Sunday, April 5, 2015

2015-04-03 Pilot Mountain + a few Waterfalls

Pilot Mountain Shuttle Hike and
Laurel Fork Falls
Pisgah National Forest, NC
Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Since Good Friday is a holiday for me at work, I decided to spend the day hiking.  My friend Brenda suggested a Pisgah National Forest Shuttle Hike.  We parked my car at Gloucester Gap (the end point of the hike) and drove Brenda's over to the Courthouse Falls area where we would start the hike.

 GPS Track of our hike  (click to enlarge)

If you have never been before, I would highly recommend starting with Courthouse Falls.  But since Brenda and I have both been to Courthouse Falls on numerous occasions, we decided to skip it today.

We started the hike on FR5031 which is a gated Forest Service Road.  According to Brenda, this is a great hike for summertime wildflowers.  However apparently it is not a good place for early spring wildflowers as we did not spot a single one.

We took a short detour off of FR5031 to check out Chestnut Falls, a nice 20-foot cascade.

Chestnut Falls

Me at Chestnut Falls

FR5031 gains about 1,000 feet of elevation from as it climbs towards Farlow Gap.  Although the elevation gain is fairly gradual, Brenda was getting over some sort of respiratory infection and wasn't feeling up to any additional climbs.  She just wasn't sure her lungs could hand the 5,084-foot tall Pilot Mountain which stood between us and my vehicle.

So we decided to part ways at Farlow Gap.  Brenda would return back to her car, while I would continue on solo for the rest of the planned shuttle hike.

Brenda and Me at Farlow Gap

From Farlow Gap, I got on the Art Loeb Trail and hiked south across Sassafras Knob and then down towards Deep Gap.

The Deep Gap Shelter along the Art Loeb Trail

I continued on the Art Loeb Trail to begin the toughest climb of the hike!  The final 500 feet of elevation up to the summit of Pilot Mountain!

 The Art Loeb Trail near the summit of Pilot Mountain

Me at the Summit of Pilot Mountain

Pilot Mountain offers views in all directions!  Not quite a 360-degree view, but pretty darn close to it!

 view towards the East from Pilot Mountain

view towards the North-West from Pilot Mountain

After a nice break on the summit of Pilot Mountain, it was time to continue on.  The next two miles would be all down hill as the Art Loeb Trail descends about 1,700 feet from Pilot Mountain to Gloucester Gap.  There are a few spots along the way to stop and check out some additional views.

view from Pilot Mountain

I hadn't see a single wildflower all day, but as the trail dropped in elevation the forest started exploding with bloodroot!

Bug on a Bloodroot Bloom

I arrived at Gloucester Gap to find plenty of time left in the day for another short hike. 

 Gloucester Gap

On page 237 of the 2005 edition of Kevin Adam's "North Carolina Waterfalls" book he lists a Waterfall on the Laurel Fork of the Davidson River.  I have been meaning to check this one out for the past 10 years, but have never gotten around to it.  Until today!

Laurel Fork crosses under FR475 about a mile from Gloucester Gap.  So I drove down the road a mile to a small parking area next to the bridge and started hiking up the right side of the creek.  I was expecting a bushwhack, but was pleasantly surprised to find something very close to a real trail.  Not an official blazed trail, but definitely not a bushwhack.  At least for the first half mile or so!

There was a really nice display of wildflowers including one that I have never seen before.  According to my wildflower book, this on is called "Dutchman's Breeches".

 Dutchman's Breeches

At about the half-way point, I took a break to check out a nice smaller waterfall on Laurel Fork.

Nice little waterfall/cascade along the Laurel Fork of the Davidson River

It was rather easy getting to this point, but things got much more difficult as I continued on upstream.  The obvious fisherman's path that I was following had disappeared and the easy hike became a steep and difficult bushwhack.

Kevin Adam's lists this hike as a little less than a mile.  I clocked it at closer to 1.3 miles.  And that last 0.3 miles was torture!  Fortunately I was rewarded with a waterfall that was nicer and taller than I was expecting.

Laurel Fork Falls

Definitely not a must see, and probably not worth the difficult bushwhack.  However, it was still nice to be able to check this one off my list!  It would have been much nicer if all that deadfall at the base was cleared out!

Me at Laurel Fork Falls

Downstream from here is a continuous series of cascades and smaller waterfalls, so I on hike back downstream, I decided to go in for a closer look.

Nice smaller waterfall on the Laurel Fork of the Davidson River

I had also planned on checking out the "Waterfall on Tributary of Laurel Fork", on page 239 of Kevin's book, but decided to save that for another day.  My legs just were not feeling up for another steep bushwhack!

Thank God for Good Friday!  This was much better than a day at work!

The complete set of photos is posted here:


Anonymous said...

Jack: The shelter at Deep Gap, is that located at the base of the Cold Mountain Trail? IS it reliably dry?

Love your pictures!


Jack Thyen said...

Kevin, This is a different Deep Gap. This is the Deep Gap at the base of Pilot Mountain. I don't think the Deep Gap on the trail to Cold Mountain has a shelter.