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JUL. 27, 2014

Lost and Found

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Marlin Sill, Wilderness Program Manager

Just a few days ago a brave and adventuresome class took on the lofty task of trekking into the wilderness of Black Balsam and Sam’s Knob to find the legendary “Paleo Land”. The Adventure time class has spent their third period’s learning advanced survival skills, honing their tracking and foraging skills. They have meditated in the bush, building their mental and physical awareness all while strengthening relationships with their peers and their own mind, bodies and spirits.

Early Wednesday morning, while all of camp was still in bed, the class filed onto a bus with nothing more than rain jackets and personal bags of the basic essentials (a half-loaf of homemade survival bread and small block of sharp cheddar). Some also brought fire starting kits, compasses, and bags of foraged edible and medicinal plants. They started their morning by testing their bravery in the cold rush of sliding rock. After which they performed warming variations of the hypothermia/boot dance. Once warm, the crew trekked up to Black Balsam where the true adventure would begin. Here is a first hand account:

We started our hike like any other. Walking down the trail, eating what ripe blue and blackberries there were, and stopping every now-and-again to enjoy the scenery and hydrate. Then things took a turn to the more wild side. After jumping on the little sam knob trail, we came to a small creek (or crik as they say ‘round her). We took a short break to eat some survival bread and then before we knew it we were thigh deep in the smallest most serene creek hike I’ve ever experienced. Most of the time we were bend over and crouching through rhodo and mountain laurel tunnels surrounding the small waterway. After what seemed like miles we finally left the creek and our damp attitude to find our true strength in the thickets of blackberry brambles. We started by passing through small clearing broken by the occasional Black Balsam grove and blackberry patch, but soon we were full on bush-pushin’. When we finally met our first headwall of 10foot tall brambles we took our compass bearing, lined up south and started pushing. Each of the larger members (including myself) took turns parting the great thorny bushes, creating a trail for the many others to follow. It wasn’t long into our push that the rain started and soon after the songs. “Let it rain, let it pour” came spilling out of 15 joyous souls as we marched through the truest wilderness of the southern Appalachia.

About halfway through our march we came to a fairly large clearing where we stopped to munch and hydrate (as if the rain wasn’t hydrating enough). I noticed on the edge of the clearing a trashed Nalgene. A clear sign of human presence close to the area and a sign we might be close to the trail we were bush-pushing to. Just as I begun to dismiss the useless bottle from my mind, someone exclaimed “It’s an Eagle’s Nest water bottle!!!” WHAT?!?!?!? It was! And not only that the bottle had bite marks all over and a logo not seen since 2004. At that moment we all knew we had found the mythical land of Paleo. With this new souvenir, proof of Paleo Land, and rejuvenated spirits, we pushed our group all the way to the Mountains to Sea Trail, where we again celebrated our resolve for trekking through some of the toughest and meanest mountain foliage.

So what is the story behind this water bottle? Well interestingly enough, the night before this trip occurred, Camp hosted their very own “Pisgah Home Companion” One of the shining stories form that radio show was a piece of Madalyn and Lucius Wofford where they each read letters they had written home during their years as campers. One of Madalyn’s described a trip where she spent a 24 hour solo in Paleo Land. A day later she was reunited with a water bottle she had lost 10 years earlier.

There are so many circles in our lives, and it is hard to believe that our choices and actions are so far reaching. But for this one Nalgene and this one brave class many things came full circle. Stay tuned for a detailed chronicle of what happened to this castaway hydration unit for 10 years in the wilds on Western North Carolina.