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Weatherford Heights. Rhododendron Ridge. Grey Eagle Rock. Do you know what these names have in common? You do if you are one of the 119 hikers who have now completed the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s Swannanoa Valley Rim Explorer Hiking Series.

For the rest of us, these names are three of the high and historic locations traversed during the 11 hikes that make up the museum’s popular hiking program, now ending its seventh year.

On Saturday, Dec. 10, the museum held its annual Hike Series Finishers Banquet and Reunion to celebrate those who finished the Rim Hike series or the newer Valley History Explorer Hiking Series.

This year 24 hikers completed the challenging Rim Hike series, which traverses the 31-mile circumference of the Swannanoa Valley’s ridgelines. Along with the satisfaction of completing the year-long hiking challenge while supporting the museum’s operating fund, those who finish the series also received a commemorative Patagonia jacket, purchased at a reduced price from Black Dome Sports by Wendell Begley, the museum board’s chair and president of the Black Mountain Savings Bank. The jackets feature the series logo, which was designed by Mary Begley, Wendell’s wife, who is a graphic designer.

Mary also donated her time in 2016 to design a logo for the Valley History Explorer Hiking Series, which is now in its third year. This series explores the seven communities of the Swannanoa Valley - Riceville, Bee Tree, Swannanoa, North Fork, Black Mountain, Montreat and Ridgecrest - on eight moderate three-mile hikes throughout the year. This year seven hikers completed this series - June Advincula, Juanita Bruce, Marie Drum, Sherry Riley, Cheryl Ward, Ron Wester and Pat Young. These hikers received a Patagonia Better Sweater embroidered with the new series logo and also funded by the Black Mountain Savings Bank.

“Our hiking program is really a labor of love that would not be possible without the hard work of our volunteer hike leaders," museum director Anne Chesky Smith said. "Alongside memberships and donations, the income generated by our hiking and event programs is what keeps our doors open. I can’t properly express my gratitude for all our volunteers do.”

The banquet was held at the Lakeview Center at Lake Tomahawk and more than 60 hike leaders, past and present hike series finishers and their families attended. My Father’s Pizza catered the event, providing pizzas at a discounted rate and donating a large salad.

Nineteen hikers completed the series in 2015 for the first time - June Advincula, Marilyn Augustine, Tom Bush, Leslie Carreiro, Andrew Clancy, Marc Eden, Emma Hodson, Jim King, John Koon, Rebecca Schorr, Carla Sharpley, Robert Sharpley, John Stickney, Pris Stickney, Steve Swanberg, Mary Werner, Peter Werner, Duke Woodson and Mike Wren. And five intrepid hikers completed the series multiple times. Jane Basford and Martha Miller finished for the second time; Ron Jandebeur finished for the third time, Joe Standaert finished for the fifth time, and Charles Jolley, who has never missed a Rim Hike in the seven years the museum has been leading them, finished for a seventh time.

The museum will be offering both hike series again in 2017. For more information, the museum will host three hiking interest meetings in January. The first interest meeting will be held at the museum at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10. Then on Wednesday, Jan. 11, Black Dome Mountain Sports in Asheville will host an interest meeting at 7 p.m. REI Asheville will host the final interest meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 12. All interest meetings are free to attend.

The first Rim Hike of 2017, Rhododendron Rim, will take place on Saturday, Jan. 21. Information can also be found online at swannanoavalleymuseum.org or by calling 669-9566.

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