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Rich Knob November 20, 2011

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Mountains to Sea Trail.
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The fearsome summit pitch

Note to Lincoln Highway followers: Pennsylvania coming soon!

I was in the mood for a severe mountaineering challenge—but it had to be close to Asheville. Lane Pinnacle came to mind. Off I drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway, only to find it was gated! A strange thing on this afternoon of temperatures in the 60s. There must have been ice in the Craggies left over from Thursday’s cold snap.

Reluctantly I turned around and drove the short distance down the Ox Creek Road to a trailhead I’d visited only two days before with my friend Beth. It’s the most popular approach to Rattlesnake Lodge. I would push through the Lodge area and make an assault on Rich Knob. At just shy of 4900′, it would at least give me 1700′ of elevation gain and six miles total.

Twenty minutes into the hike, the roar of motorcycles told me the gate had just been opened. Oh well! I was committed to my quest.

I sped along past the remains of the old lodge buildings from the early 1900s, owned by Chase P. Ambler, a very snooty-looking gentleman with a high starched collar, to judge by the picture on the informational sign. Beth and I had arbitrarily decided that the middle initial “P” stood for Pinkerton and that he was known to one and all as “Pinky.”

I climbed the steeper of the two paths up to the spring, then continued to the gap that I will always think of as the “white beebalm gap.” That got me up to 4400′. Then came the moderately steep switchbacking section that leads to Rich Knob.

I passed under the overhanging boulder—covered with rock tripe—that shelters a permanent campfire ring.

The fire ring is tucked under the tilted rock

At last I reached the summit area. The MST trail doesn’t go over the true summit, and I knew that this time I must face up to it. I tackled a forbidding cliff that towered over me, striking fear deep into my heart (see photo at top). Above this obstacle, I discovered that the summit was surprisingly ornery.

The summit had its claws out

As a result, I have to admit there might have been a lump or a bump slightly higher than where I was standing, but I decided not to fight through the briers.

This is November, when you have to look for small things. The fall leaves have turned brittle and brown, the bright frosts of winter have yet to come, spring hides around the other side of the circle (I think of the calendar year as a giant circle, with winter at the bottom), and summer is but the faintest glimmer. I discovered a geranium that I will have to check up on next June.

I'll look for this next June

I always like Christmas ferns with their persistent green and their tidily stenciled shapes.

Christmas ferns and oak leaves

The forest here leans heavily to oak.  I could smell oak in the air (which got my allergies going), and I slipped and slithered on the leathery oak leaves going down the ankle-deep trail.

More small things to enjoy in November

As I headed back down, things already looked dark. Time to enjoy the twinkling of holiday lights!

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November sky


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