An opportunity, responsibility to give to the community

Published 12:30 am Saturday, October 24, 2015

By Mark Schmerling


Individuals in the Tryon area who were instrumental in forming Tryon Fine Arts Center (TFAC), Foothills Equestrian Nature Center (FENCE), Pacolet Area Conservancy (PAC), and other community-serving organizations, have long been an inspiration to Saluda’s Chuck Hearon, who wishes to emulate, and who has emulated, that spirit of giving to community.

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Hearon’s various skills and devotions include maintaining hiking trails for Saluda Community Land Trust, and drawing participants into an appreciation and enjoyment of raw nature.

“It probably started with FENCE,” he recalled, where he had volunteered.

Hearon is also an accomplished photographer and a self-described nature enthusiast. He through-hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, accomplishing this in 1999.

He’s not afraid of hard work. Hearon described riding a heavy, three-speed bicycle (he later owned and rode a more versatile 10-speed model) from Inman into Saluda, including nearly all the way up Howard Gap Road (not fully paved at the time), without getting off. He fondly remembers a bicycle route he named the “quadruple bypass,” a 26-mile ride from Campobello, which included four major climbs.

One individual particularly inspirational to Hearon is Dave Kirby, who, related Hearon, was passionate about helping others, and who would try each day to do something in that vein.

“I think we have an opportunity and a responsibility to give to the community we’re part of,” Hearon stated.

More than simply maintaining trails (trail work is rewarding, but also physically demanding), Hearon leads SCLT hikes, on which he shares with others his joy in being in the woods, away from distracting artifacts. SCLT hikes, called “Walks in the Woods,” and are paced to be kid- and dog-friendly, and are offered the first and third Sundays, April through October.

Rather than guiding people on arduous hikes, Hearon’s “Walks in the Woods” are geared, he said, for “a social enjoyment of nature. It increases the civility of the people on the walk.”

“Some of my aim, Heron added, “is to get people unplugged from electrical and digital, and plugged into nature.”

Hearon became involved with SCLT through the work of Betsy Burdett and Hearon’s partner Carolyn Ashburn.

“I had worked on properties and trails for other organizations in the area prior to that time (2007), and my AT hike exposed me to the larger efforts of volunteers in that organization. I saw trail systems as having great potential for linking people and communities. I would love to be able to hike, with legal permission, across the mountain ridges between Mill Spring and Saluda in my lifetime. In the old days, folks used to go for a hike after church, and walk from Saluda over to Rixhaven and back just for fun and fresh air!”

Trails Hearon works on are on public land— at the Saluda Nature Park, Little Park (adjacent to Saluda Elementary School), the Missing Forty (near Pearsons Falls Road), Round Mountain (out Howard Gap Road from Saluda toward Tryon, but before the steep descent on Howard Gap Road) and Judd’s peak, off Pace Mountain Road, just outside Saluda. Another, the Lazy Girl Loop, is located off Laurel Drive, a short distance from Howard Gap Road, on the edge of Saluda.

His hikes fit with his philosophy of community and inclusion. They are local places where local people can go, without having to drive far.

Hearon describes himself as a nature enthusiast.
“I don’t have a degree. My intent is to get people out into nature, open their eyes up, and for them to see what’s right in front of them,” he said.

His outdoor passion began while growing up in the Inman area on Lawson’s Fork Creek, and spending most of my time outside.

In 1912, Hearon’s grandfather, Charles O. Hearon, purchased property along Scout Camp Road, off Holbert Cove Road, outside Saluda. Perhaps his grandfather’s gift of some of that land to the scout camp helped foster Hearon’s interest in giving to the community.

Hearon advises hikers to re-visit their favorite trail or trails in all seasons, in all types of weather, to realize the full flavor of the outdoors. “If you have a favorite stroll, give it a try.”

For more information on SCLT’s hikes call 828-749-1560. For general inquiries, contact