Carl White’s Life in the Carolinas

Winter Walks
A Winter Walk into Spring
by Suzelle Sinclair

“Sometimes we can only find our true direction when we let the wind of change carry us.”

-Mimi Novic


After a week of cloudy skies, the sun streaming through my window this morning is the first sign to a change of season. Days are getting longer and this morning the sunshine beckons me to enjoy one more walk of the season.

Heading out with no definitive destination in mind, I find myself heading toward the Blue Ridge. There are many hiking trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway. This scenic route meanders for 469 miles through North Carolina and Virginia. The Blue Ridge Mountain range traverses eight states from Pennsylvania to Georgia. It gets its name from the dense forest that releases hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, giving it a distinctive blue haze.

With coordinates loaded into my GPS I set out, focused on arriving at my destination. However, as GPSs often do, mine decided to take me on the road less traveled. I did not mind the diversion until I lost cell service. My GPS had taken me down a number of beautiful country roads and with no warning left me on a narrow dirt road in the middle of the woods. Zero bars. Looking up from my phone, my surroundings now look completely different. I had been so focused on following my GPS that I had not really seen where I was. Sitting in the middle of this single-wide dirt road, I suddenly saw how the sun was streaming through the branches creating beautiful patterns on the path. Birds were chirping and flying from branch to branch. I now had to use the position of the sun to help me determine which direction I should turn next. While our devices help us hurry on our way, I was unaware how very much they distract us from fully experiencing the moment. There is a special kind of freedom found in wandering. Perhaps, sometimes, getting lost is the best way to find ourselves.

Thanks to long-acquired Girl Scout skills and a bit of luck, I found my way to the Parkway near E.B. Jeffress Park’s Cascade Trail, which would be the location of today’s winter walk. The warm sunshine may have been the first sign to a change of season, but the number of people out to enjoy the day was clearly the second. Unlike my previous winter walks, today’s walk would not be filled with solitude. I found it quite challenging to withstand being drawn into the pace of the crowd. People scurried along, racing to see the upper cascade, and then the lower. Focused on the destination.

There is so much more to see here. Throughout the park there are markers to identify the now-sleeping flora. Mountain Laurel and Flame Azalea, may not be in bloom today, but looking closely one can see the signs of the earth waking. Ice crystals appear wet as they transform into water droplets. The earth soaks in this refreshing drink. With close observation you can see tiny green heads beginning to rise from their winter slumber.

Today I learned much about the hazards of haste. Simple pleasures will most surely be missed when we become focused solely on the destination and overlook the joy of the journey. Leaving the park today, I pause and breathe in the moment. The delightful fragrance of pine, mixed with waking earth reminds me of the value of stopping to smell the flowers – even if they are not yet in bloom.

 In the upcoming months the flora of the Blue Ridge will begin to bloom. I encourage you to venture out and enjoy the changes of the season. For trail maps, visit: For information about wildflowers of the Blue Ridge Parkway and their bloom calendar, visit: and