Thirty Miles… Thirty Smiles

Justin Bennett July 15, 2023

This week, a group of main session campers embarked on a three-day backpacking trip to the Art Loeb Trail. This trail isn’t for the faint of heart. It is considered one of the more difficult trails in the state, clocking in at 30.1 miles. The group was mostly composed of our oldest campers from Cabin 44, along with a few other bold adventurers eager to take on a challenging journey.

We dropped the group off at the entrance to Pisgah National Forest. From there, they began hiking along the Davidson River, quickly ascending out of the low country. The Art Loeb Trail has no “warm-up” section, but rather immediately demands serious elevation gain. After a 12-mile journey and 1300+ feet of elevation gain, the group stopped for the night and set up camp. They kicked off their shoes and enjoyed a well-deserved dinner around the campfire. 

One of the trip’s counselors, Finn, mentioned that the campers were physically exhausted but incredibly proud of their progress on the first day.

On day two, with sore legs and high spirits, the group set off on the most challenging section of the hike. From their campsite, the trail began with an arduous ascent to the breathtaking Pilot Mountain and continued through the hardwood forests of the high country, eventually reaching the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there, the crew followed the trail as it wandered through spruce-fir and rhododendron forests, eventually leading to grass bald mountaintops. It was at this point that the breathtaking scenery truly set in. 

From the summits of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, the campers were rewarded with a 360-degree view of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, a sight that was even more awe-inspiring after a challenging day of hiking. 

Somewhere along these mountain tops, the group set up camp for the night and reflected on the 2600+ feet of elevation gain they had achieved that day.

Day three was a breeze compared to the previous two days of hiking. The now-seasoned group made their way along the remaining miles of the Art Loeb Trail. They cherished the final moments and were relieved to find that the majority of the day was downhill. 

As they reached the end of the hike, they embraced the satisfaction of knowing they had overcome an intense challenge. Each camper reveled in their personal triumph as they set down their bags for the final time and let out an exhausted but rewarding sigh of relief.

Here are a few final thoughts from some counselors and campers on the trip:

Finn – “I enjoyed giving the kids the opportunity to do something challenging in a society that frequently offers the “easy way out.” I hope they see why we encourage them to do things like this and look back in the years to come on their achievements, giving them the reassurance that they can do hard things.” 

Pablo – “Take your pain and make it into power!”

Reese – “I don’t know how it was even possible; it felt like we were walking forever!”

Zane – “Thirty miles, more like thirty smiles!”

Peter – “Type two fun is the best kind of fun because it challenges you to overcome discomfort. I am really proud of myself that I accomplished thirty miles in three days.”

Iacopo – “It was beautiful when we made it to the top of the mountain. The view was perfect. The most satisfying thing I’ve ever seen. I’m grateful to have gone on the trip, it was all worth it. It wouldn’t have been the same without such supportive friends.”


Justin Bennett

Program Director

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