Entries For: October 2008
If you go on the Little Cataloochee Trail now, you'll see some great improvements. Previously the trail from the Dan Cook Cabin to Davidson Gap was a sorry mess; it was rutted and muddy. It's a steady uphill made harder by the state of the trail.
Now, the park has turnpiked the tread above areas where water was accumulating, trucked in 70 tons of gravel to replace material of the former road that had eroded away, then added water bars to keep the new materials from eroding also. The resulting trail is smoother, looks better and doesn't allow silt and sediment to wash down into streams, so there's an environmental component to the work as well.
Turnpiking is a new word for me. The fellow in the picture is Tobias Miller, the North Carolina Trail Supervisor. He's standing on a turnpike section with logs on both sides. The other picture is of very long, shallow steps, designed for horse traffic. Hopefully, all this work will withstand the onslaught of horses.
Sometimes I have to break away from my Smokies project and go somewhere else in the Southern Appalachians. Last weekend was the first weekend I didn't spend any time continuing my goal. Instead I led a hike for the Carolina Mountain Club to Linville Falls and Table Rock Mountain.
The morning was spent at Linville Falls, where we did all the trails - about four miles. In the afternoon, we drove to Table Rock Mountain on a dusty dirt road. The drive was much harder than the hike. We had a fantastic day with blue skies and visibility for miles. So it was not surprising that we had lots of company - people up and down and on top.
Then we climbed the other side of the parking lot through the Chimneys, an rocky area with unusual rock formations. This was in the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area so we had to limit the number of people to ten. Here we had few hikers but met rock climbers who were also taking advantage of the great weather.
It's back to the Smokies again this coming weekend - rain or shine. And it looks like it will be mostly rain.
What's happening to the tower on top of Mt. Mitchell? The old tower was taken down last year and a new one was promised "soon". The top picture is an artist's rendition of the new tower. The bottom picture is what it looks like now.
I drove to the top of Mt. Mitchell yesterday to see how the new tower was coming along. Well, in short, it's getting there but it's not finished yet. The park had hoped for an open house in November but now they're planning it for the Spring.
I kept calling the Mt. Mitchell State Park Office every week for weeks and all I got was "We're working on it." When I got up there, there was a buzz of activities. Mostly they need to finish the trail/ramp up to the tower. Also, the safety fence around the tower has to be installed.
The tower looks very similar to the one on Clingmans Dome in the Smokies but without the long walk. In fact, one of the main reasons the N.C. State Park system decided to replace it was to make it handicapped accessible. There is a short ramp up to the tower. Rangers will be able to take disabled people up to the tower in a golf cart. Walkers will find that the ramp is shorter and smoother than the one to the old tower.
The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed just south of the Mt. Mitchell Rd. so you need to approach the road from the north. From Asheville, that means taking Rt. 80.
Five days in the Smokies, probably the longest I stayed just to do Smokies miles. I'm getting there, folks, I'm getting there.
The first three days I was with Sharon McCarthy, shown here with her favorite warm hat. She's a hiker from Charlotte, who's doing all the Smokies in a year, her fiftieth-year. She's also raising money for the Girl Scouts since getting girls out in the woods and hiking is so important. She wrote about our three days together so well, there's no need to repeat our exploit. Check out her website and contribute to the Girl Scouts.
On the fourth day, Saturday, I walked Little Bottoms Trail and saw five dogs – with their owners. I approached a middle-age woman picking up a dog so small I first thought it was a piglet. “Hi,” I say, “You know, dogs are not allowed in the Smokies. I’m not a ranger but if he saw your dog, you would be fined.” She looked at me as if I had horns. “Well, it depends on the trail, doesn’t it”? Before I could say “actually no,” she picked up her doglet and went back to the river bank and the safety of other people. I took a photo of her and her dog. She was probably thinking, who made her sheriff? Dogs are not allowed on the trails in the Smokies. They're not allowed on the trails in any National Park for good and proper environmental reasons.
The far western Smokies, west of Cades Cove, may be the forgotten part of the park, yet on this sunny autumn Saturday, the tiny Abrams Creek Campground was full. I followed the Abrams River upstream to Abrams Falls, a popular spot most tourists reach from Cades Cove. The falls were an emaciated version of what they were before the drought but the water still barreled down forcefully. Two men with three boy scouts in uniform threw rocks in the pool at the base of the falls. A couple snuggled close to eat their sandwiches. A young Chinese man struggled to lift his one-year old boy out of his backpack while his wife chased after their two older children heading for the water.
A sixty-plus gray pony tailed throwback to the 1960s crossed the bridge and looks around. He wore a denim shirt and jeans and carried a hiking pole that he might have carved himself. His external frame backpack was much too big for the few miles he walked but it probably was the only pack he owns. He looked around for someone to take his picture and I volunteered. With a big smile, he said “I want to show my girlfriend that I was here.” I love watching people come here maybe for their first time and being truly awed. “Well, I hope you come back. There are heaps of other great places in the Smokies.”
The state of North Carolina has agreed to buy Grandfather Mountain's backcountry area. This is wonderful news for hikers. The 2,600 acres will comprise the state's newest park. The backcountry was already protected with conservation easements. It's the area that most of the 250,000 visitors never see.
Making that area a state park will ensure that it will even more protected. Hopefully, the State Park system will add new hiking trails as well. The state will pay $12 millions which is a bargain, considering that we paid over $20 millions for Chimney Rock Park.
The 604-acre tourist attraction which includes the Swinging Bridge will be taken over by a nonprofit corporation run by the Morton family. They say that nothing will change in that section. Now the state of North Carolina has 34 state parks.