ColumnsHealth & WellnessThe Seeker

The Seeker: Ups and Downs of a Well-Meaning Hike to Daffodil Flats

Katie Grant looks ahead and smiles
Katie Grant, The Seeker. (Photo by Lauren Mazzella)

During quarantine, I became borderline obsessed with physical activity and “getting my steps in” (who can relate?). I found myself checking my steps counter regularly, using exercise as a tool to keep my anxiety in check. In turn, hiking became part and parcel of my newfound outdoor workout enthusiasm.

The Daffodil Flats trail has been on my radar for some time. The most popular time to visit this hiker’s destination near Nebo is in March when the daffodils bloom. 

Local lore claims Daffodil Flats originated from an old homestead that is no longer visible. Still, the flowers bloom year after year to continue telling their tale. We packed up our snacks, water, and the dogs and hit the road for prepared for the 1.5-hour ride to Nebo, where the trailhead can be found. Bringing the dogs was our first mistake.

I read the trail was considered challenging, which sounds like a good workout opportunity. We tried in March, but the weather was unseasonably warm. We walked far enough beyond the trailhead to know it was too hot to endeavor a five-mile hike with the pups. There was zero air movement at the top of the mountain that day, so we tucked tail, stopped for lunch in Morganton, and headed home to Charlotte. 

Fast forward several weeks to our next free weekend, we retraced our steps and traversed the grueling NC 105 (a washed-out gravel road marred by potholes and erosion). Then, for what felt like hours — but was more like 45 minutes — we hiked straight down the face of the mountain (or it felt that way, anyway). 

An infinite slope shadowed by the forest canopy, there was no way to see how much further the trail rambled. The troubled thought of hiking back up it bubbled in my mind, but I brushed it away. “We are young and able-bodied,” I rationalized internally, “Surely it won’t be an issue.” Plus, experiencing the whimsical “ghost garden” will make it worthwhile.

This assumption was my second mistake.

We carried on walking … and walking … and walking for at least another hour. No daffodils. No flats. 

My husband finally urged that we turn around. Resentfully, we backtracked without finding or experiencing the majesty of the trail’s destination: an alleged sea of yellow daffodil petals. Instead, we faced the brutal force of the uphill climb back to the trailhead. Our second hike to Daffodil Flats failed as miserably as the first attempt — maybe more so. 

However, I am content that this hike just isn’t in my cards. I would rate this out-and-back trail extremely difficult and would not recommend it to anyone without bionic knees.

But do you know what I would recommend? Planning a trip to Fonta Flora’s Whippoorwill Farm, also located in Nebo. Set beautifully against the backdrop of the Linville Gorge, their farmhouse brewery sits on nine acres of pasture surrounded by Lake James State Park, Nebo’s primary attraction. Once a dairy farm known as Whippoorwill, the craft brewery from Morganton purchased the portion of the farm that faces NC 126. Included in the property are remnants of the old stacked-stone barns and structures. 

Fonta Flora’s other operations include its tasting room in Morganton and the tasting room in Charlotte’s own Optimist Hall.

Whippoorwill Farm was a post-hike haven. Sweat sodden from walking straight uphill for 45 minutes to no avail, we pulled in and parked by the farm’s original stone ruins. We made a beeline towards the indoor bar, which was welcoming and airy with the windows rolled up.

Gazing out back of the brewery, a field of green grass rolled on and on, dotted with picnic tables, umbrellas, beer lovers, and their dogs. They have plenty of outdoor seating and allow families to bring their chairs, hammocks and blankets. We claimed an empty wooden table shaded by an umbrella, sipped our Lake James Lime and Topsy Boozy (the brand’s own seltzer), and vowed to never again try to hike that deplorable stretch of mountain (and to do a little more research on our hiking destinations).

While our Daffodil Flats trip may have fallen, well, flat, the day wasn’t a total loss thanks to some unexpected but much-appreciated alcoholic beverages. With some beer in our bellies, we made our way to the pizza food truck on site that day and ate our weight in cheesy, doughy goodness. For some reason, nothing tastes better after a back-breaking outdoor adventure. 

Satiated and exhausted, we made our way home, adding Fonta Flora’s Whippoorwill Farm to our “Gems of North Carolina” list.

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