• Laurel Contributor

Happy Trails

by Ran Shaffner

The public is offered the rare opportunity to hike the historic Whiteside Mountain to Highlands Trail.

On July 5, you have an opportunity to hike the historic Kelsey Trail from Whiteside Mountain to the Highlands Recreation Park, thanks to the Highlands Plateau Greenway.

When Highlands was founded in 1875, there was no road to Whiteside Mountain. So in 1881 Samuel Kelsey began work on a road that would end a quarter-mile from the top of Whiteside. One resident who questioned the public benefit of such a road argued it was, “of no earthly use to the town, that it goes nowhere and ends in nothing.”

But Kelsey persisted, recruiting subscriptions and days of labor from citizens in and outside of Highlands, and after 500 work days, the first wagon made its journey to Whiteside on July 10, 1883.

For the next 70 years the Kelsey Trail became one of the most popular excursions for the people of Highlands. Although the road was closed to the public in the 1950s, the Highlands Plateau Greenway will sponsor a nostalgic walk on the original trail from Whiteside Mountain to the Highlands Rec Park.

Along the way, small groups will be led to Leila’s Rock, Garnet Rock, Highlands Falls, and Soldier’s Cave where you may meet some very interesting characters from the past. Shuttles will leave from the Highlands Rec Park on Friday, July 5, at 9:00 to 9:45 A.M. The five-mile walk, mostly downhill, takes less than four hours and will end with a picnic at the Rec Park.

It’s suggested you bring good hiking shoes or boots, rain gear, water, a day pack, and your camera. Residents and visitors can register for the walk at highlandsgreenway@nctv.com or leave a message at (828) 526-2385. The $75 cost of the guided walk includes a picnic lunch and free membership in the Highlands Plateau Greenway.

Please sign up early as we are limiting the number of hikers this year to be respectful of our land owners.

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