Last night brought boisterous winds and heavy rain, however we awoke to a new day. At 4:30 am we awoke, piled into the vans and began our trek up slippery rocks and muddy trails to the top of Black Balsam. The mist of the morning hid the rays of the sun but didn’t dampen our spirits. On top of the trail we experienced strong winds, strong coffee and created even stronger bonds with the team. Although we did not experience the sunrise we anticipated it was still an awesome way to begin the day.
We left Black Balsam Trail and headed to Skinny Dip Falls where we spent time with our nature journals enjoying creative reflection. The beauty of the area and sounds of the falls behind us were meditative.
The day’s highlight was spent on the river learning about and looking for our most primitive salamander. With the help of a local biologist and the NC Wildlife Resources Commission, we located the elusive Hellbender. This was an exhilarating experience, as we waded and swam through cold water, using snorkels and bathyscopes to see a Hellbender in its natural habitat.
The day ended with ice cream from the local ice cream parlor before heading back to camp.