Starting with Day 41, 481.1 miles, 79,750 ft. ascent
Jeffress Park to NC 16
14.7 miles, 2,400 ft. ascent
What a difference from yesterday!
We wake up to dry, clear, and windy weather. “B” can’t hike with us because he has several functions that he needs to attend starting at 11 A.M. So he takes us back to the Parkway, but not before showing us Wilkes Community College where he spent 36 years, retiring as VP of Development.
He also takes us to the W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir. The Corps of Engineer dammed the Yadkin River in 1960. Now it’s also used for fishing, camping, and swimming. A trail has been built as part of the Overmountain Victory Trail. When I write up the Victory Trail for National Parks Traveler, I’ll walk this section.
This is the beauty of doing the trail in pieces. I’ve learned so much about the area around the trail. The OVT pops up every place but usually in short sections. This section is the longest piece of trail I know of in the area.
“B” puts us on the MST at about 8:30. We have no instructions or map. I had taken a picture of a sign board that Jim Hallsey put up at the dedication last month which showed rough mileages to several attractions.
We depend on white circular blazes and wooden signs going into the woods called bollard. The trail does not disappoint us – it’s perfect. Jim Hallsey and his crew did a great job of building the South Ashe section of trail.
In less than two miles, we pass Jesse Brown’s cabin and a second tiny cabin which was a weather shelter for the Cool Spring Baptist Church. The preaching was mostly done under a shade tree by a circuit rider.
The Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway by Victoria Logue et al explains that the cabin itself was built by Brown prior to 1840. Originally located about 0.5 mile up the hollow from its present position, the cabin was later moved to Tompkins Knob Overlook, then once again to its present position in 1905 to bring it closer to its water source.
Our first stop is the Cascades Picnic area at Jeffress Park. “B” had told us not to miss the Cascades just past the bathrooms in the picnic area. Well, not quite a few hundred feet. In Walking the Blue Ridge, Leonard Atkins writes that the Cascade Loop is 0.9 mile, which agrees with my GPS. We walk down first to an upper viewing platform, then a lower one. It’s a lovely cascade, worth the extra walking.
We’re cold when the trail comes out into an open pasture and warm in the woods. The trail comes close to private land and a fancy deer stand. Yes, it’s hunting season and we’re wearing our orange vests. Bullets and deer don’t know the difference between the Parkway and private land.
We walk on a back road past Blue Ridge Baptist Church and its cemetery which always reminds me of walking in England. The whole day with its open pastures, churches, small roads and even a motel is just like England. OK – so the Park Vista Motel and restaurant looked closed permanently.
Close to MP 264.4, the MST is on the left side of the Parkway and we’re in danger of walking right past The Lump. We find a rock tied up with ribbon with a note wedged under the rock. The note says “Danny and Sharon” and on the inside, it says to bushwhack down to the Parkway, cross the road and not to miss The Lump and signed by “B”. How sweet of him. We dub it “the lump note”. But where did he get all that ribbon?
We do exactly as he says. The Lump Overlook has the story of Tom Dula, made famous by the Kingston Trio.
“Poor boy you’re going to die”.
But it’s a true story which happened right here in Wilkes County. You can go to Wilkesboro and see the jail where Dula stayed.
At the overlook, there’s a break in the fence and a trail to an open pasture, a small Max Patch. We climb to the top and a great view. Sharon learns that I was a big Sound of Music fan and makes me twirl around like Julie Andrews. I don’t have the long peasant dress but I turn with the wind. I see Pilot Mountain and Stone Mountain – they’re very distinctive. Hanging Rock is not as distinctive but the panorama is amazing.
Coming down, we meet an older couple and encourage them to climb. They have the A.T. and MST mixed up but we straighten them out. I give them one of my cards which explains what we’re doing.
At the overlook, there was no sign that said that you could climb up to the top. The break in the fence was not obvious. The trail could have been a social herd path. We’re supposed to encourage the public to get out of their cars and walk, yet we don’t give them the information.
After The Lump, it’s only supposed to be about three miles but the trail seems to go on forever. We cross the Parkway, up and down and this trail will not end. But of course, it does and we head back down toward Wilkesboro.
“B” had asked us to give him a call when we were finished. He wanted to take us up to a viewpoint at Camp Harrison, a YMCA camp close to his home. He was instrumental in starting up this camp and it’s his pride and joy.
We’ve already walked almost 15 miles. Sharon decides that she is wiped out and the shower beckons her. But I persevere. I meet “B” at the camp and we climb to the viewpoint – another mile roundtrip.
It’s getting dark and “B” runs up to somehow hold off the sunset. I run after him and reach the viewing platform only a couple of minutes after him. This is the Ruth and Billy Graham Overlook, where we look down on the camp lake and chapel. Grandfather Mountain is partly hidden by clouds but the panorama is awesome.
When we got back to the Townes’ home, Sharon is in the kitchen enjoying her glass of wine after a shower.
Who is this woman and what resort is she staying in?
Cumulative after Day 42, 495.8 miles, 82,150 ft. ascent