The Walking Posts

The posts labeled with the little “Truckin’ ” man are from my Walking Journal, which I've been keeping since January 1, 2012. What began as a simple New Year's Resolution to exercise more quickly morphed into a hiking addiction. Below are some running totals.

October 2022 18.06 7h 44m 1399 1463
Year to Date 434.83 194h 24m 32,563 31,433
October Avg. 49.61 24h 19m 508 3,998

Big Butt Wildflower Walk

Posted By on May 5, 2022

Big Butt Wildflower Walk

1 mile; 303 ft. total elevation gain; Pensacola Township, NC

This was a Wildflower Foray sponsored by the Asheville Mushroom Club (I know, right?), so as such, it took us over 3 hours to walk 1 mile along this trail. And the road TO the trailhead was a serious adventure, too, in that it was gravel/dirt for about 9 miles, and I do not exaggerate. And very steep, as the trailhead itself was at about 4300-feet. I was very glad I carpooled, I’ll say that!

Also, this trail, the Big Butt Trail (I like Big Butt and I can not lie) is one I’d really like to attempt to complete someday, but I don’t know how it would work logistically, as it would have to be a car spot and I don’t know anyone who would be willing to creep along with me at my snail’s pace. But I may come back here and do a bit more of it someday as an out-and-back, and maybe I will also go to the trailhead on the Blue Ridge Parkway and out-and-back it from there as well, so I’d ultimately do the whole thing.

But anyway, also, I did not take too many photos for some reason. I guess I really mostly wanted to post this hike just so I could type “I like Big Butt and I can not lie.” Yep, that’s basically the whole reason right there.

Ranunculus (no idea which one)

Spotted Fairybells, aka Spotted Mandarin (Prosartes maculata)

But see? There were wildflowers! Many of the plants we saw were pretty specialized in that they can only be found above 3000-feet, so it was a cool and informative walk. But yeah, it was mostly about Big Butt.

You can find out more about the Big Butt Trail from this Asheville Hikes website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Big Laurel, Alarka Creek Headwaters

Posted By on May 1, 2022

Big Laurel, Alarka Creek Headwaters

2.51 miles; 183 ft. total elevation gain; Bryson City, NC

This was the second guided hike I signed up for as part of the NC Wild Plant Society’s Spring Hiking Weekend (see my earlier post about this event in case you missed it). It was considerably less arduous than yesterday’s hike, but simply fascinating, botanically. Our guide, who wore his love for this part of the world on his sleeve, was Owen Carson, an environmental consultant and past president of the NC Invasive Plant Council.

The Alarka Creek Headwaters are in what’s known as a “hanging valley” that contains a rare high-altitude bog that hosts species of plants not seen at lower altitudes, as well as conifers like Frasier Fir and Red Spruce. The hemlocks are alas succumbing to the adelgid which is the bane of hemlocks everywhere, but you can still find a few here and there.

Bird’s Foot Violet (Viola pedata)

Rattlesnake Weed (Hieracium venosum)

Showy Orchis (Galearis spectabilis)

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

Mayapple (Podophyllum peltatum)

Smooth Shadbush (Amelanchier laevis)

Thought I’d just let the wildflowers speak for themselves. I’d love to have some of these in my future garden, but I’m going to be nowhere near the elevation of this area, so I may not be able to. Still, I can dream…

You can find out more about, well, to be honest, I didn’t find much info online about this particular area, but there’s a nice pdf map of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at this link. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

GSMNP: Thomas Divide & Kanati Fork Trails

Posted By on April 30, 2022

6.68 miles; 453 ft. total elevation gain; Cherokee, NC

I’ve been a member of the North Carolina Native Plant Society for a while now, as well as an active volunteer (I’m on the newsletter committee), so when I got the email that announced the Spring Hike Weekend, I was all over it like white on rice.

This was an overnight affair, so to speak, which included a potluck dinner, a lecture and book signing by CoreyPine Shane of his book Southeast Medicinal Plants, a plant auction, and a choice of several hikes for each day, Saturday and Sunday. I chose this one because it was a nice long stroll (wildflower walks are by their nature quite leisurely) and one of the alternatives was to go in the opposite direction which was MUCH more strenuous. Also, I have never been in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park before, and wanted to see a bit of it.

Thomas Divide

This was a really cool hike, in that we started out at around 5200 feet elevation (thanks to a car shuttle mostly) and hiked back down around 2500 feet, so it was like walking forwards in time, as plants at different elevations bloom at different times. We’d pass a plant way up at the top that was barely budding up, and by the time we got back to our cars, the same plant was in full bloom. Again, imma just let the flowers speak for themselves:

Ramps! (Allium tricoccum)

Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens)

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)

Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana)

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)

Our guide was Kathy Matthews, a Professor of Biology at Western Carolina University. She was amazing with her exhaustive knowledge of the plants on our walk. This hike was a blast!

You can find out more about the North Carolina Native Plant Society at their website. Get the skinny on the Thomas Divide Trail from this Hiking Project website. And as always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

North Carolina Arboretum

Posted By on April 27, 2022

North Carolina Arboretum

6.73 miles; 560 ft. total ascent; Asheville, NC

I’ve been a member of the Arboretum since I moved down here in early 2020, and I’ve done hikes on some of the trails here, but I never really did a tour of the place, so I decided today it was about time already!

Ilia Underwing Moth Caterpillar (Catocala ilia)

I met this little fellow right away. The adult version of this caterpillar is lovely with that surprisingly vivid underwing, but you can see the look of the caterpillar in the adult, too.

Fire Pink (Silene virginica)

I’ve loved the look of these beauties since the first time I saw them. They are such a firey red—you can really see why they got that name.

Native Azalea Garden

This was really the highlight of the visit—the Native Azalea Collection. And I hit it just right for optimal viewing.

Flame Azalea


Azaleas in bloom

And more azaleas in bloom


I mean, this section was breathtaking. Truly beautiful. And they’re all native to the Southern Appalachians. Stunning. The rest of the tour was actually kind of a let-down compared to this. I walked the Owl Ridge Trail again, which is always nice, and did a quick tour of some of the more established gardens, but nothing compared to the Native Azalea Collection. Maybe next time I’ll actually visit the Visitors’ Center.

You can find out more about the North Carolina Arboretum from their website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Appalachian Trail: Lovers’ Leap Loop

Posted By on April 11, 2022

Appalachian Trail: Lovers' Leap Loop

1.81 miles; 367 ft. total elevation gain; Hot Springs, NC

I did start out with the best of intentions on this hike, I really did. I meant to do a longer route called the Pump Gap Loop which includes a bigger section of the Appalachian Trail but, well, it was HARD, as in steep and very rocky and climby, and I wasn’t really in the mood for HARD. So I took this much shorter loop instead, the Lovers’ Leap Loop (try saying that 3x fast).

Carolina Spring Beauty (Claytonia caroliniana)

Slender Toothwort (Cardamine angustata)

It was a bit early in the season to get the full panoply of wildflowers, but there were still some to see.

Lovers’ Leap, I presume

Some really fantastic views from up here.

French Broad River

French Broad River

This is the same French Broad River that flows through Asheville. The AT, which I picked up about halfway through, leads VERY steeply down to right along the bank, as you can see from the two photos above. I can quite honestly say I was glad I didn’t have to do it in the uphill direction!

You can find out more about the Lovers’ Leap Trail (and the Pump Gap Loop) from this Madison County website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Lake Junaluska

Posted By on March 28, 2022

Lake Junaluska

3.76 miles; 276 ft. total elevation gain; Waynesville, NC

This walk had been on my radar for a while now, so I finally made the trip out to Waynesville to visit. It definitely qualifies as an “Easy Walk,” in that it’s pretty flat, and all either paved or sidewalks, and even has a shortcut you can take to make it shorter.


I came through this section of the trail thinking to myself that people sure don’t pick up after their dogs around here, and then I came across the actual poop culprits! Very poopy culprits!

Nicely marked

This is really an ideal “Easy Walk.” They don’t even allow bicycle traffic.


As I mentioned above, there’s a lovely shortcut to avoid doing the full 3 3/4 miles—this pedestrian bridge that crosses the lake.

Smooth going

Some lovely mountain views can be had here, as well. But that’s kind of par for the course here in Western North Carolina. I believe in this case we’re looking at the Great Smoky Mountains.

More locals

I was eyed rather suspiciously by this swan. “Honest, dude! Just passing through!”

The trail passes through a rose garden at one point, although I was there much too early in the season to see any blooms. And there’s a visitors’ center with bathrooms and a small coffee shop and gift shop, as well. It’d be a lovely spot to spend a summer afternoon.

You can find out more about this trail from this Lake Junaluska website (includes a pdf map of the walking trail). As always, click the image above for details about this hike although you won’t be able to download a gps track, because I forgot to turn on gaia.gps. Oops.