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Green Knob, and Burnsville April 4, 2010

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

Another fire tower hike!

My original plan was to do the Mt. Mitchell-from-Black-Mountain-campground hike.  But I got a late start, and I was concerned about getting back home in time for the season opener Red Sox game.  So I went up to Green Knob instead.

It is billed as “extremely steep,” but I still apply my New England standards, and I feel that it’s not, actually, extremely steep.  2300 vertical in 3.3 miles is not extremely steep.  It does have some steep pitches, especially toward the top.  The lower part of the forest was oddly scraggly with a lot of downed timber from the winter’s ice storms and, to my mind, not very interesting or attractive.  But I really liked the upper section, where the trail climbs an increasingly narrow ridgecrest through thick laurel, and you start to get up into the red spruce.

I am especially fond of the groundcover of myrtle and galax that you see toward the top.

Glossy groundcover

When I finally reached the fire tower and went inside the cab, I was greeted by something that looked kind of like a refrigerator and a big black plastic container of something or other.  Perhaps the major world powers’ nuclear codes are stored inside.

Mysterious containers with lots of locks

I spent a lot of time admiring the incredible skyline of the 6000’+ Black Mountain range.

I would like to do the Black Mountain Crest trail over these tops

I was happy to see the big bushy healthy red spruce on top, but it surprised me to see healthy-looking hemlocks growing among them at nearly 5000 feet.

Two hemlocks and two red spruce---seemed odd to me!

On the way down I heard a conversation off in the distance between two very large owls.  I’m not sure what kind of owls they were, but they must have been substantial in size in order to produce their hooting sounds in such deep, loud voices.

So I wended my way back down to my car.  Across from the parking lot, I stood on the bank of the South Toe River, looking at the translucent, gold and green water for a bit before I decided that I would drive back a different way than the way I’d come.  My route in the morning from Asheville (bear in mind that the Blue Ridge Parkway still has many closed sections) was I-40 east to US 70 at Old Fort to Route 80 west.  On the way back, I continued along Route 80 (now going more north than west), up to US 19 west to I-26, back to Asheville.

The details of the route don’t really matter.  I drove along a pretty valley on Rte. 80 until I reached Celo, where I stopped at a convenience store to get a diet Coke and a bag of potato chips.  As I walked out of the store, two teenage guys were waiting there, and one of them asked, “Are you going to Burnsville?”

I wasn’t even sure, but I looked at my map and yes, I was going to—or through—Burnsville.  They looked pretty harmless to me, so I offered them a ride.  One of them was kind of chubby with a black t-shirt and the other had the jeans dropping off the butt and the patterned underwear showing underneath, and he was carrying a skateboard.

As soon as they got in the car, the one in the front seat noticed that I had a Sublime CD sitting next to the tape and CD player.  “Hey!  Cool!”  So that got us off to a good start.  I got the picture pretty soon—they’d been sitting in front of the store for a couple of hours hoping to get a ride. They had no money, and they were probably too young to drive, though I pretended that I thought they just had temporary motor vehicle problems.   “Man, there’s nothing to do here.  That’s why we have to go to Burnsville.”  We talked about how hard it is to save money.  “Ingles is a rip-off, you have to go to Save-Mor,” one of them said.  I said, “Yeah, they have that Advantage card, but it’s really no advantage,” and the kid in the back turned that into a song:  “They say Advantage… but it’s no real advantage…”  Anyway, I dropped them off at the McDonald’s in Burnsville, where they could meet up with some friends.

It reminded me of days when I used to pick up hitchhikers, or even hitchhike myself.  And times when I didn’t have any money.  I still don’t have that much money, after all.  And for some reason, I’m okay with that.

Nice big fluffy red spruce