Woody Ridge to Horse Rock June 6, 2011Posted by Jenny in Black Mountains, hiking.
Tags: Celo Knob, Horse Rock, Woody Ridge
This was a half-day exercise hike. It offers 3000 vertical feet of climbing in 2.2 miles, with an especially steep stretch that takes you from 4400′ to 5000′ in a quarter of a mile. I’ve been there twice before, once a year ago and once late this past winter when I decided to turn back halfway up because of icy conditions. It gets you up into the magical world of spruce and balsam. And it’s an incredible workout.
As I climbed from 3200′ to 6000′, I saw a wide variety of plants in bloom.
I spotted a little guy bright orange in color—I hope his brightness doesn’t attract predators!
I passed the end of the old road crisscrossed with ATV tracks and embarked on the steep part. The lower section of it is not very interesting—you just go straight up a narrow dirt path. You keep looking for a switchback, but there is none—just up, up, up! Finally the grade relents a bit, and you enter a beautiful glade of grass and ferns.
Here I started to see laurel and catawba rhododendron. At its lowest elevations, the blossoms were a little bit past prime, but as I did the usual time-travel backwards into spring with the increasing elevation, the blooms started looking prettier and prettier.
One of the reasons why my career as a landscape designer lasted only a few years is that I just couldn’t overcome my preference for the wild over the cultivated, and my garden designs were too “shaggy” for many people’s tastes!
Sometimes pure green plants like moss appeal to me as much as showy flowers. I liked the lush cushions of moss on this boulder.
Looking up the ridge, I could see that I was actually making progress. A dense spruce forest lay ahead.
At last I reached the junction with the Black Mountain crest trail, and I headed a short distance north to sit on a large rock outcrop that I guess I will refer to as the shoulder of Horse Rock. This whole thing about Horse Rock confuses me. It is not considered a “legitimate” 6000-footer for peakbagging purposes because it lacks the necessary drop and rise from its neighbor, Celo Knob—in other words, it is technically a shoulder of Celo Knob, not a separate peak. Yet people do apparently mean the whole bump when they say “Horse Rock,” not just the outcrop—it does have a summit. I did not climb to the summit—it looked like a dense tangle, and I felt no particular urge to stand on its highest point. I contented myself with relaxing on the outcrop. But perhaps someone will say I was not really “on” Horse Rock. Whatever.
I enjoyed the constantly shifting clouds that hung over the towering ridges.
Finally I left this wonderful place and headed back down. While descending, I met an unhappy couple from Oklahoma whom I’d passed on the way up, still climbing. The guy was carrying backpacking supplies for both of them—his wife or girlfriend was carrying only a small daypack. Boy, he had a tough job to get up that trail. I hadn’t set any blistering speed records going up, but it looked like they were on a pace to complete the climb more than an hour after I did—and that difference in time occurred in just the upper mile.
And so I left behind the world of the balsam.
Postscript: One thing I always enjoy about driving to that area is that the roads around Burnsville, Micaville, and beautiful downtown Celo have much more interesting names than most places. Here are some examples:
Bear Wallow Road, Motor Sports Lane, Bowditch Bottom Road, Double Island Road, Good Time Lane, Banjo Branch Lane, Blue Rock Road, Saw Mill Hollow Road, Old Buckner Post Office Road, Shake Rag Road, and Passional Lane.