LOVE VALLEY- McCarran Trail
My Faithful Hiking Companion has been lobbying for a hike at Love Valley. Today I relented and off we went to this iconic village nestled in the Brushy Mountains between Statesville and North Wilkesboro. Founded in 1954 by a 29 year old general contractor named Andy Barker who fulfilled his boyhood dream of living in a TV Western town which he built.
I remember learning of Love Valley in 1970 when Andy hosted a rock concert featuring the Allman Brothers which drew 100,000 visitors. Over the years, the village has become a horse haven and is billed as a "Cowboy Capitol of North Carolina" http://townoflovevalley.com/History.html
On a warm day in February, the village is a ghost town. Heck there are vacancies at Miss Kitty's but the Moonshine Gifts as well as all the other businesses are closed.
One comment. It would seem that folks in Love Valley have not heard that in the battle between Heritage and Hate....Hate has won and that flag might be better displayed elsewhere....just sayin.
The Main Street dead ends at the Jett Barker Memorial Garden, where I assume cowboy weddings are held. Right next to the garden is the trail head of the McCarran Trail.
The Trail is a wide and well traveled horse trail which has been more recently used as a logging road....which means it is wet and muddy. It begins with a heart thumpin slog up to the top of a ridge which forms a "U" embracing the a cove at the eastern end of Love Valley. Leafless trees allowed us to look down on various cabins and horse castles.
Interspersed along the trail are blue trash barrels which serve the dual role as trail markers. But if you can't see a blue barrel, there are empty blue beer cans to guide you as well.
At the half mile mark along the trail we found ourselves emerging into a large open space where several trails intersected. Spotting a sign, I seriously pondered a trip down the Pinto Bean trail until I realized the Pinto Bean Trail was a muddy gully and the Ridge Trail was just a muddy logging road.
The Ridge Trail is moderately steep and we were able to bypass many of the most muddy spots. The climb is about a half mile long and reaches the top of the ridge where we found the best views. The area has been recently timbered and there are many logging roads one of which provided a nice view to the east. To my surprise I saw the distinctive silhouette of the Saura Mountains in Stokes County.
Never have I seen the Saura Sisters displayed so well. The distinctive Pilot Mountain is the typical landmark but today you could see Suaratown Mountain and Moores Knob as well.
The views were hard to come by but with a little effort we were able to get a great view of the small valleys interspersed among the Brushy Mountains.
The Ridge Trail extends another mile. We could see clearly the extent of the logging as the hillsides were lined with red muddy logging roads.
Looking to the west we could see many house dotting the Love Valley, from the smoke coming from the chimney had nice fire warming their home.
Along the trail we followed the tracks of many horses and even one large dog. We also saw many deer tracks as well. But sticking from the mud I spied a horseshoe....guess I found some good luck!
The trail is a little over two miles long and ends rather strangely. There is a large scary half constructed house reminiscent of a scene from the TV program "Criminal Minds". Fortunately the muddy road kept my curiosity in check and I photographed this abode from a safe distance
We elected to take a logging road to bypass the muddy trail which resulted in some nice bushwacking and scrambling but it knocked about a quarter mile off the return trip but gave us a glimpse of the Love Valley Village.
I really am glad I relented and took this hike. It was a 3.47 mile trail which provided a needed workout on a beautiful February afternoon. I am sure I would have enjoyed the trail more from horseback while drinking a Bud Light but it was enjoyable nonetheless. One of those Been There/Done That kinda hikes.
So how do I rate this hike....Access is a 9... Love Valley is off NC 115...take I-40 to exit 150 and watch for the signs. Trail is a mess...it is a 10 rated logging trail but a 4 rated hiking trail. Scenery is average at best....glimpsing the Suaras added to view for sure- 6; Effort to view is about right....good work out mainly because of the traction that muddy trails provide. It is a moderately steep trail so you can get some good thumps going. Overall a 6.5 rated trail....worth the trip but not good enough to return... at least not without a horse!
I am sure Love Valley is a great place to visit in the summer time when all the Carolina Cowboys are there with horses and fun...and from the looks of things there are not many rules!
By the way.....since it is February....and Valentine's Day is upon us....How about a Valentine from the Fat Bald White Guy?!