’s hike was about 5.5 miles. I look forward to hiking this trail again once the new growth comes back from the prescribed burn and seeing the wildlife that will enjoy this enhanced habitat. It’s great that we have all these trails so close to where we live and we can pick and choose and do different loops and lollipops, so even starting at the same place we can see different things. Spring is my absolute favorite time to be in the woods, so while the weather is still great and the spring wildflowers are blooming and the birds are singing, why not pick a trail and try out a hike yourself?
A friend of mine recently sent me an image with a great quote on it about hiking. It said, “Hiking is a bit like life. The journey only requires you to put one foot in front of the other…again and again and again. And if you allow yourself opportunity to be present throughout the entirety of the trek, you will witness beauty every step of the way, not just at the summit.”
One of my favorite all-time quotes is by Sir Edmund Hillary, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” You may know him better as the first man to summit Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world at just over 29,000 feet. It’s telling indeed that for him it’s as much about the journey as it is the destination.
I remember one friend telling a young person once that someone he knew was a good hiker, and the youth said “isn’t that just walking?” I got a good chuckle out of that, because hiking is walking, but it is also challenging yourself to climb mountains and clamber over rock faces, and pick your way across streams, and to sometimes stretch yourself to the limit both mentally and physically. I’ve done several long section hikes of the Appalachian Trail and I know you can have some really high highs and some really low lows while you are hiking long distances.
I asked a friend of mine once who has thru hiked both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail what the answer was when you have those low points? His answer was that “as far as I can tell, the answer to anything when you’re hiking is food.” It’s true that on long distance hikes food can make a huge difference in your attitude. I always carry along some extra chocolate on a backpacking trip in case either one of my friends or myself needs a little pick-me-up. It’s surprising how something as simple and basic as food can change your attitude and perspective, but it really can make a difference.
I know many people who go by the quote “Hike your own hike.” And I believe that can be a good motto for some people. I do like the idea of not trying to go at any one else’s pace, but finding your own rhythm and enjoying your hike your own way.
But a quote I like better is that “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I almost always hike in a group. Not only is there safety in numbers, but also when there are other people around, they are able to encourage you to continue on and do more than you might think you could do on your own. I’d rather slow myself down slightly or pick up the pace a little to stay together with friends, and enjoy what we see and experience along the way.
I guess that’s a little like how I am in life, I prefer to be around other people than be by myself. Don’t get me wrong, we all need time to ourselves sometimes, but generally speaking I’d rather share my time and experiences with friends and family than spend that time by myself. Especially when I’m hiking. And it’s important to have a variety of friends, those who you hike with when you want to go fast and train for an upcoming trip, and those you walk with when you want to stop and take pictures of wildflowers or flip rocks to look for salamanders and crawdads.
No matter whether you prefer to spend your time outside alone or with a group though, it’s great that we have special places where we can go and find time to reflect and enjoy ourselves. Not only for our physical and mental health, but spending time outside can be a spiritual experience as well. Some people find that they are closer to God in a river valley than a church pew, and I can understand that sentiment sometimes, though I also appreciate fellowship with other people. Perhaps that’s why I enjoy experiencing the outdoors with others, as a community of people who all appreciate nature and what it has to offer. Everyone sees something different and sharing those experiences broadens your own horizons as well as bringing you closer together as friends in the process.