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A hike in Big Ivy July 16, 2010

Posted by Jenny in hiking, nature, Southern Appalachians.
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Gosh, I'm proud of this photo! (Click twice for full zoom)

Yesterday I decided to venture into Big Ivy. I really just had to find out what this place was all about. After all, I own a Forest Service map titled “South Toe River, Mount Mitchell, and Big Ivy Trails.” And yet I couldn’t have explained to anyone what on earth that name meant. Plus, I’d been deeply troubled by the “Forks of Ivy” exit off Interstate 26.

It’s all about the Ivy River, which runs into the French Broad near Marshall, North Carolina. Big Ivy takes in a swath of the Ivy’s tributaries, and is also known as the Coleman Boundary. This segment of Pisgah National Forest lies northwest of the Craggy Mountains and west of the Blue Ridge Parkway near Walker Knob and Balsam Gap. The best thing about Big Ivy is that it’s about a 30-minute drive from my place in North Asheville. You approach it from the west and drive deep into the valley of Dillingham Creek, south of Barnardsville, with changing patterns of mountains closing in around the road as you glide around the curves.

This outing was a short exercise hike of 3.6 miles roundtrip, 1050′ vertical, up the Walker Creek trail only as far as Forest Service Road 74. When I have more time, I will continue across the road to the Perkins trail and maybe even think about making the short off-trail connection to Walker Knob on the Parkway.

The hike started with an unusual bridge. I liked the way it didn’t lie flat.

Bridge on Walker Creek trail

I soon passed my first wildlife of the day, a toad, and climbed among a thriving jungle of nettles. That clump of white under the leaves has such a poisonous look.

Why do nettles hate us so much?

Soon after taking the above picture, I saw my second wildlife of the day—a large blacksnake. It did kind of startle me—I might have even made a funny little sound. He was lying right in the middle of the trail, and I was trying to decide which was worse, stepping over the snake or wading through the nettles, when he slithered off into the brush. It took him a long time to get the whole length of his three-or-four-foot body off the trail.

What you see is only the front third or so of his body

I continued climbing and passed a pretty area where the berries of the umbrella-leaves mixed with some red bee balm.

Umbrella-leaf plants

Up at the FS road junction, I found a big patch of wildflowers and took my picture of my other wildlife of the day that you see at the top of the post. The patch of bee balm was next to a mixture of fleabane and a tall variety of Black-eyed Susans.

Flowers thriving in a patch of sunlight

The forest is nearly all hardwoods in this area, without even much rhodo and laurel. On the way back down I noticed two vines intertwining next to an orange blaze on a tree. Soon I was back at the car, planning to return before long for further explorations.

Struggle of the vines---or is it cooperation of the vines?