Adventures in Pisgah

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Charles Bunion



















Last weekend's adventure found me in the Great Smoky National Park exploring some new to me trails. With so many options in the region I have a hard time deciding where to go and I spend a lot of time looking at maps and pondering my options. With 900 miles of trails in park the options are seemingly endless but many of those miles are very far from the nearest access point so short little loops are hard to come by. After much debate I put together a nice little lollipop that would take me to the top of Mt. Kephart as well as the scenic Charles Bunion.









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 Things started nicely with a gentle trail up Kephart Prong. There were several groups of backpackers heading towards the shelter but once I turned onto Sweat Heifer I had the trail all to myself.

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Halfway up the trail I passed by the Sweat Heifer Cascades and made a mental note to remember the spot to explore for canyoneering this summer.

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As I approached the ridge top the views started to open up and I basked in the Carolina bluebird skies.

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Up on the Appalachian Trail the trail was covered in snow and ice and my solitude was shattered by an endless progression of day hikers going to and from Charles Bunion who seemed surprised that I was running on the trail.

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It was very cold and windy and when I got to Charles Bunion a group of hikers were amazed that I was wearing shorts.
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I paused only briefly and tried my best to look casual as I asked them to take my picture.

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The iconic rock was the hikers destination and once I left Charles Bunion the mountains were all mine again and I was plunged into solitude. It was all downhill from there and I put it into cruise control and soaked in the beauty and wonder of it all as the miles rolled by.

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Sundays are good days for hikes so we went out on a family excursion to Looking Glass Rock. It was snowing and there were not many views to be had but still a classic hike and yet another excellent adventure in Pisgah!

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Panthertown Redux

Last weekend Yuri and I went to Panthertown Valley for another take on my half marathon route there. This version would take us past nine different waterfalls along the way as well as some of the more scenic trails like Overlook and Little Green. There were no mountain views to be had this day but the waterfalls were spectacular even if my feet did inadvertently get wet somewhere along the way.

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Sunday, January 22, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Winter in Pisgah

One weekend and you are running through a foot of snow with temperatures in the teens and the next weekend you are running on the same trail wearing nothing but shorts and shoes.

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Sunday, January 8, 2017

Mackey Mountain

It wasn't that long ago that it seemed like the whole world was on fire and the apocalypse was upon us. The news rained downed like Napalm and a long November was followed by an even longer December. Eventually the rains came and while they didn't wash all of our sins away they did finally extinguish the fires that had surrounded us. A heavy price was paid but the forests were left to their own again. Fire in itself is a good thing but these fires were not natural . Like so much in this world  they were the result of humans messing with things that are better left untouched.

I've been eager to see some of the fire areas and last weekend I made it over to Mackey Mountain where one of the fires had raged. Mackey Mountain trail is a five mile long stretch of singletrack that if you look at the map appears to lead to nowhere. I had hiked the trail once before with Duma during a storm and recalled it being very overgrown and not too pleasant and hadn't wanted to do it again until I saw that the trail was used to access the fire by ground crews as well as serving as a dozer line at its far end. That was all the news I needed to know that it was time for me to revisit that seldom traveled dotted black line on the map.

Things started with some nice rolling singletrack that took us over a few knobs where big views were abundant. I don't get out to that side of the forest too often so it was nice to be gazing out at the iconic peaks on Table Rock, Hawksbill and Grandfather mountains.

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After twisting our way along the trail for several miles we reached the first dozer line. There wasn't much to see as the fire was kept back from this area.

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A short while later we found this tree which is undoubtedly a Cherokee trail tree.

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From there we kept following the dozer line and reached a burned area. We assumed this was a back burn but that is just an assumption.

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Following the fire line took us to the top of Mackey Mountain itself and at the top we realized that we had left the trail somewhere around the trail tree so we backtracked back to the trail.

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Once back on the trail we came to a very big dozer line where it was clear they would have stopped the fire had it made it that far. Yuri was able to win the race in the process.

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The big cut allowed for more big views.

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Once at the end of the trail we turned around and started making our way back to Curtis Creek Rd. When we got close to the trail tree we encountered this rather phallic tree. Being a White Oak the species was right but the crook looked a little high off the ground to me so I labeled it inconclusive.

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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Cedar Rock Mountain



 Longer isn't always better when it comes to trail running for me. One of my all time favorite routes comes in at an easy eight miles or so. Starting from the Fish Hatchery:

Cat Gap > Butter Gap > Cedar Rock Mtn. > Art Loeb > Cat Gap > John Rock > Cat Gap

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Once you get to the Butter Gap/Art Loeb intersection take the unmarked trail 90 degrees to your left. This trail takes you over the top of Cedar Rock Mtn. Along the way there are two separate pitches that are full on scrambles where caution must really be exercised. The views, of course, are outstanding.

Yuri and I managed to get together for this run the Sunday after Thanksgiving while the whole world was on fire and it was just what we needed. We traversed Cedar Rock just as the sun was setting and then stopped on top of John Rock in the dark to look down on the Hatchery and out passed Looking Glass Rock up to the Parkway and beyond and I couldn't help but state aloud just how lucky we are.

Just eight miles and a lot steeper than it looks.



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Sunday, November 27, 2016

The crest of a trail

Getting a  band back together is easier said than done. People drift apart, habits and interests change, things get complicated. But sometimes it just a matter of calling up a couple of friends and saying, Hey, let's get together and jam sometime and then seeing who all shows up. Last weekend it was just a duo as Jon and I managed to get together for a short but rather spectacular run. First we were going to head to Grandfather Mtn. but then veered off course and went to Bowlen's Creek to run the first section of the Black Mtn. Crest trail up to Ceilo Knob.

At the trail head we met a couple of backpackers who reported having had to flee from the mountain top at 3am that morning due to ripping winds and freezing temperatures. It was almost 50 degrees down at the start  so how cold and windy could it really be up there? Well, as soon as we approached the 6000' mark the world changed and we were faced with exactly the conditions that had been reported to us. The wind must have let up for a little while as a layer of rime ice had formed and was being blown from the vegetation. Although I was under dressed and not wanting to linger too long up high the unexpected conditions were exactly what we had come in search of.

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