Tag Archives: Joyce Kilmer

5 of our favorite Whoa! Moments

On Saturday’s final hike of our 2018-2019 Winter Wild hike series, we decided to add an extra mile or so. It was a mile of trail I hadn’t hiked.

As we made our way up the north bank of New Hope Creek, I could hear the gradient increasing upstream, the sound of water cascading over rock a bit more intense than we’re used to hearing in the Piedmont. As the noise grew, some mild scrambling was required; we shinnied up a rock outcrop overlooking the creek and emerged on a slab 30 feet above the water. read more

With backpacking, there’s no reason to leave the trail

Fall is our favorite time of year to go backpacking: temperatures are cooling, the forest is alit in color, the air is dry, the chance of rain is greatly diminished. It’s a great time to be on the trail — and to stay on the trail.

That’s one of the many joys of backpacking: once you’re on the trail, you don’t have to leave. Stay a night, or two or three.

If you’re already a backpacker, we’ve got some great trips planned for fall. Some are ideal for folks new to backpacking (Intro to Linville Gorge, the Neusiok Trail), some are for more experienced backpackers (Joyce Kilmer/Citico Creek Wilderness). Then there’s the Appalachian Trail trip from Carvers Gap to 19E, a trip that should be on every backpacker’s resume.

If you’re not a backpacker, there’s no better time to start, and no better people to start with than us. If you’re intrigued by the notion of backpacking but need to dip a toe in before committing, we have our new Overnight Sampler. If you’re pretty sure backpacking is for you, check out our comprehensive Intro to Backpacking class.

Either way, fall’s the time to backpack. We hope to see you on the trail. For additional information on each event, click on the link below.

=&0=&, September session. Our comprehensive learn-to-backpack program includes a two-hour session on gear and how to pack a backpack; a six-hour session at Morrow Mountain State Park where be go over everything from setting up camp to cooking to hanging food, to breaking down camp; and, finally, a weekend graduation trip to South Mountains State Park.

=&1=&, Sept. 15-16, Eno River State Park, Durham; Oct. 20-21, Raven Rock State Park, Lillington. You like the idea of backpacking, but you aren’t ready to make a full-on commitment — you’d like to take a test-drive first. That’s what our Overnight Sampler is all about: we provide the key backpacking gear and food, you get to see what it’s like to hike in a full pack and camp in the backcountry overnight.

=&2=&, Burnsville. Sept. 21-23. A two-night, three-day 14-mile trip that may be the most scenically spectacular run of trail in North Carolina. We start at Carvers Gap and top Jane and Round balds right off the bat, meander through forests of mountain ash, then encounter more stunning views from atop Little Hump and Hump mountains.

=&3=&, northwest of Morganton, Oct. 5-7. Linville Gorge can provide a rewarding (and intense) immersion into backpacking. But on this trip, we’ll take a more relaxed approach, setting up basecamp on Shortoff Mountain, then day packing into the gorge.

=&4=&, Oct. 25-29, adjoining wilderness areas in North Carolina and Tennessee near Robbinsville. Its remote location and ruggedness helped spare this area from extensive logging, making it an easy choice for Wilderness designation. Participants will play a role in the actual planning of this trip, at a two-hour planning meeting a week before the trip.  

=&5=&, Croatan National Forest, New Bern, Nov. 30-Dec. 2. Late fall is the time to hike the coastal Croatan National Forest. Pesky flying things and slithering denizens of the dirt are kept at bay by the cool weather, and the fall color continues to linger along this 21-mile trail that starts all coastal but delivers some surprising twists at the end. 

Happy trails,

Joe

More info

Class: Intro to Backpacking

Class: GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler (September)

Class:

GetBackpacking! Overnight Sampler read more

Finding new places for you to explore

“You’re hiking where? I’ve never heard of that trail.”

It’s one of our favorite things to hear, because it means we’re meeting one of our key goals: leading you into the unknown. Sure, we hike a lot of trails more than once, and for good reason: they’re worth it. Our Charlotte group goes to South Mountains State Park regularly, our Charlottesville crew loves the Jones Run/Doyles River Circuit in the Shenandoah National Park. And with 120 miles of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail running through the Triangle, I’ve lead a goodly number of hikes on the statewide path along the Eno River and the south shore of Falls Lake. 

But it’s the new discoveries most hikers really love.

“Show of hands,” I said at the beginning of a recent hike at the Shallow Ford Natural Area north of Burlington: “How many of you have hiked here before?” 

None of the eight hikers raised a hand.

Ditto a recent after-work hike at the two-year-old Brumley Nature Preserve in Chapel Hill, at Little River Regional Park on the Durham/Orange county line, and on the Great Blue Heron Loop Trail at Haw River State Park’s Iron Ore Belt Access area. Some of these gems are new, some simply off the beaten path. We’re constantly on the lookout for both.

This week, we thought we would highlight a few upcoming adventures to places that may be new to you.

  • Confluence Natural Area, day hike, Hillsborough, July 22. The Eno River Association is one of those land trusts whose work frequently flies under the radar. If you’ve hiked in Eno River State Park, or at Little River Regional Park, you’ve likely hiked on land preserved by the ERA. They typically buy land in the Eno watershed, then, eventually, turn it over to North Carolina State Parks. This spring, though, the ERA opened the 200-acre Confluence Natural Area, its first preserve open to the public, where we’ll explore 2-miles of newly blazed trail.
  • Standing Indian Recreation Area, hiking/camping weekend, Nantahala National Forest, Aug. 24-26. Standing Indian was new to me when I scouted it in 2009. I was finalizing which trips to include in my book “Backpacking North Carolina” and noticed this big network of trails west of Franklin. It seemed worth a chance — and it was. On this trip, the main hike is an 11-mile loop consisting of a mellow climb up Kimsey Creek to the Appalachian Trail at Deep Gap, then hiking north to 5,498-foot Standing Indian and back to camp on the Lower Ridge Trail. We’ll do a shorter hike Sunday.
  • Curtis Creek, hiking/camping weekend, Pisgah National Forest, Sept. 28-30. The Curtis Creek area of the Pisgah outside Old Fort is hardly new: in fact, it’s the oldest tract in the Pisgah National Forest, dating back more than a century. It’s also not new in that it’s home to some of the oldest old growth in the Pisgah. We’ll explore here and in the nearby Montreat Wilderness area with a climb up 5,592-foot Graybeard Mountain.
  • Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock/Citico Creek Wilderness, four-day backpack trip, Nantahala and Cherokee National Forests, Oct. 25-29. This is the mountain land that time forgot. Too rugged and remote to draw much interest from logging concerns, the area was a natural for inclusion as a designated Wilderness Area. The area may be popular with locals — what locals there are — but it’s largely untouched by us outsiders.
  • Nags Head Woods Preserve, hiking/camping weekend, Outer Banks, Nov. 2-4. Usually, when you head to the Outer Banks, your thoughts are on the beach, not the trail. Yet there’s some stunning hiking to be done, none more so than through the maritime forest at The Nature Conservancy’s thousand-acre Nags Head Woods Preserve. Five miles of trail explores everything from dense woods to the sound. That’s Saturday; on Sunday, we’ll do another five miles amid some of the oldest trees in North Carolina, in Pettigrew State Park.

Interested in expanding your adventure horizons? Find more information on each adventure in the links below and join us.

Happy trails,

Joe

Explore!

Learn more about the new places we’ll be exploring by clicking on the links below.

Confluence Natural Area
Standing Indian
Curtis Creek
Joyce Kilmer-Slicrock/Citico Creek Wilderness

Nags Head Woods read more

Experience Old Growth Forest in a New Light

The first time I went to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest—a 3,800-acre tract— I was awe of the concentration of old growth trees along the 2-mile trail takes you through one of the last remaining virgin cove forests in the Southeast. Here grow behemoth yellow poplar, oak, basswood, beech and sycamore, some believed to be more than 400 years old. Put in perspective, some might have been saplings when Hernando De Soto and the first Europeans passed through. The massive canopy limits the amount of plant life below—thought it does make room for an impressive spring wildflower display of cohosh, trillium, crested iris and more—giving the forest an ethereal feel.

But just across Little Santeetlah Creek— outside the memorial forest but within the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness— hikers can find true wonders. From the shared parking area, follow the Naked Ground Trail up Little Santeetlah, through a long draw that culminates in something approaching a box canyon. Along the way, you may glance up on occasion to take in these more subdued hardwoods and then — Whoa! look at the size of that tree! For whatever reason, the Babcock Lumber Company working the area a century back missed a few prime specimens: some giants are more than 100 feet high and more than 20 feet around. Occasionally, you’ll see a handful in close proximity. It’s a fine reward for a walk in the woods.

Below, you’ll find some of the remaining stands of old growth forest in North Carolina and Virginia. Additional information on exploring each area can be found below.

North Carolina

Nantahala National Forest

Hickory Branch Trail

According to the Southern Appalachian Forest Coalition, there was no logging here above 3,680 feet, leaving impressive montane-oak hickory and high elevation red oak forests. Protected as “Large Parch Old-Growth” by the Nantahala National Forest, trees here date back more than 200 years.

Pettigrew State Park (coast)

Moccasin Trail

Head down the Moccasin Trail from the park office and you’ll quickly be surrounded by some of the largest existing trees of their kind. Bay trees, sweet gums, persimmons and pawpaws all reach heights you’ve not seen before; bald cypress with trunks 10 feet in diameter and poplars reaching 130 feet are not uncommon, as are 100-foot-high Atlantic white cedars.

Pisgah National Forest

Snook’s Nose Trail

This trail begins below 1,800 feet in elevation, and within a mile and a half reaches the 3,200-foot mark, above which no logging took place (overall elevation gain on this 3.9-mile trail is just under 3,000 feet). Look for chestnut oak, black gum, red maple, black birch, table mountain pine, and Carolina hemlock, if you can see them through the mountain laurel and rhododendron lining the lower portions of the trail. Find more info on Snook’s Nose and our weekend visit in May below.

Weymouth Woods-Sandhills Nature Preserve (coastal plain)

Weymouth woods loop

There was a time when longleaf pine was the dominant forest in the Southeast. Today, the full majesty of this tree once coveted for its resin and sturdy trunks used as ship masts can only be found in places such as Weymouth Woods, where the longleaf still reaches heights of 100 to 120 feet. The oldest trees — up to 450 years old — can be found on the preserve’s Boyd Tract.

More info here.

Virginia

Jefferson National Forest

Cornelius Creek — Apple Orchard Trail loop

It took a train wreck that bankrupted the local lumber company in 1910 to spare portions of the North Creek watershed from logging. This trail combines with the AT for a 7-mile loop hike.

Jefferson National Forest

Garden Mountain — Appalachian Trail

Garden Mountain is part of the Ridge and Valley Province, and the surrounding forests include old-growth upland oaks. You’ll also get good views from atop Garden Mountain and Chestnut Knob.

* * *

Explore old growth with GetHiking!

On our GetHiking! Classic Escape in May, we will explore old-growth forests in the Pisgah National Forest. On Saturday, May 19, we’ll climb the challenging 3.9-mile trail, going over Snook’s Nose and Laurel Knob, and search for old-growth forests above 3,200 feet. On Sunday, May 20, we’ll explore more old-growth in a shorter hike that’s more off-trail. Both hikes originate from our base camp for the weekend, the Curtis Creek Campground.

Learn more about our May escape and sign up here.

Resources

“Ancient Appalachian: the Southeast’s Old-Growth Forests” appeared in Blue Ridge Outdoors in 2005 and provides a look into the extent and location of old growth forests in the Southeast. Read the story here.

For more on exploring the old growth tracks listed above:

  • Hickory Branch Trail

Directions: From the town of Andrews, take Junaluska Road to Junaluska Gap and park. Hike northeast on the Junaluska Gap Trail for a little more than a mile, then head northwest (or go left) on Hickory Branch. (You can return via the London Bald Trail).

  • Pettigrew State Park
  • read more