GE DIGITAL CAMERAWe’re blessed to leave just a mile from Pisgah National Forest where Thistle, my husband, and I hike almost every day. Until recently, the area was gated with lots of no parking signs that made it a bit unwelcoming. But, we knew the folks who lived at the edge of the forest so we pretty much had a thousand-acre preserve at our disposal.

No more. The Forest Service opened up the road and installed a parking lot. Now there are often a dozen cars with all the people and dogs they carry. While you can still walk a long way in such a large area without running into anyone, we do see more folks than we used to. And something has come to my attention.

There’s a rough division between locals and hikers.

Yesterday we walked up on a fellow hunting and I immediately pegged him as a local. We chatted and turns out he grew up in the area and knew those woods well. He talked about hunting the woods, running the woods, and walking the woods, but not once did he say he hiked the woods.

Hardly any of the locals would even think to say they were going for a hike. That’s the outsiders with their pricey shoes and fancy equipment. They hike.

And they do it with things like hiking poles. These are long, metal or fiberglass poles designed to facilitate walking. Now, the locals might carry a walking stick. Of course, the stick is only partly for walking. It’s also for poking at dirt, loosing sticks and leaves in creeks, and shooing dogs (or kids) on up the trail. And it’s something they found over in the brush. Or maybe cut and whittled if they’re talented like that.

Hikers also carry water bottles. Sometimes fancy water bottles with tubes and filters. Locals figure they can get a drink when they get back home. Or, they know of a spring on up the mountain that’s safe for drinking. They might have some deer jerky in a coat pocket, but not much else.

Last week, I even saw a fellow who set out from the parking lot with not one but two GPS devices. He wanted to make sure he didn’t get lost. Locals just follow the creek back down the mountain if they lose the trail.

Me, I fall somewhere in between. I’ve learned to invest in good, waterproof shoes. When we know we’re going to be gone two hours or more, we carry water bottles. And although I’ll stray from the trail, I won’t go too far.

Being that I grew up quite a ways north of here I’m not quite a local, but I am something of a native. And I like that. It’s like speaking two languages and seeing that there’s plenty to appreciate, no matter what kind of stick you carry.