Saturday, October 18, 2014

Pisgah Mountain Range - Fryingpan Mountain


On the way down the Mt. Pisgah trail I spied a sign indicating that a side trail led to Fryingpan Mountain...three miles away.  Remembering some trail research that on top of the mountain was an abandoned fire tower....and that it could be accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway....we set out for a second hike of the day.  
Having seen the peak of Fryingpan Mountain from the Mt. Pisgah trail I knew that the views would be tremendous.  And like most of the views in the Pisgah Mountains....they were tremendous.

The trail head is the gravel access road to the fire tower. It is located about a mile south of the Pisgah Inn.  It is a locked gate with no signs restricting access that we noticed. I assume the gate is to prevent vehicle traffic.
On the way up we got a good look of  Mt. Pisgah in the distance.  Dang that mountain looks a lot bigger than I thought it was when I climbed it earlier in the day.   The hike up is nearly a mile and is a steady climb along a well maintained gravel access road that winds around the summit. 

The summit consists of a number of communication towers and the abandoned fire tower.

When we arrived we found that two other pairs of visitors had already arrived . One pair was a nice young couple with whom we spoke when we arrived a the trail head....the other pair were...let's say...more interesting.  

To get the best view you have to climb the tower steps to the landings.  Though the access to the top of the tower is locked off, folks have free access to the rest of the tower. This is how I met Vlad and his photographer pal.

It seems that Vlad was chilling in a hammock tied off to the support beams of the tower while his photographer friend was free climbing while web streaming his exploits via a GoPro Hero camera. Vlad was a nice enough chap.  Happy to tell me that last weekend he had free climbed the adjacent communication tower.  Either you will see him in the next Jackass Movie or read about him when the Darwin Awards are made.  As we talked I snapped some of the best pictures of the day.

Looking to the north I captured the Blue Ridge Parkway snaking around the ridge leading to the Pisgah Ridge.

To the south, the Blue Ridge Parkway snaked its way into the Black Balsam Mountain Range and in the distance you can seen the distinctive balds of Looking Glass Mountain.

While I was getting to know Vlad, my Hiking Companion made friends with Kelsey and Charles, two members of the US Air Force who hoped to share a quiet moment watching the sunset over the mountains until the Fat Bald White Guy and Vlad showed up to spoil it all!

By manipulating the lens to my camera I was able to screen out the metal beams of the tower and the results were fantastic.

Looking northeast the parkway is in the afternoon shadows but the distant mountains are golden in the sunlight.  The French Broad River Valley communities dot the landscape in the distance.  The setting sun was shaded by clouds remnants of a previous storm and the occasional sunbeams bursting through provided many artistic scenes never imagined by the best painters.
The fading sun shined from the parting clouds like a spotlight on the mountains to the east.  But as nice as these shots were, the real treat was the scene unfolding to the west.  The sun was covered by a dark cloud, the last remnants of a storm which passed through the night before.

Just like the good book says...."Light will dispel the darkness" ... and try as it might that dark cloud could not cover the sunlight!  The pictures remind me of the observation of C.S. Lewis who said: "I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen; not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

The many and changing variations of color on the landscape caused by the sunlight as it forced its way through breaks in the cloud changed the scenery with every glance.

When I descended from the tower, my Hiking Companion introduced me to Kelsey and Charles who were engaged earlier in the day on top of Mt. Pisgah....and they asked the Fat Bald White Guy to make their engagement pictures as they hung in a hammock off the side of an abandoned fire tower....yeah right!  But how could I say no?
How can you top that....prayers of blessings of love to Kelsey and Charles for a long and happy life together.   May they remember that "the best love is the kind that awakens the soul and makes us reach for more, and plants a fire in our hearts and brings peace to our minds" (Nicholas Sparks)
Rating this hike is easy too.  Access is a 10 as it is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway Milepost 409.6 at Forest Road 450.  Elevation at the summit is 5340 feet. The tower constructed in 1941 is 70 feet tall.  1.65 mile round trip hike.

The trail is a 7....good roadbed but it is a trail with limited views of interests and is steadily steep for a 400' elevation gain in 3/4 miles....scenery is an 8 without the tower...with the tower it is a 9...  effort to view is lopsided as the view greatly exceeds the effort needed to enjoy it....overall rating 8+.  Now when you add an engagement and two free spirited have to add a point to the over all rating.

Pisgah Mountain Range - Mt Pisgah


When George Vanderbilt looked from his bedroom window each morning from his palatial villa outside of the hamlet of Asheville, North Carolina, there was to the south, a mountain looming in the distance. It marked the boundary of his estate. It is Mt. Pisgah.  

It was just below the summit of this mountain that he constructed his hunting camp where it is said he resided most summers.  Buck Spring Lodge was torn down in 1963 leaving only stone foundations as remnants of a once glorious past.

But the views that Vanderbilt enjoyed are still there.  

 In 1776, James Hall accompanied Gen. Gordon Rutherford to the French Broad River valley to put down a Cherokee insurrection.  Noting the rich land in the valley, he compared it to that given to the children of Israel. Presbyterian minister George Newton picked up on the parallel and is credited to naming the highest peak over looking the river valley, "Mt. Pisgah".
Getting there is pretty easy.  Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south from Asheville and at milepost 408 you turn left into the Mt. Pisgah parking lot.  The first overlook to the right takes you to the short trail to the Buck Spring Lodge site.  
The upper parking lot is to the left where you find the trail head to Mt. Pisgah. There are many outstanding overlooks within short walks of both parking lots.

Mt. Pisgah at 5721 feet is easy to spot as it looms large over the ridge and unfortunately sports an ugly antenna for WLOS television station. There ought to be a law against defacing such a magnificent mountain with such an ugly structure!
The trail is labeled a 1.5 mile trail with 712 feet in elevation. I am not sure of mountain distances anymore.  It seemed longer and steeper to me but what does a Fat Bald White Guy know?  It starts off easy enough with a wide forest trail that soon becomes wet from the many springs on the mountain, including this one with a nice small waterfall.  

A fall hike up Mt. Pisgah is a treat in that the sparseness of the leaves affords the hiker with many opportunities to view the surrounding mountainsides from forest windows.  

The overcast day provided for many distant mountain tops to be spotlit by the sun piercing though the parting clouds, giving this one mountain a "snowcap" effect.   We also got a glimpse of the Blue Ridge Parkway noting the elevation we were climbing!

Of course the best thing about the many forest windows is that it provided the FBWG with a chance to stop and catch his breath while taking a photo.  

By the way did I tell you the trail was steep? The trail starts out with a gentle incline, turns into a creek then becomes a steep rock path up a mountain and finally steeper steps to the summit.

At the top of the first section of rock stairs there is a switchback and at this place we got one of the better pictures of the day.  The peak to the far right is Fryingpan Mountain and atop this peak is a fire tower. More on that in another blog!

From this overlook the path turns toward the summit of Mt. Pisgah and about half way up offered two more forest window views. 

At the summit we were met with the ugly monstrosity of the television transmission tower. Fortunately an observation deck was constructed beside it. Still what should have been a 360 degree view of the mountains was reduced to a 270 degree view.  I know.. not bad... but this is Mt Pisgah, and I am sure Moses got to see all the Promised Land without having to worry about the television viewers of WLOS.  The FBWG wants some of that same love, that's all.

Enough complaining....what we saw was breathtaking!  In every direction but one, there was a picture that needed to be taken.  Words cannot describe the wonderful interplay of color and light the overcast day provided. 
There appeared to be an endless sea of mountain tops in every directions.  Clouds dipping low seemed to lift just enough for us to see the panorama of nature laid before us.
In the distance we could make out the city of Asheville and I even could zoom in on the Biltmore Estate some 25 miles away!

Some individual features of the scenery caught my attention. I zoomed in on "The Pisgah Inn"   It is managed by the park service and has some of the most incredible views of any rooms of lodging in the world.  And is this an unusual mountain top home or a ski slope?

But the best thing about hiking is the nice people you meet on the trail.  Something about being on the trail makes people extra friendly.  We met Anna and Frank on top of Mt. Pisgah.  They are from Raleigh and are fellow NC State alums.  Of course I offered to make them famous by placing their picture in the blog and they agreed.  A great looking couple!

Needless the say the hike down the mountain was considerably easier.  After seeing the wonderful vista from atop Mt. Pisgah, we felt exhilarated and refreshed.  But as is our custom, we paused and built a cairn and with every stone thanked our Creator for the magnificence of His creation and the privilege of our experience.

In fact we even got another hike in later in the afternoon. 
Note the firetower on the mountain peak to the right. That is our next destination -Fryingpan Mountain. Check out our Fryingpan Mountain Blog entry!

Rating this hike is easy....access is a 10...easy to find and park....trail is an 8...muddy and rocky but well marked and maintained... scenery is a 9....would have been a 10 but for WLOS...don't ever watch that station!....effort to view ratio is solid....hard but short climb but the payoff is huge 

...a solid 9 hike....if you visit Asheville ....take this hike!