For the Love of the Land

by Barbara Haralson, PLC Hiker and Guest Blogger – I am not comfortable asking friends for donations, nor have I ever enjoyed hosting those parties where guests are expected to buy merchandise, so I went into the Piedmont Land Conservancy Hike-a-Thon with some reluctance.   I loved the idea of raising money for such an important organization, and I was excited to meet other people who enjoy hiking; it was just the fund raising part that concerned me.  Finally, I made the decision that I would raffle off a high end bird feeder in my retail store, Wild Birds Unlimited, and wouldn’t have to ask people for donations.   On November 11th I made the commitment to hike 50 miles,  5 new trails, and to raise $500.  My first hike was on the 13th, and it was with a friend who has struggled with health issues and been unable to hike for years.  It was rewarding to see her accomplish a five mile hike, and we had a great lunch by the Bonnie and Clyde memorial car on Blue Heron Trail at Lake Townsend.  I posted my Hike-a-Thon progress on Facebook, and right away my personal trainer made a generous donation.

A few days later, I went to Sugar Mountain for a few days, and hiked Rough Ridge, which is on the backside of Grandfather Mountain. This was a new trail for me, and the views were beautiful.  Coming back down the trail, I realized that there is a rock that looks like a person doing push-ups.  I posted some pictures on Facebook, noting my progress, and I got another donation.

Thanksgiving took me to Asheville, and with family, I hiked from the lower parking lot to the peak of Chimney Rock, a hike I had not done in over 30 years.  My daughter and niece asked me to explain the purpose of the Hike-a-Thon.  They told me that I was not being clear in my posts that my intention was to raise money.  They made me realize that I should not feel  reluctant to ask my friends and family to donate to something that I believe in so strongly.  I changed my approach, and donations rose.

December was very busy, as I expected; retail store owners work a lot of hours leading up to the holidays.  I realized that I had not hiked in over a month.  I was itching to get outside again.   I got in touch with my friend, Diane and her dog, Rascal (two of my favorite hiking companions), and we decided to hike the Northeast Park Loop, which was new to me. 

One of my goals had been to meet new people, so I was excited to join the PLC lead walk on their protected nature preserve in Asheboro.  It was a freezing cold morning, but the walk meandered through the woods, protecting us from the wind.  At the top of the hike were large rock formations that were beautiful and unique.  Spending time with PLC staff and walking property that they helped protect made me determined to hit my $500 goal.  I had a long way to go.

Early January, I spent a beautiful day after a snow storm hiking all around Hagan Stone Park, a jewel that I had never taken time to explore.  I enjoyed imagining the many historic buildings in use.  I watched a huge flock of Robins move back and forth between trees, stripping the berries.  Robins are considered harbingers of Spring, but that day was cold enough for an extra layer.  The photo of me in my face mask that I posted brought in quite a few donations.  I guess they admired my dedication.

In mid January, I drove to middle Tennessee, an area where I had lived for a few years.  While there, I got to hike my old stomping grounds around Stones River. An ice and snow storm had come through, so again it was a very cold hike.  I had more admirers of my dedication.

I got a respiratory illness soon after and had to miss the PLC lead hike at Knight Brown Nature Preserve, a PLC protected property.  Ten days later, when I felt ready to hike again, I headed there.  It was the slowest I have ever hiked, and I had a pocketful of cough drops, but I made it around all three trails, and fell in love with the land, the stream and the beautiful benches that are so thoughtfully placed.  I had hiked 5 new trails, but still had 17 miles to hike by the end of January, and I had not hit my money goal.

Along with friends, I headed to Asheboro and hiked 8 miles at Birkhead Mountain.  I hiked that day without a jacket, but I still needed the pocketful of cough drops.  I was a little worried about the remaining 9 miles I needed.

The wrap up hike at the Haw River Iron Ore Belt was the following day.  I enjoyed talking with PLC staff and other hikers, one who had surpassed his fund raising goal tremendously.  It was inspiring.

It was January 31st, and I needed 5.3 miles to hit my 50 mile goal.  I met Diane and Rascal at Reedy Fork Trail where we walked along the water and watched a Great Blue Heron.  When we got back to the trailhead, we had hiked 6.8 miles.  I had exceeded my goal by 1.5 miles, and I only needed $89 to reach my $500 goal.   I put out a plea, and got the support of family and friends, bringing my donation total to $662.  In addition,  I was ecstatic to reach all of my goals, meet some new friends along the way, and enjoy some beautiful PLC protected property.

Note:  The feeder raffle ends 02/28/18.  Tickets are $2.00 each for a chance to win a squirrel proof feeder valued at $110.00.

Raffle tickets can be purchased at Wild Birds Unlimited in Greensboro. All proceeds go to Piedmont Land Conservancy.


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