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It was difficult to #OptOutside this year

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Fall 2016 has been pretty disappointing for us, hike wise. The weather was incredibly hot (and honestly, it’s still warmer than what I would want), making it to where the dogs and I got tired more quickly. [Note: I highly recommend hiking thoughout a pregnancy, but it is so tough admitting to yourself that your body can’t handle conditions or distance that you did just a few months prior.] Then, the wildfires caused by arson, lightning, and drought conditions has kept a lot of trails and areas we love to explore from being accessible.

Friday was Black Friday, a day that has over the past two years become celebrated in the outdoor community as a day to #OptOutside – hit the trails instead of the malls. And I love it. But man, it’s tough to opt outside when Western North Carolina and Northern Georgia are covered in wildfires.

While it was so much fun seeing friends all over the west coast and Alaska post their instagram photos exploring glaciers and lush green trails, I was frustrated that we couldn’t maximize our hiking ourselves – especially since I know my hiking days are about to be put on a serious hiatus.

The areas we love to explore in have been under siege by fire for the past few weeks. A few times, the wind has shifted the smoke from the NC mountains far enough East to cause poor air quality in Charlotte. Matt and a friend had a camping weekend change plans due to the fires in North Georgia.

State parks and wilderness areas that aren’t actually on fire, but are in close proximety, are closed as well while their staff work to help with wildfire containment. Selfishly, this means a lot of places we wanted to go hike this weekend weren’t available to us.

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We ended up hiking the Tennesse Rock Trail at Black Rock Mountain State Park. This is a 2.2 mile round trip hike that goes to the peak of Black Rock Mountain, and offers really amazing views of the surrounding areas – including the ability to see Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina. Because the hike was so short, we were able to bring Sasha (our older dog who isn’t the hiker she used to be) with us to enjoy the fresh air.

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It’s not easy getting two dogs to sit and pose. 

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While out, we were able to see four of the wildfires burning in the distance, and watch helicopters drop water to work on containment. The air quality wasn’t bad where we were due to wind directions, but it was a bit surreal to see smoke coming from so close.

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Smoke from the fires.

Saturday, we decided to do a short nature walk in the Warwoman Dell along the Bartram Trail to get some fresh air with the dogs before our ride back to Charlotte tomorrow. While we didn’t walk far on Saturday (just 1.5 miles), the area was isolated and we allowed both dogs to run off leash and explore the woods. We also came across the world’s saddest waterfall.

With any luck, some rain and cooler temperatures will come our way. Until, we will work to stay out of the way of those working to contain the fires, will continue to recognize the burn ban, and will be on the lookout for anything that could cause forest fires.

For more information regarding the wildfires happening in the Southeast, check out this link. The Rocky Mountain Fire is closest to our home in Georgia and the one we’re keeping the closest eye on. 

Emily A. Stewart

Emily was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, but found her home in Alaska. Now she's back in Charlotte discovering all that the city and the East Coast has to offer.

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