None of the paths are flat. All have steps cut into them. Good thing we're conditioned from scampering up and down San Miguel's hills every day. Our cardiovascular systems are acclimated to 6000'—we don't get winded at Cashiers wimpy 4500'.
It's said that long ago, a squirrel could travel from Georgia to Maine jumping from one American Chestnut tree to another. Chinese Chestnut trees, introduced at the beginning of the 20th Century, carried with them a blight that killed more than three billion trees throughout their Appalachian Mountain range. All that remain today are shoots from old roots. The photo shows two live sprouts and a dead 4" sapling. Sad. A Nantahala National Forest brochure encourages hikers to report any tree at least 10" in diameter in the hopes of finding blight-resistant varieties.
Details seen along the trail: a granite outcrop encrusted with an unknown green mineral. Can anyone identify it?
Fungi sprout from a dead snag. I don't know enough about them to pick and eat them. These looked good to me, though.
The season is fall—and lucky us, we caught the peak of the color change.
Autumn leaf color is more muted here than in New England, but gorgeous nonetheless.
Atop Whiteside Mountain, Laura and her Uncle Jon read all about the granite formation they're standing on. Part of our oldest mountain chain, it's a mere nub compared with the Himalaya-like peaks that existed here 450 million years ago.
From the mountaintops, we look out over the Cashiers Valley, our view enhanced by all that fall foliage. This view is from Rock Mountain, looking toward Whiteside.
Others feel this way: this area is home to retiring boomers. Land values inflate, mountain cabins give way to elegant lakefront homes, chi-chi restaurants line the main streets. The Cashiers area, with its moderate climate and beautiful setting, is becoming a haven for the well-to-do. We who live in San Miguel know this story all too well.
On the Rock Mountain trail, we met only one group of hikers (although the trail had recently been detoured to bypass a new housing development). On Whiteside Mountain, we ran into hundreds. Whether we shared the trails with others or had them all to ourselves, our experience was exhilarating and memorable.