Category Archives: Carolina Mountain Club

Hiking with CMC

2016 – Positive Thoughts

It was the best of times; it was the worst of times – that was truer this year more than ever. And the worst certainly upstaged the best.

As a wise man said, “Nothing lasts forever except the earth and sky.”

But this, like most other blog posts, will stay positive. I managed to have some high notes in 2016.

Like the rest of the United States, I celebrated the National Park Service Centennial. After visiting over seventy national parks in the southeast over six years, I published
Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South through Kimberly Crest Books.

Publishing is one thing; marketing is another. I visited bookstores, outdoor stores, hiking clubs, schools, churches, and national parks to introduce the world to the national parks of the South. And to my surprise, I’m not done. More invitations came for 2017.

In this, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, I visited or revisited several parks including:

* Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. I’ve now been in all fifty states.

Yorktown Victory Monument

* Yorktown National Battlefield, the end of the American Revolution. Since the park in Virginia, it’s not in the NPS Southeast region. But I refer to it so much that I had to visit it.

* I gave a talk at Fort Moultrie in Charleston

* Bandelier National Monument and the Manhattan Project National Historical Park in Los Alamos when I went to Family Nature Summits in New Mexico.

Up to the cliff dwellings in BAND

That doesn’t include my four home parks: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Blue Ridge Parkway, the Appalachian Trail, and Carl Sandburg Home.

A new section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail around Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway opened this year. We had a big, big celebration.

And of course, I had my day job: leading hikes for Friends of the Smokies and Carolina Mountain Club.

But wait – the year isn’t over.

Trombatore and Bearwallow Trails

On top of Trombatore Trail
On top of Trombatore Trail

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.

We went up 2.5 miles on the Trombatore Trail, a new trail built by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) and Carolina Mountain Club. The trail first goes down and then up on a well-trodden road.

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.

JImson Weed
JImson Weed

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.

Autumn at Waterrock Knob

Today, August 7, felt like summer, even at 5,600 feet on Waterrock Knob. But it looked like fall.

Trillium
Trillium

Beth, my hiking friend, and I scouted a Carolina Mountain Club hike which I’ll lead in October. We started on Heintooga Road, on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the first Mountains-to-Sea Trail white circle.

The first mile-and-a-half or so on the Qualla Boundary was gentle and rolling. It’s not a very popular section of trail – yet – but it’s well-blazed and should be explored.

On the MST
On the MST

Then we started the climb from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Waterrock Knob. We crossed Howard’s Bridge. See the photo on the right.

It was hot and muggy. I was dripping sweat as we hiked through the trees. Yet, feelings are sometimes  deceiving.

The surroundings shouted fall.

We found the remains of a yellow jacket nest on the ground. Someone, probably not allergic, had built up rocks over the nest and placed a spray can of insect repellent as a warning. Thank you!

The trail takes you to Piet’s bench to honor a trail builder and maintainer who was instrumental in the success of this very difficult trail. See the picture on top. Yes, the Blue Ridge Parkway gave its blessings to this bench.

Doll's eyes
Doll’s eyes

The blackberries were dry, seedy and no longer appetizing. Tiny blueberries had fallen on the ground. It seems that even bears didn’t scoop them up.

To me, doll’s eyes (white baneberry) are the quintessential fall fruit. It’s not a particularly showy spring flower but it stands out in the fall.

Several websites  have a need to let you know that the plant is poisonous. Well, who would want to eat it? It doesn’t look very eatable.

The trillium plant was showing off its red fruit. We marvel over the trillium flowers in the spring, yet its red fruit, which is probably also poisonous, is also a major symbol of fall.

But I’m not ready for fall. It’s only the beginning of August.