Hiking Graveyard Fields

Overwhelmed with the weight of all that is going on in our world right now, I needed to retreat into the forest for some therapy. I wanted to use my muscles to climb and scramble over rocks. I wanted to feel the earth beneath my bare feet and fill my lungs with the lush, mountain air. After contemplating various new places to explore, I chose Graveyard Fields as my frolicking grounds yesterday. I had already been there twice and knew that it had what I craved.

This 3 mile hike does not have any graves but it does have dark, twisted rhododendron tunnels, eerie meadows laden with wild blueberries, forest paths, creek crossings with many rock hopping opportunities, and waterfalls! This isn’t the place to go to seek solitude or wild, rugged trails that haven’t been smoothed by man. The beginning of the trail is paved and there have been improvements made that include a wooden boardwalk through the meadow. This is quite a popular trail and attracts many visitors. Of course, I will let you know the best spots to go off trail where most people do not venture!

Outside of Asheville, NC off the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 418 you will find the start of the trail on the right side of the parking lot. The paved trail twists through a rhododendron thicket (great place for little ones to play hide and seek), and down a wooden staircase. Here you come to the Yellowstone Creek. The bedrock here is beautifullyyellowstone5 banded, twisting in places. You could spend half a day here rock hopping in the creek! Second Falls are below this part of the creek, so you must be careful in the water where the rocks are slippery, but have fun!

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This view is just above Second Falls.  My teenage son enjoyed sliding down it but I wouldn’t recommend it. The rock at the bottom is an abrupt stop!

 

 

 

The trail continues after you cross the bridge over Yellowstone Creek.  You can take an off shoot to the right to head down many wooden steps to Second Falls. This is a popular swimming hole. The water is crystal clear, deep, and cold. Most people stop here in the summer and do not continue on, so the rest of the trail is less populated.

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Return to the main trail just past the bridge. Follow the sign to Graveyard Fields. The fields are stunning. I’ve been there with a storm approaching, fog curling in between the mountains…slowly creeping into the meadows…thunder grumbling…eerie…otherworldly. Yesterday was sunny and it was a whole new scene. The perfect picture of summer. The wild blueberries along the path were just beginning to turn ripe. We found a few sweet treasures to pop into our mouths!  In August, there will be many berry pickers… people and snakes!

You will soon come to an intersection. There is a trail on the left that leads to a stream. Turn right here to follow the main trail. Just after this, there should be a sign at another intersection. This is the Graveyard Ridge Connector Trail. You will want to turn left here. The last intersection will be the trail to the Upper Falls. This is a .8 mile in and out trail  (1.6 miles total) and is straight ahead. You can go left to continue the loop and go back to the parking lot. I wouldn’t recommend that. You would miss the best part of the trail.

Along the way to the upper falls, there will be another rhododendron thicket to the left, surrounding a creek. There are little paths that lead into this magical place of wonder. We stopped here to picnic. Soft, pink flowers accented the moss covered stones while the cool, clear water whispered  secrets to the trees.

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On you will go, as the trail goes uphill. It is uneven from here on, and you will have to step around mud puddles and small streams. There are many rocks in the path to maneuver up and around. Soon you will come to the falls area. There are several places to exit the trail and come out onto the creek. The first exit is the best. You will see water sliding down a big rock hill. Walk up the rock hill, turn a bend, and make your way on up. The wet areas of the rock are very slippery! The rock beneath your feet holds small pools of still water reflecting the sky.

You will soon come to the Upper Falls.

 

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There is no place to swim here, but you can certainly cool off. Rock scrambling is fun here, but I wouldn’t try climbing to the top. A fall could be deadly. There is a narrow path off to the right in the trees that leads up to the top. Small children or people with bad knees should not take this path as it does require some climbing. IMG_9987.JPG

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Be careful at the top. The creek is slippery. Do not go all the way to the edge. Please. Turn and follow the creek upstream to see many more wonders!  The creek up here is beautiful with shallow pools reflecting sunlight. This is where you will find solitude.

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My daughter cooling off in a pool, listening to the water.

 

 

 

 

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We stayed up there a while in silence watching a storm roll past.

 

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Once you are filled, continue back the way you came… all the way back to the loop. Go right and you will pass through another rhododendron thicket as you make your way up to the parking lot.

Happy trails!!!

 

 

Be The Good

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Our culture is supersaturated with the negative. With fear, anger, aggression, depression, sarcasm, judging, etc. It is not surprising that people immersed in this mess lose their minds and hearts. We are genetically tribal people, now disconnected from each other….from the natural world. We consume media which is filled with the negative I listed above. I read comments on social media and am sickened. So much judging and sarcasm.

Tragedy ends up dividing us.

There is a way to turn this around but it will take every single one of us. It will take opening your heart to others and the world. It will take true connections. It will take opening your heart to others and the world. It will take us changing our daily routines to include people and earth. It will take a new way of communicating.

The force of love and the power of communion and support is what will heal our culture. Not a new president, not new legislature, not “perfect parents”, not converting humanity to your religion… The revolution has to start in our own hearts and in our lives first…

Catawba Falls Hike

Last week my barefoot frolicking led me to the Catawba Falls trail in the Pisgah National Forest.  The trail itself is 1.5 miles (3 miles round trip) and passes several small waterfalls before ending at the 100+ foot waterfall, Catawba Falls. However, if one stays on the main trail, they would miss many wonders.

The beginning of the trail was a bit of a let down. Many trees have been cut to make a footbridge across the river and there are other signs of construction in the forest. This was a small part of the trail, and it quickly got more interesting as we made our way deeper into the forest. Once we got past the bits of recent human encroachment, we saw an old stone building across the small river. We took a small side trail that led across the creek and up to the abandoned building. Graffiti decorated the walls of this empty shell. The names of the men who built it were carved into the stone.

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At just about one mile, a small creek runs across the trail. This is where the fun really begins. If you climb down on the left, or back up on the trail about 50 feet and follow a side trail down, you will find some beautiful areas. The creek falls between two rock slabs into a small wading pond. There are small rock shelters underneath the falls. This is an amazing little place to relax and bathe in the forest’s magic.Keep following the water downhill and you end up at a small swimming hole in the river.

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Now back up to the part of the trail where the small creek runs across it… take a right up the creek and you will find about an hour’s worth of rock scrambling  up the mountain. Small waterfalls lace through the boulders leaving small, sparkling pools of mica water.

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Back on the main trail, after about .2 more miles, you will hear another waterfall. This cascade rushes out through an old stone dam and tumbles down over moss covered stone ledges. If you take a side path down a steep hill just before the dam, you can reach the bottom of the falls. You have now entered a scene from a fantasy story. Old, broken stone making up the wall of the dam hosts various shades of green life. Cracks in the wall release melodious streams of water, descending into the dark depths.

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We couldn’t resist making our way up the ledges. Climbing carefully over moss, and up… and out… through a hole in the dam… back into our story.

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Eventually you will find that the trail disappears a bit! Make your way through the “rock garden”, finding the trail picking up to the left of the river and soon you will  come to the gorgeous falls. There is a small wading pool at the bottom where  people like to cool off.

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And then there is the other trail… a 1/2 mile climb up to the upper falls. Many websites and trail guides will tell you not to climb this unless you are a seasoned rock climber. This trail is NOT for children!  Much to her dismay, I did not let my 11 year old all the way up though she has been rock scrambling since she was very little. I do not suggest this climb if you have bad knees or terrible balance or not much strength in your limbs  or if you are alone.  Otherwise…IMG_9680.JPG

The trail (on the right of the falls) is uphill most of the way with a section of rock climbing where there is an attached rope for your convenience. You may or may not need it. The trail splits a little after the rope. Take the trail on the left at the rock ledge. The trail on the right will get you there, but it’s climbing up soft dirt, grasping roots the whole way.  You will be rewarded with a crystal clear swimming hole under a 50 foot waterfall. Enjoy this moment. This is one of the most beautiful spaces in the Pisgah National Forest.

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