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 ASCENT CALORIES
February 2022 2.41 0h 54m 196 195
Year to Date 31.28 11h 40m 2093 2534
February Avg. 22.56 10h 33m 1036 2362

MTS From Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center to Folk Art Center

Posted By on May 6, 2021

MTS From Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center to Folk Art Center

6.74 miles; 639 ft. total elevation; Asheville, NC

So I saw this story about a tunnel on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in my local paper. It read in part:

In April, a portion of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which sits along a section of land owned and operated by eight different jurisdictions, became an illegal dump and what many believed to be a public safety hazard.

Trail maintainers and environmental advocates spent months organizing meetings with land owners and government officials to clean it up and prevent future dumping.

And my first thought was “Wait, what? There’s a tunnel on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail? OH, COOL!”

So naturally, I had to go hike that section.

Bonus Tunnel!

Ooo! Tunnel… No, that can’t be THE tunnel, because the tunnel from the article goes under Interstate Route 40. It’s a BONUS tunnel!

Flame Azalea (Rhododendron calendulaceum)

Lots of these native azaleas in bloom, and they are lovely. Lots of other good stuff in bloom, too.

Rat Snake

Then there was this guy—a totally harmless black rat snake. He was just meandering along the trail, sort of like me.

Steps Down to the Road Crossing

Ah, I see we’re coming out to the road crossing. And the railroad crossing, and the Swannanoa River crossing. So many crossings!

Tunnel Entrance

And now… THE tunnel from the article. All nice and tidy. And yeah, that’s an Interstate highway whooshing by above.

“Scary” Tunnel

And here it is, the scary tunnel. It was fine.

At-Grade Crossing

Post-tunnel, there’s the at-grade railroad crossing.

Swannanoa River

And here’s the river crossing.

Signage and Stile

Imagine my surprise when, after I got over the river, I came across a stile! Haven’t seen too many of these since I’ve been in the mountains. The other side of the stile was a big ol’ cow pasture, complete with cows, who all ignored me for the lush grass. Mind you, still on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail the whole time, as you can see from the white blazes.

Under the Parkway

And over all our heads there’s the Blue Ridge Parkway. What a nifty hike! Many thanks to our local paper, the Asheville Citizen-Times, for pointing me towards this hike.

For more information about the Mountains-to-Sea Trail see this website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Clarksville Greenway

Posted By on April 26, 2021

Clarksville Greenway

4.3 miles; 83 ft. total ascent; Clarksville, TN

Visiting with family (FINALLY!) in Central Tennessee, and my sister-in-law and I felt like getting out and doing some walking, so we chose this local greenway/rails-to-trails path in Clarksville. [Insert Monkees song lyrics here]

Signage

It was a flat paved walk that was getting a lot of use this April morning.

The Trail

As you can see, the trees were almost completely leafed out, and there were lots of spring ephemerals to be seen.

Purple Phacelia (Phacelia bipinnatifida)

This in particular caught our eye. It was spread out over a slope in a mass of purple. Really lovely. Gonna have to see if I can find some!

Cannonball Chert in Limestone

We also saw these very cool looking rock formations. Apparently it’s chert, a hard mineral, embedded in limestone. As the limestone erodes it leaves these tubes and balls of the harder chert. It was a good reminder to “Always Read the Plaque.” We would have been quite mystified without it.

You can find out more about the Clarksville Greenway from this website. And as always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

Pink Beds Loop Trail

Posted By on April 6, 2021

Pink Beds Loop Trail

6.3 miles; 276 ft. total elevation; Brevard, NC

I was intrigued by the name of this route, although I wasn’t there at a time when the rhodys and mountain laurels would be in bloom, I was still excited to see it. It gets its name, by the way… well, lemme outsource the description to the Hike WNC website:

Originally named for the profusion of pink wildflowers that grew here in the spring (including mountain laurel and rhododendron), Pink Beds is not really all that pink. With the notable exception of Swamp Pink (or Helonias), a rare pink flower which loves the mountain bogs found in this valley, most of the wildflowers here are common to the region and something other than pink. Mountain Laurel and Rhododendron are somewhat plentiful and host shades of pink in their blooms, but the Forest Service describes the name as being mostly historical.

Yeah. Well it’s still a great name!

Cool Old Sign

The parking area, which was pretty full by the time I got out there, like most popular trailheads in the area, boasted this really cool sign.

Halberd-leaved Violet (Viola hastata)

 

Dimpled Trout Lily (Erythronium umbilicatum)

And I didn’t see any pink flowers, just a lot of trout lily and yellow violets. Maybe rename it Yellow Beds? Nah…

Oh, and I thought the name of the yellow violet was kind of interesting, but I had no idea what a “halberd” was so I looked it up.

This is a Halberd

Mmm-kay… Whatever you say. Don’t really see the resemblance myself.

Boardwalk

I will say that this boardwalk that threads through the bog part of the trail is pretty impressive. All in all a nice hike.

You can read more about The Pink Beds at the above-mentioned website, and as always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

 

River Arts District

Posted By on January 18, 2021

River Arts District

3.86 miles*; 118 ft. total ascent; Asheville, NC

Today I did a pleasant stroll through Asheville’s River Arts District, which is a part of town mostly occupied by artist’s studios, art galleries, coffee shops, music venues, restaurants, and bars. Most of which are currently either closed or open by appointment only, alas. But you can still enjoy the neighborhood.

Down by the River

In order to make this a loop, I began by walking the less interesting east bank of the French Broad River. It’s still pretty, just all paved and tamed. In this photo you’re looking across the river to my preferred side.

River Arts Sign

They’re quite proud of this area here in Asheville, as you can see from this sign.

Cool Chair

In order to get from the river to the main street through the district, you have to cross train tracks, and there’re only so many places you can do that. I chose the at-grade crossing at Lyman Street. This marvelous chair was bolted to the sidewalk behind this studio.

Bas Relief

This fantastic bas relief sculpture adorned the front of the Odyssey Center For Ceramic Arts.

Hurricane Mural

And this adorned a… tire shop? Or a warehouse of some sort? There was no informative signage.

The Phil Mechanic Studio

Really liked this bird mural. A lot.

You can find out more about Asheville’s River Arts District from this website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

* Mileage includes the walk to and from this route to my house. For obvious reasons, the track does not include that portion of the route.

Riverside Cemetery

Posted By on January 15, 2021

Riverside Cemetery

6.35 miles; 454 ft. total ascent; Asheville, NC

[Note: the stats above include my walk to and from. The website claims to have 3 1/2 miles of paved paths, but color me skeptical. I covered about a mile and a half inside the gates, and I would guess I saw at least half of it… okay, maybe.]

The Riverside Cemetery is a famous old graveyard in the Montford district of Asheville, and is the final resting place of, among many others, Thomas Wolfe and O. Henry, whose real name was William Sydney Porter.

cemetery gates

Cemetery Gates on Birch St.

The Montford neighborhood in Asheville is one of the nicer, and more historic, sections of the city. It’s full of elegant old homes, many of which were designed by the architect who also designed the Biltmore House, “America’s Largest Home,” built by George Vanderbilt at the end of the 1800s. So if you don’t get 3 1/2 miles inside the cemetery, you can easily make that up with a tour of the surrounding community.

overview of cemetery

Nice, but Probably Much Prettier in Summer

The paved paths are winding and loopy, and go up and down the many hills here. There was one funeral going on while I was here, so I tried to avoid that area as much as was practical, but it was tricky with all the loops.

O. Henry grave

O. Henry’s Grave

Again, O. Henry was just the most famous of his many pen names; other names included S.H. Peters, James L. Bliss, T.B. Dowd, and Howard Clark. He was quite a character. You should check out his Wikipedia page, for starters. People leave pennies on his tombstone in honor of the opening line of one of his most famous short stories, “The Gift of the Magi.” The pens are kind of self-explanatory.

grave of Thomas Wolfe

“The Last Voyage. The Longest. The Best.”

And here is the grave of Thomas Wolfe. I really loved that line on his tombstone, above. Although “best?” I would venture to guess that everyone’s mileage would vary, so to speak…

angel on cemetery gate

Angel on the Cemetery Gate

Because of his 1929 novel, Look Homeward Angel, angels are kind of a recurring theme here.

Because my route through here was meandering and also because I was trying to avoid intruding on an actual funeral, I’m not posting a track. But if you click on the map or link above it will download as a pdf file. And if you go to the Riverside Cemetery page on the Romantic Asheville website, you can also download a walking tour, and of course, find out more about it. And finally, the address (to get you to the gate) is 53 Birch St., Asheville.

Pinetree & Explorer Loops

Posted By on January 14, 2021

Pinetree & Explorer Loops

5.6 miles; 434 ft. total ascent; Asheville, NC

Another trip around these two pretty trails. I saw nary a soul for the first 3 or so miles, then it was trail runners and mountain bikers up the wazoo. Just goes to show, you really have to keep alert. These are still, imo, some of the loveliest trails in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest.

Bent Creek from the bridge just west of Lake Powhatan

Although, if these trails are this busy now, in the middle of January, I can’t imagine what they’re like in full summer when the campground is in full swing. Guess I’ll find out…

You can find out more about the trails in the Bent Creek Experimental Forest from this excellent Hike Western North Carolina website. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.

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