Hiking the Blue Ridge: Black Balsam Knob

Black Balsam 1

            I never really thought of myself as an outdoorsy person. As a kid I preferred video games and books to going outside and running around. I never camped.

(Photo not by me, obviously) Credit: Kelly Bailey

(Photo not by me, obviously) Credit: Kelly Bailey

            The desire to get out and explore came later in life. If I were to think way too hard about it, I would say it stems in part from the constant barrage on the senses technology has created over the course of the last 20 years. Video games don’t seem like a relaxing escape from real life when your entire day is spent staring at a screen and typing away on a keyboard. Going outside, especially when you go way outside, gives you that rare chance to disconnect completely from 24-hour news cycles and constant social media notifications.

Black Balsam View

            As I travel I’m overwhelmed by just how much there is to see around the world. In Asheville alone I’ve seen waterfalls, mountaintops, and endless forests. It’s hard for me to get excited about going into the city when I know there are views like this out there. It’s a big change in how I spend my weekends, and it has made me remember why I love my craft in the first place.

Black Balsam 4

            North Carolina has quickly become my favorite subject to photograph. The landscapes are incredible and I appreciate the deceptive challenge in taking a photo that captures the spirit of the land. The rules of composition change: I’m so used to having a subject to build a frame around, but in landscapes you have to focus on abstract geometry. Clouds, trees, rivers, and mountains provide shapes and lines for the eye to follow, creating an image that can be just as immediately striking and invite the viewer in to spend time getting lost in a place.

Black Balsam Yellow Flowers

            Black Balsam Knob is a hiking trail that gives near immediate payoffs—you’re on a peak looking out at the Blue Ridge Mountains after less than a mile on the trail. From there you continue to climb, the peaks you stood on minutes ago becoming part of the view. It’s a place that feels unchanged by time yet is constantly evolving as clouds pass over and the sun moves through the sky, changing where shadows land and which distant mountains are illuminated.

Black Balsam Sun

            I’ll be devoting a lot more time to making up for lost time in the future, disconnecting from everything except the sound of my footsteps echoing for miles.

Black Balsam Trail
Rocky Peak