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Sam Knob and Flat Laurel Creek on the Edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area

Giant Clouds Over the Mountains, the Edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area

Giant Clouds Over the Mountains, the Edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area

A couple of days ago, I took a hike at the edge of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area with two of my grown children.  We went on the Sam Knob Hill Trail to the summit and then went on to the Flat Laurel Creek Trail.  This photograph was actually taken on the trail from the creek back to the parking lot, looking out over where we had been.

Meadow with Wildflowers, Sam Knob Trail

Meadow with Wildflowers, Sam Knob Trail

First we had to walk through a beautiful, wide open meadow with lots of wildflowers.  Some of the meadow is mowed, to keep trees from growing.  Other areas like this one are more natural. Human intervention here made the expansive vistas possible.  

Rocky Outcropping, Sam Knob Trail

Rocky Outcropping, Sam Knob Trail

Though the trail is mostly through low trees, there are a couple of granite monoliths along the way that are quite impressive.  

Carolyn and Thomas at the Summit of Sam Knob Trail

Carolyn and Thomas at the Summit of Sam Knob Trail

The summit afforded excellent views in almost 360 degrees.  To be in a place of such wilderness and to see nothing but mountains, trees and clouds for as far as we could see was both awe inspiring and peaceful. It was easy to meditate here upon my place in the universe as just one small being in an interconnected web.

Clouds and Shadows Seen from the Sam Knob Summit

Clouds and Shadows Seen from the Sam Knob Summit

While we sat and took in the views, more and more clouds seemed to form and the shadows they cast on the tree-covered hills were constantly changing, creating new compositions every minute.

One of the Vistas from Sam Knob Hill

One of the Vistas from Sam Knob Hill

On the way back, we decided to go to Flat Laurel Creek.  Before we got to the main creek, we passed a small stream.  I looked down and saw this accidental still life of Mountain Laurel flowers in the water.  Though the flowers were no longer connected to the plants they grew from, they looked lovely floating together.  I was struck by how the evoked the temporality of beauty during the cycle of life.  Because they appeared in such an arrangement by chance, made me appreciate the miracle of their transitory existence even more and how synchronicity had led us all to this spot.

Flat Laurel Creek

Flat Laurel Creek

When I got to the main part of the creek, I was blown away by its beauty–the patterns of the water as it eddied around the rocks, the heavily treed riparian landscape, the blue sky and clouds. It was such a surprise to see this hidden within the wilderness.  I just moved here and am about to begin another study of water in Western North Carolina and around the state.  I've already worked with some Waterkeepers and know of the issues in the eastern part of the state.  The western waters I've heard have there issues too and I want to know whether streams like this are completely safe or not.  It would seem to be clean, unlike rivers like the French Broad and others, being in this remote area with no agriculture near by, or any coal-fired power plants, but I know now never to be deceived by appearances.  

Water Strider Casting Shadows

Water Strider Casting Shadows

For a long while I watched the patterns in the water created by surface tension and water striders like this one.  It was mesmerizing.

Turk's Cap Lilies

Turk's Cap Lilies

On the way back to the car, I passed some lovely wildflowers and blooming shrubs.  These two Turk's Cap lilies were lit up by the sunlight and seemed almost on fire.  

Mountain Laurel, Flat Laurel Creek

Mountain Laurel, Flat Laurel Creek

This clump of flowers seemed so tender, especially with the perfectly intact pink buds on the verge of opening.  

St. Johns Wort, Flat Laurel Creek Trail

St. Johns Wort, Flat Laurel Creek Trail

The St. Johns wort stamen fascinated me as they vibrated in the breeze, and the lichen covered trees in other areas made me feel I was in a magical place where secrets could be uncovered in any direction.  Having just moved here, a lot of nature is still quite mysterious to me.  I plan to become involved with the water community here and take course at the Arboretum and work towards earning a Blue Ridge Naturalist Certification.  I am no longer content skimming the surface of nature.  I want to learn all I can about the flora and fauna we share this planet with, so I can be a better citizen of the earth.

Trees with Green Lichen, Flat Laurel Creek Trail