Entries For: March 2009
When you plan to scout a hike, you've got to go - rain or shine. So when I asked Ashok to lead Bradley Fork Loop in Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the Smokies 75th anniversary, I told him I would help him check it out. And we did, even though the weather forecast predicted a very high chance of rain.
Bradley Fork Loop is an easy hike from Smokemont Campgrounds, a few miles north of Oconaluftee Visitor Center. Smokemont was first known as Bradleytown, named for the first settlers who came to the area. In the early 1900s, Champion Fibre Company established a large logging and sawmill operation
First, we had to visit Smokemont Baptist Church, an old church that hides in plain sight on the way to the campground. Like all the chapels in the park, it's always open. The park administration believes that if you lock up a structure, vandals will try to break in but if you leave it open, people will just walk in. And that's what we did. It's very plain church with benches on three sides and no decorations at all.
When we drove into the campground, we discovered that the back part of the campground is locked. I guess there's not enough business to keep it all open and patrolled. We started on the Bradley Fork Trail along the rushing river. Fifteen minutes into the hike, it started raining. And it kept raining until we got home.
Toward the end of the hike, we took a mandatory detour to the Bradley Cemetery. Only a few stones are readable and most are stumps.
We were soaked when we got back to the cars but that didn't stop us from going for ice cream in Maggie Valley.
Our western North Carolina Mountains are famous for their views, height and great hiking trails. But yesterday, I revisited three state parks east of Asheville in the Piedmont: Stone Mountain, Hanging Rock and Pilot Mountain. I drove 450 miles from Asheville to the three parks and back.
I planned a three-state park weekend for Carolina Mountain Club after I wrote about these parks in my new guide, Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage. We'll be staying in cabins in Hanging Rock State Park. But as the weekend gets closer, I actually have to send out driving directions. I could have figured it out from maps, Mapquest and my prior knowledge but sometimes, it's just easier to drive it.
As I drove from Stone Mountain to Hanging Rock State Park, I passed Pilot Mountain's wedding-cake dome. Then the big characteristic rock of Hanging Rock became my guide. I walked to a couple of waterfalls close to the visitor center at Hanging Rock. See the photo of Window Falls above.
Each park only has two or three hikes, not all full-day hikes, but they are outstanding in their own way. Each has an iconic rock formation which towers over the Piedmont valley. So sometimes, you have to go east to see something different.
Hiking North Carolina's Blue Ridge Heritage has just been released. It's a hiking guide which spans the triangle from Pilot Mountain State Park to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (west) and down to Highlands (south) on the Georgia border. With each hike or group of hikes, I relate the history and heritage of the area I'm hiking.
I started with a list from the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and hiked most of the trails that were suggested. And now that the book is out in bookstores, outdoor stores and yes, on Amazon, I've scheduled a whirlwind of book signing events. All my events are on the website. I hope you'll come by and say "hello". I'll keep you informed on where I am and how things went.
But most of all, I'll keep hiking because for me, that's what it's all about.
I finished all the trails in the Smokies, the Smokies 900. Although the club is called the 900, there are only about 800 miles of maintained trails in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. But like most finishers, I must have walked over 1,500 miles to finish.
It's hard to figure out how long it took me. When I moved to Asheville almost eight years ago, I already had done the Appalachian Trail so I started with 71.4 miles of the Smokies. But then I did the SB6K, the South Beyond 6000, the 40 mountains over 6000 ft. But I kept records so little by little I was accumulating miles.
Then I really got the bug because I got tired of talking about it. The last three months, I did over 120 new miles with friends, my husband and much of it alone.
Now what? I did have the post Smokies blues. But Sharon hasn't finished, my husband got the bug so I'm back in the park helping them. Read a more complete story in the Mountain Xpress.
P.S. I just read of a woman who has done the Smokies Trails five times. Not me. I'm moving on.