On Sunday, Martha, Wayne, his daughter Whitney, and I drove along the Blue Ridge Parkway as we headed to Mt Mitchell State Park in North Carolina. Martha dropped Wayne, Whitney, and me off at the trail-head for the Buncomb Horse Trail alongside NC-128. The three of us would be doing an 11.55 mile hike on the Mountains To Sea Trail that would take us to the top of Mt Mitchell, followed by a long and steep descent down towards the Black Mountain Campground. Martha, who had previously done the first 5 or 6 miles of this section, decided instead to begin her hike at the paved pathway that leads to the summit of Mt Mitchell.
The terrain was much different on this hike than what I’m accustomed to. The spruce-fir forest was much more opened up than the dense woods back home in Upstate SC. It made for a nice change of scenery.
Here, Wayne and Whitney have hiked on ahead a ways while I’ve stayed back to take some pictures.
This was one of our early views as the trail gradually climbed during this part of our hike.
Being Spring, the wildflowers were blooming along the trail. The first flower is a Dwarf Crested Iris. The cluster of tiny flowers in the second image are Bluets.
Okay, I don’t really know what to say about this next image. Your guess is probably as good as mine as to why, what appears to be a pair of Hanes men’s underwear, are hanging from a tree. I just hope that they are not all that remains of the hiker that they had once belonged to.
During the final mile or so of our hike up to the summit of Mt Mitchell, we gained more than 900 feet in elevation as the trail climbed steeply on rugged terrain. The observation platform at the top was crowded with visitors that had made the short climb from the nearby parking area. At 6,684 feet, the summit of Mt Mitchell is the highest peak East of the Mississippi. The views were great in all directions on this day with perfectly clear blue skies.
After leaving the summit, we began the long descent down towards Black Mountain Campground. Along the way we passed several large and impressive rock formations.
With only a couple of miles to go, we arrived at this spot. According to my notes, the views were in the general direction of Charlotte, NC. The Cut in the treeline near the bottom center of the image was made for the power lines that we had walked under two or three times.
Here, the trail passed under a large fallen tree and then continued on a narrow path with brush on either side.
From the summit of Mt Mitchell, the trail dropped 3600 feet in about 5.5 miles. When I reached our vehicle, Martha was there waiting. Though she had started hiking an hour after us, she had less miles to cover, and so had finished hiking an hour and forty minutes before I arrived.
After loading up our gear, we began our drive home. On the way back, we stopped to eat at a nice little Italian restaurant in Asheville, NC. It had been a day well spent, doing an enjoyable hike with good friends, followed by good food.