Monday, August 1, 2016

Pisgah National Forest: Coontree Loop/Buckwheat Knob



Pisgah NF 400 Hike:  Coontree Loop/Buckwheat Knob – 4/11/16 – 9 Miles

In recent years on my birthday I’ve hiked with friends or marked my birthday with a solo backpacking trip.  This year the time for celebration was pressed with other things and a Monday was a tough day to squeeze in a birthday hike, but Jim indulged me with a short dayhike close to home in Pisgah National Forest.

My preferred go-to hiking guidebooks continue to be those authored by Danny Bernstein.  I pulled my dog-eared copy of Hiking the Carolina Mountains from the shelf and found just the right route for today, knocking off some miles of the Pisgah 400 hiking challenge and affording Jim a test hike with his new backpack.  It was also the first day for my new hiking boots.

From the Coontree Picnic Area on U.S. 276, we crossed the road and started up the left side of Coontree Loop Trail.  For the first couple of miles we climbed up Coontree Mountain via switchbacks. 

The beautiful, crisp blue sky day featured a few brush strokes of bright spring green and teases of wildflowers.  Except for a couple of mountain bikers who seemed confused about which trails were for them, we didn’t encounter anyone else during our hike. 

 Bloodroot

A rock ledge tall enough to stand under

At the intersection of Bennett Gap Trail we turned left and continued up Coontree Mountain, then dropped down to Saddle Gap where Perry Cove Trail intersects on the right.  We stayed on Bennett Gap Trail ridge.

A short spur to the left revealed the reason for hiking this route:  Looking Glass Rock


Danny Bernstein’s description of Looking Glass Rock:  “The rock is a pluton formed by a big ball of molten magma, similar to lava, that did not reach the surface.  This magma solidified into rock much harder than rocks that later overlaid it.  After millions of years, erosion wore down the soft outer rock, and the Looking Glass Rock we see today is the exposed magma body that’s left, accounting for its domed appearance.” 

Jim and I continued on Bennett Gap Trail to its terminus at Forest Road 477, where we picked up Buckwheat Knob Trail.  True to Danny’s description, we went over several bumps before reaching the top of Buckwheat Knob (no views).  Rather than turning back at that point as her hike narrative describes, we continued on to the intersection with Rich Mountain and Avery Creek Trails.  (I’ll be glad I did that as I continue to hike the Pisgah NF trails in true “challenge completer” fashion.)  In my humble opinion, Buckwheat Knob Trail was a disappointment, badly eroded and in need of serious trail rehab which it probably will not get. 

We retraced our steps all the way back to Bennett Gap and then stayed straight as Coontree Gap Trail came in from the right.  A tad confusing on the map, but for a mile or so Coontree Gap Trail and Bennett Gap Trail run currently; then Coontree Gap Trail turned to the right again and descended first steeply, than more moderately, down to close the loop at U.S. 276. 

My post-hike birthday celebration #1

My post-hike birthday celebration #2 at the brand new Flat Rock Cider Works Tap Room in Hendersonville, NC

“When you have worn out your shoes, the strength of the shoe leather has passed into the fiber of your body. I measure your health by the number of shoes and hats and clothes you have worn out.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

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