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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.


Linville Gorge November 3, 2010

Posted by Jenny in hiking, Southern Appalachians.
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Our group on Table Rock

This was an outing of the Carolina Mountain Club led by Ted Snyder, who has been masterminding a series of jaunts called “The Bernard Elias Favorite Hikes.” Elias was a much-beloved longtime member of the CMC who passed away just this year. He’d been exploring the mountains of western NC and eastern TN since he was a boy in the 1920s,  joining the CMC in 1941. He was clearly one of those rare larger-than-life individuals passionately involved in outdoor exploration, photography, and many conservation causes, ranging from the winning of wilderness designation for Shining Rock to saving Max Patch from development to opposing the North Shore Road in the Smokies.

I am sorry that I never met him, but I was pleased to take part in this outing—I’d seen a couple of the “BE Favorites” in the CMC newsletter earlier and for one reason or another hadn’t been able to participate. So I wanted to get my name in to Ted in plenty of time to assure myself a slot on this adventure, limited to 10 participants because it was in a wilderness area. All of the other participants appeared to be regulars of the club, but they were admirably tolerant of an outsider such as myself (I do plan to actually join the club very soon!).

Our hike reached two of Bernard’s best haunts in the Linville Gorge wilderness, Hawksbill and Table Rock. We came in on state road 181 and the interestingly named Ginger Cake Road, turning onto a gravel road that borders the eastern rim of the wilderness area. We climbed Hawskbill and found it rather gusty on top.

I am having a bad hair day

I enjoyed the dwarf table mountain pines on the summit and the views into the gorge.

Looking north up the gorge

The colors were past peak, but the oaks provided some lingering yellows, and every here and there one could see a tree or shrub that was stubbornly refusing to retreat into its drab winter stage. We had a preview of our next objective, Table Rock. The giant monolithic shapes along the gorge seem powerful and mysterious.

Table Rock has a very distinctive profile

We then descended back to our cars, got in, and drove down the road a couple of miles to the Table Rock trailhead. Ted guided us up a route that was longer but more interesting than the short direct trail, which he explained has become eroded into a gully.  Each of the two climbs was approximately 1000 vertical feet, and total mileage was only about 5, but the steep rocky terrain made it seem much tougher than that.

We had lunch on Table Rock and explored down the narrow ridge where climber’s paths come up through the underbrush.

Table Rock ridge

It was yet another one of these sunny, warm, expansive kinds of days that I’ve experienced a number of times this fall. I have a feeling that one of these days I’ve got to pay the price for this way-better-than-average luck I’ve been having with weather lately. Maybe this coming weekend, when it looks like we may have snow at the higher elevations.

Looking south from Table Rock