Monday, June 17, 2013

The Summit of Big Butt Mountain

I ended up doing the easy hike as a day-trip instead of camping out up there. Although I do wish I'd stayed. The weather was nice and I'd have been able to do some star-gazing.

One peak that I wanted to bag, and one that has been on my to-hike list for many, many years is Big Butt Mountain. It's one of those peaks that many people ignore because it's not quite a 6,000-foot summit. My GPS reading came out at 5,961 feet which is, I think, pretty accurate. I calibrated it as nearly as I could before I hit the trail.

One thing that is strange to me is that the summit is clothed in hardwoods and rhododendron rather than spruce and balsam trees like most of the rest of the Black Mountain high summits. What's different about this mountain from other Black Mountain summits that are at, or above, 6,000 feet in elevation?

Yeah, this is a "trail". Unofficial manways like this one tend to get overwhelmed by vegetation when people don't use them. Fortunately for me, something was using this one to help me find my way. That something was...

...a bear! The Black Mountains are dense with bears. This pile of bear scat was sitting in the middle of the manway. Which actually makes it, I would reckon, a bear trail.

This is the marker for the very summit of the peak. My GPS device gave me a reading of 5,961 feet which is probably pretty close to the real figure. Mountains like this one don't get a lot of visitors because they're not on the list of "Sixers"--that is, southern peaks that are over 6,000 feet in elevation. Because of this, there are no official trails to this summit, and I didn't have to deal with any pesky humans. I had the trail, and the mountain, all to myself!

Most of the rhododendrons on the summit were in full, glorious bloom.
I had been told that there are no views from the summit. That information is correct, as the top is fully clothed in dense vegetation. This was the closest thing to a long-range view to be had up there.
This ancient, gnarly birch tree was perched just below the summit. Birch trees at such altitudes tend to get twisted into weird shapes and end up looking really strange.
There were a few rhododendron blossoms still waiting to unfurl at the summit.
No pesky humans! No blabbering companions! No slobbering dogs! Just me and the sounds of the wild forest!


Kirk G said...

What was that song now? "I Like Big Butt Mount,
I cannot Lie.."

James Robert Smith said...

That mountain has been on my hike list for well over ten years. Something would keep popping up to prevent me from hiking it. Finally, I got it out of the way.

MarkGelbart said...

Do you carry pepper spray for the bears?

We were staying at a condo in the mountains a few years ago where there were bears.

Of course, I didn't see one...I have never seen a live wild bear.

But I did walk down in a field where I knew they hung out. I was little worried even though I knew my concern was ridiculous--neighborhood dogs are more likely to attack than bears.

James Robert Smith said...

Although I've had some really worrisome encounters with black bears, I just don't carry bear spray with me in black bear country. I did carry it when I hiked in griz country a few years ago.

Bears attack people so infrequently that I just don't feel the need for it. Sometimes I'll carry a container of dog spray in black bear country. Not sure if it's powerful enough, but I suspect it would do the job. But mostly I don't even carry that.

The bear poop I saw on the manway/bear tunnel to the summit was very fresh. Dropped within a few hours of when I saw it (because it had rained heavily the day before and this poop had obviously not bee rained on). And there are a LOT of bears in the Black Mountains.

The only time I ever saw a bear in the Black Mountains was on a hike on the Black Mountain Crest Trail (the other, higher ridgeline). I heard a crash and thought it was a deer running away, but when I looked in the direction of the sound I instead saw a glossy black bear barreling down the very steep slope as fast as it could go. It vanished so quickly that I couldn't even get my camera up to take a shot before it was gone.

They mainly don't want to mess with us.

MarkGelbart said...

Oh I forgot to ask.

Did you swirl a stick through the scat and try to figure out what it was eating?

You know that's what I would do.

From the photo looks like it may have been eating green vegetation and maybe blueberries. Probably too early up there for the latter.

James Robert Smith said...

There were actually two piles of bear scat. I did poke a stick in the first one I came to...about six feet from this one earlier on the trail. I couldn't tell much...looked like it had just been eating and processing vegetation. The huckleberries are not in season yet. It's obvious they're eating those when in season.

There was no fur of any kind, nor bits of bone, so it hadn't been eating any small game or carrion.

Amanda Altman said...

It's this the Big Butt Mountain in Haywood County? I was wondering where the art is.

James Robert Smith said...

Not sure what county. It's in the Black Mountains...part of the range that includes Mount Mitchell, the highest summit in the eastern USA.