Three years ago, my cousin and I got up early on the first day of November, thankful the sun was shining, since it had been windy and rainy during the night. We drove an hour from my house to meet my brother at the trailhead. He had driven four hours from his house so we could start hiking by 9 a.m.
This would be mine, and my cousin’s, first hike up Siler Bald. Although it’s fairly close to home, I’d never been. It’s not really our family mountain, but we claim it and several others in the area as “family” since they were named for our ancestors.
Siler Bald is a relatively easy hike–about 4 miles one way, on what is, as hikes around here go, fairly level ground, with a gentle incline up to the pasture before the steep, but short, climb to the bald. And the view is definitely worth the climb!
Siler Bald, a mountain in the Nantahala National Forest, is not to be confused, but often is, with Silers Bald, which is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Both were named for my ancestors, but for two different Silers. Siler Bald is named for William Siler, who supposedly grazed his cattle there, and Silers Bald is named for William’s brother, Jesse. Although I haven’t hiked this trail, I hope to soon!
Then there’s Albert Mountain, named for Albert Siler, Jesse’s nephew. I’ve hiked this one, but it’s been several years.
All of this is to say that, family or not, there is great hiking in Western North Carolina and the surrounding area. And your Fontana Regional Library has lots of great resources to help you plan your trip.
For an overview of North Carolina from mountains to the coast, take a look at Exploring North Carolina’s Natural Areas, the existence of which is credited to “more than fifty North Carolina naturalists [who] voluntered their time to make it happen,” and “the participation of naturalists across the state” according to the book’s preface. If you prefer a book specifically about hiking, try North Carolina Hiking Trails, whose cover promotes it as “The State’s Most Comprehensive Trail Guide with more than 1,300 trails.” In this book you’ll find another hike named after one of my family: the A. Rufus Morgan Trail. This is a one-mile, easy-to-moderate loop with a waterfall and lots of spring wildflowers. It’s a perfect way to introduce anyone to the joy of being in the great outdoors.
Other books which promote hiking and trails in the Blue Ridge and Great Smokies are Hiking the Carolina Mountains, which includes trails in both North and South Carolina, Smoky Mountain Hiking and Camping, a guide to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and The Best Short Hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Whatever path you choose to take, you’ll be sure to head in the right direction with help from your Fontana Regional Library!