In the past 4 years of exploring Asheville and the surrounding areas, we’ve discovered so many beautiful locations! During that time there have been a few that traveling to almost feels like going home because we’ve been so many times. Accessing many of these scenic spots requires a little drive on the blue ridge parkway and during the winter, the parkway is closed. Out of necessity we researched and discovered other beautiful mountain locations but some of them lacked that certain special something that many of the couples we work with desire. For those that yearned for adventure, maybe even a sense of danger, and being amongst the skies surrounded by a sea of Blue Ridge Mountains, we struggled to find another special location that captured that essence. Then we discovered Hawksbill Mountain Trail. The more we researched it, the more we fell in love with this location and we knew that it was going to be that special place that only a few would likely be willing to make the journey for, but for the few that would be willing, we knew it would be so worth it. In truth, after visiting Hawksbill for the first time and getting rained out, we knew we were going to be in for a challenge as the trail wasn’t well marked and many of the things we had read online weren’t easily apparent if you’d never been. We also got a little lost the first time. So after a failed first attempt, we drove back out the next day and decided we were going to find this place and the route, no matter how long it took. Photos online had captured our imagination and we weren’t going to be easily deterred. Everything we found said the hike was moderate and about 20 minutes, so we felt a little confused after the first and second visit when we had made it that far in and didn’t seem to be anywhere near the top. After some perseverance, we soon discovered the path we had initially missed and started the rest of the ascent to the top. It got steeper and steeper and never seemed to end but eventually we did make it to the top, what a relief. As mother nature sometimes does, she had her own agenda that day and even though we had made it to the top, we found ourselves in the fog with limited view and a layer of dew covered just about everything. As we navigated our way across the steep rocks, we slipped and slid our way across their slick surfaces until we finally found the spot we had been looking for and essentially visualizing for weeks by that time. After two trips up Hawksbill, we knew we had discovered a spot that would be one of our new favorites, but we also knew that it was going to take a special couple to want to shoot here. We added the location to our running list of options for engagements and elopements, but we often found ourselves deterring people from wanting to go there if they said they were interested. It wasn't a place you could just get an air bnb outside of Asheville, drive 20 minutes, and walk right into a mountain view. It was a full on 100% commitment that required you plan your entire day around it. We’re talking for most people 3+ hours of driving round trip (some offroad), 60-90 minutes of hiking round trip (with a little more than half of that being up hill), and on top of that, being willing to chance the weather once you arrive as the Linville Gorge Wilderness area can have a climate and weather all to it’s own. Did we mention coordinating hair and make up around this as well as carrying up any extras you may need in terms of shoes, outfits, etc? After a brief intro most people usually said “Yeah, I don’t think that place is for us.” Most people said that, over the past year, but not everybody.
Enter Kim and Austin (and Baxter!). They contacted us a couple months before their session they had been planning and right from the get go, they asked us if we would be willing to go to Hawksbill for their engagement photos? Usually it was the other way around so without missing a beat we said yes! As the next two months flew by, we coordinated and confirmed and when the day finally arrived in mid-October, I don’t think any of us could have been more pumped! For once, the weather looked perfect (1 out of 3 isn’t bad in the mountains right?)! After aquatinting ourselves with their fur baby Baxter, we started our way up the mountain terrain! Kim and Austin had been here before and they knew it would be the perfect spot for their engagement. The first opening we decided to stop at pleasantly surprised us with more fall color than we had previously seen just about anywhere this year. Of course we had to make utilize some of the reds and oranges in the background! At this point we were a little less than half way so we continued in order to make sure we made it to the top in time for the good light. Kim and Austin pushed forward extra packs and outfits loading them both down and Baxter made us all seem out of shape as he flew up and down the steep trails. When we finally made it to the top, we all took a second to catch our breaths and cool down. As we gazed in amazement at the wide open view and jagged rocks that had previously been covered to us by the fog, Kim and Austin changed. We had our spot picked out and Kim and Austin’s adventurous souls fit beautifully right on the edge. Mother nature was showing off on this evening with a vibrant sky and just the right amount of wind to add that whimsical touch to their images.
As the sun set and we worked our way back down the mountain in the dark, we couldn’t help smile from cheek to cheek. It wasn’t just the great company and conversation, but also the sense of having finally done it! The challenge of shooting at a more remote location like Hawksbill doesn’t just lie in the hike itself, but in the timing, coordination, and personalities of those you’re making the trip with as well. For Kim and Austin’s engagement, it was the culmination of all these things coming together perfectly. Looking back we are grateful for their bright spirits, their sense of adventure, and to have been a part of this chapter of their story.
Congrats to Kim and Austin, and thank you all as always for following along!
Joe and Jenny