Friday, June 8, 2012

Wayah Bald

We did not do a hike today although we went to a hiking destination.  Lucky for us, there was a road that went right where we wanted to go--Wayah Bald. Unlike nearly everything else we’ve done, Wayah Bald is not in the Smoky Mountains National Park.  Today, we drove south of the Smokies to Franklin, North Carolina and then along a twisty, narrow, mountain road to Nantahala National Forest.  From there it was another 4 miles on a gravel forest service road to the bald.

Wayah is a Cherokee name which means “wolf”.  Apparently, red wolves once roamed the area. Wayah Bald is another one of those high elevation, treeless mountain tops which are so common around here.  This bald has been kept open over the past several decades because it is the location of a fire tower.

Today, the bald is beginning to be reclaimed by trees and shrubs.  Most common on the bald are azaleas.  Of course, the tower and the stone walkway around its perimeter occupy most of the bald.

As early as the 1920s the US Forest Service has used Wayah Bald as a fire lookout point.  In 1927 a small cabin was moved here and in the late 1920s a wooden fire tower was built.  During the mid-1930s the CCC built the elaborate stone tower which still stands on the bald, although it has been renovated over the years.

This is a popular destination for those wanting a grand view of the Nantahala mountains.  On a clear day you can see all the way to Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies, some 30 miles away as the crow flies.  We could barely see it today through the haze.

This fellow walked out on the road in front of us and waited around
so photos could be taken.
Two trails cross over the bald--the Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail.  Consequently, there are a lot of hikers here during the spring.  By the way, the Bartram Trail is another one of those long distance trails.  It is named for William Bartram, a naturalist who explored much of the south east.  Not all of this trail is actually on the ground, but there is a 115 mile segment from north Georgia into North Carolina which has been designated a National Recreational Trail. The Appalachian Trail and the Bartram Trail cross paths for a short distance as they traverse Wayah Bald.

Yes, I have my jacket on this morning.
After checking out the views from the top of the tower, we went over to a little used picnic area for our lunch.  There is a small parking lot near the picnic area which can be used by hikers for a day or overnight hike.

It’s been several years since we were last here and that time we walked to Wayah Bald from Georgia.  Let me just say it was a whole lot easier coming here in the car.

Nearby is Winespring Bald.  It's the home of all those towers with the stuff that keeps our high tech gizmos communicating.

On the way to Wayah Bald we stopped at Wilson Lick.  Wilson Lick, built in 1916, is the first ranger station in the Nantahala National Forest.  It was used as a base camp and staging area for the fire fighters, for fire training sessions, and a residence for the supervising ranger.  Rangers in those days were responsible for spotting fires, managing fires, and maintaining the telephone lines between fire towers.  The house and out building were locked so we couldn’t see inside, but, from the outside, it looked like a comfortable place to live.

Back side of Wilson Lick
Gene had found in one of the many brochures we have of places to see and things to do in the area, the description of T. M. Rickman’s General Store.  We went on the most curvy, twisty, mountain road we’ve ever been on.  We finally found the store and it was closed. Only open on Saturdays.  How can a General Store be open only on Saturday?

Another gem we found on this country road was "Loafer's Glory".  It was a small gas station with rocking chairs out front.  The red truck is blocking the view of the old codgers rocking away the morning.

That’s it for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

1 comment:

  1. It's nice to see that there are still a few old gas stations like Loafer's Glory around. Very few of those old places left.