Monday, May 2, 2011

Ace Gap Trail Is Ace In The Hole

Early on Friday, the 21st, seven members of CHC headed for Townsend to hike Ace Gap. We turned on Tuckaleechee Road and after a bit of a search, we found ourselves at the park boundary and a small parking lot that serves both Ace Gap and Rich Mountain Trails. Wayne had already announced the trail wasn't known for wildflowers so when we immediately spotted trilliums and mayapples, we were a bit surprised. Again, we were struck by the vivid pink's of some of the trilliums.

The trail starts out near a sink and gently winds the slope of the ridge. We soon spotted wild geranium and loads of fire pink! Continuing on, we spotted a bristly locust, a flower Deb and Che had not seen before so we had to stop and consult the 'book'.

After an gradual descent, we found ourselves on a little path, surrounded by dwarf-crested iris on the forest floor with patches of ladyslippers thrown in for surprise. The trail made a left curve here and soon we were at Kelly Gap campsite.  As we climbed, we realized we were near a large house that sits within sight, and we could see where the trail had been rerouted. Then it was a long, gradual descent where we had our first sighting of the season of flame azalea.

Our knees appreciated the going down, but we good-naturedly teased Wayne about what that might mean on the way out. We spied ranges of mountains beyond the trees to the left, and wondered if it might be the community called 'Top Of The World' (special place to Deb). Finally, we leveled out at a very nice camp site with an actual picnic bench. From here, we had another spell of climbing before our descent to the intersection of Ace Gap and Beard Cane Trail.
The Gap is 5.6 miles from Rich Mountain Road. We made a decision to get at least one of the climbs out the way before lunch, so we turned around and started back for the last campsite with the nice bench. It seemed a lot farther than we remembered, but we got there and settled down for lunch. Kathy claimed the bench and the rest settled down (or was it the other way around?). For some reason, the sight of Reggie on her little stool seems funny! Hmnnn...

She found out that sitting between Wayne and Che can be a dangerous thing with food flying overhead!

Wayne loved the flame azalea's when some of the group took off on a bit of a bushwhack up the ridge. We found squaw root and more fire pink. 11+ miles and Wayne score's another hit with the group!

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