If you can’t be at Stonehenge on the night of the Winter Solstice, you might as well be in DuPont State Forest in Transylvania County, where gorgeous waterfalls formed by nature millennia ago, connected via structural improvements made by workers two years ago, are now accessible to everyone. The Winter Solstice Hike is sponsored by the year-old environmental consortium Mountain True — a merger of The Environmental and Conservation Organization in Henderson County, Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance, and the Western North Carolina Alliance — and has been happening for 13 years.
At the start of the tradition, the air was likely a little colder on the late-December hike, and a trace of snow may have been on the ground; the falls themselves were perhaps frozen in spots. But thanks to this unseasonably warm month — the bugs continues to hum, and even cherry trees have been seen blooming — the quarter-mile walk to the base of Hooker Falls will feel downright balmy. (The day’s high is forecast close to 60 degrees.)
Global warming is on many minds, but it’s not the theme of the evening, which is simply to enjoy a “lovely, quiet moment to remember the natural wonders of winter,” according to hike leader Mary Jo Padgett.
“This event appeals to all ages — little ones who are fascinated with walking in the woods at night, teenagers, college kids home for the holidays, mom and dad and grandparents,” she muses. Holiday visitors unfamiliar with the area might also be interested to learn that Hooker Falls was a prime shooting location in the making of the first installment of the Hunger Games series.
On this night, hikers can choreograph their own low-key theatrics. “We’ll create soft moonlight by shining flashlights upon the falls … a quiet moment to celebrate the return of the sun to the northern hemisphere,” says Padgett.
Participants may bring a thermos of “warm drink” for a concluding toast. Flashlights are not included (bring your own). For directions to the Hooker Falls parking lot, visit the DuPont State Forest website at www.dupontforest.com/visit/directions.
Sunday, December 20, 7-9 pm. Register by noon on December 18 at www.mountaintrue.org. 828-692-0385.