Thursday, January 5, 2012
Florence Nature Preserve
Florence Nature Preserve – 10/8/11 – 7 Miles
The first two weekends after my return from the Death Valley/Mount Whitney trip were consumed with obligations and the let-down feeling after a big trip: how can I maintain that excitement in ordinary life? And will the greener but smaller mountains here at home now seem dull compared to the awesomeness of the jutting rock towers out west?
Let’s go see.
The third Saturday back home was all mine and I chose a new-to-me hike I’d seen in Danny’s “Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Heritage” and also on the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy’s website at a place called Florence Nature Preserve. (CMLC first appeared on my radar when my local Girl Scout council’s resident camp was sold and the new owner, working with CMLC, put part of the land into conservatorship – what a wonderful gift.)
Florence Nature Preserve is a 600-acre gem west of the towns of Chimney Rock and Bat Cave. I was a bit skeptical of the website’s directions to the trailhead, looking for “a grassy parking area…most recognizable by a rock wall and stone chimney.” Would I be able to see that while driving on a winding mountain road? The answer is…oh, yeah.
(This parking area is new since Danny’s book was published. Her trailhead no longer has public access. Check the FNP website page of CMLC here.) FYI, the trail map from the website is essential for exploring the preserve, since it is surrounded by private landowners and there are several trails that split off to private property. The trails are very well blazed with color markers, but there are numerous intersections and the same colors are used at opposite ends of the Preserve, so be sure you know which yellow trail you’re on. My route roughly followed Danny’s but starting from the new parking area.
From the parking area the new Little Mt. Pisgah Trail rises surprisingly steeply and passes an old building.
Fall is here
Once the Preserve was created, Carolina Mountain Club improved the trails and built footbridges
Always remember to look up - blue skies and fall colors
Always remember to look down – Virginia creeper
Sassafrass, my favorite tree
I should know what this is by now
The trails in Florence Nature Preserve are not dramatic, mostly gentle with a pleasant stream crossing every now and then. The highlight of the hike was a side trail to Rattlesnake Knob, a large rock area with a view through the leaves out across a small valley.
I was a week or so early – soon there would be a full blast of color.
Something built a home and moved in here
On this gorgeous October Saturday I met just one other person, a mountain biker whom I suspect should not have been mountain biking. Otherwise I could whistle, hum and sing to my heart’s content, only disturbing the wildlife. Florence Nature Preserve is a wonderful place to take children for an interesting ramble in the woods, to play in the streams, climb on the rocks and explore the old building. And top it off with a stop for apple cider at one of the roadside country stores in Bat Cave.
Conclusion: the mountains out west are majestic and exciting, but the familiar thrill of being in the North Carolina mountains still zings through me every time.
“There’s no place like home.” ~Dorothy