UNCA Outdoor Program Backpacking Trip

It was no joke when UNC-Asheville students and SAHC’s Travis Bordley started their backpacking trip, trapped in clouds on April Fools Day. Travis, our AmeriCorps Roan Outreach Coordinator, and eight students headed out from Carvers Gap for a backpacking adventure along the Appalachian Trail — a route that boasts big views. The students, including three leaders from UNC-Asheville’s Outdoor Program, were unfazed and trekked boldly into the cloudy mist. For a few students this was their first time backpacking.

The skies were ominous in the beginning, but by lunch time the clouds were parting, exposing breathtaking views and swirling beneath the mountain peaks. The emerging sun dried damp boots and inspired strong legs for hiking with heavy packs. By the time the group reached Grassy Ridge the Roan Highlands were showing off – views from Grandfather Mountain to Mount Mitchell were clear as a whistle. The team camped for the night off the summit, down the Appalachian Trail towards Yellow Mountain Gap.

An added attraction on the trip was that the trek included hiking on part of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, retracing steps of colonial soldiers during the Revolutionary War, as well as ending at SAHC’s Elk Hollow Preserve. Elk Hollow Preserve was the perfect location to end a backpacking trip. Located off the busier trails, the group could drop their packs and enjoy the sights of the recently conserved land. They spent nearly two hours sitting by the waterfall enjoying the feeling of completing a backpacking trip.

Liam Gayter, a leader for the UNC-Asheville Outdoor Program, after the trip said, “I feel privileged to have such beautiful and biodiverse lands so close to home. It’s experiences like these that make me passionate about protecting these lands that are so often taken advantage of. The best way to change people’s view on protecting these lands is getting them out there to experience the humbling beauty with their own eyes.”

SAHC’s new partnership with the UNC-Asheville Outdoor Program, leading hikes together in the Roan Highlands, is a relationship both parties hope to continue in the future.