The area's a good one for hiking with lots of impressive peaks, some good waterfalls, and patches of virgin forest here and there. In fact, we hiked near some old growth forests, but as our schedule and trail conditions would have it, we didn't actually get to take a close look at any really big trees.
The main purpose of the hike was to get a look to see how this year's crop of wildflowers was doing. We did see a fair amount of wildflowers, but nothing really spectacular, except for some very vigorous and colorful patches of Dwarf iris. There were other flowers popping up, but nothing that particularly impressed me.
We bagged one peak, that being Buckeye Knob, which tops out at a bit over 3,200 feet. Not very high by North Carolina standards, but the long hike to the summit was tough. The weather was hot, dry, and the ridgelines were parched out from lack of rain. One thing that I learned, to my horror and disgust, was that these woods are PACKED with ticks. This seems to me to be a good indication of the effects of global warming. I've been hiking and backpacking the southern Appalachians for well over thirty years, and I'd only ever gotten a single tick on me while in the high country--that being on Pinnacle Mountain in South Carolina a few years back. But on this trip I pulled eight ticks off my shins and thighs!
The guys on the hike who used Deet, however, didn't get any ticks on them. I didn't use any, and pretty much got covered with them. Next time I'll use the Deet.
This was a very tough hike for me. Once again I was reminded of my age, and of how out of shape I've gotten over the past year. I felt every ounce of the twenty pounds I gained after walking away from the diet in early 2007. One realizes the extra poundage as you labor up a steep slope on the way to a summit. It sucks! I keep telling myself that I'm going to shed those twenty damned pounds of lard, but then I go back the flatlands and eat fried chicken. Alas!
Oh, well. I'm going to give it another shot. Twenty pounds--I can lose that much.
I'm told that these are called Dwarf iris. Probably the prettiest flowers I saw all day. We'd pass large patches of them making wonderful color upon the forest floor.
I was told what these are, but I've forgotten. These were also on the forest floor in great abundance.