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Bearwallow Mountain February 13, 2012

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Southern Appalachians.
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Bearwallow Mountain. Photo source: Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy.

Once again, I’m falling down in the photography department. It was so cold and windy on the summit of Bearwallow on Saturday that the handful of photos I took look windblown themselves—not of acceptable quality. I did take one waterfall picture which I will include at the bottom. But I wanted to at least mention the hike here, since Bearwallow is a remarkable place.

Bearwallow is located along 74-A in Gerton, east of Asheville and out toward Bat Cave and Chimney Rock. The summit area has recently been protected by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy under a conservation easement. This outing was a joint hike by CMLC and the Carolina Mountain Club, and a frigid trip it turned out to be. You could tell a whole new weather system was moving in, with the temperature dropping into the low 20s over the course of the day.

The 4232′ open summit was absolutely blasted with wind. But we had a luxurious approach through the woods on a brand-new trail built by the two groups, together with local volunteers. It was a Cadillac among trails, full of intricately built rock stairs and lots of switchbacks.

My friend Peter Barr was the leader. He pointed out many features, including the actual place where the bears wallow, a depression in the midst of a pasture, perfectly suited to accomodate an ample-size black bear.

Peter’s job with CMLC seems like a dream job to me. He gets to go out to beautiful areas and talk to landowners about their personal stories of their property. In the case of Bearwallow, he chatted with oldtimer Clyde Curtis, who worked at the fire tower from 1957 to 1992 (it was decommissioned shortly thereafter). He lived up there full time with his wife in a little frame house, surviving lightning strikes, deep snow, and howling winds.

After our group visited the wallow, some of the party retreated back down that nice trail and the rest of us followed a rough footpath marked with orange flagging that will someday also become a maintained trail. It winds down into Upper Hickory Nut Gorge, passing a lookout rock called Wildcat Rock and a cascade maybe 100′ high—very impressive. The plan was to have lunch at Wildcat Rock, but we all huddled beneath or beside the rock instead of sitting atop it. Down in the more protected woods, we enjoyed the sight of a pretty waterfall along the creek.

CMLC is offering a “Hiking Challenge” which calls for people to complete eight hikes (including Bearwallow) to earn a patch showing a white squirrel wearing jaunty hiking apparel, plus a $20 gift card to the Mast General store outdoor department. You can find out more about the challenge by going here.

CMLC is based in Hendersonville and works with landowners to conserve threatened properties in Henderson and Transylvania Counties together with parts of neighboring counties.


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