Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pilot Rock: A Brief Hike and Photojournal

Early on Saturday morning I decided that I needed to get in a good hike before we went into Asheville to meet up with Carole's friend, Angel (with whom she works). There is no shortage of trails around the North Mills River Campground, so I had quite a lot of choices. Finally, I decided on the Pilot Rock Trail that would take me up the mountain toward the Blue Ridge Parkway. If I hiked all the way to the Parkway, then I'd come out at Pisgah Inn where Carole and I had stayed last year. But all I wanted to do was trek up to the first summit to see the cliff faces and take in the views. Then I'd turn back and head down to the campground to join up with Carole and Andy.

This is exactly what I ended up doing. The hike started out very cool and I had on my hoodie to keep me warm, but in quick order the air began to warm up and so did I. Stubbornly, I waited until I'd gained the first ridge before I stopped to shed the sweater and zip off the legs of my convertible pants. I even took some time to lie down and rest before walking out on the exposed rock to take some photos and shoot some video.

After that, I packed up my camera stuff and went back down the trail to my truck. One thing that got to me--and I realize it more and more as the years go by--is that I saw almost no wildlife. That is one thing about the southern Appalachians: they are beautiful landscape, and there are a lot of wild animals in the forests, but those creatures are generally very shy and rarely seen. This is in contrast to the time I have spent in the low country where animals are seen everywhere, and also out west where the critters don't seem to even make an effort to hide. This hike was not much different from many others I have made here in my native mountains. I saw no wildlife and on this trip I didn't even hear very many bird calls.

The trailhead.

A footbridge across a creek.

I love hiking through heath tunnels.

These forests are certainly not impressive. Logged time and again, made up of young trees.
It's always fun to come to the first view along a trail.

Spring has certainly arrived, even at 4,000 feet above sea level.

I was tired after the hike up and took a few minutes to rest.

The view that had been waiting for me.

The view from one of the small cliffs near the top of the ridge.

Looking across the wide valley at the opposing mountains.

This gnarly tree must certainly be very old.
The big mountains in the center on the horizon are the high country in the Shining Rock Wilderness.

Hiking in the southern Appalachians is a unique experience.

On the way down I paused to take a photo of the twisted trunks and branches of the mountain laurel that dominated the area along the trail.

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