Richland Balsam is the tallest point on the Blue Ridge Parkway at 6,410 foot. It’s a part of the Great Balsam Mountains in North Carolina. It’s also the highest mountain in the Great Balsam range, is among the 20 highest summits in the Appalachian range, and is the ninth highest peak in the Eastern United States. That’s quite a list for a mountain that doesn’t have an overlook at the top or really on the way up or down. Still, it is a favorite trail to hike, especially when you don’t have time for an all day hike.

It is called Richland Balsam because the trail is totally shadowed by two types of Balsam trees the red spruce and the Fraser fir commonly called the “he-balsam” and “she-balsam” respectively, although the latter has been decimated in recent decades by the balsam woolly aphid infestation. Whatever the type of trees that are there, the one thing that stands out is the fragrance of Christmas trees.

The pathway starts up slowing, unless you are on the other end of Wessy’s lead, then you are moving quickly toward the summit.

There were lots of super wild smells to take in for this little brown dog and that meant me having to keep a firm hold on her.

The forest is dense and on this day we ran into a small number of hikers who all had dogs but I didn’t grab any photos of them because Wessy was on her way to the top! You climb about 700 vertical feet, but it’s not overly strenuous. Since this is one of the highest elevation hikes in the East, it’s a great spot for a refreshing hike on a hot summer day.

The summit is well marked and we “marked” the day by wearing our plaids! We were last here in September 2018 a few months after I had stopped treatment for cancer. It was at this point where I decided to hike six of the tallest peaks in Western North Carolina before 2019. I remember feeling super excited because it was one way I could say, “I’m a live and I’m going to live.” I’ve been NED for four years!

Going down with Wessy was a little tricky with lots of downs and woods and rocks. Just beautiful!

There are just a few fleeting views but when you look out and see the mountains, you are overwhelmed with the beauty.

On the way down, we caught some more views.

And there was lots of sunlight through the trees.

Here we are today in 2021, three years later. So much has changed, but the one thing that remains is our friendship.

Plus, there is Wessy now. How grateful I am for her!