Sometimes it’s helpful to explore unknown areas away from the trail. Before going on a short hike on the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST), I chose to continue east and search for a landmark I have heard about but never seen, the east campus of Heavenly Mountain.
When in unfamiliar territory, connecting with the earth helps to bring stability. In this very rural mountainous place, I didn’t leave Watauga County, which is where the Retreat Center is located. However, I was very glad to find a recycling center in a place I knew nothing about.
Discoveries on Elk Creek Road
Inside that fence, I saw a familiar sight: a number of large green recycling bins, with separate windows for
- brown, clear and green glass
- mixed paper
- corrugated cardboard.
A row of trash dumpsters also lined the back fence of the area. At first, I didn’t stop there, but kept going.
Continuing down Elk Creek road, I saw a church on the left hand side, and a stream with a walking bridge over it on the right. I walked across the bridge and then backtracked over it again and started walking along the stream. There was no clear path on the opposite side.
I decided not to continue on down the road. I had been hoping for a short drive to search for the east campus, not a long, meandering, gas-guzzling journey.
There was a full bin of my personal recycling in the back of my car, so it felt very serendipitous to go ahead and take time to deposit all of the glass, plastic, cardboard and metal into the appropriate dumpsters. When I had almost finished, a slim, middle-aged man finally emerged from the tiny attendant’s booth inside the fence.
I asked him if this was the town of Triplett, and he immediately corrected me to call it the “community” of Triplett, since it was never incorporated as a town due to its very small population. The trees with full white blooms in full sun across the road were pear trees.
A Short Hike on the MST
After the detour to Triplett, I parked on the north side of Elk Creek road, crossed the road and started walking south on the MST. The trail was soft, still covered with orange, dried out pine needles. As I moved up and down the hills, I felt such competence and healing in my recently sprained ankle.
After having injured myself while hiking, to get out on the trail again feels wonderful. There is strength in my ankles and knees still, even while I often feel soreness and pain. I walked slowly, one step at a time, feeling the strength it took to make each step. I felt jubilant about the way my muscles still worked.
A young pair of hikers, male and female, passed me going north while I worked my way south. When I reached the end of the forested path, I saw their white pick-up truck parked on a grassy promontory alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Not interested in walking through the grass on the side of the road, I turned around and headed back, and passed the young boy and girl going south as I went north, returning to my car.
For more information about the hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway and surrounding communities, the Boone Area Visitors’ Bureau and Explore Boone websites have many ways of helping you connect with the earth near the retreat center. All the best to you on your explorations!
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.