Monday, January 11, 2016


Among my favorite hiking areas are the highest mountains in western North Carolina. I've always had a strange feeling of euphoria when I'm in the peaks here in the South that exceed a mile in elevation. It's not actually the altitude--most people claim that you don't really feel altitude until you climb up to around 8,000 feet or so where the air begins to really get a little thinner. This feeling is something else. I can't explain it. You'd have to experience it, or perhaps it is something unique to me. All I can say is that a combination of sensations join to give me an overwhelming sense of well being when I'm up there.

One of these places where I like to hike are the summits and ridges north of Brevard in the Pisgah National Forest. Here there are many miles of trails that meander among the coves and peaks of this high country. I can travel there and make camp among the Fraser firs and watch twisted birches swaying in the winds. As long as I avoid the crush of the crowds around Shining Rock I can also find solitude and silence broken only by the breezes and the trickling of springs and creeks and perhaps the odd call of some bird sitting in the tight mazes of rhododendron.

Sometimes I go backpacking there and spend several days and nights tucked away among the grassy balds and hiding in evergreen forests with my tent pitched near a crushing stream. I need to go back, and often the desire to return is in the midst of winter when access to the higher trailheads is impossible due to roads closed by ice and snow, or sometimes just by nervous forest rangers afraid some idiot will get stuck up there in case of a sudden storm.

Just now I feel a really deep and almost overriding need to pack up my camping gear and head for the heights.

My two-man tent pitched deep inside Middle Prong Wilderness. It's heavier than my one-man tent, but sometimes I take it with me for the extra room.

Taken along the Black Mountain Crest Trail, the highest in the eastern USA.

Panorama looking toward Shining Rock Wilderness.

Man in wilderness.

In the cap between the double summits of Sam Knob.

Sam Knob from the meadow below.

A high summit in Middle Prong.

The summit of Mount Hardy, which I failed to climb.
In a red spruce forest at 6,600 feet on Cattail Peak.

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