April 12th, 2017
On Wednesday, I met up with my hiking companion, Pam, at Martha’s Restaurant in Walhalla, SC shortly before 8 am. Pam was almost finished with her breakfast when I walked in. As for me, I don’t normally have much of an appetite early in the morning, so I didn’t order anything. I will on occasion however, order something small like a side of grits or maybe a biscuit. Another frequent hiking companion, Wayne, has taken note of this proclivity and has given me the nickname Biscuit Joe. Wayne likes to joke that I can make a single biscuit last for several days. I’ve tried to discourage the use of the nickname but unfortunately, it seems to have a life of its own. Luckily, I already have a trail name (Scout), and I won’t be adopting a new one any time soon, LOL.
Anyway, when we left Martha’s, we climbed into Pam’s vehicle and headed towards the Davidson River Area within Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. We stopped at the Visitors Center along Pisgah Hwy and spent a few minutes checking out the displays and talking to the rangers. One of the rangers informed us that there was a mountain bike race underway and that the route overlapped with one of the trails that we were intending to hike. It was not an issue but rather just something to be aware of.
After leaving the Visitors Center, we drove a short distance and then turned right onto Avery Creek Road. We followed the gravel road for about a mile, crossed a bridge over the creek, and finally arrived at our trailhead. Today’s hike would form a big loop by connecting four different trails. Pam had been talking about doing this hike for a couple of weeks. Even though I knew that it would be a tough hike, being the glutton for self-inflicted pain and suffering that I am, I agreed to join her.
Pam and I took a few minutes to put our packs on and to gear up, then began our hike on the Pressley Cove Trail. The Pressley Cove Trail is 1.2 miles long and climbs steeply, gaining about 900 feet in elevation by the time that it reaches Turkey Creek Road. From there, we turned left and immediately passed an old home site where all that remains is this fireplace and chimney stack.
It was along this section that a number of mountain bikers zipped past us. They were competitors in the race that the ranger had earlier informed us about. Most of the cyclists called out to let us know that they were coming and we made sure to move to the side of the trail in order to give them plenty of room.
After having hiked 1.3 miles on Turkey Creek Road, we realized that we had gone the wrong way. We should have turned right and not left at the top of the Pressley Cove Trail. Now, we had to turn around and head back to where we had erred and then continue until we reached the junction for the Black Mountain Trail. Our little mistake had added 2.6 miles to our hike. Oh well.
The Black Mountain Trail climbs steeply until it reaches an elevation of around 4,200 feet. In many places, the trail is very rough, heavily eroded and in need of repair. Here, we had passed an impressive rock face and later a huge boulder that formed a large overhang.
Because it’s Spring, we naturally saw a lot of wildflowers growing beside the trail. I’m not a plant expert by any means, but I spent some time online after getting home trying to identify the flowers in these pictures. I think that the yellow flower in the first image is either a Cinquefoil or perhaps a variety of Buttercup. Next, going clockwise, is a Bloodroot, followed by a close-up of a tiny Common Chickweed.
There were some really nice views in places along the trail, including this one. In the center of the image is Looking Glass Rock. Looking Glass Rock is close to 4,000 feet in elevation, has a prominence of almost 900 feet, and is a popular rock climbing destination. Later in the day, we had closer views when our loop led Pam and I along the ridgeline that can be seen in the foreground. For now though, we were still following the Black Mountain Trail, which eventually descended to Buckhorn Gap, crossed Clawhammer Road, then began to climb again.
After having hiked a little over seven miles, we arrived at this shelter. Since it was past 1:30, we decided that this would be a good place to stop, take a break, and to eat our lunches. The shelter sleeps six people and possibly a few rodents.
From the shelter, the trail continued to climb towards Club Gap. At Club Gap, we joined the Buckwheat Knob Trail. The Buckwheat Knob Trail is 1.5 miles long and passes this nice campsite, situated in a small level area along the ridge.
Below, I’ve added more images of some of the wildflowers that we saw. The yellow grouping is Golden Ragwort, then a cluster of Common Blue Violets, and finally, Large-Flowered Trillium which we spotted shortly before reaching the end of our hike.
As I mentioned earlier, our loop would eventually take Pam and I closer to Looking Glass Rock and to viewpoints like this one. There is actually a 3.1 mile trail that climbs steeply up the backside of Looking Glass Rock and ends at the top of the cliffs. I’ve not done it, so I should definitely plan on returning to Pisgah.
From the end of the Buckwheat Knob Trail, all that was left for us to do was the 2.5 mile long Bennett Gap Trail. Later, as we approached the trailhead, I took this picture. From here, we could see Pam’s vehicle through the woods on the other side of the creek. It was a welcome sight for sore eyes (and for sore feet).
The first of these two images was taken looking back at where we had just exited the Bennett Gap Trail. The second and last image was taken as we walked across the bridge over Avery Creek to finish our hike.
As for our total mileage, Pam’s iPhone app said that we had hiked a total of 13.9 miles. My Garmin Etrex 30x (a recent purchase) indicated that we had done 13.75 miles, so our two devices were in pretty close agreement. Our total elevation gain/loss was a little over 6,800 feet. This was a very good hike but I would definitely rate it as having been very strenuous.