Saturday, May 16, 2015

UWHARRIE NATIONAL WILDERNESS AREA

ROBBINS BRANCH TRAIL LOOP



One of the oldest mountain range in the world are the Uwharries located in Randolph County, North Carolina.  The National Wilderness area sports some pretty secluded trails and camp sites.  We decided to hike the Robbins Branch Trail via Hanna's Creek and Birkhead Mountain Trail...a 7 mile loop...ouch!

It was 84 degrees with 50 per cent humidity.   I do not suggest this trail on a hotter or more humid day.  While not overly strenuous, the trail is long and has a few hills that will vapor lock you on a hot day.
You park at the Robbins Branch Trailhead but soon have a choice to make....take the loop counterclockwise via Hanna's Creek Trail or the left fork up Robbins Branch Trail....like a good Republican I turned to the right.



Not far up Hanna's Creek Trail we encountered a rock garden strewn with unusual rocks which had be be millions of years old.








Not far from the rock garden was a campsite with the remnants of a old chimney that had collapsed into a pile of stone.  As it was a natural cairn, I added my rock pausing to thank God for the beauty of the day.  



We crossed Hanna's Creek and barely got our feet wet and proceeded up the trail and suddenly stopped in our tracks are the foot of a gorgeous White Laurel in full bloom.




At mile 1.66 we intersected with Birkhead Mountain Trail.  This trail is a 10 mile trail crossing the entire Wilderness area.

The Birkhead Mountain Trail boasts a homemade sign commemorating the location of the plantation of  Christopher Bingham who lived on this land in 1780.  We tried to find a graveyard which was supposed to be in the area but gave up after a short walk up a side trail.

The Birkhead Mountain Trail is a wide well maintained trail which leads up a gradual incline as we summit some of the oldest hills in the world. It has a wilderness feel even though it is obvious that the area had been timbered sometime last century.
My Hiking companion and I noted that we had passed the Soprano's Restaurant on the way in and this area reminded us of the famous "Pine Barrens" episode of the show where Paulie and Michael get lost in the woods after trying to find a place to bury a not yet dead Russian mobster.  


Remember the famous line? Fortunately we never ran into the guy!







 
We stopped to enjoy some really nice wild flowers.  It was like someone had carefully planted them for us to enjoy. 

One of my favorite flowers "writ on the margin" of this trail is this orange beauty. First, because it is so pretty; second because photographing it allowed me to stop and catch my breath as we climbed one of the steep hills.   " A flower's structure leads a bee toward it, having pollen adhere to its body...we don't know of any such reason why beautiful places attract humans" (David Rains Wallace)






At the 3.69 mile mark we found the intersection of the Birkhead Mountain Trail and Robbins Branch Trail.   I did not let my Hiking Companion know we were still 3.1 miles from the end of the trail.



Fortunately, the three mile hike was mostly down hill and followed the banks of the Robbins Branch.





At the five mile mark we were greeted with another nice wildflower and needing a break I stopped to commemorate our feat with a picture.






A mile and half later we completed the loop.  It was far from an easy hike on this warm day.  But it was a fine workout for the FBWG and his Faithful Hiking Companion.  After 7 miles and nearly four hours on the trail, our dogs were tired!






Rating this hike will be unfair....Access off Lassiter Mill Road is not  a problem if you follow Old NC 49....not like I did and follow New NC 49...thanks to Siri I found the trail head.....7;  The trails are well marked and maintained....8;  Scenery is not happening but if you look to the margins of the hike you can see some nice things....7;  the effort to view ratio is messed up....big effort for a bad view....overall a 7 hike but a good one for the exercise. 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

EB Jeffress Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Cascade Falls Trail

Looking for an easy hike, with great views, my Faithful Hiking Companion suggested EB Jeffress Park at MP 272 on the Blue Ridge Parkway....and it turned out to be two great hikes that anyone can take with some really great views

The Parkway South at the 421 access remains closed so we took the detour. Turns out the the detour intersects with the BRPW between MP 267 and 266....and we went the wrong way....message to fans....take a right not a left....no problem as we got some great views of Mt Jefferson when we turned around at an overlook facing north. We looked at Mt Jefferson and the town of West Jefferson which sits at the foot of this 4000 foot mountain.


Mt Jefferson once had a rather non politically correct name that somehow the Parks system just had to reference in its sign....jeez!
A 73 degree spring day is a great time to ride the Blue Ridge Parkway....with the top off my jeep....great views surrounded us.






At MP 272 is the EB Jeffress Park....a 600 acre gift from the former North Carolina Commissioner of Highways.  It contains some great picnic sites, nice views and two trails that anyone can hike sporting very nice views.  It was a perfect hike for a spring day.

The hike to the Cascade Falls begins on the south end of the parking lot behind the bath house.  It is billed as a 30 minute hike...but that is just the walk time....it will take twice that long if you take time to enjoy the sights.  The trail is a part of the Mountain To Sea Trail system and soon forks.  


We took the left fork as a blogger suggested it to be the best way to hike the loop trail.  I really think he was wrong....take the right trail and hike it counterclockwise for the best views. Still as we walked the trail clockwise we found ourselves following a small but rapid flowing mountain stream.

The stream which would eventually become Cascade Falls roared as it flowed over rocks, but was amazingly shallow and narrow.  But it offered some really nice scenes for pictures.  



 We soon crossed the stream over a log bridge which was really more stable than it looks.





As we crossed the bridge the stream widened and we found to our amazement a cairn on a stump in the middle of the stream.  It was not an ordinary cairn but one which was so carefully constructed that I dared not add my own stone lest it would fall apart.  Nevertheless it did make me pause to give thanks for the beauty of God's creation.

Not far from the cairn, the trail merged and we followed the stream toward a roaring sound.  Still the stream did not give an indication that it soon would become and 80 foot waterfall.








Climbing down some rock stairs we emerged on a rock overlook which gave a great view of the upper part of Cascade Falls.  The falls drop over several hundred feet in elevation over more than a 100 yards.  I understand a few winters ago someone ventured to the top of the falls and slipped...it was a fatal misstep as they found him at the based of the falls...which we could not see from the upper overlook.







But climbing down the stairs to the lower overlook we got a better view of the falls, and soon spotted a trail on the other side of the wall leading down by the falls.  A man and his two sons were taking photos with fancy gear from a spot about 150 feet below the overlook.



What is a FBWG to do....am I going to let another photographer get a better shot of the falls?   No way...so I hopped the wall and slid down the side of the mountain clinging to trees hoping that they were sturdy enough to support my weight until I got to a place to take some really nice pictures of the falls.







The falls roared by just a few feet from me as I tried to position myself to take a photograph without toppling over the steep, slippery mountain side....





Climbing back up to the lower overlook I paused to catch my breath and suddenly realized while I was looking at the falls, I was about to miss a wonderful forest window.



On the way out we met a nice couple Jamey and Casey....don't ask me who is Jamey and who is Casey cause I don't remember...but I promised I would make them famous by photographing them in front of orange spring mountain flowers.
Spring View of the Yadkin Valley from EB Jeffress Picnic area 
The trail is easy to find....and well maintained and marked....9....the views are a solid 8...would be better if the trail led to the base of the falls but for most folks the two overlooks are enough...the effort to view ratio is fair .... not a long nor hard hike, it is a little over a mile round trip...but it results in  a view of a great waterfall.....over all an 8 ranking. But remember this is but the first of two hikes at EB Jeffress Park!

Thompson Knob Trail 

Across the parking lot from the Cascade Trail is the Thompson Knob Trail which leads to the Jesse Brown cabin and the Cool Springs Baptist Church, both replica log buildings set in a meadow which can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway.




The trail is a half mile out and a half mile back 
trail which is surprisingly more strenuous than it looks especially on a humid spring afternoon.   










But the trail made me wish I had taken some botany classes.  I wonder what is the name of this umbrella shaped plant that produces a spectacular blossom in the shade of its green leaves?

The trail is also a part of the Mountain to Sea Trail and soon emerges in a sunny green meadow where a sign explains the replica structure of the Cool Springs Baptist Church. 

Inside the building there were plenty of opportunities for interesting pictures.  Not far from the church was Jesse Brown's Cabin where some photographers were taking promotional shots for a guitar player.

 So I took my own picture of the fellow...bet my picture is every bit as good as those taken by the fancy photographers with the expensive equipment.  And my services are free!  





After the the Guitar man left the cabin, I got to explore the cabin and take some many other shots of my own.   From the inside I photographed the church from between the log walls.





Then I spied a spring house not far from the cabin.  From the spring house I took at nice picture of the Jesse Brown Cabin.



You could imagine what life must have been like in the 19th century in the Blue Ridge.  This spring house would have been very important to the the Jesse Brown family.
Spring time in the Blue Ridge is very special.  The renewal of the greenery of the trees and the wild flowers blooming are enchanting and remind me of a quote I recently posted on Fat Bald White Guys Photos and More Facebook.



"Play with life, dance lightly with life, knowing that life's only true lessons are writ small in the margins"  Jonathan Lockwood Huie

This trail is also easily accessed and marked....9....but not much on scenery....7....the buildings and flowers are nice but I really value the breathtaking scenery.....overall an 8 ranking.

Don't forget to visit the Elk Mountain overlook, the last stop before the Parkway is closed for repairs....nice views