From Piet's bench

Waterrock Knob with a Writer

How many times can I blog about Waterrock Knob?

Purple aster
Purple aster

As many times as I want, I guess, since this is my blog.

How many times can I go to Waterrock Knob? As many times as I want to or need to.

Look at the picture above. This is the view of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Piet’s Bench as far as the eye can see. On Friday, at 5,500 feet above sea level, with perfect autumn weather, the view was magnificent.

John Manuel
John Manuel

But I was there on business. I was guiding John Manuel, an outdoor writer, doing a three-part story on the MST. He writes for Wildlife in North Carolina, the magazine of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. He wanted to see the fantastic trail around Waterrock Knob and I was recommended.

John is obviously a hiker and outdoor person. But this wasn’t about hiking; it was about seeing the trail, the flora and fauna, and getting his questions answered. It is very difficult to hike and take notes at the same time. And don’t even think about using a voice recorder unless you have to take notes so precisely that you’re quoting people.

So we walked. I talked and I gave him time to take notes his way.

Mountain ash
Mountain ash

He had walked some of the MST around Asheville with Becky S., another Carolina Mountain Club member. She really knows her flora. But the vegetation this high is much different.

Purple asters are everywhere in the fall but not mountain ash. Here in North Carolina, it grows at high altitude only, so it’s unlikely that John would have seen it in Asheville.

I really emphasized that CMC volunteers built this whole trail – not participated or helped or cooperated – but built it all. That’s why it took six years, but look at it now.

I’m not done with Waterrock Knob. On Sunday October 16, I’m going to lead a CMC hike which takes in the whole new CMC section. Look at our schedule and come on out.

Doll's eyes

Mountains-to-Sea Trail – CMC Section

image_mini29The popularity of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is growing regionally and even nationally. No surprise here.

I seem to answer the same questions about the Carolina Mountain Club Section of the MST over and over again via email. So I decided to write a permanent page with general information and a list of shuttlers.

Carolina Mountain Club maintains the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from Heintooga Road to Black Mountain Campground. Here are some hints and tips to supplement the excellent advice on the Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (Friends) website.

1. I assume that you’ve joined Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Go ahead and join online; I’ll wait.

2. I also assume that you’ve read the trail guides on the Friends website. The CMC section of the MST starts at the end of the Peak to Peak Guide (Segment 1A). It goes through Segment 2: The Balsams – Waterrock Knob to Pisgah Inn and Segment 3: The High Peaks and Asheville – Pisgah Inn to Black Mountain Campground.

MST guide front coverCarolina Mountain Club wrote a detailed book with maps on the MST sections it maintains.

Look at MST Trail Profiles and Maps: From the Great Smokies to Mount Mitchell and Beyond by Walt Weber for the Carolina Mountain Club.

I strongly suggest that you buy the book – either locally from the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center store or on Amazon.

4. This section of the MST weaves in and out of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Check this official site to see if the road is open at

For updates and a list of shuttlers, see my webpage, which will be updated as needed.


Big Ivy, a new Wilderness Area??

Hah! Wilderness. It’s not all in Alaska or Montana.

We have wilderness areas right here in our own backyard in Western North Carolina. That includes Shining Rock and Middleprong Wilderness. Should we get involved and speak up, we may have a wilderness area in Buncombe County.

Big Ivy
Big Ivy

Just north of Asheville lies one of the wildest forests in the East. Big Ivy is a section in the Appalachian District of Pisgah National Forest with waterfalls, over forty rare and endangered species, and more old-growth than any other eastern forest except Joyce Kilmer. You may know it as the Craggy Mountains, designated as a Mountain Treasure.

Last month, the Forest Service proposed allowing logging in 70 percent of Big Ivy, including most of its old-growth forests. Instead, a group of Big Ivy activists want to protect Big Ivy by working on making it a federally design wilderness. It’s not an easy process.

The first step is to convince the Buncombe County Commissioners to support an expanded wilderness recommendation for Big Ivy. Wilderness is the only way to permanently protect Big Ivy from logging.

Big Ivy
Big Ivy

On Tuesday, September 20, the Buncombe County Commissioners will vote on a resolution supporting an expanded wilderness for Big Ivy. If passed, it will support the first and only wilderness in Buncombe County.

The wilderness recommendation won’t affect any current uses of Big Ivy. No roads or trails will be closed. The wilderness recommendation will simply prohibit logging and development in trailless, high-elevation areas of Big Ivy where most of the old-growth forests are located.

The meeting will be on September 20 at 4:30 p.m. at 200 College Street, Suite 326 in Asheville.

We need a big crowd and a lot of voices willing to speak on behalf of Big Ivy.

Can’t make it? Not from the area? Pisgah National Forest is, well, national. Write, call or email:

District Ranger, Matthew McCombs
Pisgah National Forest – Appalachian District
632 Manor Road
Mars Hill, NC 28754
(828) 689-9694

Photos thanks to Steven McBride