Tag Archives: Mountains-to-Sea Trail

A Vision for Waterrock Knob on the Parkway

John Manuel on the MST

What is your vision for Waterrock Knob, a high point and small park on the Blue Ridge Parkway, MP 451.2?

For years, Carolina Mountain Club worked on extending the Mountains-to-Sea Trail on both sides of Waterrock Knob. Finally in June, 2016, we had a big celebration with several state and federal dignitaries. And CMC went on to work on other sections of trail.

Now the Blue Ridge Parkway, with the help of several conservancies, has been able to protect more land around the original knob.  What does the public want to do with it? So National Park Service and Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation held an open house in Waynesville to find out.

JD Lee, Superintendent of BLRI

When I walked in, I was greeted by a Foundation employee who asked me to sign in and gave me a strip of six “sticky” dots.

“Walk around the room and place the dots where you think the Waterrock Knob area should focus on.”

The Folkmoot Friendship Center, where the event was held, was decorated with large posters displaying different themes of the Waterrock Knob vision: recreation, preservation, heritage, and tourist and economic development.

The first theme I encountered was recreation. In large print, it said:

Engage with South Beyond 6000 Peak Bagging Program to Understand the Current Program.

Wow! That’s Carolina Mountain Club’s program. The smaller print said:

Work with Carolina Mountain Club to determine how the program should be promoted in the Waterrock Knob region that has several 6000 foot+ elevation peaks.

A little above, the Mountains-to-Sea Trail was mentioned.

Consider using the Mountains-to-Sea Trail as the spine of the regional trail system that connects all communities.

One of the Recreation vision

On post-its, you could write out your vision. Here’s mine:

Build campsites about 10 to 15 miles apart from Heintooga Rd to Stone Mountain State Park on the MST – by volunteers, of course – so hikers can backpack the MST easily and legally. Now, camping is only available in a few designated campgrounds.

I met JD Lee, the incoming superintendent and asked him what his vision and his priorities are:

  • Work with stake holders, volunteers and the community. It takes a village to care for the Parkway.
  • Engage the millennial generation. Every national park employee says that.

If you missed the open house, you can still send in comments. Here’s how:

Additional comments specific to the NPS approach to large landscape collaborative management for lands at Waterrock Knob are also welcome via the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment (PEPC) website at
http://parkplanning.nps.gov/waterrockknobvisionplan.

The Weekend of Small Hikes

Collier Cove Nature Preserve

Sometimes it’s good to see what’s in your own backyard. While going all around the world is exciting, I know that I’m missing a lot of opportunities right here around Asheville.

This past Saturday, I was introduced to two small areas around Asheville.

I was invited to  talk about the Southern national parks and my book, Forests, Alligators, Battlefields: My Journey through the National Parks of the South. Am I still marketing this book?” You may ask. No, but if a group asks me, I go.

Bev McD. of Carolina Mountain Club asked me to speak to her group, RossCraggen Woods – a private club with a few acres in Arden. But before my talk, Bev took me to see a view of Lake Julian, a Buncombe County Park and power plant. See the picture above.

Bev also showed me Collier Cove Nature Preserve, another county park. It only has 2.5 miles of trail, or so, with some elevation but it’s meant to be a full-day hike. I never would have seen this without Bev’s help. I always like to learn how the public acquired the land.

Buncombe County bought the 29 acres from the Collier Family  in 2012. They had already built  the trails on the property. Twenty-nine acres isn’t much but the land is steep, adding to the interest.

From Lunch Roks

Every bit of land here was owned by someone.

Sometimes the owners actually give the land to the public. Most of the times, the descendants sell the land, but not at market (read “development”) prices.

Sunday I met a small group from the Raleigh Camino group. They had come for a weekend of friendship, food and hiking with the Asheville Camino group.

Most had done the long Asheville Camino hike on Saturday, so they scheduled a five-mile hike to Lunch Rocks on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.

Raleigh Camino group

Only four hikers showed up because the rest were still recuperating from the 16-mile hike. But that was OK. The hike to Lunch Rocks, MST east of the Folk Art Center, was just the right length before the Raleigh group started out on their long drive.

I need to have a repertoire of short hikes, close to Asheville because they come in handy.

 

 

 

MST-in-a-Day – the Celebrity Hike

Today, I had the pleasure and honor  to lead a celebrity hike on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for MST-in-a-Day. We walked from the Folk Art Center to the Visitor Center and back – an easy, popular stretch.  We were one of many groups walking the trail from Clingmans Dome to Jockey’s Ridge State Park. Kate Dixon, Executive Director of Friends of the MST, said that she helped kick off MST-in-a-Day at midnight on a hike at Falls Lake State Recreation Area in the Raleigh area.

If you want to know about the features of this section of trail, read my scouting trip report.

We were so lucky to have wonderful weather – sunny, cool and dry. And all the celebrities who said they were coming showed up on time, in the right place, and ready to go. So who were the celebrities? In no particular order,

Dan Brown, retired superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway (in the yellow shorts)

Phil Francis, retired superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway (somehow missing from the group picture)

John Slaughter, current acting superintendent of the Blue Ridge Parkway (in NPS uniform)

Jennifer Pharr Davis, writer, long-distance hiking record holder, currently hiking the whole MST for Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, holding Gus, her second child

Karen Chavez, Outdoor editor of the Asheville Citizen-Times with a pink jacket

Carolyn Ward, Executive Director of Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation, in a dark blue shirt, next to Karen

Esther Manheimer, lawyer and mayor of Asheville, in the middle row with a  dark blue long sleeve and sun visor. The boy in back of Esther is her son. Jamie, the woman with the dog, works for the city of Asheville. All three and the dog took off in a run, right after the photos.

Lauren Fortuna, actress. I saw her in the Jeeves play at the NC Stage Company.

John, Danny, Phil and Dan

Those are celebrities!!

Robert G., a new but strong hiker, came along. He wanted to know all about Carolina Mountain Club. I gave him a CMC bookmark and said,”

“I’d love to talk to you but we are in such famous company. Talk to the superintendents. You’ll learn a lot.

Here I am with the three men.

I, too, learned a lot, including that John S. is leaving to go back to his home in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution parks on September 30. JD Lee, of Big Cypress National Preserve, will become the acting superintendent of the Parkway. Hopefully, by the beginning of the year, the most visited park unit in the country will get a permanent superintendent.

Alarm at The Cove

In case you’re wondering if my hike was just a rerun of the scouting hike, I can report that that we had a little excitement of the non-natural kind.

John and I were deep in conversation, when an alarm started screeching in the woods. It seems that I missed a turn and headed for a fenced-off area of a Christian retreat. We were so stunned that it took us a a moment to figure out what we did.

Everyone but Robert and I (the non-celebrities) stopped at the Visitor Center and found other ways of getting back to their cars. The two of us walked back to our cars at the Folk Art Center. On the way, we made a point of setting the alarm off again. It was fun!

Thank you, all, for coming out… And keep on hiking!