Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hiking with the Lentz's

On Saturday we set off on a very fun hike.  Unfortunately I don't know many specifics about where we started, how to get to the trail head, etc. because I played follow the leader on Saturday.  My cousin and her family have hiked the Art Loeb Trail before to Shining Rock and they drove us there. They also had this really amazing trail map that showed elevation that led us through our hike.  I highly recommend this map, however I don't know where she got it either.  I am just a wealth of information today!  Maybe she'll be so kind as to share details in the comments!  I should also mention that all photos are compliments of Cheryl as well.  Seriously, where would we be without her today.  Probably lost somewhere on Tennant Mountain!
Our hike was absolutely amazing, full of gorgeous views and beautiful breezes.  We honestly could not have asked for more perfect hiking weather and I was satisfied with my choice of clothing for this hike.  I was very comfortable the entire time.  My one caution is to wear sunscreen while hiking.  I put it on Eleanor but forgot to rub it on my face and shoulders and now have a burn.  I forgot that I would be at risk since we were just hiking, but we were in the sun for over eight hours and high up on mountain tops.  Sunscreen is a must!
The landscape is beautiful on the Art Loeb Trail.  It is very different from the trails we have hiked near Blowing Rock and Boone.  There are meadows on the mountains and large clearings, patches of evergreens and wild grasses.  The dirt is sand-like and the breezes blow across the mountain tops.  So gorgeous!  Alex and I kept commenting how we felt like we were no longer in North Carolina.  It was so very different!
Our end goal was Shining Rock, a protruding section of mountain that is covered in granite and glitters in the sun from a distance.  It is approximately five miles out on the Art Loeb trail.  Alternatively there is an old logging road that is relatively flat and much easier to hike.  Being hard core as we are, we opted for the more challenging trail on the way to the rock, and took the easier route back.
Along the way we encountered some of the most amazing views and challenging heights.  I believe our highest elevation was over 6,000 feet and we crossed many mountain tops as we hiked toward Shining Rock.
Views like this were common throughout our journey thanks to many "balds" and not very many trees.  Balds are stretches of rock at the top of a mountain and provide full views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Eleanor was a trooper and hung out in her pack for ten whole miles.  We were hiking for well over seven hours.  She cooed and babbled, she napped, she played with my hair and my ears, sniffed at the breezes, and generally had a fabulous time!
We kept her protected with long pants and shirt, sunscreen and a hat.  One place I forgot: the top of her hand.  She has just a slight patch of sunburn but it doesn't seem to be bothering her, thank goodness!
Alex and I took turns lugging the pack.  We borrowed my friend Jenna's Kelty and it is brilliant.  We will be on the hunt for one at consignment sales this year.  Unfortunately one of the straps broke as we were hiking back.  I don't believe it has anything to do with the quality of the pack, but the amount of use it receives.  We felt terrible but Jenna assured me that it was already tearing a bit.  We managed to make it back by strapping it together with electrical tape.  Luckily as you are carrying the pack, very little weight is balanced on the straps, most is in the waist band.  The straps are more for balance.
We took frequent rests.  If I thought toting Eleanor on my back was difficult, I can't imagine how it must feel to hike these miles seven months pregnant, or as a four year old.  But that's exactly what Cheryl and Trevor did!
They are super heroes!  And may be my absolute favorite hiking buddies.  I cannot believe how far Trevor made it!  Over five miles!  I admire their active and fun family and hope that Alex and I can keep this up so Eleanor will be just like Trevor!
This sign reads "Most Difficult" and the trail certainly got difficult at this point.  I would say we were about three miles in here.  I just handed the pack over to Alex to carry and he was amazing toting Eleanor through this section of trail.  At this point we were still about two miles from the Shining Rock.
Finally we made it.  We began to see bits of granite sticking out of the ground.  We scrambled up to the top for beautiful views and gorgeous rock.
We took our sweet time resting on top of Shining Rock.  However, this is where the sunburn really began to set in.  I think the rocks were reflecting the sun I began to bake. I put on my long sleeve for the rest of the hike to help protect my skin.
My child looks like such a chunk-a-monk here but I just love any photo of her and her daddy!

We took turns packing Eleanor out on the way back.  The five miles on the road flew by and before we knew it we were done.
We survived and look as happy as ever.
We are already masterminding our next adventure with Mark, Cheryl, Trevor and soon-to-be baby Grace!  I hear the Smokies are a beautiful place to camp!
Cheryl and I have not seen each other since her wedding eight years ago!  And even then we didn't have much time to catch up.  In fact we were never super close as kids, though our families did get together frequently and we may have even lived together for a time in Florida...I'll let my mom and aunt determine if that is true, I can never tell reality from stories from my childhood.  Cheryl and her family live in Alabama so you may wonder why we even decided to take this vacation together.  You should know I have something like 40 cousins so this isn't a really obvious scenario.

Cheryl and I have connected over the past few years on Facebook through our mutual interests and love of our Father God and Christ Jesus.  It seems like a silly thing, Facebook, I mean.  But truthfully, I have built relationships with people through Facebook that would have otherwise been lost.  I know us Facebook stalkers get serious criticism for the time-suck, and yes my time on the social media website isn't always productive.  However, I am blessed that relationships have been fostered and my faith has grown through family and friends on Facebook. 

We had such a wonderful experience camping and hiking with the Lentz family.  I am already excited for our next adventure!
(Thanks Cheryl for all these beautiful photos!)

For more information on the Art Loeb Trail visit here.

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