Monday, January 31, 2011

South Mountains Hike

Too tired from work to write much about our last hike. But I did want to mention that we hiked in to the South Mountains from a direction I'd never used--that being directly due south. This takes you through the South Mountains Game Lands and a horrid clear cut toward the newer section of the park. The old park was around 8K acres, but the new addition has more than doubled the park's size to over 17K acres. However, the newest addition is mainly undeveloped and all trails are either access roads (which the park rangers obviously use) or old overgrown logging roads.

The South Mountains from the wide valley directly south. Click to enlarge.

Our goal on the hike was to find the summit of Buzzard's Roost, which is now the highest peak in the park, eclipsing Benn Knob which was highest before the new addition of acreage. However, with no definite route, we came up short and didn't get to see the rumored remains of an old fire tower that is supposed to be there. We'll go back and attempt it again from a different direction.

We did manage to hike about fourteen miles. Keeping up with Jack Thyen is a chore. He moves along at about a steady three miles per hour. Level hiking, downhill hiking, uphill hiking. When he hits the steepest slopes he still keeps up that pace, and it's impossible for me to hit that same stride. I'm just way too old.

A boulder field we passed early on in the hike.

The shitty, crappy clear-cut we had to hike through.

Toward the middle of the hike we stumbled upon this old chimney. The southern Appalachians have thousands of these old ruins--remains of farmsteads tucked away in coves and ridges all over the mountains and valleys.

My hiking pals, Andy Kunkle, Jack Thyen, and Boone the dawg.

I was surprised to see many dozens of apparently healthy young hemlocks. The older hemlocks were all either dead or dying, but the saplings appear to be okay (for now).


stan said...

What a coincidence. I was with a group of trail runners who ran through the game lands all the way to the waterfall parking lot and back.
The run began at Roper Hollow Road off Highway 64, about ~5 miles south of Morganton.
We saw a fire tower at the top of one of the mountains as we drove on Highway 64.
Not sure if it's Buzzard's Roost. I may have to go back and investigate, as bagging fire towers is a fun occasional hobby of mine as well.
Enjoy your blog, especially the hiking entries.

HemlockMan said...

You may have seen the towers on Benn Knob. Not fire towers but radio/microwave, etc.

Not sure of the physical state of the tower on Buzzard's Roost.