Featured Hike: Appalachian Trail at Carver’s Gap

This is the summer of hiking for Jimmy and me for a couple of reasons. First, we have had our heads down and worked insanely for the last 4 years. We are reclaiming life-work balance after selling the office, and this glorious spring and summer have been perfect for hitting the trails. Second, we are going out to Yellowstone in the fall, and we want to be in better shape for daily hiking. We have a way to go. We can tackle a 4-5 mile hike, which is really about as long as I want to do. But then we are pretty wiped out for 24 hours, so the stamina needs some work (hey, we are 50+ and nearly 60, so do we get some slack?).

We are trying to hit some trails we have not done before, and we are trying to get up to higher elevations to prepare for Yellowstone. Asheville is about 2200 feet. We can easily find trails at 4000-6000 with a little driving involved.

Yesterday, July 4th, we really didn’t have a plan for where we were going. We headed up north and ended up at Roan Mountain on the NC/TN line. The Appalachian trail crosses there at Carver’s Gap, and many thru hikers consider that one of the most beautiful sections of the Trail (I read this), so we decided to check it out. And it was magnificent!

You start from the parking area through an enchanted forest. I expected to see tree nymphs and fairies amongst the ancient spruces and moss covered trees and rocks surrounded by ferns. It was a magical start, and then you emerge shortly on the first of several balds.

You can follow the trail as far as you like (to Maine if you are so inclined!), and there are some spur trails off of it. The clouds were below us and above us, and it was just a fantastic hike at about 72 degrees!

I have lived in these mountains all but 11 years of my 51 years, and I never tire of exploring them and hiking them!

Featured Hike: River Loop Trail (Upper), Black Mountain Campground

This hike is an easy one, and a moderate length at about 4 miles (with the side trail to the waterfall). The Black Mountain Campground is not in or near the town of Black Mountain, though as the crow flies it probably isn’t that far. You can access it in Pisgah National Forest off Hwy 80 either from Burnsville or from Marion. With an elevation of 3000 feet, it is a little cooler than Asheville but not so high that you feel the thin air.

The trail begins alongside the Green Knob and the Mountains to the Sea trail directly across from the entrance to the campground on the Forest Service road. You have a bit of an uphill climb until the other two trails branch off, and River Loop then follows the contour of the mountain until it descends back to the Forest Service road, crosses it, and then follows the Toe River along the other side back to the campground.

It is a delightful hike all the way. The first stretch is more of a hike, and on this July 1st, the rhododendrons were still in full glory, so it was magnificent. Once you cross over to the trail along the river, it is literally a walk through the woods. This is a great hike for families or anyone not feeling to ambitious as far as elevation changes. But it is long enough that you feel like you did something to earn a big burger for dinner.