Mountains-to-Sea Trail – Bald Knob in 90 deg. heat

Starting with 340.1 miles, 51,850 ft. ascent

MST11A - bridge over northfork of Catawba River

Woodlawn Park to Old NC-105

15.4 miles, 3,100 ft. ascent

I’m back from vacation reestablishing my routine and part of my routine is continuing the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

It has been hot and humid for weeks now but Sharon and I had a hiking day planned for a long time and 90 degree weather was not going to deter us.

Some say that the section from Woodlawn Park to Kistler Memorial Highway (Old NC-105) is the hardest section on the MST. I’ll tell you when I complete the trail. The hike was in the Grandfather District of Pisgah National Forest but not yet in Linville Gorge.

We met at Lake James State Park outside of Nebo. We discovered that all the camping sites were walk-in and ours would be quite a walk. Then we were reminded that almost all North Carolina state parks are gated until 8 A.M. So we wouldn’t be able to leave the next morning until eight o’clock.

We had a long and difficult hike ahead so we packed up, placed a car at the end of the trail and went back to stay at my house in Asheville. I’m glossing over the “place the car” bit but we knew where to leave the car only because I had checked it out with Jim Reel, a Carolina Mountain Club member who really knows the back roads in McDowell County. I still got lost on my first try.

MST11A-mushroomThe first few miles in the cool of the morning were on forest roads, meandering through meadows. Sharon proclaimed it a mushroom day and must have photographed every “shroom” we saw. My camera died early in the day and most of the photos are from her camera.

We crossed the North Fork of the Catawba River on a beautiful bridge, built in 2005 (see the picture above). Before that, MST hikers needed to wade in the muddy waters. We crossed the Clinchfield Railroad tracks and then the climb started to Bald Knob. By now, I was hot and sticky and felt I was peeing through my pores.

Sharon practiced her resting steps. Here’s a good description from a website — a step that hikers use on long and difficult treks, so that they can complete it without exhausting themselves. The step is so slow that the hiker has the experience of resting while moving forward. One foot is completely planted, before moving the next. Each leg is straightened so that the hiker’s weight is supported by his or her bones, rather than muscles – enabling the muscles to relax.

The trail to Bald Knob (3,400 ft.) had good switchbacks. It  offered several rocky lookouts, though it was so hazy that we didn’t bother with scenery photos. Then the trail plunged down only to climb again, without switchbacks to Dobson Knob.

The hike was tough but it was fine with me because the trail was well-maintained and blazed. There was never any question as to where to go. Thank you to Friends of the MST and the Bald Knob Task Force. I don’t know how these folks maintain this stretch of trail but they made a difficult trail much easier.

The rest of the trail was again on pleasant forest roads. Sharon spotted orange-fringed orchids, a little past their prime but we were thrilled anyway. I had never seen these orchids.

OVT plaqueWe then passed the Overmountain Victory Trail. It’s a trail that seems to pop up in small sections all over the area. Here’s a little background, mostly from Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Heritage.

The Overmountain Men settled in Sycamore Shoals, TN, now present-day Elizabethton, in the 1770s, thereby defying King George’s Proclamation of 1763, which stated that English settlers must not move west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To rule themselves, the settlers created the Watauga Association, which today may be considered the first (male) majority-rule American democracy.

Fast forward to the summer of 1780. The British Royal army aimed to conquer the South. They thought it would be quick work and assumed that the South would be more loyal to the British Crown than the North. They then would recruit Loyalists to help the British Army in battle with the North. 

Instead, western settlers from Eastern Tennessee and southwest Virginia, dubbed Overmountain Men, marched through these mountains east to Kings Mountain, SC. As true volunteers, they provided their own horses, food, and guns. They defeated the Tories on October 7, 1780. This American victory freed the American South from British domination and was a turning point in the war.

The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail starts in Abingdon, VA, goes through Elizabethton, TN, over Yellow Mountain Gap, down to Cowpens National Battlefield (another major encounter with the Tories), and ends at Kings Mountain National Military Park, SC.

There was an OVT sign and an information plaque which explained the significance of the Trail.

MST11A - yellow crocksWe got out of the woods and on the road for the last 0.8 mile, dusty, sweaty and thirsty but feeling victorious. Sharon put on her yellow crocks – how’s that for a sight for sore eyes – and everything else as well.


Cumulative after day 30, 355.6 miles, 54,950 ft. ascent


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