As I said in an earlier post, I wanted to get some hiking in. But because the trails that I chose were relatively very rugged, they were too tough for Carole. She had to wait at the trail heads while I went on my jaunts. So I had to speed things up. I did this by going light, taking only a camera and a bottle of water, and by basically walking very fast and, in several stretches of trail, jogging. This way I was able to cover a lot of miles in really short order.
After we left the Big Butt Trail we drove to the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. The last five or six times I've tried to stop there the place was closed. Mostly because of the weather, but the last time it was shut down because of aggressive bears that were literally terrorizing the people who tried to use the picnic area. Yep, just like Yogi Bear.Now, though, the bad bears have apparently been removed or chased off. I did see one sign warning people not to feed bears or leave food out. It consisted of a simple printed poster with a color photo of a Craggy Gardens bear on top of a mid-sized automobile with the logo: A FED BEAR IS A DEAD BEAR.
At any rate, I parked the truck and decided to run up the mountain to the summit area where Craggy Gardens is located. When the rhododendrons are in full bloom, the natural gardens there are fantastic. The top of the ridge is a classic natural heath bald with rhododendron patches interspersed with grassy fields and a few stunted trees. The views are often spectacular and when the flowers are out the place is stupefyingly beautiful.But the blooms were all gone, so the only thing for me to see would be the mountaintop itself and the views from the ridge.
It was eight-tenths of a mile to the top so I took off at a very quick walk--almost a run. I went up the trail passing a few late-comers descending the peak and stopped here and there to take photos in the fading light inside the forest. Pretty soon, though, I reached the top and got ready to take some photographs. However, the views were somewhat disappointing due to the fact that the sun was beginning to set and clouds had rolled in all around the horizon. And it began to sprinkle rain. In the end, I just took a few photos, turned around, and dashed back down to the parking lot.
After getting back to the truck and drinking some water, I discussed our options with Carole. We had built in the time to spend another evening in the mountains if we felt like it. But both of us were really beat and we just wanted to get home. So we plugged our address in to our navigation device and pointed the truck back toward Charlotte.
The trailhead to Craggy Gardens, with the bear warning (due to last year's really bad bear troubles).
The trail was not really this dark. The flash went off and made it appear darker.
This shelter is at the top of the treeless ridge. I can see a huge need for it, especially if a thunderstorm suddenly appears. People would need a relatively safe place to retreat.
This patch of flowers was nice, but I couldn't quite get a good shot. More practice is needed.
The sun was going down, but the clouds looked spectacular above the mountain.
Heavy clouds passed over the top of the mountain and it began to rain lightly.