Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Mountain Bridge Wilderness - Pinnacle Pass Trail


Pinnacle Pass Trail
Mountain Bridge Wilderness
Greenville County, SC
Saturday, May 12th, 2012

Andy and I got a tip from Brenda and Darrin, a couple of friends from the Carolinas Adventures group, about the location of some Pitcher Plants.  This is a relatively rare wildflower that I have never seen before.    
So for the days hike, our main goal would be to find and photograph this rare flower which would hopefully still be in bloom.

According to Darrin and Brenda, the Pitcher Plants on the Pinnacle Pass Trail in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness of SC, a little over 5 miles in from the Jones Gap Trailhead.

Andy, his two dogs (Boone and Kona), and I hit the trail shortly after the 9:00am park opening time.  The trail starts with a few minor up and downs before beginning the serious climb up the mountain. 

The trail climbs about 1,200 feet in elevation over about the next two miles.  At the lower elevations, the Mountain Laurel was a bit past peak, but as we gained elevation we hit one of the most spectacular displays of mountain laurel that I have ever seen!

 Boone hiking through the Mountain Laurel

Shortly before the end of the climb, the trail descends slightly to a nice viewpoint of the valley down below.  

 View from the Pinnacle Pass Trail

We stopped for a short break here before continuing on.

 Kona taking a break

Soon the trail levels out making for some very pleasant hiking and a welcome relief after the tough climb.   Much of this section of trail follows along old roadbeds making for some of the easiest hiking in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness.

About a half mile past the intersection with the John Sloan Trail, the Pinnacle Pass Trail leaves the old roadbed and descends steeply on a more traditional trail.  Soon a small creek can be heard off to the right.

The trail crosses over the creek and takes you onto an open rock face.  I had hiked this section of trail once before and for some reason I don't remember the impressive views!

 View from the open rock face along the Pinnacle Pass Trail

I also didn't know at the time that this the best area where to find some rare wildflowers including the Pitcher Plants.  We were told to just explore a short distance up or downstream and we should find them.

I started out upstream, but apparently I picked the wrong side of the creek, because I didn't find any rare plants.  I did find an unexpected waterfall!  Nothing overly spectacular or photogenic, but sill a nice surprise.

 Waterfall a short distance upstream from the trail

Andy had much better luck finding the Pitcher Plants downstream.  We I met back up with him, he stated that he had found a goldmine!  A couple of other hikers overheard and thought that Andy had found an actual goldmine!  They eventually scurried on their way after Andy clarified what he had meant.

As stated earlier, I had never seen Pitcher Plants before and they are a very unique looking plant and flower.

 Pitcher Plant Bloom

Also growing in the same area as the Pitcher Plants was another interesting looking wildflower.  Andy and I guessed it to be some type of Orchid!  Our buddy KT identified it as Calopogon, a fairly uncommon type of Orchid.

 Calopogon Orchids

The third relatively uncommon wildflower that Andy spotted was Indian Paintbrush, another one that I had never seen.

 Indian Paintbrush

For the hike back, we backtracked a bit on the Pinnacle Pass before forming a loop with the John Sloan Trail and the Eastern Half of the Rim of the Gap Trail.

The Western Half of the Rim of the Gap is one of my favorites, but the part we hiked was very uneventful.  It is a grueling climb going in the opposite direction, but for us it was all downhill back to the trailhead.

Overall, it was an excellent hike!  With the rare wildflowers and the spectacular mountain laurel displays being the highlights!  The weather was just about perfect as well!

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