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Rattlesnake Lodge Ruins

Just A Mountain House
Don’t let the name fool you. In my opinion, “ruins” is an overstatement. When imagining “ruins” one thinks of grandeur and importance. I did not feel either. The plaque in the middle of the surrounding fallen stones, unfortunately, does not answer any of the important questions I had about these “ruins.” Why is this place so special? Why is the National Park Service erecting a plaque for them? Why do I care?

Regardless of my unanswered questions and the underwhelming ruins, the hike was loverly. The day I went, it smelled perfumey from the blanket of tiny  flowers spread across the ground. And hiked to the consistent sound of crickets jumping through the brown leaves. I treaded (carefully) out on to a rockface to stare at the rolling mountains beyond and soak up some of the warm sun and feel the warm breeze on my face. The ruins were obviously not the point of this small hike.

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Trailhead:There is no trailhead. There are multiple points along the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) that you can begin in order to reach the ruins.
Length: 3.9 miles
Type: Out & Back (with a little loop)
Where: Blue Ridge Parkway
Description: You can begin anywhere, but I used the All Trails app to find this hike. Follow the white blazes (for the MST) until you reach the ruins. Then, you can follow the blue blazes in either direction because they form a circular trail. I did not realize this at first, and I ended up continuing down the larger trail and had to back track.
Directions & Parking: The All Trails app had me park at one of the pull offs on Ox Creek Road. Take the Blue Ridge Parkway north until you turn left on Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. Then continue straight onto Ox Creek Road. I parked at the pulloff after you hit the crest of the ridge and begin descending down the mountain.

 

Walker Creek Trail

The Water Is The Payoff
The drive through Barnardsville from Asheville to get to Walker Creek Trail is windy and grogeous. The road sits at the bottom of the mountains, and the landscape is dotted with old houses, barns, and wide fields. All of my pictures were taken along the creek, with moss-covered boulders and rushing water. The sound of the water could almost be deafening among the silence of the forest. There are no sweeping views at the top. I went before the leaves made their debut this spring, and I could see the outline of the mountain ridge. This hike is about enjoying that soothing creek as it follows you half way up the mountain.

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I found this trail via the All Trails app. The path I took based on information I got off the app made the trail into a loop that became longer than the actual trail’s 1.8 miles. You begin the trail before you see the trailhead marker. Instead of following the path to the left (toward the trailhead sign), I followed the creek up. The creek veers off, but you keep climbing to the top of the ridge. It’s a pretty vertical and quick ascension. The trail is large and taken care of. There was hay put down all along the trail when I went out. When you get to the service road, you take a left onto it. It looks as if you cross the road and keep following the trail, but to loop back to your car, follow the road. After following the road for a bit, you will come back to the trail that looks as if it crosses the road. Take the path on the left.

Trailhead: Walker Creek Trail
Length: 4.1 miles
Type: Loop
Where: Pisgah National Forest from Barnardsville
Description: There are a few other trails that shoot off from this one. It’s not clearly marked which way you should be going. Following my pin on the All Trails app is what reassured me that I was going in the right direction. It’s a relatively easy trail. Although, I did pause a few time on the incline.
Directions & Parking: The National Park Service has perfect directions to reach the trailhead. There is little parking along the road, but it is doable. There appears to be private property at the entrance of the trailhead. There is a sign that warns you not to drive over the bridge. But it’s very tempting because there are charming, little lodges on the other side of it. NPS urges you not to drive beyond the the pull-off.

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Cataloochie Divide Trail

A Symbolic 12 Miles for National Park Week
It’s National Park Week! All National Parks have free admission this week. Of course, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is always free. Spending the first day of National Park Week in the Smokies was more symbolic than thrifty. While deciding which trail I wanted to hang out on Saturday, I found out about the Smokies Centennial Challenge–Hike 100. To honor and celebrate the 100 years of the National Park Service, Park Superintendent Cash is hiking 100 miles in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is challeneging others to do the same. As I am one who is always up for a challenge, I’ve decided to try it. I’ve got until December to hike 100 miles in the park. For my efforts, I will receive a pin and a dinner. Two summers ago my challenge was a mere 13.1. This is seems much easier. And more fun!
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The Cataloochee Divide Trail is blazed along a ridgeline with Maggie Valley (and private property) to the left and the Great Smokey Mountains National Park to the right. It skirts the border of the park, and you can clearly see it. You follow an old fence that opens up quite a bit to allow for picture-taking on the other side. The first 4.6 mile section of the the trail ends at crossroads with no payoff and nothing spectacular to see that you haven’t already. As you begin the 1.8 mile trek along the Hemphill Bald trail, you come to an outcropping of on a small bald with a hammock, adirondack chairs, and a swing. This is the beginning of the Swag House’s property. There were hikers utilizing the amenities as I passed, and on my return, I ate my lunch in one of the adirondack chairs overlooking a beautiful panorama from Maggie Valley to the presently-abandoned slopes of Cataloochee Ski Resort. There are clear demarcations in the fence that seems to allow hikers to take advantage of the area. After the output, you continue walking adjacent to the property until you hit Hemphill Bald. I turned around here as I had already hit my quota for the day in that direction (and still had 6.4 miles to go in the reverse). The path continues up Hemphill Bald along a barbedwire fence. I do love a bald!

One of the lovelier things about going on double-digit mile hikes is how different the path, vegetation, and mountains look in the changing sunlight. One of all my all-time favorite scenes from living in this area is the way the sun scatters over them to highlight all the ridges and waves that make up what most of the time looks like one mountain. On the hike up to Hemphill Bald, I saw perhaps one flower. By the time I was headed back down, the planes and trail were filled with tiny purple and white flowers that had opened from the afternoon sun. Some might escchew a long out-and-back trail thinking it could be boring seeing the same thing twice. If one stays out long enough, the trail back is much different than the one hiked in on.IMG_8479

Trailhead: Cataloochie Divide Trail
Length: 12.8 miles
Type: Out & Back
Where: Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Description: From Cove Creek Gap to Hemphill Bald. It is not technical. It’s difficulty comes from its length and uphill climbs. It is very well marked with different trailhead signs and mileage. There aren’t any colored blazes, but you don’t need them.
Directions & Parking: From Asheville, take I-40 West to Exit 20. Take the ramp until you turn right on Cove Creek Road. Follow Cove Creek Rd until you see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park sign. The road starts paved but becomes dirt. It is very windy. There aren’t many parking spots, but you can park around the sign. The trailhead is clearly marked on the path across from the National Park sign.

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Looking Glass Rock

Snowy Six Mile Hike
I hiked to Looking Glass Rock the week after the massive snowstorm that hit the east coast in January. While the day was gorgeous and a balmy 55 degrees, I could tell the minute I entered Pisgah National Forest that I hadn’t thought this completely through. This was just another time where the ever-present thought “what have you gotten yourself into” rang in my ears. I hadn’t even considered that perhaps there were still feet of snow in the higher elevations. Of a national forest. Where there is nothing to clear it away from the trail.
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Coming upon the parking area, it was obvious that I was not the only one who needed the refuge of the snowy mountains. After some issues with parking, I quickly realized that seeing the trail would not be a problem either. Plenty of people (and dogs) had traversed the path in the days since the snow. Although the path was easily visible, it was an arduous uphill hike made slippery by the snow. I would not have been able to make the trek without my hiking poles (which I adore and you will come to see I rely heavily upon). The payoff once at Looking Glass Rock is worth it. It’s an excellent, albeit somewhat precarious, place to sit in the sun and eat your lunch.

Observations along the path: I was the only single person. For over six miles. Literally, I was the only person on the trail (of which there were many) who was by herself. I was, perhaps, one of the oldest trekkers. This was the last hike I made before finally making the decision to purchase a pair of hiking boots. I simply could not comprehend how all these hikers made it back down that mountain without poles; furthermore without falling on their asses from not using said poles!
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Trailhead:
Looking Glass Rock
Length: 3.1 (for a total of 6.2)
Type: Out & Back
Description: An uphill hike among the trees to Looking Glass Rock where the payoff  is an expansive view of the mountains with the Blue Ridge Parkway in the distance.
Where: Pisgah National Forest 
Parking:
There’s parking at the trailhead, but there are not many spots. Also, the massive amounts of snow on the road did not allow me to park along the road. I parked at the
intersection of US 276 and FR475 in a turnoff by the river.

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