MST – Day 22 – 5/19/10 – Highway 276 to Highway 151 – 10 Miles
I began today’s hike with a little trepidation. Two weeks off had not erased my memory of the wretched trail conditions on our last outing. But at the first step the trail dropped quickly down and was a very pleasant surprise - not a single obstruction to negotiate around. Perhaps the major attraction along this section was a reason to clear it early: the Pisgah Inn.
Spring flowers have been entertaining us the last few weeks and Danny was keeping her eye out for a rarity - pink ladyslippers. The location of ladyslippers is not usually publicized because of fear of poaching, and finding them is a treat. And…what do you think we saw, right beside the trail, begging to be photographed? Lots of other wildflowers were on display today, particularly wood betony, which I remember from hiking here last year while my husband Jim did his Blue Ridge Parkway bike ride (no good photos of wood betony this year, though). While I am not a diehard flower fanatic, I find it very entertaining to learn the names and ID them on the trails. Hope it helps to sharpen my brain.
Cinnamon ferns - see the cinnamon stick?
A sea of ferns
Many creek crossings today – why am I surprised?
We were walking just below the ridge line where springs form Bear Wallow Brook and Poplar Creek and flow down the mountains.
A gentle but steady uphill pulled us towards the mountaintop Pisgah Inn. At one point we heard a very large animal moving around. The noise lasted long enough to know it was not a tree limb falling, but we couldn’t see anything. It’s funny how you hold your breath and wait for a 400-pound bear to appear, and when it doesn’t, you go on your merry way and don’t expect to see it appear anywhere else. Everyone asks me if I’m afraid of hiking alone because of bears, but every time I’ve seen a bear I’ve been with another person and making noise. Perhaps we have passed 500 bears and didn’t know it.
At the Inn we ate our home- packed lunch on the porch, lingering as long as possible in the sunshine. A nice visitor took our photo for posterity. Then we were on our way again.
Soon we met three local women hikers and stopped to chat. One asked about our hiking route and where our end point was. When I was vague, she seemed concerned that we did not know where we were going and I changed the subject. Later I thought of a standard answer: although you don’t look like you would break our windows or kidnap us, it’s our safety policy not to tell anyone where our car is parked.
The section of the MST past the Pisgah Inn is also known as the Buck Springs Lodge Trail and there are a couple of other trails that intersect it, so you have to pay attention. Buck Springs Lodge was George Vanderbilt’s hunting lodge. All that remains is partial walls of the root cellar – but what a view for a root cellar!
From this point the MST is also known as the Shut-In Trail because of the closeness of the mountain laurel and trees. The Shut-In Trail/MST follows the route that Vanderbilt and his guests took between his home (Biltmore Estate) and the lodge (17 miles). Today it ends at Highway 191. A popular trail race is staged here each year (going uphill) and I do not ever plan to participate.
Mount Pisgah itself is off a side trail from the MST and well worth a visit, but Danny and I have both hiked it several times so we set our steps for our challenge of the day, a very steep haul up Little Pisgah Mountain. From there we had a longer and steeper downhill to Highway 151, our ending point. All in all, today’s hike seemed ridiculously easy, with pink ladyslippers to boot. And then there was ice cream at Dolly’s!
Click here for Danny's review of the day.
In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks. ~ John Muir