Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Over Blackstock Knob

Starting with 312.2 miles, 46,650 ft. ascent


Greybeard Overlook to NC 128

8.7 miles, 2,300 ft. ascent

Up at 6 a.m., out at 7 and at the trailhead by 8 a.m. to walk another piece of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The Blue Ridge Parkway construction slowed us down. I didn’t think that they would be out working so early.

MST9b-sharononlunchrocks It was foggy and windy as Sharon and I started out on the MST.

This section of the trail had not yet been mowed and the wet grass lapped at our feet. We got up to Lunch Rocks quickly enough but there were no views of the surrounding mountains.

 We found one Gray’s lily, one lonely stalk with two flowers (shown left). What was it doing there?MST9B-grayslily Yes, the climate was right – high altitude, wet and cool – but I had never heard of Gray’s lily here. They are mostly associated with the Roans though I did see some at Wilson Creek.

Just around the corner, we discovered a patch of purple-fringed orchid. These are also globally rare plants, though I have seen them there before, but no place else. These were pale purple, violets really. Though they are considered rare, at the right time and the right place, they bloom abundantly.MST9b-purplefringedlilies I no longer complained about the lack of view.

Of course, I had seen the views several times, but Sharon is just going to have to come back.

The next stretch from Glassmine to Balsam Gap started with wet, wobbly steps. I went down sideways, like an old man. Sharon took my picture and I asked her to delete it. She thought that it would show how bad the stairs were. I thought it showed how poor my balance was. Yes, I could blame my splint but I didn’t want my slow, halting walk to be recorded.

By now we were at over 5,000 ft. and the foliage was a mixture of spring and summer. Plenty of rue anemones and one lonely spring beauty. Talk about late bloomers.

At Balsam Gap, we crossed the Parkway and started our long climb up to Blackstock Knob,  about 900 ft. in less than two miles.

MST9b-smoothpath The trail was good and the footing was excellent. The thick spruces had blocked out all the light and there was little undergrowth other than ferns. The trail, carpeted with needles, was soft and springy. After all the concern about slippery rocks in the last stretches, I didn’t mind the climb. Blackstock Knob is an SB6K which made it 21 for Sharon; I had finished all 40 several years ago. No view on top, no fantastic flowers; the mountain would have been dismissed if it wasn’t a SB6K. We celebrated the top with a break.

It should have been down, down, down from here but we had several climbs punctuated by more rocky, wobbly sections.

Finally we reached Sharon’s car on the Mt. Mitchell road. She took me back to mine and we said goodbye. This was the last stretch we were going to do while staying in Asheville. From now on, it was camping, backpacking and motelling.

But our days were not over. Sharon headed for Green Knob Tower. “It’s a beautiful day and I’m not getting any younger,” she said.  That’s an argument that could be used for doing anything.

I was meeting Jim, a Carolina Mountain Club member from Marion, who was going to show me a trailhead close to Linville Gorge. While waiting for him, I had a dish of ice cream at the C&J Roadside Cafe in Nebo – no, they don’t have a website.

Jim took me to an obscure trailhead which I would have never found on my own, or even from a written description. We climbed a rockface (I had to put on my wet boots and socks again) and saw the whole of Linville. Views of coming attractions!

Cumulative after day 27, 320.9 miles, 48,950 ft. ascent


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