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Only in Asheville January 19, 2012

Posted by Jenny in hiking, memoir.
Tags: , ,


Today I went on a short hike on the Mountains-to-Sea trail. I’ve been recovering from flu and needed something to get back into gear. I started at Ox Creek Road, went to Rattlesnake Lodge, then took the steep route up to the upper spring and looped back down. This is a very popular hike with Ashevilleans, at least as far as Rattlesnake Lodge. It offers all the basic ingredients: views, historic interest (remains of the old lodge buildings from the early 1900s), distance suitable for a stretch-your-legs sort of outing.

It becomes even more heavily used when the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed north of Bull Gap, because that cuts off several other good hiking options close to town. Right now the BRP is closed all the way from Bull Gap to NC 80 because that section goes through a 5000’+ elevation zone from the Craggies to Mt. Mitchell. I wouldn’t guess there’s much ice on it at the moment, but we’ve gotten to the time of year when it just stays shut so that the Park Service doesn’t have to bother with it.

Blue Ridge Parkway sign

I’ve discovered with this MST section that a lot of people like to hit it in the early afternoon, after they’ve gotten some work done (like me) or gone to classes and just need a break. This time I got there before peak hiking traffic hit, and I made it all the way up to the spring before I started seeing people—lots of people—all kinds of people. Today it seemed that the variety of humanity was particularly entertaining.

My first encounter was startling for both of us. I was pushing up to the spring and emerged abruptly onto the upper trail, only to find myself practically on top of a refined-looking man with a silver beard who’d been peacefully eating his sandwich. He looked at me as if I’d come from outer space, but in a moment recovered himself enough to greet me politely.

Next I encountered two women with a large dog, a configuration frequently encountered in Asheville. They were not dressed like the women in the Wikimedia photo below, but it’s such a great photo that I include it just for fun.

Note the guy on the park bench

Next I encountered a playful young couple. He was picking her up and carrying her down the trail—her legs were around his hips and her arms encircled his neck. Not flustered at all by my appearance on the scene, they had just reached a large grapevine hanging from a tree, and it looked like he was going to try to swing on the vine with her hanging onto him!

Next, a mismatched pair: a short middle-aged woman in a pink parka, carrying no pack, with a young man carrying a very large overnight backpack. She looked like she might be his mother. I greeted them, and the young man spontaneously explained that he was training for doing some hiking on the Appalachian Trail. Whether or not it was his mother, I thought it was wonderful that this unathletic-looking woman was giving him companionship and support!

Map of A.T.

Next, a 50-ish woman who looked like a practitioner of yoga (at any rate, there was a car in the trailhead parking area with a bumper sticker for a yoga studio, and she seemed like the most likely match).

Next, father and daughter who looked maybe six. She was explaining to him, “Daddy, water is good for you. Can I have some water?”

Finally—best of all—two guys carrying skateboards. It took me a moment to figure it out. “You’re going on the Parkway!” I exclaimed. They laughed at my momentary confusion. What a great idea: with the section of Parkway closed that runs very close to and parallel to the trail, they were hiking up to the Tanbark tunnel connector, where they’d head down to the BRP and have a beautiful cruise down several miles of empty pavement!