Monday, December 8, 2014

Black Mountain Range - Craggy Pinnacle and Mt. Mitchell

Eighteen miles north of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway is one of the most accessible 5800 foot peaks in the Pisgah Mountain Range - Craggy Pinnacle.  

Looming over the Craggy Gardens Visitors Center is a 1.5 mile round trip tourist hike to the peak of Craggy Pinnacle.  

Be prepared during peak leaf season to be social as there is a continuous stream of "hikers" trudging up and down this trail. The trail is moderately steep 252 foot climb to two nice observation areas.

The trail winds through wonderfully old and craggy trees and rhododendrons on the way to one of the most stunning views along the entire Blue Ridge Parkway.  

On the way up there are places to take a well needed break to catch your breath and enjoy the surrounding scenery.  A storm packing 50 mph winds blew much of the foliage from the trees above 5000 feet but color in the distance painted the forest below.

Accessing the lower observation area we got to view the Craggy Garden Meadow that we hiked earlier in the day. 

The Parkway and the visitors center is seen below....packed with cars!  The lower observation area was far less crowded and provided many nice views of the surrounding mountains.

Looking up at the upper observation deck, we could see the other "hikers" enjoying the 360 degree view.  
Climbing to the top, we were treated to one of the most amazing panorama views on the Blue Ridge Parkway!  We caught the last of the color of the season.
A wonderful mountain lake seemed so small in comparison to the mountain range surrounding it.

The mountains to the north rise to 6000 feet or more!  They seem to span out around us like we are a boat in a large ocean of waves.   

Remembering we were at 5800 feet in elevation, I took note of Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Craig looming large in the background.  These two peaks are the highest mountains east of the Rocky Mountains....majestic peaks rising above the sea of mountain waves!

This trail is almost too easy to rate....the access is a right up to the trail head off the Parkway....the trails are well marked and maintained...a little too sociable though....8.....the scenery is the best in the Blue Ridge the effort to view ratio is low....the best view for the least amount of effort....perfect for those riding the Blue Ridge in the Fall....a "hike" you have to take....overall 8 graded hike....I just like to work harder for a view!  Speaking of which on the way to visit Mt Mitchell....I stopped to get a pic of a distant waterfall....

Glassmine Falls

Glassmine Falls is but a few miles north of Craggy Pinnacle....and it is a good one.  The falls are 800 feet high at an elevation over 5000 to find a way to hike there some day! But most reports say there is no hiking trail to the base of the fall....maybe someone will create one!


About 10 miles north of Craggy Pinnacle is Mt. Mitchell (6684') can drive to the summit and walk a short distance to the peak....all I can say is that there is a certain majesty to this mountain....if the mountain has a is a proud creature.

From the highest parking lot on the eastern seaboard, we got a good look at Mt Craig ( 6647')   and Big Tom (6581').  Mt Craig is the second highest peak east of the Mississippi and is named after North Carolina Governor  Locke Craig.   Big Tom is the fifth highest peak and is named after Big Tom Wilson, a legendary bear hunter and mountain man who lived in the region.   We had planned to hike both Mt. Craig and Big Tom the previous day but they were fogged in....we will return...the hike from the Mt Mitchell summit is about a four mile round trip and we could see the trails to the summit of Mt Craig from the parking lot.  The view from the parking lot to the west was stunning.

The story of Mt. Mitchell really should be a movie. Rev. Elisha Mitchell was a professor at UNC who set out to prove that Mt Mitchell was the highest mountain on the United States in 1835!   Imagine how remote this mountain peak must have been. How could you travel from Chapel Hill to Mt. Mitchell in 1835!  You get the point.  After declaring Mt. Mitchell to be the highest peak, his claim was disputed by Congressman Thomas Clingman...who wanted his mountain, now named Clingman's Dome to be considered the highest peak..... So what does Elisha Mitchell do....he travels back to the peak in 1857 at age 64.....
He gets lost and dies from a fall from a water fall while trying to get down the mountain at night.   Big Tom Wilson found him....He is buried at the summit of his mountain!
On the day we visited, we were joined by hikers from Outward Bound who were on the 47th day of a 50 day hike...they had hiked only 12 miles this day but had covered over 4000 feet in elevation. It is fitting they took their supper while sitting on the tomb of Elisha Mitchell and marveling at the mountain spread before them.
The haze in the distance prevented my camera from capturing what my eyes saw....displayed in the distance were the familiar peaks of Linville Gorge...Table Rock, Hawksbill and Shortoff and the blue water of Lake James were clearly seen...small and distant.

Don't miss the opportunity to visit this living mountain....cause you can feel its majesty.

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