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The Salola trail March 3, 2010

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Southern Appalachians.
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Someone realized this was an elephant and gave it buttons for eyes so that we could see it too

I’m going to do it again—I’m going to talk about a place that is not accessible to the general public (like I did with the waterfalls on Toxaway Creek).  I promise this will not be an ongoing trend.  But now that I am on the brink of moving from Brevard to Asheville, I want to say goodbye to a place I have become very fond of.

The Salola trail starts a few blocks away from the house I’ve been renting in Connestee Falls, which is a gated community.  Connestee has several networks of trails, and the Salola trail is the newest and probably the least used of any of them.  I have been there dozens of times and only seen other people three times.  And since December 18, when we got the first batch of a whole string of snowstorms, I have seen practically no other footsteps in the snow besides the ones I recognize as my own.  I think even the people who live in Connestee don’t know about the Salola trail and its connectors.

I found out about the trail in November, and before all the snow started, I did a sort of half jog/half fast walk routine in running shoes on the nice soft treadway, doing about 3.5 miles, 950 vertical feet (I checked with my altimeter) in about 50 minutes.  A lot of steep little ups and downs, a lot of narrow sidehilling with switchbacks and log steps, so it was sort of an exercise in coordination.  After the cycle of snowfalls started, I took my snowshoes on it a few times, but mainly used my microspikes because it kept getting icy.

I used the microspikes just last week on this icy sidehill section

The terrific ice storm we had in early February did not block the trails as much as one might have expected.  The damage actually looks worse around my house, which is on an exposed hillside at 3000 feet (higher, by the way, than any elevation point on the Salola trail, which is a down-and-then-up hike from my house).

Morning of February 5. The trees will look mutilated a long time, I think.

But the storm did create some big blowdowns, and I was amazed by the force with which this branch buried its tip five or six inches into the ground.  I pulled the end of it out of the hole—had to give it a good tug—and put the branch next to the hole so that you can see how hard it hit the ground.

The branch created this perfectly round hole when it speared the ground

Walking on the Salola trail does not offer anything terribly dramatic, just pretty little stream valleys inhabited by deer, forests of laurel, rhododendron, and oak.  I passed this giant, old black birch many times before I noticed it.  The lower bark has become completely scaly.

Base of black birch, maybe 3' in diameter

You have to look up to see where the smoother bark emerges in the higher branches.

Different textures of bark

As you continue, you come to a cleared viewpoint toward the southwest where someone with woodcutting skills has made a beautiful sign to aid in identifying peaks.

You can see Toxaway Mountain, Panther, Shortoff, and others in the Nantahalas

The visibility was poor that day, so I am going to leave you with the sign itself rather than the overcast, washed-out looking picture I took over the top of it!

But the main story of the Salola trail, the theme that it offers, is one of broadleaf evergreens—with pines and oaks rising in columns among them.

I believe this is a Virginia pine in with the laurel---or maybe a shortleaf pine?

And I always stop at this pretty little stream on the way out.

One of countless little rivulets that run through these valleys

I’ve been in Brevard four months altogether—it was always intended as a stopping-off point while I figured out my long-term destination—and I would say that this trail, and the many hours I have spent wandering along it, might well amount to the best experiences I have had here.  I would have to say that it has been a lonely time for me.  It’s been hard to get around this winter, between the snowy roads and various road closures, especially the rock slide that closed off I-40 just a week after I arrived—and it still hasn’t been cleared!  And the steep, twisting roads in Connestee become a driver’s nightmare with any snow on them, and I ended up getting marooned in my house for days at a time.  I had pictured myself joining up with friends in the Smokies for frequent outings, but circumstances have conspired against that so far, apart from my wonderful adventure on Woolly Tops.

There have been some other highlights—the Pisgah Hikers are an outstanding bunch of fearless types who will even climb up a rope sometimes, and I will also think fondly of my friends at the Great Books Discussion Group at the Transylvania County Public Library, with whom I debated about the thorny arguments of Hume, Shelley, and Tolstoy.

So now I’m on my way to the “big city” of Asheville, which is a trendy, cool kind of place where undoubtedly I’ll find myself doing all kinds of trendy, cool things of some sort or other.  And the highway access will be a bit easier.  Goodbye then to the Salola trail, which I will probably never set foot on again.

Postscript from Jenny, March 4:  I want to add that during my hibernation of recent months, one bright spot has been the steady growth in visitors to this blog.  I’m especially pleased that a lot are overseas.  I get Russians looking at my posts on Somerset Maugham (for some reason my writings have gotten onto some sort of Russian search engine), Czechs looking at my Ruritania posts, South  Africans looking at my Boer War posts, Brits looking at stuff I’ve written about the Lake District and the Pencil Museum in Keswick.  But don’t worry, my good old Smokies fans, there will be a lot more about the Smokies very soon!

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Comments»

1. pjbarr - March 4, 2010

Jenny,

I certainly envisioned us crawling the Smokies together more myself. Then again, I envisioned I’d have walked to them from Georgia by now, but that’s another story. I’m excited you’re now headed to Asheville. With luck, I’ll end up there too by summer’s end. We’ll make up for the missed adventures then!

Jenny - March 4, 2010

Peter, thanks so much for your comment. I think this winter turned out differently than a lot of us imagined! I definitely would have gotten out more often and gone to hiking destinations further away if the weather had been better. I like the look of your A.T. blog, and I will be linking to it as soon as it gets officially launched. What an adventure you have in store!

2. Gary Howell - March 6, 2010

great pcitures .. quite a nice place you had just outside your door .. (it will be hard to get any more trendy and cool)

Jenny - March 8, 2010

Yeah, that was really nice… but now I’m moved in at the “Big City,” and I think it’s going to be great! Some of my new neighbors and I are going to be doing a communal vegetable garden in a big space next to my house, and someone may even try putting in some beehives! Plus, right down the street is a store called “Sanctuary of Stuff.” How can you beat that? And, after all, the Black Mountains are on my doorstep.

3. Brian - March 8, 2010

Jenny, I’m sorry but you are completely wrong about the elephant. It’s actually one of these:

I haven’t had a first class adventure since Woolly Tops myself. Hey don’t get too trendy in the Big City. If I come up to hike next time and your wearing a beret and deconstructing narratives of the Boer War I might have to look for more down to earth bushwhacking partners. Haha.

Jenny - March 9, 2010

Aha–we’re both right–it’s an ele-sloth!

Regarding the beret, if it’s made out of Gore-Tex, it should be fine. I can entertain folks around the campfire with gripping tales about the Paris existentialists.


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