Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter Hiking: NOC to Fontana

Fall seemed to last forever this year, but now it's finally over and winter is here.  The cold, wind, soft light, and short days make me quiet and contemplative.  These are my favorite things to do while hiking this time of year:

1. Sunrise doesn't come until late in the morning.  Be out hiking as the sun rises.

Climbing out of Stecoah Gap with fog in the valley.

2. Without flamboyantly dazzling fall color all around for distraction, small bursts of red stand out.  Investigate the detail of each leaf and the texture of bark and branching patterns of trees.

3.  Notice how each milkweed pod bursts open in a slightly different manner.  Each one beautiful sparkling in the sunlight.  Each one dispersing its seeds to the wind.  Yet all different forms, arrangements, and (I'd swear) personalities.

4. Climb high up onto the backbone of ancient mountain ranges.  Hike along ridgelines that offer continuous view in both directions.  With such a remarkably clear perspective, discover where you are and where you are heading.
Mountain backbone.
View from Cheoah Bald
5. Play.  Climb trees.  Skip.  Sing.  No one else is around.  The trees will dance with you.
Dancing trees.
The photos were taken during Thanksgiving weekend on two dayhikes in the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina:

Day 1: Stecoah to the Nantahala Outdoor Center.
13.6 miles.
Zero other people.
One piliated woodpecker.

Day 2. Fontana Marina to Stecoah.
14 miles.
Two people.
At least 12 milkweed pods.

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