Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Black Mountain Crest Trail

One of my favorite places to hike, and probably the toughest place to hike in the state, is the Black Mountain Crest Trail. So named because it follows the crest of the Black Mountains, which are the highest mountain range in the eastern USA. It's been said that this compact range was actually uplifted in relatively recent times--edged up and warped against the older ranges by some upstart tectonics of one type or another.

Yeah, that's the trail.

Indeed, if you observe the range from above, it bears a kind of "J" shape, in contrast to the even rows of valleys and ridges around it. As if the land here was pushed and warped as one mass was pressed against another.

One of my campsites at Deep Gap in the Black Mountains.

I like hiking the spine of this range for many reasons, not least of which is the fact that I don't encounter a lot of other hikers there. On one occasion I seemed to have the whole range to myself for a day. I neither saw nor head another human during my eight-hour dash to from Mount Mitchell to Winter Star and back to Mount Mitchell. That was a hell of a trip. On other hikes--both overnight backpacks and day trips--I would routinely see no more than a half dozen other people. It really is a great place to find spectacular scenery and solitude.

Somewhere in the mists near Gibbs Mountain.

I've taken hundreds of photographs along this trail. But of all of the shots with my various digital cameras, this one remains my favorite. I took it part of the way up the slope of Winter Star (what a great name for a mountain) looking back across Deep Gap (where my tent was pitched) and toward Potato Hill and Cattail Peak and the summits that scrape (or surpass) the 6,600-foot mark. It had been raining for most of the hike, and I was tired and drenched and looking forward to returning to my tent where I wanted to dry off and collapse for some much needed rest.

One more reason why I hike.

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