Graveyard Fields

Located in Canton, North Carolina Graveyard Fields is one of the stranger hikes I have personally completed here. This valley has been the location of two natural disasters and intensive logging. In the early 1900’s it was the location of a logging enterprise, but then windstorms raged through, knocking down the trees and leaving exposed the stumps of harvested trees. This is how the valley got it’s name, “Graveyard Fields.” The exposed stumps looked like tombstones. Years later wildfires came through the valley, with fires reaching such extreme heat that it damaged the soil. The plants and trees growing in the valley now are only those of the hardiest varieties, able to grow in hospitable ground. It has a wild, almost eerie look.

When hiking the area today what we find is a valley filled with a tangle of trees and brambles, popping up on occasion against a river with two falls, the upper and lower. Though relatively small, the falls are beautiful and the river a lovely sight to come across after spending your time trecking through dense undergrowth. Portion of the trail are smooth, some wet, and others require you to actually climb over and around boulders.

The paths themselves are not well marked, and it is easy to get turned around. Due to it’s consistent use, many small trails come off of the main headings, having been made by individuals wandering the area. In exploring one of these, I accidentally found a homeless encampment. I would therefore advise you to stay on the main trail. As the trails are located in a valley surrounded by high peaks, darkness comes early. This was something I did not keep in mind, and barely made it back to the car by flashlight. Parking is available in a provided lot (for free) and there are bathrooms.

This area is made up of multiple trails, so your visit can be as long or as short as you wish. A map by the bathroom will show you which trails are which length, providing of course that the signs are actually posted on your visit,since they weren’t on mine.

Overall impression is that this is an area I would visit again, though with a little more planning. I would go earlier in the day with a lunch, and I would not go alone. If you decide to tackle this area, don’t forget your camera. The river is definitely worth a few pictures.

Happy Trails!

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Mingo Falls

Though not widely known, Mingo Falls is a beautiful 120 foot waterfall located on the Qualla Boundary (better known as the Cherokee Reservation.) To access it you drive up to Big Cove and continue along the roadway until you see a small sign that says “Mingo” on your right.

I only heard about its existence when a shopkeeper asked if I had been to the falls while I was doing some souvenir hunting. I followed his directions and saw the sign just before I turned around, having decided moments before that I had to have gone too far. There was a parking area at the bottom, free of charge. The beginning of the trail is made of wide steps with a handrail, which then becomes a relatively smooth trail at an easy grade. I made my way down this trail and was surprised to find it was only a quarter of a mile, and that it ended at a scenic bridge overlooking the falls.  I was stunned that such an amazing landmark hadn’t received more notice. It’s beautiful! The way the water runs down the rocks gives a white lace effect that is difficult to catch in photos.

Things to be considered: there is no bathroom, no water fountain, and dogs are welcome. The area surrounding the falls in either direction is residential, so it is advisable that on completing your hike, you return to the main thoroughfare. If you should look for additional trails, you will find that you are trespassing and that it is not looked upon favorably.

Overall it is a beautiful view at the cost of an extremely short hike. In fact, some might even call it a walk. Whatever you call it, the view of Mingo Falls at the top makes it a must if you should be visiting the Qualla Boundary.

Happy Trails!

Hiking Western North Carolina

Hello! Welcome to hiking in Western North Carolina. As a recent transplant from the flat plains of Texas,  I am amazed by the mountains. As soon as I arrived I started hiking and learned (usually the hard way) the different levels of trails, which areas are safe to hike alone and which you should tackle with friends. This blog will allow you to come with me on my adventures, learn from my mistakes, and give you the information needed to plan your next hike!

Whiteside Mountain

On arriving in North Carolina some of my first hiking decision were disastrous. I selected trails far above and beyond my knowledge and abilities, trusting to beginners luck to get through my adventure in one piece. If I was to offer you any advice, Id say not to begin your journey as I did. In hindsight, I would say this trail would be the perfect place to begin. Safe, simple to access, pretty, and most important, beginner friendly.

Whiteside Mountain, a series of trails with a fantastic view, is a fantastic place to begin your hiking adventures. Located in the Nantahala National Forest in Jackson County, the trail is well used and clearly marked. The trails are not so steep that a newbie will feel overwhelmed and long enough (about two miles) that an avid hiker will still feel they have accomplished something. The curving trails boast beautiful foliage and the view from the top is absolutely gorgeous. A panoramic view of the valley below and the mountains beyond.

Some trails are a little unnerving to travel alone; this is not one of them. There was a steady flow of people hiking the entirety of my visit. Your puppy is also welcome on the hiking trail, though you are asked to please pick up after them. Not everyone is as respectful of the parks as one would like, so I would warn you to watch your step for gifts left by our furry friends.

The trails are maintained by the Parks service, and there is a parking lot at the bottom. Quick heads up, you will be asked to pay to park! I believe I only had to pay three dollars, so in planning your trip make sure to throw a little cash into your backpack. Remember to bring your own water, on my venture the water fountain at the bottom was closed for repairs. I also did not find a bathroom which was open to the public, so I’d suggest making a quick stop at the gas station to address any bladder needs before arriving!

Happy Trails!

 

 

 

 

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