Last month was my first backpacking experience. Not ready to try it solo, I went with a small group from Blue Ridge Hiking Co. and Heidi Nesbitt as our intrepid guide. (Follow Heidi on IG @sketchingsummits)
We met at the Blue Ridge store in Asheville, NC, where we got any equipment we needed. (All equipment is included in trip cost) Heidi had reviewed my pack and supplies before the trip. I’ve had my large backpack for a couple years, just didn’t have the courage to try it out. When they weighed my pack at 35 lbs, I thought I might be in trouble! After eliminating anything possible from my pack, we drove about an hour to meet at the Wildcat Falls trailhead.
We generally followed this trail, over 2 nights and 3 days.
Day 1: we had just a little rain which cleared up to cool sunny weather.
Shortly after we started, I learned I was the oldest of the group. This made me not feel as guilty when I needed to stop and catch my breath.
Headed up Flat Laurel Creek trail, and we arrived at our campsite near Wildcat Falls by 3 pm. Rather early, and not a long distance, but a big relief for me! (And probably a few others!)
Tent set-up was easy (I had practiced at home!), we then took off in various directions to sketch. After navigating down to the water’s edge, I sat and focused on sketching, lost in my thoughts.
View of Sam’s Knob
Creek near our campsite
We had dinner and a campfire, and I went to bed way too early, resulting in waking at 3 am. 🤷🏽♀️
Day 2: Overnight, temps went down to 30°, leaving a morning frost on our tents. Brrr.
After breakfast, we continued on the trail around Little Sam’s Knob, to the base of Sam’s Knob. I stayed back to sketch in a field with a few others while the rest made their way to the top, elev. 6,050 ft.
After a filling lunch, we headed to Black Balsam trailhead, where a man was playing lovely recorder tunes, and found (Yay!) open toilets!
There, again, I stayed with a few while the others made their way to Black Balsam Knob.
We then headed down the trail. My first thought was who would break glass here? Then realized the glittering diamond-like reflections were pieces of mica underfoot.
Our second campsite wasn’t perfect, the only level ground was where we set up our tents, even though they were a little too close, instead of continuing on.
Still a bit chilly at night, and who wants to leave their warm sleeping bag to answer nature’s call?
Day 3: our final day, seemed easier. Whether I got used to the altitude or the weight (or most likely that Heidi took as much extra from my pack as she could! Many many thanks!), by late morning, we all seemed to be sailing along. I’m so thankful for the great hikers that shared this experience. Everyone was there to help me get my backpack on each stop, and help stop the bleeding when I (oops) sliced my finger a bit.
Back to our cars by lunch, we all seemed to be in a hurry to get back to civilization.
The stillness and solitude are very much missed, so plans for future hikes in remote areas are always in the works!