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Letters from America
First Hiking Experience, Lake Norman — Where Have You Been All My Life?
By Greg Evans
Special Correspondent
Lake Norman
I have concluded that 2021 is set to provide a lot of firsts for me. I had my first experience getting stranded on the side of a dark, isolated road and ate my first Spanakopita. I will go on my first camping odyssey, parachute out of an airplane, bungee jump from the Eiffel Tower, and run with the bulls in Pamplona. Oh yeah, and hopefully not be eaten on a secluded hiking trail mistaken for a bowl of Alpo on my very first hike.

The new year is about reinventing yourself, writing a list of all the amazing things you are going to do, or at least photoshop yourself doing for social media, and telling everyone you come across your resolution. Yesterday morning I accomplished mine; I went on my first real hike. And it was on an actual hiking trail.

No longer will I stand around sipping a craft beer with ears red from embarrassment because I am, or was, the elephant in the room, that character that had never been hiking on a designated trail. We arrived at the edge of Lake Norman around midmorning, the only thing in our stomachs was high-grade coffee and set out at a brisk pace along a serene and heavily wooded trail. Under wide-open skies with mild temperatures in the low 50’s, I couldn’t have scripted it better.

I had no expectations. My walking motivation and companion, incredible and veteran hiker girlfriend Tiara, urged me to, “Slow down a bit, let’s enjoy this walk. Plus, it is going to get harder, just relax.” Only then did I notice how fast I was moving. And relaxing wasn’t exactly the first thought I had in mind, instead, it was making sure my phone camera was ready, just in case we encountered some recently released red wolves prowling the North Carolina woods. If we are to be stalked and eaten alive, the gruesome footage will be captured on camera for posterity and a Faces of Death highlight reel, I morbidly thought at the time.

The reality was that the trail was busy with expert and amateur hikers and even joggers. There were families with children and people walking dogs, allowing my initial anxiety to be quickly put to rest.

The trail started off as a wide gravel road with regular non-severe changes in elevation and exquisite scenery of the forest, open fields, and beautiful Lake Norman with its cool refreshing water lapping gently along the shoreline. There were beautiful homes, nearly all with porches looking out on the water. There were birds, and even a little fat muskrat that rolled across our trail. As I had been warned earlier, the trail did become more difficult, but not unwelcoming. One just had to be careful. There were unseen roots and partially covered rocks from autumn’s last delivery of leaves. I noticed a few small boulders, though conveniently just off the trail, a fallen limb here and there, and patches of loamy soil that my overactive imagination speculated rather ludicrously to be man-eating quicksand.

One aspect of the scenery that intrigued me was the large swaths of land that appeared to have experienced a controlled or prescribed burn. A charred landscape that smelled like a burnt marshmallow as if the aftermath of the Battle of Wakanda. I was curious and researched the possibility of the charring having occurred recently in the area, but only found evidence of a wildfire that occurred some months back where a suspected unbridled campfire destroyed over 19-acres. The trail meandered along, the scenery changing from woods, to fields, to shrubbery and back to woods. And the farther we progressed, the narrower the trail became.

Now and then there were wooden signs with colored dots or squares, and names like “Hicks Creek Loop,” “Lake Shore Trail,” “Cove Trail,” or “Itusi Trail.” The skinny well-worn path that we happened to be on, became rather rocky and more challenging the further we progressed, but it allowed us to travel parallel to the Lake Norman shoreline. And the view was breathtaking. Across the water Lakeside homes decorated the low bluffs overlooking the glistening green water. I glanced down at my compass. It is amazing how turning only a degree or so will change the direction you are traveling.

Out on the water I spotted a boat and a lone fisherman. I moved close to the water’s edge to see if I could locate any fish. Lake Norman is a warm water fishery filled with bluegill, sauger (spotted trout), largemouth, striped, spotted, smallmouth, and white bass, black crappie, yellow perch, black bullhead, blue and channel catfish. It is a fisherman’s paradise. But I didn’t see any fish lingering near the shoreline.

After an hour or so, with grumbling bellies, we decided to turn around and head back to the car. Thanks to map posts erected at various increments along the trail, and the trusty compass, we were able to retrace our steps and locate the car without getting lost even once. Our excursion was five miles and we both felt like it was incredibly rewarding, both physically and mentally. The trails were easy to navigate, rarely did much time elapse without seeing other people so it never felt too isolated, and everyone was friendly, offering a “Hi,” or “Good morning.” Even the dogs we encountered were amiable.

I don’t know why it took me so many years to engage in this refreshing and euphoric pastime. This morning I indeed woke up with sore muscles and achy joints, but it felt good all the same. I was using different muscles and they were shellshocked. We went over and ate at Poke Bros after the coffee got our blood moving. Poke Bros is a sliver of Hawaii, in central North Carolina, the pseudo-buffet of ingredients piled up into a bowl and topped with sauce/s of your choice and the perfect protein packed meal to help the body recover from an intense workout. I hovered over a bowl of seaweed salad, salmon, tofu, jalapenos, brown rice, squid topped with gochujang sauce and at one point I stood up to retrieve a napkin and upon attempting to stand up I found my muscles in defiance. I pulled myself up, a young and fairly fit-looking manly man and sort of limped over to the napkin dispenser. An elderly couple nearby just kind of observed me with wrinkled brows and I wanted to say, “I went hiking, this isn’t muscle atrophy from sitting around playing video games all day.” They finished their food, hopped up and jogged to their car. Touche.

I suspect this hiking thing will become something I will do often, from now on, and with it, I will get into some of the best shape of my life. I think this is the way to handle the New Year’s resolution. Pick one different activity that you find interesting and accomplish it the first week of January. From now on that is what I will do. Who knows, maybe next year I will take up steer wrestling…



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Greg Evans, associate director of communications of King University in Bristol TN, in the US, serves as a special correspondent for The Seoul Times. The seasoned journalist has been writing for such papers as the Mooresville Tribune, Lake Norman Citizen, the Bristol Herald Courier, and the Sentinel-Progress (Easley, SC). He can be reached at gaevans1@king.edu

 

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