As fall officially begins this Saturday, I can’t help but reminisce on the many adventures my family and I had over the summer. From hiking to swimming to berry picking, there are a variety of things to do in the Asheville area over the summer. Recently, I came across one member’s summer adventure that really caught my attention. Longtime Asheville resident Buffy Fowler – along with her dog Daisy – completed a challenge of hiking all 11 trails at The North Carolina Arboretum during the summer.

A teacher for 25 years, Buffy is now the operations coordinator at Francine Delany New School for Children. Two years ago, Buffy visited the Arboretum, and the next day she bought a membership. Since then, she has gifted Arboretum memberships to her friends and family, including her two-year-old nephew who receives a membership each year for his birthday. I reached out to Buffy to find out more about her and Daisy’s adventures at the Arboretum.

1.) What inspired you to do a summer hiking challenge at the Arboretum?

When I first became an Arboretum member in March of 2016, I studied the trail map and began walking the easier trails. As Daisy and I got stronger and walked more, we needed more of a challenge. At thebeginning of summer, I looked at the map and decided that this summer we would hike all of the trails. Last year, Daisy had gotten sick, and it looked like I was going to lose her. The vet told me that she could live probably at least another year, but if she would lose weight, then her chances of living longer would greatly improve. So, not only did we change her diet, we started walking more seriously. I used a copy of the Arboretum trail map to highlight the trails we walked. I was surprised that the number of hiking routes was endless! We could start anywhere and mix up two or three trails and have a whole new perspective.   

2.) How often do you typically hike at the Arboretum during the school year?

Several times a month, sometimes weekly!

3.) What do you (and Daisy) enjoy most about hiking at the Arboretum? 

Besides the beauty and the endless hiking routes, I enjoy the Arboretum because of the safety features, such as the call boxes and the campus police that patrol the trails regularly. It is a close drive to get deep into the woods! Daisy is part beagle, so she likes the wonderful smells of the outdoors. There are a lot of wonderful sights to see and a range in difficulties as she gets older; it takes us a little longer to hike the harder trails but neither of us mind when she needs to stop and rest. It gives both of us a chance to take in more deep breaths. 

4.) Why is hiking/physical fitness important to you and Daisy?

I live close to the Arboretum, and when I joined as a member, I jokingly told my friends that it was my gym membership! I started walking for exercise a couple of years ago, and I started to realize that not only did my body get stronger when I walked, but when I was closer to nature it also made my brain stronger. Hiking became a way to relieve stress and exercise at the same time. There is nothing like the feeling of being in nature, breathing in and realizing that it is the deepest breath you have taken in days. Life is so busy and full of electronics. When I enter the Arboretum, I consider it my no-stress zone. 

5.) Do you have any future fitness goals?

I now have maps of Bent Creek and the Blue Ridge Parkway and have started using push pins to mark my hikes in other areas. I have researched other hikes close to the Asheville area but the Arboretum is still my weekly go-to for hikes, rangingfrom a quick 30-minute hike to a couple of hours. My goal is to use this challenge as a springboard for harder hikes.     

6.) What advice would you give to someone who is a beginner hiker and/or looking to do their own hiking challenge? 

I would suggest starting with trails that are easy for you and notice how your body feels as you hike, both mentally and physically. Then, slowly either add distance or increase the difficulty in the hike. Remember, you are there to enjoy the experience and you will start to notice a craving to hike longer and take on harder trails.

We look forward to seeing Buffy and Daisy on our trails this fall. The Arboretum offers more than 10 miles of interconnected hiking and bikingtrails on its 434-acre property. To view a list of trails, please click here.