Thursday, May 5, 2011

Brevard Spring Hiking

The spring hiking trip for the Chattanooga Hiking Club's Wednesday group started off with an unfortunate bang. (Two vehicles were involved, but it was sorted in no time, the details left later, and we were soon headed up the interstate.) We probably didn't shake off the troubling morning until we stopped in Sylva, NC, for lunch and settled down with some food in our stomach's. The drive through the mountains was beautiful, but we didn't arrive at our house at Rainbow Lake Resort on a back road near Brevard without a few wrong turns (those mountain roads CAN be confusing!).  We dumped our gear, left Bob and Karen at the house, and took off for Dupont State Forest to try and get a quick hike in with dreary sky's overhead, threatening our fun.

We arrived at Dupont and were soon on a well-traveled path headed toward High Falls. It did not disappoint. Wow! We spied the water through foliage, but when we got to the actual viewing area, they were gorgeous. Transylvania County is known for the abundance of falls and you just can't underestimate the beauty.

We continued on around the loop and in no time, we were at Triple Falls, another gorgeous falls.

We accomplished our hike without a drop of rain, got back to the house, and in no time, were eating a delicious casserole prepared by Linda and enjoying a salad brought by Patti. And Kathy brought out her famous chocolate layer cake!

Next  morning Arlene had a great frittata ready for breakfast, we all had our rain gear on hand, and took off for nearby Caesars Head State Park just over the South Carolina state line. But as we climbed altitude, we were enveloped in fog and wondered at the safety of being on an unfamiliar trail. The plan was to stop at the park office and speak with a ranger, but we found the office closed at that early hour. It was decided to head back to Dupont Forest where there was less fog. We got on the Big Rock Trail, and found ourselves climbing a path that  became rocky. Then, we found ourselves on a granite promenade with a view of the Pisgah Mountains. Taking off from here on up the mountain, signs instructed us to watch for cairns to point us in the direction we should go. (Indicative of the type of mountain we were on, at this point it was more rock/granite.) As we made the ascent, Bill stopped the group and gave us a lesson on how unusual this type of trail was for the South, reminding us that we would find promontory's like this on more northern portions of the AT. Here, the rain found us and the gear came on.

However, as we descended it came in spurts and by the time we were at the Little River, it was gone.

Back at the cars, we made the decision to go back up to the South Carolina line, and try again for one of the trails called Raven Cliffs. Right on cue, we found the fog right across the line, but jumped on the trail soon after we parked. There was a bit of a descent, but soon, we were climbing a ridge in a beautiful hardwood forest. We were quieted by the soft mist on the mountain, a reminder we were intruding on mother natures world. But we came as friends and we felt the awesome power of the force she controls and respected it. Each step was made with care as we took caution to not step on the red salamanders we encountered all along the way. They had obviously just been hatched!

We ate lunch in a sweet gazebo while we enjoyed the view of Raven Cliff Falls. This was a fantastic spot despite the mosquito's. Someone advised raising an arm (it supposedly wards off the pesky things??).

We beat the weather, got our hikes in, and arrived back at the house to a table set and readied by Karen. She had a delicious southwestern casserole ready, Trish had a salad and side dish, and we were set for dinner. It wasn't long before we began getting messages from back home about the terrible tornado's that were beginning to hit. The t.v. came on and we spent the rest of the evening and into the late hours with our eyes glued to the weather station and our cell phone's close, watching and listening as the awful news came about the death and devastation. It was an uneasy night as the storm rolled thru our area. The next morning, we were all checking in with family and friends. After a breakfast of waffles, it was pack-up time which took a little while. We said good-bye to Bob and Karen and headed off for a short hike at John Rock in Pisgah National Forest.
The sky was as picture perfect as could be, crystal blue with puffy white dense clouds hanging overhead as began the hike on Cat Gap Loop Trail. It started by peaceful, meandering creek alongside the path with fly fishermen casting their rods. We crossed the bridge and found a couple picturesque campsites on the other side. There were also dwarf crested iris and the promised showy orchid.

At an intersection about a mile up, we turned right to cut off Cat Gap Loop and began the steady climb, gaining altitude and looking for the turn toward the granite rock. (Johns Rock is 3,200+ in height.) Finally, we found the path and emerged from the foliage to inch our way out on to the rocky face where enjoyed lunch. A few stayed on the edge, enjoying the feel of dirt under their feet rather than the slippery grade of the rock! We sat facing a to-die-for view gazing at Looking-Glass Rock and the surrounding folds of hills and mountains.

Despite the tough start and worrisome weather, we had a great group and enjoyed several wonderful hikes. Trish and Val are fantastic planners and so appreciated!

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!