Today it's raining the proverbial cats and dogs. I just saw a large tree come down across the street. Good thing that no one was underneath.
We started from the Fawn Lake entrance of the forest off of Reasoner Road. A twisty route took us to Bridal Veil Fall, the site of two movies: The Last of the Mohicans and The Hunger Games. Someone was giving Hunger Games tours a while back but our group was getting one for free.
Then onto Three Lakes Trail to catch, well, three lakes: Lake Julia, Dense and Alford. Lake Julia was built by Ben Cart who owned the Summit Camps next to the Dupont property, when it was owned by Dupont. Julia was Ben's wife. When Cart wanted to close the business, he sold the land to Dupont.
Lake Dense and Alford were named after Dupont's general managers. Dense is large and in a sunny spot.
Here two hikers are looking for fish at Lake Dense.
We then went on to the surprise. One of our members had found the old Summit Camps buildings in one of his jaunts.
The buildings are all falling apart. The NC State Forest system doesn't have money to restore them and doesn't have money to demolish them. Here, I took a picture of the way the building is being propped up.
I've been asked not to explain precisely where the buildings are. You just have to explore.
On our way out, we stopped at Fawn Lake, the fourth lake.
I've been to Dupont State Forest innumerable number of times but there's always something new to discover.
Sunday promised to be a beautiful day. Some Carolina Mountain Club hikers may have been scared off by the little snow swirling around.
Six hikers started out from Hooker Falls parking area and headed for the Moore/Hooker Cemetery.
Here, Jay, our leader, pointed out something that I had not noticed before--four graves of children who died in the same year, 1861. Margaret (1856-1861), Milliard (1849-1861), Harriet (1854-1861) and Hannah (1844-1861) were laid to rest side by side. Isaac Heath, who we assumed was the father, lived until 1895. What happened?
We can speculate. We dismissed the Civil War. Though the mountain area did suffer from the wanton destruction of the Civil War, 1861 was just too early. We also dismissed attacks by Indians - too late for that.
It could have been a flood or an epidemic. Typically, the children stayed home and may have been swept away by a flood. Maybe the cabin caved in. The father was away and wasn't hit by the same circumstances. Who knows? Isaac Heath is honored with a short trail--Isaac Heath Trail--but the children just have new gravestones.
The rest of the hike was predictably beautiful. We stopped at three lakes, including Lake Dense above. The waterfalls were full of rushing water. By early afternoon, when we reached High Falls, tourists started coming up the trail.
Since we finished the hike so early, Jay suggested that we see another tourist site. We went to the Oscar Blues Brewery. That was my first time in a brewery and I was the designated driver.
Lots of young people hung around at the bar. Somehow, I got the feeling that they didn't just finish a 10.5 mile hike, like we had. Maybe they were warming up for the Super Bowl. Like I said, there's always something on a Dupont hike.
Carolina Mountain Club has recently added yet another way to hike. Paul Benson, in his attempt to be more spontaneous, started a Meetup group as an offshoot of CMC. You know, Meetup? It's a system on the web where people who share a common interest can get together, say they're coming on hikes and then drop out just as easily.
But this is still CMC. So there's a plan, a meeting place and things start on time. For the next few weeks, the organizers decided to concentrate on the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy's White Squirrel challenge. A little cross-fertilization. The three 2-mile hikes that we did were all on land protected by CMLC.
Worlds Edge is a view at the top of Chimney Rock State Park. Unlike the main entrance with its elevator and its $15 entrance fee, the Worlds Edge entrance starts at a fantastic view down to the Blue Ridge escarpment and down, down down to eventually reach boulders and a stream. I have the long hike in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains. Then, I had to go on an CMLC hike but now it seems that you can hike down on your own.
Bearwallow Mountain can be reached from Florence Preserve, which makes a short all-day hike. Or you can get to the top in just one mile (and one mile down). No matter how you do it, the views are magnificent. We had lunch among the transmission towers looking out at the ridges of mountains. A real Sound of Music view.
On our way up, we saw snow almost right away. Hikers kept clicking their shutters, saying that it's the most snow we might see this year. The top was over 4,200 feet, so it wasn't surprising that there was a little white.
As we moved from hike to hike, with a lot of driving in between, people kept dropping out. By the time, we got down to the Greenway, almost half the group was gone.
The park is just off US 25 in the town of Fletcher. I thought it was an unlikely place for CLMC to get involved but I was wrong. If you read the history of the Greenway, CMLC facilitated the transfer of land from private hands to the town of Fletcher.
They put up signs explaining the importance of the greenway on Cane Creek and the protection of wetlands. We hiked the flat two-miles on the CMLC challenge, though there are plenty of other trails in the park.
The CMC Meet-up group will continue to do the CMLC challenge. Stick with them and you too can get the squirrel patch on your pack.
Carolina Mountain Club turns 90 this year. The club was started in 1923 after it split off from the Appalachian Mountain Club in Boston. To celebrate, the CMC Challenge committee has announced two new hiking challenges. We're hikers. What better way to celebrate a birthday!
The basic idea is to do the 92 miles of the Appalachian Trail and 130 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail maintained by the club starting in 2013. As with all CMC challenges, you'll report when you did the individual hikes but you're on the honor system. As you learned in school, if you cheat, you're only cheating yourself. However, Challenge committee members will check for reasonableness.
If you've done it some or all of these sections, you'll need to do them again. How long you have to accomplish these challenges are still being debated by the club. But the message is clear; Start hiking.
“90 in 90” Appalachian Trail (A.T.) Challenge
CMC maintains 92 miles of the Appalachian Trail from Davenport Gap to Spivey Gap (going trail north). An award will be given to hikers completing the 93 miles of Appalachian Trail maintained by Carolina Mountain Club. This challenge will commemorate and highlight the club’s responsibility for maintenance and oversight of 92.7 miles of A.T. section. Here are some guidelines:
-No minimum hiking distance for individual hikes required. Mileage may be accumulated in unlimited number of hikes.
-Mileage hiked must be traveled by foot only starting on January 1, 2013. Hikes you've done before don't count.
-Hikes may be completed alone, or pieced together during CMC hikes.
Successful challenge completers will be awarded a special 2013 CMC 90th anniversary “90 in 90” patch and certificate.
CMC Mountains-To-Sea (MST) 130 Challenge
CMC maintains about 130 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, now between Waterrock Knob and Black Mountain Campground, past Mt. Mitchell State Park (going trail east).
-No minimum hiking distance for individual hikes required; mileage may be accumulated in unlimited number of hikes.
-Mileage hiked must be traveled by foot only starting January 1, 2013. Hikes you've done before don't count for this challenge.
-Hikes may be completed alone, or pieced together during CMC hikes.
-Successful challenge completers will be awarded special 2013 CMC 90th anniversary “MST 130” patch and certificate.
So start hiking and keep a record of the section you did, the date and who (if anyone) you did it with. More details will come out soon.
Sometimes, after you've hiked across the state, down to Florida and overseas, you discover a set of new trails in your neighborhood.
Warren Wilson College is a small liberal arts, that was first set up as a Presbyterian mission school for boys. Slowly, it worked its way from offering basic education to a full-fledged four-year college. In the process, the college acquired a lot of land and now it boasts 25 miles of trail. Though the college doesn't advertise its trails, it does allow the public to enjoy them. So we did. Here's the trail map.
We parked at Charles D. Owen Park, a Bumcombe County Park, off Warren Wilson College Road because the park has much more parking than the trail parking at the college.
The WW trails follow the Swannanoa River - see above. The trails are flat, easy and well-marked. On a warm Sunday, a lot of walkers, runners and dog walkers (on a leash, please) were about.
The hike took us past fields and farm buildings. On the way back, we took a detour closer to campus on a set of trails that went through a pine forest and by several found outdoor sculpture.
The hike was not heart-pumping but it would be great place to take children and adults "who usually don't hike." They wouldn't need boots. The whole trail system was a great discovery.
We review books, movies and even websites. But newsletters are usually forgotten. A lot of time and knowledge are put into writing, laying out and sending out the Carolina Mountain Club Let's Go every quarter. Stuart English, the editor, has been putting out a quality product for years. I want to take a look at this issue.
Just another Saturday Workday on the MST is the story above the fold. It talked about the effort to extend the Mountains-to-Sea Trail west to Heintooga Road. How the MST will meet Great Smoky Mountains National Park is still uncertain. But CMC along with Friends of the MST are working on it. More about this later in another blog.
The story below the fold is the Council Corner. In each issue, a council member writes about some aspect of their CMC responsibilities. In this newsletter, Marcia Bromberg, who is going into her second term as President, outlined the club's accomplishments in maintenance and hiking.
The thrust of the inside page was the CMC dinner and annual meeting. It highlighted our guests, stars of the outdoor world. It also featured the three winners for service to the club.
The Hiking Schedule
The hike schedule takes up the bulk of the rest of the newsletter. Although you can get the hiking schedule on the web, there's nothing like having the whole three months of hikes in a few pages in front of you.
If you say "I have a free day coming up. I wonder what hike CMC is doing," then the web is just fine.
But if you're like me, you have a pen in hand and you go through the schedule slowly and carefully. What days am I going to reserve for hiking? What hikes are so special and intriguing that I am not going to make any other plans?
First, obviously, the hikes I'm leading. This next quarter, I'm leading a Sunday hike in Dupont and a Wednesday hike up to Kitsuma Peak.
Next, I look at the hikes that I have not done or have done a long time ago. Two Wednesday hikes intrigue me:
Good Road to Bald Knob. Do I really want to do Bald Knob on the MST again? It was tough the first time but this hike is not offered often, so I'm planning to go.
Rough Creek. Not tough, just unusual. A hike in the Canton Watershed.
On Sunday, I'll put down Graybeard Mountain in Montreat and the Foothills Trail to Whitewater Falls. The Sunday afternoon hike, Swannanoa River Stroll, sounds intriguing. Lots more choices.
CMC is the best value in hiking around. Though you can come on a hike a time or two without being a member, you won't get the Let's Go. And marking the hikes in anticipation of another great hiking season is part of the fun.
It's not often that I find new trails. There are plenty of trails I haven't hiked but Bracken Mountain in Brevard is a new hiking area in Western North Carolina.
Carolina Mountain Club is always of top of what is happening in the outdoor world. Yesterday Stuart, a popular and experienced CMC leader, led an 8-mile hike on new trails in Bracken Mountain. Where did this new area come from?
A bit of history
Bracken Mountain, which adjoins Pisgah National Forest at the headwaters of Brushy Creek and Bracken Creek, was the site for the water supply for Brevard.
But as the town grew, this source became inadequate by 1979. Though the town considered selling the land to developers, it held onto the property for a long time. Sometimes indecision is good.
In 2005, the North Carolina Clean Water Management Trust Fund awarded the City of Brevard a $1.04 million grant for a permanent conservation easement on the Bracken Mountain Property. A conservation easement means that future Brevard legislators cannot decide to sell the land.
The town then went to work on building trails. Unlike Carolina Mountain Club's maintenance crew that does everything by hand, the town hired trail builders who used a ditchwitch to cut through the land. They also built a parking lot and opened the trails to public use this past summer (July 2012).
On rereading, using a ditchwitch sounds kind of destructive. But when we hiked it, the trails looked smooth and well-maintained. The area attracts mountain bikers who seemed to negotiate the curves well.
About 8 miles of trail has been built, blazed and mapped. Using the trails in Bracken Mountain, you can walk from downtown Brevard to Pisgah Forest. We walked on a combination of trails and had lunch at the top of the property - see the picture above.
Mountain laurels thrived at the top (about 3,500 feet) and the woods were full of rhododendrons below.
So where is Bracken Mountain? You get there by going past the Brevard Music Center and up the hill to park. An information board shows a map and the rules. It's a great new place to hike in the winter.
This is another example of small towns saving their old watersheds by placing them in a conservation easement. Brevard, thank you for thinking ahead.
Jack, our leader who lives in the area, led the hike. We started on Duckett Top Tower Road in the community of Trust close to the intersection of NC 209 and NC 63.
The trail was all on a steep dirt and rocky road. Two miles and 1,500 feet up makes for a good climb but the day was sunny and warm.
Private property signs abounded everywhere. At one point there was even a gate that we shimmied under. Three friendly dogs from the neighborhood followed us. We passed many broken down wooden shacks and abandoned buildings as we climbed.
At the top, the view was magnificent. It was worth the climb. The building looked quite modern. Inside the cab, as they seem to call the inside of the tower, was a bed and a couple of chairs.
We climbed the cat walk or deck for even better views. In front of us was Bluff Mountain. See the picture above.
Below in the distance, we could see the Asheville skyline. Close to the tower, transmission towers have been installed. And sure enough, we could get cell reception.
The tower was built by the US Forest Service in the 1930s. Maintenance workers must use the road when they work on the transmission towers. The Forest Service probably keep the road open and passable and the residents appreciate that, I'm sure.
If you've been reading this blog, Facebook postings or the Carolina Mountain Club website and haven't yet gone on a hike, you might have some questions about how it all works. No mystery. We're all volunteers and we'd love to have you join us. All our hikers are listed on the CMC website.
Yesterday, we had one of our regular Wednesday hikes, this time in Dupont State Forest. Though leaders commit to leading a hike months in advance, they show up at the meeting point, on time and eager to lead a hike. They've scouted (checked out the hike) recently and know the route.
We leave on time. So if the meeting time is 8:30 am at Westgate, it means that we leave at 8:30, so plan to come about 10 minutes early. We carpool to the trail head and it is customary to give a driver 10 cents a mile for riding in someone else's car.
You should have a day pack with all the gear needed for your hike. In particular, a lunch and two quarts of water for the day. And always carry your raincoat, independent of the weather forecast.
On the Trail
Once at the trailhead, you'll sign a release form. The leader will make sure that you're introduced to the group. She'll name a sweep, a person that will stay in the back and make sure we all go the same way.
Then we'll all start walking. We walk at a moderate pace but that is subjective. Sometimes you'll find it too slow, sometimes too fast, but that's group hiking. We stop for snack breaks, lunch and for trail breaks. Trail breaks are official pit stops - men one way, women the other - so that you don't have to dart into the woods to pee and then run to catch up with the group.
Hikers stick with the group, chat and take photographs. This is not a solitary commune with nature.
A good leader will point out flowers, historic artifacts or whatever makes this hike interesting.
No question that Bridal Veil Falls was one of the highlights of yesterday's hike. Our leader stopped so we could look and photograph.
Not everything is perfect at Dupont State Forest.
The houses that date from its development days are deteriorating.
The state doesn't have money to maintain them or to tear them down. It's a shame since these houses could have been saved and turned into a visitor center or a hostel.
At the end of the hike, you're back at your cars having made new friends, exchanged a couple of emails and maybe made mental plans to go next week.
If you're not a member
You need to look at the schedule and pick out a hike that you'll think you'll enjoy. Anyone can do 6 to 8 miles and enjoy it.
Call the leader a few days before and let them know you're coming. Once you join, you'll just show up - except for wilderness hikes that are well advertised that way. And after a hike or two, we expect you to join and become part of the CMC family.
See you on the trail.
I've seen this woman again.
She's a middle aged (45 to 65 years old), thin, perfectly coiffed and dressed, hovering around the North Carolina section of Barnes and Nobles. She picks up Walt Weber's book on hiking the Carolina Mountain Club's section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and looks around, as if it was a porno book. I smile and say that it's a great book.
"I'm thinking about going hiking," she says.
"Hey, that's wonderful." And I launch into my sales pitch about CMC. "You ought to come out with us. We have hikes on Wednesdays, two on Sundays, and sometimes on Saturday."
"I'm really think about it," she says.
What are you waiting for? This is not a lifetime commitment. Just go on the web, look up our schedule and try us out. But I just smile and keep my mouth shut.
Or I see women like that at the "Y" with perfectly matching exercise clothes that actually fit. I'm wearing my stretched out "YMCA" shirts that I've gotten from completing the "Y" Christmas challenge. We're next to each other on the step machine.
"You're the hiking lady, right? Do you still hike?"
"Yes. Why don't you come out with us? We're a friendly bunch of people."
"I'm thinking about it."
What are they waiting for? All of our Carolina Mountain Club Facebook Friends. All of you who "like" us. Don't wait until you retire, or your doctor tells you that you need to exercise. What are you waiting for?
Life is short - Make time for adventure.
I was not able to be part of Diane Van Deren's cheering squad but for a few minutes, I was. And so were the Carolina Mountain Club hikers who did the Coffee Pot Mountain Loop.
Diane is an ultra runner who is running the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. She's trying to beat the record that Matt Kirk established of 24 days. She started at Clingmans Dome on Thursday May 10. For the last couple of days, she ran through CMC territory. She has a compelling story which you can read at the Great Outdoor Provision Co., one of her sponsors.
I, on the other end, plodded up Coffee Pot with several other CMC members. We reached the Blue Ridge Parkway at Beaver Dam Gap Overlook and had lunch at the picnic table.
While we were eating, who should come down but Diane and one of her helper, a WNC top runner? According to the schedule on the web, she ended up at Pisgah Inn last night and was scheduled to run to the Folk Art Center.
We applauded as the two women came down. I was able to get a couple of pictures taken and off they went.
And so did we. We went down Trace Ridge Trail, crossing the stream several times. Mountain laurel were in bloom and so were many wildflowers, including firepinks.
A good hike with a great surprise.