Wednesday, January 13, 2016


One thing that I wanted to add to yesterday's posts is a detail concerning some of the trails that allow you access to, and through, our official wilderness areas here in North Carolina. And that detail is that pretty much the trails are unmarked, unsigned, and unblazed. What I mean by that is that there are no signposts marking and identifying trails once you enter our wildernesses. And there are no blazes. For those of you unschooled in such things, blazes are the paintmarks placed on trees and (in the absence of trees) rocks. For instance, if you are on "Big Bob Trail", it might be blazed with red circles. Therefor, if you see a red circle on a tree trunk, then you can feel sure that you are on the "Big Bob Trail" and have not lost your way.

The very essence of wilderness means that the land is supposed to be unmarked by the hand of man (technologically speaking) and absent of artificial constructs such as signs, paint marks, carvings, and other such nonsense. What this means is that you have a pretty darned good chance of feeling that you are in true wilderness. (Even campfires are illegal in Shining Rock Wilderness.) It also means that if you are not paying attention then you get your ass lost. In quick order.

I know very experienced veteran hikers and backpackers who get themselves lost in such places. I have been lost in such a place, as I have pointed out in the past. I have always been accustomed to hiking and backpacking in National Parks and National Forests where signs and blazes are the norm. But many wilderness areas are administered in such a way that even the most basic of artificial things like signs are forbidden. In such a situation you really need to have good, accurate maps, and you need a compass (or a GPS device), and you need to know how to use these things.

One of the wilderness areas where I'd like to hike is Shining Rock. I have always avoided it because most of the time when I've been there the crowds have been horrendous. And you all know by now that I go to the forests for solitude, not to stand in line to climb a mountain. To Hell with that. And Shining Rock Wilderness is so beautiful and so unique that it is the single most popular wilderness area in North Carolina. might be the most visited wilderness in the south, considering the lines of humans I have seen climbing to it heights.

What I have decided that I will have to do is go to hike and backpack there at a time when most others can't do so. This means that I'll have to head in on a weekday and when there are no holidays with which to contend. And when I finally do find such a time (winter is not a bad idea, either), I want to avoid getting lost at a particular spot where many others have lost their way. It's called Shining Rock Gap. Now, there are lots of places to get lost and misdirected up there, but I've been told that this one spot is like the Gordian Knot of intersections. There are several trails leading into and out of this gap, and there are also dozens of false trails, game trails, and manways meandering all through the spruce fir forests up there.

And you should also recall (if you've been visiting here for very long) that my personal kryptonite are forests of Red spruce. I almost never fail to get freaking lost in those.

That is why I am taking a particular photograph with me when I go. It's an image shot by a hiker (some guy named Trent Tibbits) who has been kind enough to take a photo of the trail intersections in that gap and to carefully mark each one so that you don't end up where you're not supposed to be and find that you have to backtrack several miles uphill to find your way.

And here is the photo. I'll be printing off a copy to take with me on the day I finally get to hike up there.

Confusing as hell intersections explained.

Also, this guy (the Foothills Backpacker) has done a decent video showing how not to get lost at this spot.

I'll probably still get lost.

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