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23036
North Carolina

A Wildflower Quest in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

Explore world-famous wildflower trails in the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, stopping to identify blossoms with a naturalist along the way.
Rating (5)
Program No. 23036RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
849
North Carolina

A Wildflower Quest in the Mountains of Western North Carolina

Explore world-famous wildflower trails in the Great Smoky Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina, stopping to identify blossoms with a naturalist along the way.
Length
6 days
Starts at
849
Program No. 23036 RJ
climate
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5B 5L 5D
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At a Glance

The Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway are abloom in spring and fall with countless species of wildflowers, just blowing in the breeze and awaiting your discovery. With an expert naturalist, learn to identify the diverse flora along creekside trails, through hardwood forests, on Appalachian peaks and in open, grassy fields. Linger in sunny meadows as you watch for butterflies and learn about bird migration, and breathe it all in as you enjoy 360-degree mountain views.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Walk along well-known wildflower trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park such as Kephart Prong and Baxter Creek.
  • During trailside lunches, learn about flower identification and the history and environments of the areas you’ll explore from your expert naturalist.
  • In the evening, enjoy live local music performances and presentations on topics such as explorers Bartram and Michaux and the local Cherokee peoples.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room.
Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Map
by National Geographic Maps
A durable, detailed map of the North Carolina national park, shown at a scale of 1:70,000.
A Roadside Guide to the Geology of the Great Smoky Mountains
by Harry L. Moore
For those interested in rocks, this is a nice companion for a trip to the Great Smokies. It offers a wealth of geological information, all based on what a visitor can see with his or her own eyes.
The Great Smoky Mountains, A Visual Journey
by Deedee Niederhouse-Mandrell, Lee Mandrell
The Mandrell husband-and-wife photography team feature remarkable photographs of Great Smoky Mountains National Park in this new coffee table book. Their images span all four seasons and show the wonderful park's awe-inspiring sight.
Travels, and Other Writings
by William Bartram
Hailed as the "finest-looking, longest-lasting editions ever made" this edition of the early American naturalist's work includes his four-year-long journey through the southern colonies in the late 1700s.
Scientific Papers of Asa Gray
by Asa Gray
A posthumous two-volume collection of lesser-known reviews, essays and biographical sketches by the influential American botanist. First published in 1889.
Saints At The River
by Ron Rash
Few are better at writing Southern life than Ron Rash. In his second novel, a 12-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River. As her hometown is thrown into the national spotlight, the girl's parents demand that her body be recovered. Environmentalists are convinced the operation would cause permanent damage to the river. Winner of the Weatherford Award for Best Novel.
Our Southern Highlanders
by Horace Kephart
A classic book of history and folklore of the mountaineers of the southern Appalachians. Kephart is considered the premier folklorist and historian of the area. First published in the 1910s.
Newcomb's Wildflower Guide
by Lawrence Newcomb
A classic identification guide, which uses a simple dichotomous key for identification. With 1,075 mostly black-and-white drawings, it covers the Northeast and Great Lakes region, south to Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and most of Tennessee.
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5 B 5 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-In, Registration, Welcome Dinner, Orientation
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Hotel check-in is from 4:00-5:00 p.m. at the Bethea Welcome Center, which is on your left as you enter the conference center at the main entrance on N. Lakeshore Drive. If arriving after 5:00 p.m., you will need to check in at the Lambuth Inn front desk.

Afternoon: After you have your room assignment, join us at the Road Scholar table in the Lambuth Inn hotel lobby to register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. If you arrive late, please ask for your packet when you check in. Remember to bring your name tag (sent previously).

Dinner: In the Lambuth Inn dining room, the dinner buffet offers choices of two meat entrees, two vegetables, a starch option, salad bar and varied desserts, including sugar-free and gluten-free options, plus beverage choices of coffee, iced and hot tea, water, and lemonade. Soft drinks are available for purchase in the lobby. Enjoy panoramic views of the mountains of western North Carolina.

Evening: Orientation. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program. Our programming at Retreat locations includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, a farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, and evening entertainment. Field trips will be led and interpreted by expert naturalists who will share their knowledge along the trail. Trail selections may be revised on the day of the hike based on local conditions. Travel for program-related activities will be via van. Periods in the daily schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding. Continue getting to know your fellow Road Scholars, settle in, and get a good night’s rest for the day ahead.

DAY
2
Baxter Creek Trail, Identifying Keys, Performance
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. Getting on/off transportation; driving 32 miles, approximately 45 minutes to Baxter Creek. Walking up to four miles, approximately 3-4 hours depending on the speed of the group and the number of stops along the way; rocky, well-traveled trails. Wear comfortable hiking shoes, bring daypacks with water, sunscreen, bug spray; depending on weather, you may want a sweater and/or rain jacket.

Breakfast: In the Lambuth Inn dining room, we will have a plentiful buffet featuring a variety of items including scrambled eggs, a meat and a starch option, and seasonal fresh fruit, plus coffee, tea, water. Soft drinks may be purchased in the lobby.

Morning: We’ll hop aboard our transportation and head out for a full-day field trip to Baxter Creek in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (GSMNP). This is the most visited National Park in the entire system, yet, given the fact that it covers 500,000 acres, seldom seems crowded. It is also the most biodiverse, supporting more than 19,000 documented species of plants and animals — including more than 1,500 flowering plant species — thanks to the combination of mountains that formed 200-300 million years ago, the climate, and weather. GSMNP contains more than 800 miles of trails through scenic forests. With our local expert naturalists, we will walk along the trail together, identifying plants and hearing about their usage and folklore. The trail wanders beside a mountain stream, then veers off to a small open meadow; these two environments offer the potential for a wide variety of spring ephemerals.

Lunch: In the park, we’ll have boxed lunches including a sandwich, fruit, chips, water, and a sweet. Our local naturalist instructor will give a more detailed instruction on how to use the non-technical key to identify plants. We will be using the Newcomb Guide.

Afternoon: Our local naturalist will give us an introduction to the unique features of this environment and its history. Both the Baxter Creek and Big Creek trails follow along creeks; one is more strenuous than the other. You may choose to proceed leisurely along either trail and look for blooms or walk a bit faster and cover both trails. This is a good area for trillium. Our naturalists will be walking the trails as well to assist you in identification. We’ll return to the hotel after our field trip.

Dinner: Dining room buffet.

Evening: At the hotel, we'll hear about the history of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the original Scots-Irish immigrants who settled there.

DAY
3
Kephart Prong Trail, Oconaluftee Visitor Center
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. Getting on/off transportation; driving about 32 miles, approximately 1 hour to the Kephart Prong trail. Walking up to 4 miles, approximately 3-4 hours depending on the speed of the group and the number of stops; rocky, streamside trail which may be slippery with wet leaves; 3-4 stream crossings on narrow log footbridges with railings. Walking up to about 0.5 miles in the afternoon at the visitor center and museum, and up to 2 miles along the river trail.

Breakfast: Dining room buffet.

Morning: Our first stop today is the Kephart Prong trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park where we will stop to identify plants and blossoms with our naturalist. We will have an opportunity to use our non-technical keys along the way. This trail provides an interesting mix of native and introduced species. During the Great Depression, there was a CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) camp here, one of the first successful programs of the New Deal. Corpsmen worked on a variety of projects in the park including building trails and roads.

Lunch: We’ll have boxed lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: We will walk back down to our transportation and load in for a 15-minute ride to the Oconaluftee Visitor Center. We will explore the Mountain Farm Museum on the grounds, a collection of historic structures preserved during the creation of the GSMNP. Following the path through the Museum brings us to the river trail. Along the river trail, we may spot more wildflowers. We’ll return to the hotel after our field trip.

Dinner: Dining room buffet.

Evening: Back at the Inn, a naturalist will give us a presentation on the 18th-century French botanist, explorer, and plant collector André Michaux and William Bartram, the leading American botanist of the time. Michaux traveled to the U.S. in 1785 and met Bartram, who became a colleague and friend.

DAY
4
Vertical Bog, Bear Pen Gap, Wet Camp Gap
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. Getting on/off transportation; driving about 28 miles, approximately 45 minutes on Blue Ridge Parkway. Walking up to 4 miles, approximately 3-4 hours depending on the speed of the group and the number of stops along the way; forested trails with some hills.

Breakfast: Dining room buffet.

Morning: We will travel the Blue Ridge Parkway to reach the vertical bog across from Wolf Mountain Overlook. This rock outcrop hosts a wide variety of wildflowers through the seasons. This is a possible short stop as some rare species bloom here in different times of the year. We’ll then ride on to Bear Pen Gap.

Lunch: In the parking area at Bear Pen Gap, we’ll have boxed lunches.

Afternoon: Next, we will follow a trail from Bear Pen Gap to Wet Camp Gap that wanders through a hardwood forest, crosses over small creeks, and opens to a grassy field. There are plenty of wildflowers to be seen along the way. We may continue from the meadow either up a steep trail to a high point, curve along the mountainside on the Mountains to the Sea Trail, or linger in the sunny meadow. Our naturalist will walk the trails and give a talk in the meadow on this specific environment, butterfly activity, and bird migration.

Dinner: Dining room buffet.

Evening: At leisure. Feel free to enjoy the grounds or take an evening stroll around the lake.

DAY
5
Purchase Knob, Free Time
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L,D
Lambuth Inn

Activity note: Light morning exercise before breakfast. Getting on/off transportation; driving about 28 miles, approximately 1 hour to Purchase Knob. Walking 2-3 miles, approximately 2 hours, depending on the speed of the group and the number of stops along the way; forested trails; elevation above 5,000 feet.

Breakfast: Dining room buffet.

Morning: Purchase Knob, a recent addition to the GSMNP, has large forested tracts as well as an open mountain top meadow. We will walk in search of wildflowers and butterflies. The higher elevation offers the opportunity to view plants in an earlier stage of development than the lower elevations we’ve been exploring.

Lunch: We will have boxed lunches at the Appalachian Highlands Science Center at Purchase Knob where there are restrooms available and then return to the hotel.

Afternoon: Free time. This block of time has been set aside for your personal independent exploration to see and do what interests you most. Please refer to the list of Free Time Opportunities. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. You might like to set out on your own and explore the surrounding small towns and trails of the Lake Junaluska and Waynesville areas of Haywood County.

Dinner: We will enjoy a fresh farm-to-table dinner at a local farm.

Evening: At the farm, we’ll enjoy a live concert of Appalachian music by a local musician. The musical heritage of the Appalachian region is rich and varied. Immigrants from the British Isles predominated during the 17th century, passing down their favorite ballads and dance tunes. Other influences included African American and white country gospel music. The kinds of music enjoyed in different areas also varied with the instruments available, from fiddles and banjos to dulcimers and guitars.

DAY
6
Native Plants, Q&A, Program Concludes
Lake Junaluska, North Carolina
B,L

Activity note: Hotel check-out 11:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Dining room buffet.

Morning: For our final session together, a naturalist will showcase plant photos featuring many of the species we’ve identified though the week, followed by questions and answers.

Lunch: Enjoy a boxed lunch to go as you depart our beautiful facility. This concludes our program. If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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