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.

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