Bradley Fork Trail, Hyatt Ridge Trail, Dry Sluice Gap Trail

June 13-15, 2019

Blog writing has always appealed to the chronicling portion of my mind (mileage and events). Part of it is a way to remember the trail in a logical manner. The purpose of this space was two-fold: write down a map for my kids to see what I accomplished and encourage others to get in the wilderness and explore.

I like to hike and in the past four years I have finished the Pisgah 400, South Beyond 6000, the Art Loeb Trail (4x), the Long Trail, the Foothills Trail and hiked extensively on the Bartram Trail, Benton Mackaye Trail, the Lookout Tower Challenge and Appalachian Trail. People wonder why I go out every weekend and hike or backpack. It is for the simple reason that it makes me feel better.

I am a lawyer. Instead of pursuing a high profile job, I chose to work for a non-profit law firm, of which I have been with since I graduated law school. Specifically, I chose to root myself in rural Appalachia and help poor folks find a better way of life. We do not charge for a representation, the only criteria is that people must qualify for our services and we choose to accept your case. The cases that are in the most demand for lawyers are domestic violence (DV) and custody. We will represent victims as they attempt to keep their abusers away. Most areas of the country are violent, but there is a particularly brand of DV in the mountains of North Carolina (NC) that is especially gruesome. The history of western NC is one of poor white people fleeing society in order to be alone. Most people are distrustful of outsiders. When people call us, it means that the victim is truly afraid.

As I tell friends, no one has ever called a lawyer when they are having a good day. Imagine the worst memory of your life (getting beat up, being fired, becoming disbaled, your father beating your mom, a friend or close relative being molested by someone). Now, imagine having to talk to someone who is going through one of the worst days of their lives 12-15 times a day and then being asked to fix it. It takes a toll. You become numb after a while. I’m shocked at myself and what I am able to listen to. I can hear grisly details from someone who was nearly killed and won’t even bat an eye. Some people call it vicarious trauma, certainly all areas of the law (wherein you deal with people) will experience this. That’s why the alcoholism rate for lawyers is so high. I personally don’t know many lawyers who don’t drink.

In lieu of dealing with stress in favor of abuse, I choose to hike. That’s part of it. The other part is that I actually feel better after hiking. I can be in the woods for five minutes and anxiety flees. Life starts making sense, I remember who I am, what I like, what makes me happy. Every time I drive to the trail, in my mind I will rehash a case or client or decision I had to make. Rehashing is a nice verb to use. Obsess is a truer one. You may ask why, but when a mistake will cost someone custody of their children or their home, it’s easy to worry. By the time I am finished my sojourn amongst the trees, I cannot even recall what I was worried about. There have been many interesting studies done about “forest bathing” in America and notedly in Japan. I understand the science behind these feelings, but I just know it helps me and makes me feel whole.

Such was the case when I drove for a three day hike to the Smoky’s on Thursday morning. My route was to hike up to Bradley Fork Trail, then Hughes Ridge Trail, camping at Pecks Corner Shelter, on day 2, take the AT south and then Dry Sluice Gap to campsite #50 and then finish hiking a small section of the Hyatt Ridge Trail.

It was a wonderful trip. I met a lot of great people and had some great conversation. There were a lot of thru hikers (flip floppers) at Pecks and I enjoyed hearing their stories and aspirations. The woods always restores my faith not only in humanity, but more so in myself.

Total mileage is 32.58 miles.


17 thoughts on “Bradley Fork Trail, Hyatt Ridge Trail, Dry Sluice Gap Trail

  1. Thank you for doing what you do. As a retired trauma nurse I know a little of the horrors your life presents you with. I know between that and my personal life I let it hurt me for too long. Continue to take care of yourself. Hiking is great but can only go so far as I well know. My trouble was that I had going on at home the same crap I was dealing with at work. I ended up with PTSD. I could not shut my eyes and sleep without waking up screaming. Took me awhile on meds, counseling and meetings to get my head right. Don’t be me. If it gets to be too much change jobs. You are a beautiful soul. ❤

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    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I’m so sorry to hear of your trauma, but heartened by the fact that things are better. Life can be so hard, so difficult. One thing I chose to do is eliminate alcohol at all and walk twice a day. I’ve noticed a marked improvement in my health since making that decision.

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  2. Beautiful hikes, Jonathan. I’m in tune w/ the restorative power of hiking/backpacking -just getting out on the trail, that you describe. I also sense you know about the importance of taking care of #1 -in terms of dealing w/ job-related stress; hence your history of spending so much time on the trail. Like you, I can’t think of a better way to unwind. Perhaps we can get out on the trail together one day! In the meantime, take care of yourself. The work you do is important. Continue using the trails and your family to keep you strong. I look forward to reading more blog posts of your future adventures!!

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  3. I understand where you’re coming from. As a child and adolescent therapist, many of my clients are the children of… (you name it.)
    Just came back from a hiking trip and it is so true – the restorative experience of being in nature.

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  4. Anywhere I can. Just came back from Acadia. Many times I will go to the Red River Gorge but my favorite is in the Great Smoky Mountains whenever I go down to Tennessee to help my parents.

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  5. Hi Jonathan! My name is Cassidy and I work in the art department at WNC magazine. I know it’s a little out of the ordinary to reach out via a comment on your blog post but I can’t find any contact information for you! We love your images of the fire towers and would like to see if you would be willing to send any high resolution shots to be featured in our upcoming issue’s Outdoors section. Feel free to email me at cassidy@charlestonmag.com or give me a call at (843) 971-9811 ext 335 for more info. Thank you!

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  6. Thanks for sharing Jonathan. I’m glad that hiking provides you with a healthy outlet to cope with the stresses of your job. I’ve found the same thing with hiking and recently bird watching, as a means to deal with life’s circumstances. The Smokies are awesome. I traveled there last October and hiked around Cherokee, Bryson City, and Clingman’s Dome area. I really enjoyed my hikes there.

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    1. It’s not! We have been so busy with kids extracurricular activities that we slowed that down. I am finishing the Lookout Tower Challenge this Sunday. After that, I will start in earnest on the Smoky Trails and will re-begin the state park challenge. I’m excited about the new park near Waynesville and what comes of it. I also saw they are going to build a trail from Boone to Jefferson (40 miles) which is super exciting.

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