/ Trails and Recreation,

Norman Wilder Forest’s New Trail Sign

Artist Vicki Van Vynckt pictured with the new trailhead sign. Look for it on Hwy. 176 between Saluda and Tryon.

Norman Wilder Forest used to be easy to miss from highway 176 toward Tryon. Originally covered in a blanket of kudzu, the presence of a gravel lot was the only indication that something of significance was there. Now, with the help of dedicated community members and a local landscape artist, the trailhead for this 185-acre forest is more visible!

A Forest Connection

Vicki Van Vynckt is a landscape artist based in Tryon, NC, who traded Santa Fe landscapes for the Blue Ridge Mountains. She first discovered the beauty of Norman Wilder by accident after driving along the scenic highway of 176 in Polk County with her husband and dog. She thought it might be a nature preserve and upon closer inspection, they noticed the trail.

On her next visit, she hiked the trail leading past an abandoned foundation with remains of a rock wall and chimney. She wondered how many people knew about the preserve, especially since it isn’t very noticeable from the roadway. After exploring the rock cliffs up ahead, she continued to realize just how special the land is.

For the Love of Art and Landscapes

Vickie grew up in a family of artists on an old farmhouse property that inspired her love of nature. In college, she was slated to study music, but one day wandered into the art studio. She saw all of the easels set up and had always felt art came more easily to her. Unlike music, which had to be learned and practiced, Vicki felt free. Because behind the easel, she didn’t have to perform for anyone. Since, she has solidified her love for landscape painting and has even recreated the natural beauty of New Mexico, Charlotte, and the Blue Ridge Parkway in much of her work.

Explore Norman Wilder

Vicki was inspired to help Conserving Carolina bring more attention to the beautiful and protected areas in our region we have to explore. She also hopes the sign will encourage more people to visit. Norman Wilder offers hiking trails surrounded by mature forest, pristine mountain streams, and exceptional wildflowers during spring. It is also a part of the North Carolina Birding Trail.

“Pink Fog V” Acrylic on canvas 24” x 30” by Vicki Van Vynckt

The forest continues to serve as a work in progress. Once entirely covered by kudzu, it now reveals traces of an old homestead and winery. Conserving Carolina’s Kudzu Warriors are responsible for the vast eradication of the kudzu vines, encouraging spring wildflowers to thrive in the process.

If you want to visit Norman Wilder, head toward Saluda or Tryon via Hwy. 176 and keep an eye out for our new sign. More specific directions to the forest can be found here.

If you would like to purchase the original painting, Vicki has agreed to donate 25% of the proceeds to Conserving Carolina. Vicki also offers painting classes in Columbus, NC at Isothermal Community College and out of her home. Get in touch with her here.

Special Thank You

The Southeast Task Force members for their donations to help make this sign happen:

Linda Knippa

Carole Bartol

Steve and Marie King

Vard Henry

And Vicki Van Vynckt for her design, Ford Smith for coordinating trail sign logistics, and Pam Torlina and Don Dicey for the installation.

Written by AmeriCorps Communications and Education Associate Rachel Hess.

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