I’ve figured out a few things hiking in the hills near Winston Salem that I may have alluded to on my hike write-ups; today I felt like assembling them in one place for safekeeping.

  • Humidity is wind chill in reverse. Hot hikes seem even hotter, making a hike at 1,200 feet seem more like 12,000.
  • High-tech synthetic fibers are not your friend in high heat and humidity. You want to preserve moisture, not wick it to the atmosphere to evaporate. One week I hiked in my wicking polyester shirt and suffered; the next week I hiked in a cotton T-shirt and stayed notably cooler because my sweat didn’t dry out so quickly.
  • Blazes are good things. The parks I’ve hiked in have had little colored disks nailed to trees every 25 to 50 yards. I realize the folks back in California consider tacking these little guides on trees about as bad as cutting them down, but I’ve liked them from the start. It’s easier to enjoy my walk in the woods if I’m less preoccupied with wondering if I’m on the right trail.
  • Trails here are very rocky. Lots of stone has been laid in the trails — mainly, I suspect, to keep the forests from constantly reclaiming them.
  • All forests are good. There’s no comparison between the redwoods of California and the leafy-green deciduous forests of the Southeast — the trees are just too different. But these woods are too fascinating to dwell on the differences. The green glow the leaves get under a direct sun is just one thing. Another is the way the forest seems to actively resent the fact that people carved a trail through it. The forest encroaches on trails here in ways I never saw back in the Bay Area, creating a kind of intimacy with nature that’s borderline spooky till you get used to it. Single-track here might better described as quarter-track.
  • Terrain is remarkably rocky just below the surface. I’d seen some of the pictures of layered stone outcrops and such, but I wasn’t prepared for the remarkable range of rock forms. It’s not usual to be walking down a trail and come across a 50-foot slab of granite that looks like it might’ve fallen there from the sky.
  • State park trails are well-marked and well-maintained. Granted, I’ve only hiked a few, but I’ve been impressed so far. Even in the heat (which is going away now), the trails were a pleasure to walk on.

I guess those are the main ones. Any AT hikers in the house may want to add their perceptions.