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Hiking North Carolina's Linville Gorge Wilderness area

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

When NPR correspondent Brian Mann goes on a reporting trip, he's always on the lookout for wild places just to escape for a few hours. He found one in the western corner of North Carolina. Here's his audio postcard from a summer day in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: It's late afternoon, and I'm climbing into the Linville Gorge Wilderness. As I'm starting, it's just decorated with mountain laurel - delicate, pink flowers. It's like the entire trail was decorated for a wedding.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

MANN: The sun is hot, the trail dusty and steep in places. Birds cartwheel around me, close enough to touch.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDSONG)

MANN: I love escaping like this on a workday. Sometimes it's a city park, sometimes a public garden. One minute, you're at your desk, on the job, the next minute, you're in a place like this.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDSONG)

MANN: I've come around where there's just no human footprint at all. It just - it's wild.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEES BUZZING)

MANN: When I stop to catch my breath, I realize there are bees everywhere foraging in the mountain laurel.

(SOUNDBITE OF BEES BUZZING)

MANN: I hike on, sometimes using my hands as I scramble over rock. The dust smells like summer.

The trail has led me up to balconies of rock that look over the gorge below, and there are vast cliff faces - they look kind of like old castle walls, really.

The Linville Gorge is vast - nearly 12,000 rugged acres on U.S. Forest Service land, halfway between Charlotte and Knoxville. Places like this can seem intimidating, but this trail is relatively quick and fairly easy - just a couple of steep parts. It's the kind of thing you could do on your lunch hour.

(SOUNDBITE OF FOOTSTEPS)

MANN: I do think this kind of dive into wildness is really good - to just move and to smell and feel, you know, spider webs touching my face and the sounds of the birds.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDSONG)

MANN: It's getting on towards evening now, and the light is golden, and it's so still up here.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIRDSONG)

MANN: Brian Mann, NPR News, in the Linville Gorge Wilderness in North Carolina.

(SOUNDBITE OF DIIV'S "(DRUUN)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Brian Mann
Brian Mann is NPR's first national addiction correspondent. He also covers breaking news in the U.S. and around the world.