Thursday, January 13, 2011

From Ladders To Carriage Roads

MST – Day 35 – 9/29/10 – Holloway Road to Highway 321 - 13.8 Miles

Today’s hike encompasses two section highlights for me: the Boone Fork Trail and Moses Cone Memorial Park. But first we had to knock out the last couple of miles of the Tanawha Trail.

We finished at Holloway Road yesterday because Danny and I could not picture clearly where the Tanawha Trail links with the Boone Fork Trail – the best we know is that the joining point is somewhere near (in?) Julian Price Park. Early in the morning we started off, back to Holloway Road, through another stile into head-high grasses, clutching Scot Ward’s pages. We no longer had a map and we knew that the trail would switch often between old road beds, new trail and pasture land.

First read Danny’s blog entry here to get some background on Moses Cone Memorial Park. Also, check out her Blowing Rock hikes website page and then buy her book.

Apple trees planted by long-gone residents are still producing

The MST circles and Tanawha feathers led us easily to the junction and we turned our attention to the Boone Fork Trail.

Several years ago I hiked the loop from the Julian Price Park picnic area that includes Boone Fork, a moderate five-miler that offers the excitement of water, bridges, boulders and a ladder.

For Danny and me the thrill factor was kicked up a notch by crossing Boone Fork. It is a very big crossing and I had brought my Crocs, but the challenge of rock hopping is one of my favorite things. Someday Danny will get to say “I told you so” when I get wet but today I triumphed. Immediately on the far side is a great campsite and we took a few minutes to eat and chill.

After Boone Fork the trail makes some moderate climbs. We crossed a forest road or two, climbed over a stile, and came to Rich Mountain Trail, one of the carriage roads in Moses Cone Park. I was slightly disoriented, thinking that we would walk on this trail past the Flat Top fire tower. [Back on a sunny day in April 2007 I hiked up to the fire tower while Jim rode the parkway on his bike – we were each testing our limits for our future “50” projects. But my hike then was on the Flat Top Trail, not Rich Mountain.] Today we descended on the Rich Mountain Trail back towards Moses Cone Manor, switching to other carriage roads and crossing Trout Lake Dam before passing underneath the Blue Ridge Parkway and circling back to the centerpiece of the park, Cone Manor.

One point of interest: on an eye level rock ledge beside the path was a curious collection of small items, a piece of glass, a hair clip, a berry, a flower, a piece of candy, a still life arrangement from which great stories could be created. The display reminded me of a Girl Scout camp tradition called Terebithia, a magical kingdom where fairies (older Scouts) build tiny houses and playgrounds for mortals to see (younger Scouts). Traditions and stories are important in Girl Scouting…and in the hiking world too.

We met other hikers and horse riders as the clouds came in and drizzling rain began. By the time we reached Cone Manor visibility was very limited – no great photos of the view that the house normally commands. We took another break at the restrooms nearby and chatted with a couple there who were familiar with the MST.

The remainder of the hike was uneventful, a slow downhill saunter on yet another gravel carriage road. The carriage road ended and we turned right onto Old Camp Catawba Road. A few minutes later we stood facing the four lanes of busy traffic of Highway 321. Seems there should be some safer and saner way to tie this section of the trail into the next one (not yet completed). But for now there is no choice but a mad dash across to Danny’s car. We were finished for another day and it was time to head home.

Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books. ~John Lubbock

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