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iking western NC trails just got more rewarding

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8/9/2011 - Hiking western NC trails just got more rewarding
by Peter Barr - For NYT Regional Media Group

EVERYONE WELCOME!  Come hike the mountains of Western North Carolina with this group, or own your own, or with your family...it's almost fall - perfect hiking time!! 

A hiker enjoys the view at Bearwallow Mountain in Henderson County, N.C., the site of one of eight hikes in the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy's Hiking Challenge, an effort to get people to explore the area's preserved lands.

Jeff Rinehart of Columbia travels to western North Carolina as often as he can to enjoy the beauty of the mountains.

Facts

Want to go?

What: CMLC Hiking Challenge
(eight hikes)
What you get: Hiking patch, free
hiking gear
More information:
www.carolinamountain.org/hikingchallenge

The hikes:
Bearwallow Mountain (Edneyville,Henderson County)
        Features: Summit meadow, 360-degree vista, fire tower
Connestee Falls (Brevard, Transylvania County) 
        Features: Observation deck with view of three waterfalls
DuPont State Forest Waterfalls (Cedar Mountain, Transylvania County)
        Features: Hooker Falls, High Falls, Triple Falls
DuPont State Forest Stone Mountain (Crab Creek, Henderson County) 
        Features: Granite dome with scenic views
East Fork Headwaters (Rosman, Transylvania County)
        Features: Foothills Trail, highest point in South Carolina
Florence Nature Preserve (Henderson County) (Gerton)
        Features: Old growth forests, wildflowers, rock outcroppings
Green River Preserve (Tuxedo, Henderson County) 
        Features: Secluded waterfall, abundant wildlife
Weed Patch Mountain (Lake Lure, Rutherford County)
        Features: Dramatic cliff, vista of Lake Lure

Rinehart has already completed five of the eight hikes in the new Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Hiking Challenge.

He said he especially enjoys the varying difficulties and distances of hikes in the challenge.

"It's a wonderful way for anyone to get outside, get some exercise and appreciate nature. There are hikes for young and old, experienced and inexperienced," Rinehart said. "It's great for families, too."

Rinehart said he hopes to complete the challenge this weekend.

The challenge encourages people to explore some of CMLC's preserved lands.

"CMLC works very hard to protect our beautiful mountain lands and facilitate access for people to enjoy them," said Kieran Roe, CMLC executive director. "We believe that by getting out and exploring these places, you will discover why land conservation is so important. You'll have a lot of fun doing it, too."

Hikes in the challenge range from easy to moderate difficulty, with distances between one and four miles.

By completing the eight hikes, participants can earn CMLC's white squirrel embroidered hiking patch, representing the local wildlife oddity unique to North Carolina's Henderson and Transylvania counties, CMLC's primary protection areas.

Those who complete the challenge will also earn a $20 gift certificate for hiking gear at the Hendersonville Mast General Store.

Anyone can participate, but the challenge is free to CMLC members. Others need to join CMLC to be eligible for rewards, although six of the hikes are open to everyone at no cost.

Those who take the challenge will discover hikes that reveal natural features that include pristine waterfalls and awe-inspiring vistas.

For instance, Bearwallow Mountain, a 4,000-foot peak along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, features a grassy meadow at its summit that enables a 360-degree view.

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