CMLC Bearwallow Mountain Hike
Henderson County, NC
Saturday, February 11th, 2012
After our hike to Rainbow Falls, Andy and I continued up the road to Gerton, NC to meet the CMLC (Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) group at the Florence Nature Preserve Trailhead. This would be the end point of our hike. I was surprised to see some light snow flurries in the air! On top of that, the weather seemed significantly cooler than I was expecting! And it would only get worse!
From there the group gathered together and formed a shuttle to the starting point along Bearwallow Mountain Road. The snow got heavier as we drove up the mountain and the ground was covered with a light dusting. Compared to the warm winter we have been having, this was was downright frigid! And the gusting wind made things much worse!
The group gathering at the trailhead in blustering wind and snow
I have hiked to the summit of Bearwallow Mountain several times in the past, but it has always been along a wide track access road. Since my last hike, a new trail had been constructed which avoids the road walk and would make for a much more interesting hike. Despite the cold and wind, I was excited to check out the new trail.
This is a very well constructed trail, with gradual switchbacks making the climb to Bearwallow Mountain surprisingly easy. The only challenge was dealing with the cold, wind, and snow!
The group hiking the new trail up Bearwallow Mountain
I had checked the weather forecast beforehand to prepare for the hike and saw the high for the day would be 48 degrees in Chimney Rock Village. However, I failed to take into consideration that the starting point of the hike was a good 2,500 feet of elevation above Chimney Rock Village and parts of the hike would take us to elevations over 4,000 feet above sea level.
This was much colder than I was prepared for! Less than 5 minutes into the hike, the water tube on my Cambelback had frozen solid. Temperatures were well below freezing and with 40 mph gusts, the wind chill factor was probably close to zero! I was extremely grateful that I though to bring along my goofy cold weather hat and a pair gloves! But some thicker socks and a warmer pair of pants would have been nice!
But the group of about (25) hikers pressed on and made it to the summit of Bearwallow Mountain without any issues!
Approaching the summit of Bearwallow Mountain
On a clear day, the summit of Bearwallow Mountain offers some spectacular views! Today the views were limited, but we were treated to a spectacular display of winter fury! We took a short break, but due to the cold and the wind we didn't linger at the summit for very long!
A touch of Rime Ice on the trees at the summit of Bearwallow Mountain
Since the rest of the hike would be along some very rugged terrain, part of the group elected to turn back while (14) of us continued on. We descended down the east side of Bearwallow Mountain towards the meadows at Bearwallow Gap.
The Bear Wallowing Water Hole at Bearwallow Mountain Gap
Hiking up Little Bearwallow Mountain
Icicles along the Little Bearwallow Mountain Trail
The side trail to Wildcat Rock
view from Wildcat Rock
Hiking along the Cliffs Trail
An impressive cliff face with a less than impressive wet weather waterfall
The end of the hike through an old Apple Orchard