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A Guide Looks Back at His Favorite Hiking Tour Experiences

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by Randy Sarton, Ecotour Guide for Asheville Hiking Tours

During much of year 2020, Asheville Hiking Tours and its guides were forced to take a “sabbatical” due to the shutdown caused by the Covid virus.  The breather that stemmed from this extraordinary series of events provided me with the opportunity to review the hundreds of tours I have led for AHT.  Just a few of my favorite moments are listed below:

black bears in tree

Black bears as seen in the forests and along the Blue Ridge Parkway around Asheville, NC

  • Watching a black bear cub waddle across the Blue Ridge Parkway and disappear into a wall of green.
  • Seeing the expressions of our customers during a forest hike as they first approach a hidden waterfall, with wonder and joy in their eyes.
  • Having a 7-year old boy grab my hand at the end of a tour and say that when he grows up, he wants to be an “adventure pioneer ranger just like you.”
  • Leading a most determined family to an off-the-beaten-path swimming hole on the Davidson River and hearing them giggle and cavort in the water . . . during a summer rain shower.
  • Setting up a picnic lunch after a climb to the top of John Rock in the Pisgah National Forest and sharing a deeply-moving moment looking out at an exceptional long view, many miles long, of pure mountain majesty.
Scarlet Tannager bird of Appalachian Mountains, Blue Ridge

A flashy Scarlet Tannager as seen on tours

  • Teaching guests how to identify a new bird species – the looping flight of the woodpecker, the incessant chirping of a vireo or the brilliant crimson flash of a scarlet tanager.
  • Sharing information about numerous mountain plants used for pharmacological purposes, like how the early settlers utilized the bark of the dogwood tree as a quinine substitute in the treatment of malaria.  Or that black cohosh is being studied for its potential use with menopause, in particular, hot flashes.
  • Recounting the legends of this area’s famous mountain men and explorers like Elisha Mitchell and Big Tom Wilson.
  • Standing in the woods, determining the forest type and picking up clues to interpret the history of that particular tract.  Yes, the trees will tell you their story.
  • Introducing the geologic history of the Appalachian Mountains, the oldest mountain range on earth, to our guests.
Blue Ridge Parkway Views

Blue Ridge Parkway Views

It is not surprising that many of our customers come specifically to Asheville to discover our verdant forests, glorious mountains and beautiful waterfalls.  And, as mentioned above, the long views from the mountain tops and scenic points provide our guests with incredibly memorable experiences.  But our hikes can also open up another world: one that you can view in a drop of dew, or in a 2 inch high wildflower, struggling to survive and continue its species or a tiny tree frog blending in on a leaf.  Sometimes a look at the “little things” can provide as much meaning as the long views.

Our outings at Asheville Hiking Tours provide a means to SLOW DOWN – to escape the hustle and bustle of your day to day existence and replace it temporarily with a slow, almost timeless world of Mother Nature’s majesty.

I invite you to join us on a mountain waterfall hike to experience moments like the ones set forth above so that you too can relax, exercise, breath the fresh forest air and immerse yourself in the beauty and wonders of nature.


Natural Notes is Asheville Hiking Tours’ blog about nature, history and travel in the Appalachians. Asheville Hiking Tours offers day hikes, waterfall tours, and firefly tours, guided by naturalists, in the mountains around Asheville, NC. For more info visit: