In this exploration of the rugged North Carolina mountains, award-winning author John B. Marek invites readers on an exhilarating adventure that transcends the boundaries of time and terrain. "Falling Up The Hill" is a highly personal tribute to the untamed beauty and rich history that define the region.
With the keen eye of a naturalist, the heart of a wanderer, and the charm of a storyteller, he weaves together tales of ancient forests, hidden waterfalls, and the secret haunts of elusive wildlife while imbuing them with his trademark casual humor.
Whether you're new to North Carolina or to hiking altogether, 24 carefully curated trail guides show off the best of what these mountains have to offer. Easy strolls along the Blue Ridge Parkway, tough treks through the Linville Gorge – there's a bit of everything. Plus, you'll find practical tips on trail first aid, wildlife encounters, and the gear you'll want to have.
When my wife and I moved to North Carolina in 1995, one of the first things we did was buy a trail guide for the North Carolina mountains. Natives of northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio, respectively, our experience with elevation was virtually nonexistent. Still, we were excited about the new challenge. Our very first mountain hike was the Mount Pisgah Summit Trail, which was, in retrospect, a questionable choice. I recall standing in the parking lot near the trailhead and gazing up at what appeared to a couple of flatlanders to be a near-vertical slope rising into the clouds. Nevertheless, we gamely hoisted our packs and began our ascent.
After an hour of steady climbing, we came across a couple heading back down the trail. "Watch out for the ice up there," they warned in passing. It was early April, and even at that elevation, temperatures were in the mid-50s, but I knew that ice could persist in the shadows through weeks of warm weather, so we were on the lookout for slick spots on the rocky path. However, when we reached the summit, we understood what the helpful hikers really meant. Rising three hundred feet from the center of the observation deck, the WLOS broadcast tower had been coated in ice by a recent storm, and chunks the size of dinner plates were breaking loose in the midday sun and clanging ominously through the metal frame before crashing onto the deck. We cautiously snapped some pictures and dashed back down the trail.
An inauspicious start to our mountain life, perhaps, but whatever seed we planted that day sprouted and grew to the point where my wife and I, along with our two dogs, now divide our time more or less equally between our suburban home in Huntersville, near Charlotte, and our off-grid mountain retreat in Traphill, near Stone Mountain State Park.
While I don't claim to be an "expert" hiker, if there even is such a thing, I am certainly experienced. I have covered every step of every trail in this book, most of them multiple times. In 2012, I participated in the CureSearch Foothills Ultimate Hike, a grueling 28.3-mile one-day trek through Oconee State Park in South Carolina, and have traversed challenging trails from New Hampshire (Mt. Monadnock) to Alaska (Tonsina Creek). So, while I may not be on par with Andrew Skurka or Cam Honan in terms of miles hiked or technical abilities, I offer extensive firsthand experience and in-depth knowledge of North Carolina's diverse terrain and trails and a passion for sharing valuable insights and tips to help fellow outdoor enthusiasts navigate and appreciate this beautiful and ecologically rich area.