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The Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center will hold its next meeting Thursday, March 2 about its annual Valley History Explorer Hiking Series. The free informational meeting at the Swannanoa Valley Museum, 223 W. State St., Black Mountain will be at 6:30 p.m.

The moderate hikes in the series take participants outside the nonprofit museum’s walls and offer hikers unique opportunities to improve their knowledge of the landscape and the communities that form eastern Buncombe County.

The seven hikes in the Valley History Explorer Hiking Series take participants to some of the small communities that make up the Swannanoa Valley and delve into the unique history of the each of them, including Riceville, Bee Tree, Swannanoa, North Fork, Black Mountain, Montreat and Ridgecrest. These hikes are both informative for natives seeking a connection with their heritage and newcomers hoping to gain insights into the region’s past.

Each hike is about three miles long over moderate terrain and is led by an experienced guide.

“The leaders are very well-informed about the area,” Juanita Bruce said. “I’m not from here, so the history of the area is very important to me. Stories about the first settlements, the water systems and how the settlers maintained their lives on the farms in these mountains, stories about the assemblies and the people are all wonderful parts of these hikes.” Participants who complete all hikes in the Valley History Explorer Series receive an embroidered Patagonia fleece at the end of the series.

“It’s a good way for newcomers to the area to get to meet people who live here and to really see where they are living now,” hike leader Bonnie Nache said. Many parts of the hikes are on private property and are not accessible to the general public.

Joe Standaert, the museum’s hiking committee chairman, notes that some hikers travel to the area to participate.

“The thing we have found from the previous years of the hikes was that being out there, being in the woods, builds a sense of comradery among the hikers,” he said. “They really bond together in a way we never expected, especially among those who have hiked several times. The other volunteers and I have watched them building a community that goes far beyond the museum.”

The Valley History Explorer Hikes are held every second Saturday from March through October. There is a participation fee for these hikes, which help sustain the nonprofit Swannanoa Valley Museum as Buncombe County’s primary museum of general, local history.

For the fourth year in a row, the museum will offer two donation-funded scholarships towards the cost of a hiking series to ensure that events are accessible to all who wish to participate. The scholarship is generously funded by donations from past finishers and community members interested in keeping history alive. To apply for a scholarship, applicants are invited to mail or email the museum a 500-word essay explaining why they want to participate in the program, which series they would like to hike, and how the scholarship would help them participate, along with their contact information.

The museum’s hiking programs instill a pride of place for hikers. The hikes engender a reverence of history and demonstrate the presence of the past in our daily lives. Some hikes follow routes taken by Daniel Boone and the early Cherokees.

The year’s first Valley History Explorer Hike to Buckeye Cove will take place on Saturday, March 11. This will be the first time the museum has hiked in Buckeye Cove. With special permission from the Moser family, hikers will explore this mountain property in this unique community. The family is distinguished in the fields of Appalachian studies and folklore for its scholarship and collection of mountain traditions, particularly music, storytelling and plant lore. Family members are also long-time educators in these fields.

Space on the hikes are limited, and hikers are encouraged to register early. Detailed information about each series and descriptions of the individual hikes are available at swannanoavalleymuseum.org. To learn more, contact the museum at 669-9566 or email info@swannanoavalleymuseum.org.

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