The Walking Posts

The posts labeled with the little “Truckin’ ” man are from my Walking Journal, which I've been keeping since January 1, 2012. What began as a simple New Year's Resolution to exercise more quickly morphed into a hiking addiction. Below are some running totals.

  MILES TIME CALORIES ASCENT
February 2021 31.52 11h 37m 2553 1875
Year-to-Date 76.11 29h 8m 6165 4678
February Avg. 21.42 10h 33m 2582 N/A

Top Ten Hikes of 2020 Part 1 and Auntie Gets Meta

Posted By on January 2, 2021

Top Ten Hikes of 2020 Part 1 and Auntie Gets Meta

I know I didn’t get my act together last year to post a Top Ten of 2019. In my defense, I sold my house and moved out of state right at the end of December, so it kind of slipped my mind. Apologies. Additionally 2020 has been for all of us one humdinger of a year, and my blogging kind of fell by the wayside until around March of this year.

All that said, I figure it’s time to give 2020 the old Auntie Send-off of “Top Ten Hikes of the Year.” Here is Part 1, in no particular order. [Also note I don’t call any of these “favorite hikes.” Let’s call them “most memorable hikes” and leave it at that.]

#10 Pisgah NF Mullinax Loop

This hike was downright traumatizing. I will spend the rest of 2020 whinging about bridges and water-crossings because of it. I mean seriously, who routes a major named trail across a river (not a stream, not a creek, not a brook—A RIVER) with no bridge????

Sproingy bridge!

#9 Pisgah NF Hard Times Loop

This was a hike I sourced from AllTrails, and included the pleasant surprise of walking onto North Carolina Arboretum property. The arboretum trails were delightful as they wended in and out of the woods surrounding Bent Creek. This is one I would repeat several times.

Another Bridge

#8 Hominy Creek Greenway

And speaking of repeat visits, I’ve been down this lovely little greenway quite a few times since my initial visit. It’s a decent walk from my house in Asheville to get here, and one I never seem to tire of.

The Trail

#7 Walker Creek Trail

This hike was kind of a mixed bag. It was physically one of the hardest hikes I’ve done this year, with almost 1200 feet total ascent and yet one of the most glorious and amazing hikes at the same time. The wildflowers!!! My head almost exploded from the sheer variety and abundance. It was thrilling.

Wildflowers!!!!

#6 Hard Times/Owl Ridge Loop

After the first few times I did the Hard Times loop, I grew to dislike the monotony of the forest roads. Lot of boring, endless trudging. But this time through I left the forest road shortly after entering Arboretum property to hike the Owl Ridge Trail, and it was really beautiful and rewarding. And that despite the rain that started moments after I turned onto the trail.

See What I Mean? Pretty!

And here endeth Part 1. Stay tuned for Part 2, tomorrow. Also, prolly some annoying “meta” stuff about totals.

UPDATE: Here is the link to Part 2.

Bent Creek Loop

Posted By on December 22, 2020

Bent Creek Loop

9.15 miles; 1,261-feet total ascent; Asheville

That’s kind of a generic name, but there are so many trails in this area. This hike included parts of the Boyd Branch Trail, the Boyd Logging Trail, the Little Hickory Top Trail, North Boundary Road, the Greens Lick Trail, Laurel Branch Road, and the Lower Sidehill Trails. It was tough going, and longer than it needed to be because I missed a turn and had to backtrack. Great views from the high point, tho.

Worst Water Crossing

I was a bit concerned when I mapped this hike out because of all the water crossings, but the one above turned out to be the worst one, and I didn’t even get my boots wet. And the sections that were on forest roads were built so that streams ran through buried culverts. Easy peasy!

Observation Wellhead

This was interesting. I came to a spot where the single-track trail I was on intersected one of those forest roads. It was a large clearing with picnic tables and this USGS observation wellhead.

Forest Road

These aren’t really roads, in the sense that you’d want to drive your car down them, but they’re still straight, level, and kind of boring to walk on. Fortunately this hike was a very nice mix of single track woodland trails and forest roads, so it was hard to get too bored with any one section.

View

This hike just barely kisses the track I was on in November that I called the Wolf Knob Loop. I picked up the North Boundary Road pretty much where I left off then, and it continued to climb, though not severely. This was by far the best view on the whole trail. Again, I’m guessing those distant mountains are the Great Smokies.

As I mentioned above, I kind of got off track on this hike and started heading out towards Billy Cove Gap. In my defense, the turn I missed was almost parallel to the trail I was on, just below it, so at first glance at the GPS, it looked right. It wasn’t until I took another glance, about 1/4 mile further, that I realized I had missed the turn. When I got back to the intersection there were some helpful mountain bikers who pointed me in the right direction, and warned me to keep alert for other mountain bikers, as this stretch is a popular downhill run.

Anyway, you can find out more about this trail network from this excellent mountain biking site, which includes links to specific trails and maps. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Warren Wilson River Trail

Posted By on December 3, 2020

Warren Wilson River Trail

6.26 miles; 94 feet total ascent; Asheville and Swannanoa, NC

Today’s hike was a kinder gentler jaunt on a mostly flat river trail, which may have technically been illegal, as the trail, which is on the property of Warren Wilson College, is closed to the general public due to COVID considerations.

Charles D. Owen Park Walking Trail

This hike started and ended at the Charles D. Owen Park in Swannanoa (it was an out-and-back—I know!). Weird entrance, though. You kind of have to drive through a windshield wiper factory parking lot. Seems random. I missed it the entrance the first time by and had to turn around. This part of my walk, by the way, was TOTALLY legal. The park is open for walking, fishing, basketball and picnicking, although the covered picnic shelters are roped off. The Swannanoa River feeds the two lakes in the park, and is a hatchery-stocked fishing river, thus making the lakes nice fishing spots. The fitness trail is a lovely Easy Walk™️ in that it’s nice and wide and flat, made of crushed stone or pavement, and about a mile, total.

Bamboo Grove

Swannanoa River from the Bamboo Grove

Okay, so, the illegal part starts basically where you leave the Owen Park Fitness Trail and begin to walk along the nice single-track trail beside the river. I mean, yeah, there was signage, but it was torn down, as was the orange mesh barrier that was supposed to bar entry to the trail, which passes through a beautiful bamboo grove.

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

In my defense, I was not alone on this trail, and I don’t just mean the spotted salamander pictured above. There were lots of folks using the trail, and I’m guess they weren’t all students and/or faculty of Warren Wilson College.

Warren Wilson College Farm

Speaking of which, this is an interesting school. It is a liberal arts college with an 1100-acre working farm attached, which is manned by the college students themselves, and it provides most of the food consumed on campus.

Stile

Because it crosses an actual farm with livestock, the trail passes through a couple of these stiles. Much easier to navigate for humans than the ones where you have to climb over steps or operate a double-latch. These you can just walk through. Technically. And yes, okay, so ALL the signs weren’t down. Guilty.

Lake Residents

On my return trip I walked across the causeway between the two lakes. Lotta ducks and geese. It was quite the serene scene.

You can find out more about Charles D. Owen Park from this Buncombe County website. You can learn about Warren Wilson College here, from their website. And there is a larger network of hiking trails on the campus. I only walked 3 miles out and then back on the river trail, but I had originally planned on doing it as a 1-way Lyft hike. Since, according to the above-named website, they go on Winter Break next week, maybe I’ll try it, signage be damned. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Quick River Walk

Posted By on November 30, 2020

Quick River Walk

4.18 miles; 422 feet total ascent; Asheville, NC

Sometimes I’m just not feeling it when it comes to hiking in the woods. On the other hand, sometimes I just gotta get out and walk someplace, anyplace. Today I decided to do a walk along the banks of the French Broad River. The river runs north-south through my part of Asheville, so my route took me south along the west bank along a non-city-approved dirt trail fairly densely inhabited by homeless encampments (though they’re not on the trail, they’re off the trail), and back north along the freshly-constructed paved walking trail and bike path on the east bank of the river.

Pretty Day on the River

You can’t see them from this shot, but there’re a bunch of tents set up below here on the banks of the river. You can actually see them better this time of year from the other bank.

Chinese Silver Grass (Miscanthus sinensis)

There is tons of this stuff all over this area, and I mean entire massive hillsides of it north of Asheville. It’s breathtakingly lovely in the long rays of winter afternoon sunlight, but it’s also wicked invasive. It’s a fast-growing species that forms thick bunches, displacing native plant communities, and the dense, dry stands are highly flammable and create fire hazards. It also reduces light availability to other plants at the soil surface and decomposes slowly on the ground, limiting the amount of nutrients returned to the soil. So, pretty but nasty. Like some people I’ve known, come to think of it.

Red Brambles

Red foliage really stands out this time of year, and these blackberry bushes were no exception.

Cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

And gosh, it looks like I stopped my wildflower posts too soon! Besides this little stand of Cornflower, I also saw some sort of yellow-flowered member of the brassica family. Couldn’t ID it better than that. But wildflowers! On November 30th!

Giant Leopard Moth Caterpillar (Hypercompe scribonia)

And then there was this dude. He was inching along the curb at a good pace, and quite large—probably close to 3-inches long, which makes sense because the adult of this species is called Giant Leopard Moth.

Talking Tank

On my last leg before heading back up the hill to my house, I noticed that the message on the water tank has changed again. First time I saw it it said “Stay Weird.” Then, as the pandemic lock-down began, it said “Stay Home,” followed a few weeks later by “Stay Safe.”  It’s painted by muralists Ian Wilkinson and Ishmael, and it’s said other things, apparently, before I got to Asheville. You should go look at their website.

Lastly, no map or track posted of this walk, as it starts and ends at my house. But you can read about the French Broad River Greenway Park and the other greenways at this City of Asheville link.

Wolf Knob Loop

Posted By on November 20, 2020

Wolf Knob Loop

8.2 miles; 965 feet total ascent; Asheville, NC

This was a great hike. Why? First, because it was a great day… cool, crisp, and sunny. Second, because it was long enough to satisfy me. Third, because good grief, the views from the highest points! Fourth, because I found a couple cool detour/shortcuts. And fifth, because according to another hiker I JUST MISSED seeing a momma bear with 3 cubs on the trail. This didn’t make me sad, especially. I was actually sort of relieved. Same way I felt when hiking in Florida in that I was kind of both hoping AND hoping NOT to see an alligator.

Mountain Biker Sculpture

This is a nifty little piece of art that I passed right at the beginning of the trail… on the “stick” part of the lollipop, so to speak. It’s labelled Trails End. It seemed to be on private property—there was a house there—but it was kind of in the middle of the Bent Creek Forest area, so… weird. But cool. And appropriate, as this whole Bent Creek network of trails seems to be primarily used by mountain bikers, tho today I saw quite a few hikers and runners as well.

Holly Berries

As I mentioned above, this loop is part of the Bent Creek Trail network, taking in parts of the Wolf Branch Trail, the Ingles Field Gap Trail, and North Boundary, Ledford, and Rice Pinnacle Roads. This time I parked at the Rice Pinnacle Trailhead, which, even at 8:45 AM was almost full, and most of the cars had bike racks attached. Also, not for anything, but at 8:45 am, it was still pretty cold—barely above freezing.

High Point

This was taken at the highest point on the hike at about the 4 1/2 mile mark looking west from North Boundary Road. I’m guessing those are the Great Smokey Mountains off on the horizon. After this, the rest of the trail was downhill. It was quite a climb up, but stretched out over 4+ miles it wasn’t bad at all.

Happy Log

Just past the highest point, at maybe the 5 or 5 1/4 mile point, I became aware of the need to find a Ladies Room. Not much further along I saw a side trail, and figured there might be a more private spot than the side of the road I was on, so I ambled on up. After finding the necessary, I looked at the trail I was on, and the gps map, and thought it looked as if it might go in the right direction, so I continued, rather than turning back. Like I said, I was on a forest road, and they’re not my favorite kinds of places to walk. This side trail obviously created and used by mountain bikers judging from the ramps up to and over logs, was just perfect. A bit of a climb up but nothing too strenuous, and yes, it did ultimately join back up with the road. I’ve marked it on the trail map, below. Very pleasant detour, and because it was a bit of a climb, some nice views to both the west and the east.

And because it worked out so well, I took what I judged to be another promising side trail later on in the hike which looked like it cut off a longish loop of road, which it did. Then I saw the Happy Log, and thought, “Yeah Log, me too.”

You can find out more about this hike from this excellent US Forest Service map (pdf file). As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Shut-in, Explorer, & Sleepy Gap Loop

Posted By on November 13, 2020

Shut-in, Explorer, & Sleepy Gap Loop

5 miles; 900 feet total ascent; Asheville, NC

This wasn’t exactly the route I had originally planned, but I wasn’t able to park where I thought I needed to, so revised the route. I also took a bit of a shortcut, which was harder than I thought it would be, so that was kind of a trade-off.

Sleepy Gap

I picked a starting spot using various online maps (GaiaGPS, Alltrails, and Google) on the Blue Ridge Parkway that I realized once I got there  really wasn’t suitable as a parking place. It was on the outside of a curve with little-to-no shoulder space. So I ended up parking at Sleepy Gap. Also too, I should know by now that any hike that starts on the BRP is gonna involve a lot of climbing. The “Ridge” part of the name is a dead giveaway…

Climb up to Chestnut Cove

I’ve hiked part of this before, and I knew it would be a hard slog. It was. Nice views, though, now that the leaves are off the trees.

Pretty Red Oak

I said most of the leaves were down, but not all. This red oak caught my eye.

This route took in another part of the Explorer Loop trail that I hadn’t been on before. It was just as excellent as the rest of the Explorer Loop. And just as heavily-traveled by mountain bikers.

Sourwood? Maybe?

And speaking of red, this little sapling was visible from a long way off down the trail. I think it’s a sourwood, but I’m not 100% confident of that ID. The color, though, was amazing. Very very vivid.

Little Bridge

The climb up from South Ridge Road, a trail that was labelled “Sleepy Gap,” was pretty intense. I don’t think it was more than 1/2 mile, but coming at the very end of this hike as it did, it felt like 5 miles.

You can find out more about this hike from this excellent US Forest Service map (pdf file). As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

%d bloggers like this: