Entries For: February 2009
The old Canton Watershed has a network of old roads which they turned into a set of hiking and biking trails. The trails form a circle with lots of spokes. We took the West Boundary trail where we followed cleared farm land across a fence line. At one point, two horses came to see if we had anything to offer them. In the distance, we had outstanding views of mountain ranges.
Though we took several steep side trails, we could not really extend the hike much beyond 8 to 9 miles. We only saw one person, a young woman with a dog. (Dogs are not allowed in the watershed). It was a quiet new hike, not too far from Asheville. See Rough Creek Trail information.
But it is what happened when we got back to our cars that made it more exciting than I wanted. A young man with a baby in his arms got out of his van (with California plates) and asked us if we had seen his wife, a woman with a dog.
We recognized her as the woman we met hours ago. This young couple live in the housing development just outside the watershed. She had gone out for a "walk" with (you guess it) no map, no compass but she had a cell phone. Amazingly, it worked and she called her husband to tell him that she was lost. There were so many intersections.
I talked to her on the phone and thought I knew where she was and told her to come downhill. But she had been going downhill for a while and she didn't recognize where she was. There are no blazes and few carsonite wands. Her husband was so worried and asked us what he should do. I told him not to panic and certainly not to call 911 yet.
"If you call 911, you will unleash a response with 50 searchers, dogs, EMTs and heaven knows what else that you will not be able to stop. It's still early in the day and your wife is obviously fine."
Reluctantly, I put on my boots and went back up the trail to the first major intersection, blowing my whistle the whole time. I found her and took her back down to her car and her husband.
On the way down, I told her that I had earned the right to lecture her about going out without a map and compass, just because it was her neighborhood. I also told her to join a hiking club and gave her a Carolina Mountain Club application form.
Some say that winter is the best time to hike - no bugs, few people and great views. Others just want to stay indoors and come out with the first bloodroot. I don't particularly like winter but I love to hike, so I bundle up.
When I lived in New Jersey, I always went north to hike, either into New York State for dayhiking or to the Catskills and Vermont for weekends. I needed crampons and snowshoes; in fact some hike leaders insisted that everybody on their hikes carry both. I even had an ice axe. But here, I don't need all this heavy equipment, just extra fleece, hat and gloves. Still, I grumble when the temperature goes below 20 degrees.
As you climb in the Blue Ridge, the average annual temperature drops about one degree for every 250-ft. increase in elevation. So even if it's comfortable at my house in Asheville at 2,250 ft., it might be miserable on top of Yellow Mountain in the Highlands.
But altitude changes gives us the great diversity of plants and animals that we enjoy in the Southern Appalachians. In terms of habitat, every 1,000 ft. of elevation is equivalent to 250 miles in latitude. So the equivalent of traveling from the Catawba River Greenway in Morganton at 1,050 ft. elev. to Mt. Mitchell at 6,684 ft. elev. would put you about 1,400 miles north of North Carolina—into central Quebec Province in Canada. And Canada is cold.
What is it about the Abrams Creek area of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that attracts hikers with dogs? Dogs are not allowed in any large national park that have extensive backcountry areas. Yet, the only place I've seen dogs in the Smokies are in the network of trails from Abrams Creek campground. Is it because the area is less patrolled or locals coming in from the large housing developments into the Goldmine Trail entrance think they're entitled?
When I see a hiker with a dog, I let them know that dogs are not allowed on the trails. I always take a quick picture of them and their dog. Most people seem to know and blow me off. Some are genuinely surprised and ask why.
Dogs give off scent that interferes with the wildlife that belongs in the park. They chase birds and other wildlife and they may become prey for bigger animals in the wild. Yes, horses are allowed but dogs are carnivores and horses are only herbivores. See a good discussion on the Smokies website.
There are so many places to take your dog, including Pisgah and Nantahala National Forests. In the National Forests, you don't even have to have them on a leash, just "under control". Please, let us hike in peace in the park. Oh yeah, did I mention that it's the law?
After a major snow storm (OK, major for Asheville), it warmed up and I went to scout my hike along South Mills River Trail to the site of Cantrell Creek Lodge. It warmed up so much that by the afternoon, my two companions and I were in shirt sleeves.
Scouting? The trail in the Pisgah District along South Mills River is a broad, obvious trail so what is there to check out? I'm leading this hike next Wednesday for the Carolina Mountain Club and all leaders are supposed to scout their hike. Trails change from week to week. You never know if a river might be overflowing or a tree blocking the trail. A bridge might have fallen into the stream.
The trail has several bridges: a large one at the beginning, two new bridges, new since the 2004 hurricanes, and a small, split log across a tributary. The handrail on that last one is now down. I didn't feel comfortable crossing it "naked" so I rock hopped across the small creek. But I'm glad I knew about it.
The end of the hike takes you to a chimney for the old Cantrell Creek Lodge. The actual lodge, pictured above, was moved to the Cradle of Forestry because it had been vandalized.
On the way back, we took Pounding Mill Trail up. It was steep and I was feeling the push but I need to keep moving. If I wait until I'm perfectly healed, I may never get back into shape.
Today was a snow day. My whole world was shut down in Asheville because of a little snow. I was supposed to go on a Carolina Mountain Club hike out of Canton but of course it was cancelled. Nothing to do but to sit in front of the computer, creating web pages for my new book Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage. I went out in the afternoon and found it cold, raw and windy.
But then I got a press release from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park that cheered me up. It said:
The winter caretaker at Great Smoky Mountains National Park's 6,593' high Mt
LeConte Lodge reported a low last night of -22 degrees - the coldest since
1886 and the 4th coldest day since they started keeping records in 1978. The
last time it was this cold was 1986
Besides being 22 below the Park's closest weather station with wind measuring equipment - Cove Mtn in Sevier Couty, TN - reported gusts up to 45 mph last night. That works out to a wind chill of -60 degrees. At 60 below exposed flesh will be frostbitten in 4 minutes.
Now that's cold. It's forecasted to warm up this weekend.