Blue Ridge

“Trees and Waterfalls”

Our morning started with a delicious breakfast prepared by our hardworking leaders!

We traveled to Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest and met Gary Kauffman, a botanist with the US Forest Service. He led us around the trail and into the old growth forest. Along the way, he shared a wealth of information with us about all the plants inhabiting the forest. Our two plus miles took us a few hours as we learned about all the greenery and such along the trail. He shared his passion and his poetry with the group. We were all in awe over the huge Tulip Poplar Trees which are estimated to be between 400 and 500 years old. It was an amazing feeling to be standing among such history and consider what all has happened in the world during the lifetime of these giants.

Man holding plant in forest

Learning about liverworts from botanist Gary Kauffman.

Group of people circling large trees with their arms

How many teacher armspans in circumference is a 500-year-old tree?

After lunch, we hiked to Yellow Creek Falls. The trail took us along the creek and we enjoyed the sounds and sights of the meandering water. As we approached the top, we all took in the beauty of the rushing water of the first large fall. We sat and spent time reflecting on the week as it comes to a close. We were challenged to a “writing marathon” while we sat by the waterfall. We each took at least a half hour to free write with intentionality. In addition to writing, we had the opportunity to spend time in the water and sitting on the rocks chatting about our Blue Ridge experience.

Three people sitting at the edge of a pool at the base of a waterfall.

Wendy, Amy and Stephanie chatting by Yellow Creek Falls.

We returned to the yurts and ate dinner together. We spent the rest of the evening and into the night sharing with each other the highlights of our trip. We enjoyed our last night together and appreciated the time to build on relationships that have formed during this unique experience. We do not want to lose the connections with one another as we go back to “normal life” tomorrow. The changes that we intend to make both personally and professionally will be strengthened by our networking with one another. A campfire and stargazing on this beautiful night capped off the whole trip. It is bittersweet — we don’t want to leave, but we are ready to go home.