Thursday, August 30, 2012

Officially Old

Certainly, I’m not ready to admit being old, but Gene on the other hand....

Jack, Ansley, and Kayley came this past weekend to help “Big Dad” celebrate his 62nd birthday.  Gene has been counting the months and the days for this birthday--the one on which he was finally eligible to purchase the senior edition of the America the Beautiful pass from the National Park Service.

We’ve been buying the American the Beautiful pass for many years, originally for $50/year and more recently for $80/year.  Now, with the senior rate it is only $10 and is good for the rest of his life.  What’s so special about this pass?  It allows the cardholder entrance to the National Parks and National Forest facilities for free.  That includes parking at trailheads in National Forests where a fee is charged.  Campground fees are reduced to half price. We use these areas so often it was a good deal even at $80/year without the additional reduction of camping fees.  $10 is fantastic.  We’re jumping for joy.

We had a great weekend with Jack, Ansley, and Kayley.  It’s hard work to get ready for such a big birthday and Nana needed plenty of help from Kayley.  We made cookies and decorated cupcakes.  There were birthday cards to make and little messes to clean up.

It wasn’t all work and no play, though.  We found time to check out the local playground at one of the parks in Maryville.

It was a fun-filled, busy weekend.  Nana and Big Dad were moving pretty slowly Sunday afternoon.

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

Monday, August 27, 2012

Middle Prong Trail

There are so many trails in Great Smoky Mountain National Park that it would be possible to hike a different trail each week for over 2 years.  Of course, some trails are better than others and there are several that are worth doing over and over.  Every time we hike a trail, we have a whole new experience.  The weather may be different--the mountain may be shrouded in fog or bathed in sunlight; the leaves may be green or the ablaze with color.  The different seasons also offer a whole new perspective to the trail.  Sometimes we find something we never knew existed on a trail we’ve hiked many times.  That’s what happened on our last hike up Middle Prong Trail.

Middle Prong has proven to be an exciting trail to hike this summer.  We last did this trail the last week in June.  On that hike we only went up as far as the junction with Panther Creek Trail, but found there the crew counting the brook trout.  That was exciting and this week we found a waterfall we hadn’t previously known was on this trail.

Middle Prong Trail begins at the end of the gravel portion of Tremont Road.  This three mile section of gravel road from Tremont Institute to the Middle Prong trailhead is closed in winter.  This is another one of those trails we wanted to hike again before the road is closed.  The parking area at the trailhead is large enough for several cars and the road ends in a loop for the benefit of those towing horse trailers.

Remains of an old homestead or a CCC camp.

As we pulled into the parking area we noticed a large group of hikers.  There are several Wednesday hiking clubs in the area and we’ve been wanting to join one of these groups.  Gene jumped out of the car and introduced himself.  As it turned out they were part of the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club, a club we already belong to.  Smoky Mountains Hiking Club has a reputation of hiking fast, faster than we want to go.  They also like to hike the old trails which are no longer maintained.  We’re not into bushwhacking, either.

Cardinal Flower

While Gene was talking with a couple members of the group, he learned they were headed up Middle Prong to an old trail which leads to Indian Flats waterfall.  They invited us to come along, but we didn’t want to race up the trail then have to bushwhack to some obscure falls.  We let them go on about their business and we went about ours.

Middle Prong Trail is just over four miles in length and an easy four miles it is.  The trail follows an old logging road and rises gently just over a 1000 feet over the course of its entire length.  Lynn Camp Prong tumbles and cascades over boulders just below the trail on the left as you head uphill. There is the occasional swimming hole for the more adventuresome on a hot summer day.  The water in these mountain streams is always too cold for me.

After 2.8 miles we stopped at the Panther Creek Trail junction for a short break.  Middle Prong Trail beyond this junction becomes a little steeper, but hardly noticeable.  The trail gains its elevation by way of long switchbacks.  At the curve of one of these switchbacks we noticed a distinct trail leading off to the right.  From the description Gene got from the hikers in the parking lot, we assumed this to be the trail to the waterfalls.  We could definitely hear the sound of water and, ever so faintly, voices.

We continued on up Middle Prong Trail and, after the next switchback, came to the junction with Lynn Camp Prong Trail and Greenbrier Ridge Trail.  This marks the end of Middle Prong Trail and a perfect place for our lunch break.

From this junction the Appalachian Trail and Derrick Knob shelter are 4.2 miles up Greenbrier Ridge Trail.  It is possible to take Lynn Camp Prong Trail 3.7 miles over to Miry Ridge Trail and down that trail to connect with Panther Creek Trail making a nice loop for a horse ride.

Indian Flats Falls
After our lunch we headed back the way we came.  By the time we got back to the switchback to the falls, the Smoky Mountains Hiking Club group were milling around waiting for the last of their hikers to return from the falls.  They pointed the way for us and encouraged us to go take a look.  They assured us this old trail required no bushwhacking.

We could see at least 2 lower sections of the falls, but we
didn't try to climb down for a better view.
They were sure right about that.  It was as good a trail as most of the maintained trails in the Smokies.  And, it was only about 75 yards to the waterfalls.  The area at the falls was a wonderful place for lunch or just hanging out.  In fact, Gene spoke to a hiker coming up Middle Prong Trail who was on his way to the falls with his hammock to spend a quiet, relaxing afternoon.

One of a couple of cairns in front of the falls
Garnett adding a stone to one.
We expected to have a great hike, but with the discovery of this little waterfalls, our hike was fantastic.  We’ll be returning there for sure.

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Low Gap and Camel Gap Trails

I’m not exactly sure how we ended up hiking fifteen miles to complete these trails, but I absolutely know my feet are still complaining.  My knees, too, for that matter.

The decision to do this came about something like this--Gene made a list of trails that he thought would be good hikes where the trailheads were down roads that would be closed during the winter.  His goal was to get them hiked before the roads are closed.  There are several of these roads in the Smokies; one happens to be the road to Cosby Campground.  On my Smokies trail map I still had not hiked the 2.5 mile section of Low Gap from the Appalachian Trail down to Walnut Bottoms.  So for our hike he suggested we do that section of trail.

Of course, as is the case with a lot of trails in the Smokies, the trailhead for this section of trail was not at a road anywhere; it is 2.5 miles up the mountain where Low Gap Trail junctions with the Appalachian Trail in Low Gap.  This is a good hike of 10 miles--2.5 miles up the mountain and 2.5 miles down the other side then retrace our steps back to the car.

The real problem occurred after he mentioned the hike to me and I got to rolling it around in my head.  Near the end of Low Gap Trail in Walnut Bottoms is Camel Gap Trail which I also needed to hike for the sake of coloring in my map.  By using the AT it is possible to make what we call a lollypop hike--a loop at the end of a stick.  The only problem with that is the total distance of 15 miles.  I thought about it almost all day.  I surely didn’t want to do 15 miles, but it was going to be the only way to get Camel Gap Trail without doing an overnight backpack.

I went to bed thinking it would be easier to hike 15 miles with a small day pack than carry a heavy backpack up that mountain.  When Gene came to bed I asked him what he thought about doing 15 miles.  We slept on the idea.  The next morning we threw more food in our packs and ran out the door with coffee mugs in hand to get a very early start--the trailhead was a 2-hour drive from our house.

As I said earlier, the trailhead for Low Gap Trail is in Cosby Campground.  There is a gigantic parking lot for hikers just before you pass through the campground check-in office and the trailhead is at the end of this parking area.  However, there is a very small parking area which will accommodate about 2 cars located at a spur trail which leads to Low Gap Trail.  This spur trail saves about a half or three-quarters of a mile on the hike.  We wanted to save every step we could.

The first quarter mile or so is along a gravel road which is used by Park Service to access the water supply for the campground.  The trail then crosses Cosby Creek on a footbridge and the trail then becomes a regular dirt path.  The trail climbs steeply, following Cosby Creek upstream for about the first mile.  The trail continues to climb, using switchbacks to gain 2000 feet before coming out at Low Gap at the junction with the Appalachian Trail.

Cosby Creek
We stopped for a short break in the gap before heading down hill on the other side of Low Gap.  We’d be back here later in the day.  This side of Low Gap Trail is as steep as what we had come up losing 1500 feet as it drops down to Big Creek at Walnut Bottoms.  We came down pretty quickly and were more than ready for a lunch break by the time we got to the junction with Big Creek Trail.

After our lunch we headed right for a half mile to the junction with Camel Gap Trail.  After the steep climb and steep descent on Low Gap Trail, Camel Gap Trail was a delight.  The trail is along a well graded old logging railroad bed and gains only 1500 over the course of 4.7 miles.  That seemed like nothing compared to the steepness of Low Gap Trail.

Camel Gap is a beautiful trail at first following along side Big Creek then smaller creeks as it gained the slope through hardwood forest.  The trail became only slightly steeper as we turned away from the water and headed up to Camel Gap at the junction with the Appalachian Trail.

Another break was in order at this junction.  At this point we had completed 10 of the 15 miles and were feeling pretty good.  After our short break we turned right onto the Appalachian Trail and started our last climb for the day--300 feet over Cosby Knob.  This short climb was easier than I expected.  Then it was downhill for the rest of the way.

Taking a break and checking the map in Camel Gap
After 1.8 miles on the AT, we stopped in at Cosby Knob Shelter.  Gene needed water and that was the best place to get it.  We took a short break at the shelter, but it may have been a mistake.  Cosby Knob Shelter is several feet below the trail and we noticed on the climb back up that we were getting pretty tired.  It was a good thing we didn’t have any more up hill.

This section of the AT is very steep and rocky.  We were worn out by the time we descended the 700 feet to Low Gap.  Our feet and legs hurt, but our spirits were high.  It was only 5 PM and only 2.5 miles to go.

We took another short break in the gap then started our final leg of the hike.  All those other miles were taking their toll and it was pretty slow going. Down hill is so much harder on the feet and legs.  You cannot believe how happy I was to see that footbridge over Cosby Creek.  Still, it seemed to take forever to get down that short section of gravel road and I didn’t even have the energy to get out the camera when the bear crossed the road about 50 yards in front of me.  It’s a good thing the bear went on about his own business because I didn’t even have the energy or desire to stop.  I was headed for the car.

All the trails in this loop are nice, but I particularly enjoyed Camel Gap Trail.  I love hiking by the water and the trail was so gentle it gave me a chance to enjoy what I was seeing.  It’s too bad this trail is so far from a road.  The distance prevents most people from ever enjoying its beauty.

That’s all I have to say for today.  Thanks for tagging along.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Trillium Gap Trail to Brushy Mountain

We got with our hiking friend, Sharon, and she suggested we go up to Brushy Mountain via the Trillium Gap Trail.  That was a great suggestion and it turned out to be a beautiful hike.

Trillium Gap Trail is one of the four trails which lead to Mt. LeConte Lodge.  The others are Rainbow Falls Trail, Alum Cave Trail, and The Boulevard Trail.  Of course, there are other trails which make connections with these making other routes possible.  Brushy Mountain Trail junctions with Trillium Gap Trail and Bull Head Trails junctions with Rainbow Falls Trail.

Trillium Gap Trail is nine miles long from its trailhead in Cherokee Orchard to LeConte Lodge.  For our hike today we were only doing a short 2.8 mile section, or what is commonly thought of as the middle section of Trillium Gap Trail.  To access the middle of the trail we didn’t use the large parking area at the trailhead.  Trillium Gap Trail actually begins off of Rainbow Falls Trail a short distance from that trailhead.  After leaving Rainbow Falls Trail, Trillium Gap Trail more or less parallels Cherokee Orchard Road for about two miles at which point a short access trail comes up from the Grotto Falls parking area.  We used this access trail as a means to get to Trillium Gap Trail without having to start at the beginning.

The Grotto Falls parking area is about 2 miles from the beginning of the one-way Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail.  The parking lot will accommodate several cars, but this is one of the most popular hikes in the park, so the spaces go quickly.  Also, because this trail leads to Mt LeConte, some vehicles will be there overnight.  We arrived about 9 AM and were able to find a parking space near the end of the lot and didn’t have to try to squeeze to the shoulder of this very narrow road.

Lower portion of Grotto Falls
The primary feature along this trail is Grotto Falls located just 1.4 miles from the parking area.  It is a relatively easy climb on a wide, well used trail to one of the prettiest falls in the Park.  No wonder it gets crowds every day.  On the morning of our hike, we only saw 3 or 4 other people on the trail as we made our way past the falls.

Roaring Fork, the source of Grotto Falls, drops approximately 25 feet as it falls over the rock outcrop into a small pool then quickly tumbles again over boulders as it rushes on its journey to join the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River near Gatlinburg.  There are boulders all around the falls.  Sometimes they seem to be in the way of the best camera shot, but they make great places to sit and enjoy the beauty of the falls.

The trail actually goes behind the falls.  This can be a wet spot depending on the amount of recent rainfall, but we only got a little spray on our boots as we passed behind the falls.  Grotto Falls is the destination for most hikers on this trail.  We, however, we continuing beyond the falls up to Trillium Gap where we would junction with Brushy Mountain Trail.

Even on days when there are crowds at the Falls, the trail above the falls is blessedly peaceful.  There may be the occasional day hikers like ourselves or the few guests coming or going from Mt LeConte Lodge, but certainly not the throngs of folks that clog the trail below the falls.

 This is also the trail which the wrangler uses to lead the llamas to and from Mt Leconte Lodge.  The llama trailer was in the parking area and there was evidence on the pavement and on the trail that they had been there earlier that morning.  I’m sorry we missed them. That would have been a real treat to see.

The trail above the falls becomes a bit steeper, but not too strenuous as it gains another thousand feet before meeting Brushy Mountain Trail in Trillium Gap.  The gap is a large grassy spot with a couple of logs to sit on for a break.  In the middle of the gap is a 4-way intersection.  Trillium Gap Trail makes a sharp right turn here to continue on to Mt. LeConte.  Straight ahead of us as we came up Trillium Gap Trail is Brushy Mountain Trail.  To go straight here would lead 5.5 miles to Greenbrier Cove.  Our destination was to the left about a quarter mile up to the summit of Brushy Mountain.

Trail on Brushy Mountain
Brushy Mountain is a heath bald which offers some tremendous views.  This is different from the grassy balds we’ve been visiting this summer.  A heath bald is covered in short shrubs of the heath family--blueberry, sand myrtle, wintergreen, rhododendron, and mountain laurel.  These shrubs can get pretty tall and I was barely able to see over the top.  Fortunately, there is a “bald” spot just off the trail that offers excellent views.  This is also a great spot for lunch as it is somewhat protected from the wind by the surrounding vegetation.

Mt LeConte just under the cloud
A few rumbles of thunder and an ominous looking black cloud approaching from over Mt LeConte cut our lunch break a little short.  We packed up our stuff and headed back down the mountain.  Our return trip along Trillium Gap Trail was as peaceful and pleasant as our ascent had been until we got to Grotto Falls.  The crowds had moved in and we had difficulty navigating our way behind the falls and over the surrounding boulders.

Lunch spot of the day

I guess I’m selfish and enjoy the solitude of a mountain trail.  At the same time, I’m grateful all these people chose to venture out into the woods for a day of exercise, fresh air, and a big dose of nature at its best.

View from our lunch spot
This is a beautiful hike and we’ll be coming here often.  Thanks, Sharon, for sharing the hike and the day with us.

That’s all for now.  Thanks for tagging along.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Finley Cane, Lead Cove Trails

Well, we’re back in the Smokies now after a short trip over to North Carolina to do some hiking and sightseeing in Pisgah National Forest.  That was a good trip and we enjoyed being in the motor home for a few days, even if we didn’t have hookups.  I think we’re going to look forward to our little monthly trips.  We have a little work to do to become efficient at preparing for the trip and then preparing the motor home to return to storage.  I guess more practice is needed.

The temperatures were nice and cool at 5,000 ft in Pisgah, but, surprisingly, we returned to pleasant weather in Maryville.  It may be too much to expect that we’ve turned the corner on the worst of the summer weather.  With these pleasant mornings, we’ve started looking at lower elevation hikes again.

A small area of "switch" cane for which the trail is named.
Gene is usually in charge of picking our hikes and he chose to put Finley Cane, Bote Mountain, and Lead Cove Trails together to make a loop hike of 7 miles.  The parking lot for Finley Cane and Lead Cove trails also serves Turkey Pen Ridge Trail and is located on Laurel Creek Road in the Park.  There are two single lane parking areas, one on each side of the road, which can accommodate perhaps a dozen cars.  All three of these trails are open to horses and it’s not uncommon to see horse trailers in the parking area.

We began our hike on the Finley Cane Trail.  This is a great trail for a day hike.  It’s an easy hike of 2.8 miles which only gains about 200 feet in elevation.  For the Smokies, that’s practically flat.  You have options with this trail, too.  For a little bit longer hike, you could use Bote Mountain to connect with West Prong Trail and go over to campsite 18 for a lunch break before heading back to your car.  Or, you can do like we did, and make a loop using Bote Mountain and Lead Cove.

Evidence of recent storm damage.  Trail crews have cleared
the trail of any downed trees.
I just love this trail.  It doesn’t have sweeping views, it doesn’t follow along beside a tumbling mountain stream, there is no waterfall or other feature.  It simply winds its way peacefully in and out of coves of hardwoods and rhododendron.  Perhaps that is what I love about it--a simple dirt path offering the peacefulness of the mountains.  On the cool morning we were there, it seemed like a gift from God to refresh our souls.

Bote Mountain Trail is quite the opposite.  Long ago in the early 1800s this was the path used by James Spence to herd his cattle to Spence Field for summer grazing.  Later on a road was built to connect Tennessee to the North Carolina side of the mountain.  That didn’t work out too well since the North Carolina side of the road was never finished.  The Tennessee road was kept open even after the National Park was established.  Spence Field was a popular destination during the summer and the road led almost all the way to the top.

Today, it still looks much like an old mountain dirt road.  Ugly, as trails go; and steep in places.  We had a 1000 feet to climb and 2.5 miles to walk to get to our connecting trail, so we took a short break at the junction of Finley Cane and Bote Mountain.

The first mile of our trek up Bote Mountain was steep and rocky.  We have done this trail numerous times and knew what to expect.  Even during summer, Bote Mountain trail offers the occasional view and I stopped every chance I had to make a picture and catch my breath. Fortunately for us, the only “flat” spot on Bote Mountain Trail occurs between Finley Cane and Lead Cove and after about a mile we had a mile of welcome relief from the climb.

Along the flat section of Bote Mountain Trail

Another break was in order at the junction with Lead Cove before we started down to undo that 1000 feet of climb.  Lead Cove Trail is much like Finley Cane except with the elevation change.  It’s not as relaxing as Finley Cane because it requires so much concentration whether you’re going up hill or down.  I prefer the down hill, but the steepness is hard on my knees.

Lead Cove was the short section of this hike--only 1.8 miles.  Since we had gotten an early start we were back at the car shortly after noon.  It was nice to hike at Pisgah for a change of pace, but I was glad to be back on the trial in the Smokies.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Looking Glass Rock

One of the great views from the Blue Ridge Parkway is of Looking Glass Rock.  Every time we’ve stopped at the overlook at milepost 417 with Looking Glass Rock so prominent in the distance, we say we’re going to hike that someday.  We finally made a plan to hike to the top of Looking Glass Rock.

This massive rock gets its name from the way the sun is reflected from the rock face when water freezes on the surface.  They say it looks like a mirror.  Maybe we’ll get a chance to see it in winter sometime.

As we were coming down from the Blue Ridge Parkway on US 276 we stopped at Looking Glass Falls.  Since this waterfall is right by the relatively busy US highway, it gets a lot of visitors.  We were lucky there were only about a dozen folks there when we stopped.  A stairway goes down from the road to the lower level for good views of the falls from several points.  The falls drops about 60 feet into a pool deep enough for swimming.  No one was brave enough to be in that cold water when we were there, but there were several climbing on the rocks just at the edge of the water.

The Looking Glass Rock trailhead is located on Fish Hatchery Road just off of US 276 not so far from the Cradle of Forestry and only a couple miles from the falls.  This is a popular trail and the parking lot is large enough to accommodate several cars.

The hike begins gently by way of switchbacks for about the first mile.  The trail is wide and well maintained.  When the switchbacks came to an end we enjoyed a relatively flat trail for a short distance.  Then the real climbing began; up and up to gain the rest of the 1500 feet of elevation to the top.

Just over 2 miles into our hike we came to a large, flat rock to our left.  This is the helipad used by search and rescue teams.  It’s marked with a large white “H” near the center.  Any exposed rock face such as this is an invitation to rock climbers and Looking Glass Rock has its fair share.  Accidents happen all to frequently.  Since we are hiking up the “back” side of the mountain, we didn’t see any climbers.

After a short break on the helipad, we continue our trek to the top.  I keep saying the “top” and that’s how I think of it, but the granite rock face we’re headed to is actually below the summit.  About mile 3 we actually reach the highest point on our hike--an overused campsite without any views.  The trail continues across this area and then down for about a tenth of a mile to the exposed granite at the edge of the mountain.

We venture out only a few feet to get a good look around and take in the views, but the rock slopes quickly and we find our lunch spot closer to the trees.  From our vantage point, we can see the cars driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway in spots along the ridge above and can see the lookout where we have stood so often looking down on this big rock.

After a leisurely lunch break, we pack up to retrace our steps to the car.

This is a popular hike and there were several on the mountain with us.  Unfortunately, many try to save a few steps by cutting the switchbacks and the terrain surrounding the trail is scarred and unsightly.  Still, the view from the top is awesome, so I guess I can ignore some of the destruction.

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cradle of Forestry

While we’re in the area and all immersed in the legacy of George Vanderbilt, we wanted to visit the Cradle of Forestry located only about 8 miles from Mt Pisgah Campground.

The Cradle of Forestry is the location of the first school of forestry in the United States.  It came about thanks to George Vanderbilt.  Most of the 125,000 acres of Vanderbilt was forest (which he called the “Pisgah Forest”) and for him the forest was all about making money.  He wanted someone to manage his forest so that profits would continue to roll in.  He hired Gifford Pinchot to oversee his forest.  Pinchot eventually passed this job on to Carl Schenck.  It was Schenck, who had been educated in a German forestry school, who had the vision to open a forestry school in America.

The Biltmore Forest School opened in 1898 and turned out to be very successful.  During the 15 years in which the school was in operation, some 350 students studied the science of forestry.  From this small beginning came the Forest Service of today.

In 1914 the Forest Service purchased the “Pisgah Forest”, which also included the site of the Biltmore Forest School, from George Vanderbilt’s widow, Edith.  Her only request was that the name be retained.  Today, we know this area as Pisgah National Forest.

Cradle of Forestry Visitor Center
We started our tour at the Visitor Center.  This is a magnificent facility with a theater, display gallery, classrooms, and, of course, a small gift shop.  We were in a hurry so zipped through this very quickly.  We did not allow nearly enough time.  That just means we’ll have to go back some time.

The Biltmore Forest School
We spent most of our time on a guided tour of the Biltmore Forest School campus.  We were the only ones on the tour, so had the tour guide all to ourselves.  I love it when this happens.

The King House
Our first stop was at a reconstruction of the small school building.  Apparently, Dr. Schenck was a real task master and the students worked long and hard to get their education.  As we continued along the mile-long trail around the campus we visited the general store, the King house which was used as a forestry employees’ residence, the blacksmith shop, Schenck’s office, and the Rangers’ residence.

The Rangers' Residence with Gene and our volunteer guide
There is a second tour along the Forest Festival Trail.  This tour is a more in-depth look at what Biltmore Forest School taught the students and explains the science of forestry.  We had other plans so were not able to do this tour.  We’re putting it on our list for our next visit.

We will definitely be back to the Cradle of Forestry.  We had no idea it entailed so much and didn’t allow nearly enough time to do it justice.  We’ll be back.

Jo, Fred, and Boo Boo taken in Rio Grande Valley in 2009
The reason we were in such a rush was a visit with friends, Fred and Jo Wishnie of The Wandering Wishnies.  They are volunteering at Cradle of Forestry for the next couple of months.  We’ve been following the Wishnies in their wanderings for several years and first met them in person 2009 while in the Rio Grande Valley.  It was good to see Fred and Jo again.

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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mount Pisgah Trail

Mount Pisgah (5721 ft), for which the Pisgah National Forest is named, was our hike for today.

The name “Pisgah” comes from the Bible.  It was atop Mount Pisgah that God revealed to “Promised Land” to Moses.  This is not that Mount Pisgah.  There seems to be some controversy on how this mountain got its name.  However, both stories credit the naming of the mountain to ministers who looked out over the rich land surrounding the mountain and were reminded of the Moses story of the Promised Land.

Mount Pisgah
During the late 1890s some 125,000 acres of land, including Mount Pisgah, was acquired by George Vanderbilt.  Down the mountain from Mount Pisgah, near Asheville, is the Biltmore Estate, the home of George Vanderbilt.  In addition to the Vanderbilt mansion down below, they also had a hunting lodge on the ridge about a mile from where the Pisgah Inn is located today.  A seventeen mile trail led from the Biltmore Estate to the Buck Springs hunting lodge.  The lodge was rustic compared to the mansion in Asheville, but what it lacked in marble it made up for in having, in the late 1890s, hot and cold running water. That trail is still open today and is called the Shut-In Trail.  Of course, the hunting lodge is long gone.

Our hiking friend, Sharon, had recommended a hiking guidebook, Hiking the Carolina Mountains, by Danny Bernstein.  This was the first hike we have done which was described in that book.  Danny’s route was up the Mount Pisgah Trail to the WLOS TV tower on the summit and back for a 2.6 mile round-trip hike.

The Mount Pisgah Trail begins at the “back” of the very large Mount Pisgah Parking Area just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  There are three trailheads at this parking lot--Mount Pisgah Trail, Mountains to the Sea Trail, and the Shut-In Trail.

View of Pisgah Inn from Mt Pisgah Trail
The Mount Pisgah Trail starts out on a very gentle incline.  The trail is wide and a little rocky, but not bad.  There are several viewpoints along the way, even with the trees in full leaf.  About halfway in our climb to the summit, the trail narrowed and became noticeably steeper and more rocky.  Also, by this time, the clouds were really beginning to move in.  We pressed on, however, knowing there’d be no views from the top.

View from the summit
They say you can see a whole lot of stuff from the summit on a clear day, including the Biltmore Estate.  Today wasn’t the day.  All we saw was fog.  We lingered a while on the observation platform then headed back down the mountain to the parking lot.

View from the site of the hunting lodge
But, that was only the first half of the hike.  Danny then sent us westward on the Mountains to the Sea trail to the site of the Vanderbilts’ hunting lodge at Buck Springs Gap.  The lodge is no longer there, but there is an information board with photos of what it once looked like.  There are also benches from which to enjoy the view.  The view wasn’t much better here than from the top.  Since the site of the lodge was so close to the parking lot, we came back on another morning for a better view.

View from the hunting lodge on a clearer day
Down the hill from the site of the lodge is the springhouse.  This is the only building which remains of the lodge complex.  By the way, after George Vanderbilt died, Edith spent most of her remaining years at the hunting lodge.

Stairs leading to the springhouse

After looking around there we continued westward on the Mountains to the Sea Trail to Pilot Rock Trail which led to the summit of Little Bald Mountain.  This once bald knob is mostly filled in with small trees and shrubs.

Thunder reminds us of pressing business so we hurry back to the car.  We missed the rain only by minutes.  We were back at the motor home for lunch and a quiet afternoon reading.

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