In January, when I first heard about this hike, I signed up immediately.  I’ve been interested in herbs for a long time, had an herbalist do a walk around my farm which was so enlightenly, and then heard Patricia Howell speak at the Georgia Organics Conference this year in Athens.

Once I heard Patricia, I was even more excited about this herb walk because she was going to be the teacher.  I talked with a couple of friends and asked them if they wanted to join me for this weekend.

Four of us traveled to the mountains on July 9, north of Asheville, NC to Hot Springs, NC.  Beautiful scenery, great company, and the fun anticipation of some wonderful teaching, foraging in the woods, and the making of salves and tinctures.

Friday afternoon we arrived at the Sunnybank Inn – an old Victorian home converted to a hostel for those traveling the Appalachian Trail.  ( http://www.mountainsunderfoot.com/atwiki/The_Sunnybank_Inn )  Fabulous architecture and incredible vegetarian fare.  The food really was amazing!

After a delicious breakfast Saturday morning, we all piled into the cars/vans and drove to Max Patch up in the Blue Ridge. ( http://hikingthecarolinas.com/max_patch.php )

Always looking for insects, this butterfly caught my eye as soon as I got out of the van.

When Patricia got out of her car, she had this fungus in hand and was extremely excited about her “treasure.”

This is called “Chicken of the Woods” and it’s edible.  The chef at the inn sauteed and served this with Sunday breakfast and…

it was very good!

We all collected our gear and headed out on the trail, following our fearless leader.

Patricia introduced us to Jewel Weed and told us about the medicinal value of this particular plant.

This is wild Bee Balm/Bergamot/Monarda.  I have lots of bee balm on the farm but none this color.  It’s part of the mint family and quite prolific.

Any guesses?  Usnea- a species of Lichen.  This is very sensitive to air pollution and at times used to determine air quality.  Our purpose for harvesting the Usnea is to make it into a tincture for respiratory problems.

After a couple of hours on the trail, we stopped in an open area for lunch.  Hummus sandwiches with sprouts and cashews, date rolls, and fresh fruit.

So many of the women in our group had been foraging before and we saw so many plants that I’m sure I would have passed by unknowingly.

This is one of them – Indian Pipe.

Such a cool plant – no chlorophyl.

We harvested Jewel Weed to use Sunday morning.

Rattlesnake Plantain – so beautiful!

I was being hailed by Patricia to come and pick St. John’s Wort from the field.  A storm was coming and I needed one bag full!

Why did I keep looking to the crest of this hill waiting for Julie Andrews to come sweeping over the summit singing “The hills are alive….”!!

The views were breath taking…

We were asked to harvest Elder flowers.  Quite the undertaking since these bushes grew in and amongst blackberry brambles!

These gals were certainly the heroes of the day, braving the thorns and who knows what else that might have been crawling underfoot 🙂

I’m telling you, the walk through the woods, the incredible plants, the amazing views –

so invigorating!

And this wretched plant – Dodder.  However, it may redeem itself if Lydia can truly dye wool from this plant.

I’ll let you know…

A good day’s shopping.  We harvested Jewel Weed, St. John’s Wort, Usnea, Yarrow, and Elder flowers.  This is my kind of shopping…and really, isn’t shopping in stores a type of foraging anyway??

We all had such a great day!  There were about 14 of us in the group and Patricia is a fabulous teacher – so knowledgeable.  (Check out her website for all kinds of information: http://www.wildhealingherbs.com/index.php )

And what did we do with all these plants?  You’ll find out in another blog 🙂