The Cliffs enjoys miles of trails inside the gates and beyond.
Leaves crunch below trail shoes, as sweat and smiles break out across glowing faces. Fall’s amber hue canvases the horizon from east to west.
“It’s just amazing,” declares hiking enthusiast Cathy O’Brien, a member at The Cliffs at Keowee Falls. “Coming from New York, where New England is known for foliage, we are always just shocked at how beautiful it is here [in the Western Carolinas]. It’s even prettier.”
October through April, O’Brien bathes in that beauty while hiking trails inside properties at The Cliffs and beyond.
“We have a hiking group here at The Falls and we’ll do 3 to 5 miles,” she says. “I also like to go on the hikes The Cliffs’ staff organizes. The ones I enjoy best are when they take us by boat up on Lake Jocassee, drop us off to do a section of the Foothills Trail, and then pick us up at another part of the lake when we’re done. That’s the perfect day for me.”
Mike Lough, a member at The Cliffs Valley, loves the Foothills Trail, too. He spent last year hiking the entirety of the popular 77-mile trek through the Carolina backcountry, in sections, with neighbors.
“Kyle Henry [part of The Cliffs Outdoor Pursuits team] did a lot of that with us,” Lough shares. “We had a different number of people as we hiked each section, and four of us completed the entire trail. It was exhilarating.”
Members across all seven communities enjoy the easy-access trails inside the gates, as well as The Cliffs’ commitment to guiding them along off-the-beaten paths across the Upstate and Western North Carolina.
“That’s one of the keys in building the Outdoor Pursuits program,” shares Brianna Hirsch, Director of Outdoor Pursuits at The Cliffs. “We want to get people to do new things. It’s so important to stay active and get outside.”
From the easy Sunset Trail at The Cliffs at Glassy to the strenuous Dog Hobble Thicket at The Cliffs at Mountain Park, every community at The Cliffs offers ample trails to suit every physical ability. Formal and informal groups meet regularly within each community, and Hirsch’s team also leads longer hikes on trails across the Western Carolinas region.
“This area is gorgeous,” says Hirsch. “We want to help members see every horizon possible and not miss a view.”
Bruce Jacobson organized The Cliffs at Mountain Park’s hiking group that has grown to include 75 community members. Over the past three years, the pack has hiked once a month, never repeating a path.
“Most of these hikes are outside of the neighborhood and have a meal attached,” Jacobson says. “It’s the perfect way to get out and enjoy the outdoors together. It’s an even better way to get to know each other and make new friends.”
Leader of the Pack: Meet the new Director of Outdoor Pursuits at The Cliffs
It doesn’t matter if she’s climbing up a steep mountain or sliding down a cool wave, Brianna Hirsch embraces the adventure. The native New Yorker has learned to treat each day as a gift, maximizing every opportunity. “Yeah, I’ve faced adversity a number of times,” she acknowledges with a sly smile. “But I’m still here.”
As a teen, she battled Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The Make-A-Wish Foundation sent her to Greece, where she discovered kiteboarding that changed the course of her life. After college, she settled on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, teaching watersports, until she found herself riding out Hurricane Irma in Sir Richard Branson’s wine cellar.
“We were evacuated by boat five days later, five horrible days,” she recalls. “It completely flattened the island. We lost our jobs, our homes, our community. It was life changing.” As if that wasn’t enough, she landed in the Abacos, where Hurricane Dorian blew through, again, stealing her livelihood.
“A friend sent me the job posting at The Cliffs, and I thought it would be a good idea to get away from the ocean,” she explains with a chuckle. She started as the Outdoor Pursuits Director in February. “I’ve really enjoyed learning about South Carolina. And I love working with members to help them discover new recreational hobbies. From my personal experience, I’ve seen how finding a new passion and a new sport can give you a different drive for life, and help bring you back to life in so many ways.”
Hirsch has an office in Keowee Springs, but she’s usually out of the office with members on the water or trail. To explore hiking opportunities and more, visit here or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.