Category Archives: Carolina Mountain Club

Hiking with CMC

Fall on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail

Chestnut tree

Are you ready for fall? It’s only the end of July but on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail at 5,000 feet, you can see the signs of fall.

Yesterday, Marcia B. led an easy downhill hike from Grassy Ridge Mine Overlook (5,250 ft.) to Balsam Gap. We parked a couple of cars at the maintenance yard, drove to the overlook and started hiking.

Nine Carolina Mountain Club hikers walked in a line. The trail was damp and green, with trees, vines and flowers in abundance. The trick was to observe the trees (and flowers) for the forest.

Some hikers were new to the environment, some were (literally) professionals. So there was a lot of discussion of the land around us.

Were the small, scrawny trees we saw entangle with others, chestnut oaks or real chestnuts? I have it on good authority that we saw real chestnuts. Chestnut oaks have scalloped ends while chestnuts have pointy ends. See the first picture on the left.

Indian pipes

Marcia, our leader, was pretty sure that the Indian pipes doubled as periscope. Fairies and other underground creatures were watching hikers and trail maintainers as they passed through.

But who did they report to and what did they do with their information? Marcia had not fleshed out her story well enough to make it credible.

Mushroom, AKA f airy baths

Then we had the fungus, mushrooms that were used as fairy baths by the underground fairies.

They had everything they needed in the woods. Still they stay hidden, but must come out sometime for a bath. When nine hikers walk on a well-marked, downhill trail, the imagination can get going.

Trillium berries

Other signs of falls – doll’s eyes, the seed from the white baneberry. No one notices the baneberry flower in the spring because it has so much competition but doll’s eyes are different.

Red trillium berries – those three large leaves are unmistakable.

Plenty of white and red bee balm, without bees – thank goodness – but with butterflies drinking in their nectar.

Bridge on MST

Black cohosh – I couldn’t tell this tall, foamy, white flower from others but Linda B. could. One of the benefits of walking with a group.

Once we got to about 3,500 feet, the vegetation changed. No more flowers, just vines and trees. We crossed a wooden bridge, erected by the Carolina Mountain Club trail crew and reached Balsam Gap.

Thanks, Marcia, for leading this hike!

 

 

Boomers on the Trail

It all started with a routine physical with my internist, a man I’ve been going to for years. He’s a runner, a fit baby boomer only a few years younger than me.

“As you age, your lung capacity decreases, even if you’ve never smoked. You should expect some changes.” He probably said something about heart function but I can’t recall now. I was mad. I plan to die with my hiking boots on.

On Heartbreak Ridge

I again told him about the older folks in Carolina Mountain Club, some much older than me, but I think he’s heard it all before from me.

Last Sunday’s hike on Heartbreak Ridge was in the Appalachian District of Pisgah National Forest near Old Fort, NC.

The trail is 11.5-mile with a 3,000 foot ascent, which is considered strenuous. Eighteen hikers showed up, a larger number than usual. Carroll K. was leading this hike and this was his fan club. Carroll, who’s 87 years old, is the “poster hiker” of the fit, serious, all-day hiker who just keeps on going.

Still thinking about my conversation with my doctor, I took a survey of ages and their genders. I know that 18 data points is a very small sample size but it was a start. No one hesitated to give me their age.

The average age of the hikers was 61.6 years old. The women averaged 59.3 years of age (46 the youngest, 70 the oldest). The average for men was 65.1 years old (51 years was the youngest, 87 the oldest).

Not surprisingly Carroll was the oldest man and I was the oldest woman. That’s been true for a long time on all day-hikes. We seem to accept the disparity in ages between the genders but Bruce questioned it. Why?

I don’t know is the quickest answer. After all, Grandma Gatewood did her first A.T. thru-hike when she was 67 years old and again seven years later. The oldest person, a man, completed a thru-hike when he was 81 years old. Historically only 15% of the completers (2000-milers) were women, though the numbers are rising. See the numbers on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website.

I do know that the professional advice is meant to scare older exercisers.

“See your doctor”.
“Don’t overdo it!”
“Carry a cell phone, a stick, a ….”

After all these dos and don’t, it’s easier to just stay on the couch.

Why do we see fewer women over 70 on the trail or in the gym? Ideas?

Asheville Greenways – present and future

Sulphur Springs

Today’s Carolina Mountain Club hike was billed as an almost flat, almost seven-mile hike. It barely seemed worthwhile to put on your hiking boots. But it promised a walk through current and future greenways. I was curious, so I put on my boots – low boots.

Marcia Bromberg, former CMC president, is very active in Friends of Connect Buncombe, the Buncombe County Greenway movement. Unlike hiking trails, greenways connect people to places they might want to walk or bike to. In Buncombe County, at least, the goal is to pave greenways, allowing more people to use them. They have a long way to go.

We started our walk in front of the remains of Sulphur Springs. What was a tourist attraction in the 19th century is now just a concrete pavilion around the well. The pictures may look unexciting and brown but we’re in the January thaw.

Opposite there’s a right-of-way through a private tract owned by the Myrtle Vrabel Estate. Vrabel, who died in 2007, owned a tract of land which is still laying dormant through Canie Creek ten years later.

Brother Hug and Marcia

I learned all of this from Doug Barlow, known as Brother Hug, a community organizer in the Canie Creek area.

He and other activists are working to get Riverlink, a conservancy, to buy the land from the estate, so it can be preserved and saved from development. To my untrained eyes, the land in a floodplain can’t be worth very much.

We walked through the Hominy Creek Greenway, which is an official greenway with maps and plans. It even has a beach – see the photo above dubbed the West Asheville beach.

Then to Carrier park and the French Broad River Park. The Asheville Camino used some of the same route, though of course, the Camino hike is over sixteen miles.

But honestly, it was difficult to figure out where one greenway or proposed greenway started and another ended. Buncombe County has approved a master plan for greenways, so this is a big, big important step in the future of greenways in our area.

In the meantime, we can study the greenway map, support the Friends group and most importantly walk or bike the greenway.

Thanks to Marcia and Brother Hug for leading the hike and making the Buncombe Greenways come alive.