Jacob, the barista at the Crooked Door, told me that Julian Price Park has wonderful hiking trails. I was excited because I’d had to drive to the trails earlier in the week, and I get tired of windshield time. I arrived at the park where I had my reservations, and I set up camp. I grabbed Ashok’s leash, and we headed out on the trail that was right by my campsite.
I passed right by the registration office, and I told the ranger I was heading out on this trail. I asked if it was a good one. He said it was “okay.” That was fine because it was already 3:30, and I needed to just find a short hike. I didn’t need to invest all afternoon.
Boone Fork Trail was marked with orange blazes and started at a picnic area right down the Blue Ridge Parkway. The loop passed through our campground, so I caught it before its beginning. It was a lovely quiet hike to the picnic area in a rhododendron thicket. Rhododendrons grow in the lower elevations usually in damp, shaded areas. It is my very favorite type of eco-system, so I was excited to be beginning there. My only disappointment was that it was past ‘bloom’ time, and I could only imagine how beautiful those white and pink clusters of flowers would be in late June – July.
At the picnic area, we picked up the creek. An old lake bed to the left of the creek had become a field of wildflowers. The creek reminded me of a creek in flatter country. It’s sandy, muddy bottom was only decorated by small stones, and the creek bed was lined with grasses and wildflowers. It was just lovely. As I hiked on down the trail, the creek became more typical of a mountain rhododendron forest. I saw many people on the hike, and we often stopped and exchanged pleasantries except when they had a dog. Ashok is not dog-friendly, so I had to give other dogs a wide berth.
The loop was 5 miles, and I remembered from my Knoxville hiking days that 5 miles in the mountains is sooooo much longer and unpredictable than it is on a city street. Every time I saw a mile marker, I couldn’t believe I had only gone that far. It was getting later in the day, and I began to worry that I might not get back before dark. The trail was well marked, but still – I did not have a light.
About mile 3 the trail got really rugged. Excellent trail maintenance provided chutes and ladders and stairs to climb over the most rugged areas, but Ashok and I did have to climb many boulders and descend many slippery slopes. It was fun, and I realized that I am in really good shape. I hope that Ashok now realizes why we continue our walks and runs down in oppressive Louisiana. It is for this type of adventure that I keep myself in shape. I don’t want to miss it because I can’t do it physically.
Hebron Falls was a lovely little area that had many places to swim and sit on boulders. There were lots of people hanging out there, and I could see a backcountry campground just beyond the other bank. How nice it would be to stop and spend the night. But, I had to move on. Darkness was approaching.
Most of the trail was in the rhododendron forest. We climbed and descended. We waded and forded creek beds. I stopped and admired little sculptures of stacked balanced rocks that past travelers had made. I’ve been noticing them a lot in my hikes, and they are very lovely. Although as I was researching, I found that – like anything else – in some places the practice is becoming problematic because there are too many of these little sculptures. But I only saw a few yesterday.
About a mile from the campsite, the trail ascended into a lovely meadow where I picked blackberries and sat in the sun for a minute. I saw a photographer in the distance taking pictures, so I assume there must be a lovely view over the ridge. I didn’t have time to stop yesterday, but I plan to walk the mile back up today to see what’s up there.
I have to say that Boone Fork Trail is probably my new favorite hiking trail. The Honey Creek Trail in Big South Fork Recreation Area was my previous favorite, and it had a very similar look and feel. However, this one had the meadows, and I found it to be cooler and more lovely all around.
At one point on the trail, I spotted a lone rhododendron bush in bloom. I almost missed it as I was not looking for flowers. It’s beautiful pink bloom surprised me, and I thought that this must be a gift just for me. Why would one be blooming this late? Whatever the cause of its unexpected appearance, I was appreciative beyond measure and thrilled that I saw it. I saw another couple down the way, and I told them that I spotted a blooming rhododendron a few minutes ago. They were shocked, and I’d like to think that they, too, were gifted by the blooming bush just as I was.
It’s been thundering this afternoon, and I decided to come into Blowing Rock to post a blog and get a chai tea. As I’m finishing, the weather is clearing up, so I’m going to head straight-a-way to that meadow about a mile from our campsite for blackberry picking, reading and a restful late afternoon. I hope you find a ‘gift’ this afternoon that makes your day.
Another blog on the Boone Fork Trail: