From Asheville, I always seem to hike west of the city – the Smokies, Pisgah District of Pisgah National Forest, even Bent Creek. But yesterday, the Carolina Mountain Club Wednesday hike headed east to walk up two disconnected trails: Trombatore and Bearwallow Trails in the Hickory Nut Gorge close to Chimney Rock.
CMLC helps to conserve private land by encouraging landowners to put their holdings under conservation easement. At this point, I read conflicting stories about the Trombatore Trail. Is there a private owner who has an easement and gives hikers permission to hike here? Or is the land owned by CMLC, which, I realize still makes it private? And who was Trombatore?
The top of the trail is a cleared pasture where we had lunch. You can see the Craggy mountains and even the Blacks on clear days. It’s been so warm that violets are confused and blooming on the side of the trail.
Bearwallow Trail starts on the other side of Bearwallow Road. It’s only a mile or so to its top – but so, so different from our morning hike.
Where the top of the Trombatore Trail is cleared and almost empty, the top of Bearwallow, also cleared of trees, has an old firetower and lots of transmission equipment. But the view is just as good.
A cleared pasture on top of Bearwallow is now full of Jimson Weed. This native invasive has spread on the mowed top. Right now, Jimson Weed is in fruit, covered by prickles. Cows won’t eat it because somehow they know that it’s toxic.
Because the top needs to be accessible, there’s a road and that’s what we walked down. See the top photo.
So where are these trails? From Asheville, take I-240 east. Get off at exit 9 and follow US 74A past the continental divide. Turn right on Bearwallow Rd. to the trailhead.