Thru-hiking history: Swannanoa Valley Museum launches 2015 Rim Hike series

Swannanoa Valley Museum's Rim Hike Series takes hikers from the floor of the valley to the top of the Blue Ridge.

Beginning in March, the Swannanoa Valley Museum will launch the sixth year of its Rim Hike Series, which features 11 hikes across the ridges and peaks surrounding the Swannanoa River valley.

The series sprang from museum founder Harriet Styles‘ popular wildflower hikes along many of these same paths. After Styles passed away, the museum decided to continue the tradition and expand it to include various portions of the rim surrounding Swannanoa, Black Mountain, Ridgecrest and Montreat.

“It was a way to remember and commemorate her,” says Museum Director Christina Ruiz. “The Rim Series hikes are our way of bringing history to life outside the museum.”

Spanning 31 miles, the Swannanoa Rim offers extraordinary views from the Continental Divide and the Swannanoa Gap.
Spanning 31 miles, the Swannanoa Rim offers extraordinary views from the Continental Divide and the Swannanoa Gap.

The series will begin on Saturday, March 7, with a hike starting at Camp Rockmont for Boys, ascending to Cedar Cliff and “The Garden of Eden” — famous for its abundance of sunbathing serpents in the warmer months — before returning to the camp. Subsequent hikes will be held on the third Saturday of each month.

The program connects the natural beauty of places like Patton’s Table and Grey Eagle Rock with the history and folklore of Brushy Mountain — an early gathering place for frontier hunters — and Rhododendron Ridge, which includes a passage through the former estate of architect Rafael Guastavino. The outings will be led by experienced hikers knowledgeable of the topography, history and ownership of the land.

Ruiz says this program also plays an important role in bringing residents together. “The series has proven to be a great way for people in the community to come together,” she explains. “You see the same faces every month, and you get to know them as friends.”

Local gems like Grey Eagle Rock and Patton's Table offer stunning views of the valley and bring hikers close to the sources of the Swannanoa river
Local gems like Grey Eagle Rock and Patton’s Table offer stunning views of the valley and bring hikers close to the sources of the Swannanoa river.

The series runs from March until December and will cover the territory stretching from the reaches of Jessi’s High Top and Lakey Gap to Ridgecrest and Montreat to the boundaries of the YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly, founded in 1907 by Willis D. Weatherford. Due to state and federal permit regulations (and to shake up the routine), the order of the hikes will be reversed from previous years, running clockwise around the Swannanoa Rim, a total distance of about 52 miles with elevation gains up to 6,462 feet.

Proceeds from the price of admission to the hikes will go to funding the Swannanoa Valley Museum, which seeks to “preserve and interpret the social, cultural and natural history of the Swannanoa Valley” with artifacts, documents and exhibitions on local history, according to its stated mission. The Rim Hike Series is one of several such expedition series the museum offers, along with the Valley History Explorer Tour, which focuses on historical landmarks and points of interest around the region, and the Watershed Tour, a bi-annual peek into the west side of the Burnett Reservoir.

Through the support of donors, the museum is able to offer two scholarships each year to cover the costs of admission to the entire series. While the scholarship deadline for 2015 has already passed, interested parties are welcome to join in for a single hike or multiple outings in the series throughout the coming months. Admission rates, a schedule of the hikes and other relevant hiker info can be found at the Rim Hike webpage.

More on Swannanoa Valley Museum and regional history can be found here.

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About Max Hunt
Max Hunt grew up in South (New) Jersey and graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2011. History nerd; art geek; connoisseur of swimming holes, hot peppers, and plaid clothing. Follow me @J_MaxHunt

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