Thursday, April 20, 2017

2017-04-16 Easter Sunday Hiking in the Hickory Nut Gorge

Easter Sunday Hiking
In the Hickory Nut Gorge
Lake Lure, Little Laughter Refuge Falls, 
Cougar Crag on the backside of Rumbling Bald,
and Bearwallow Mountain
Rutherford, Henderson, and Buncombe County, NC
with Andy, Spencer, Stephanie K., and Carlos
Sunday, April 16th, 2017

 Carlos, Spencer, and Stephanie K getting air on Bearwallow Mountain!

My only regret on the day was not getting up a few hours earlier to make the Easter Sunrise Service on top of Chimney Rock Mountain.  Other than missing out on what Spencer claimed to be one of the top 15 sunrises of his life (and he has seen hundreds), this turned out to be a perfect day!

I started the day meeting Andy at the Lake Lure Marina.  While waiting for Andy to show up I took a little stroll and a few photos around the marina area.

 Easter Morning at Lake Lure
 Easter Morning at Lake Lure

Once Andy arrived we combined vehicles and headed over to our first hike of the day to a waterfall that I am calling Little Laughter Refuge Falls.  I believe this one is located on CMLC (Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) property, but since I am not sure if it is officially open to the public yet I have changed the name to protect the innocent!

Little Laughter Refuge Falls from Downstream

Here is a hint for the die hard waterfall enthusiasts:
If you pull out a Thesaurus and a Topo Map of the area, you should be able to figure out the actual name and location of this waterfall!

This one was nicer than I expected and the morning light was perfect for waterfall photography!  A great way to start the day!

Me at Little Laughter Refuge Falls

Little Laughter Refuge Falls

For our next hike, Andy and I decided that a return to Rumbling Bald Mountain was in order!  This area was 100% Enveloped by the Party Rock Forest Fire late last year and I was curious to see how the forest has recovered.

We have heard rumors that the old truck along side the trail was burnt down to nothing.  Knowing the melting point of steel, I found these rumors hard to believe!

 The rumors this truck was burnt down to nothing were highly exaggerated!

I had thought that we would just hike up to Party Rock and back, but Andy had other things in mind.  He had his eyes set on an off trail outcrop area known by the climbing community as Cougar Crag!

Looking down at Cougar Crag and Lake Lure from the backside of Rumbling Bald Mountain

Excellent Choice Andy!  This spot offered up some spectacular views!  And the recent forest fire cleared out most of the underbrush making the bushwhacking rather easy.  You just have to be careful to watch for holes from burned out stumps!  Andy and I each did a face plant on at least one occasion from stepping into one of these holes!

Andy on the backside of Rumbling Bald Mountain

View from Cougar Crag

View of Lake Lure from the backside of Rumbling Bald Mountain

While it was obvious that this area was affected by the forest fire, my non-expert opinion is that there will be little to no long term damage to the forest.  All of the larger trees did not seem to show any ill effects!

 Cougar Crag Hike GPS Track

For our third hike, we would meet up with Spencer in search of some off trail waterfalls along the flanks of Bearwallow Mountain.  Spencer also invited along his friends Stephanie K and Carlos.

Apparently we were not the only people who think that Easter Sunday is a good day for a hike because the trailhead parking area was packed with vehicles!

As we began our hike up Bearwallow Mountain, I was surprised and the amount of wildflowers in bloom along the trail!

Bloodroot and Chickweed along the Bearwallow Mountain Trail

Trillium blooms along the Bearwallow Mountain Trail

Cool looking Burl along the Bearwallow Mountain Trail

It is a little over a mile (one way) and about 600 feet of elevation gain to the summit of Bearwallow Mountain!  If you can avoid the power lines and towers on the summit, there are spectacular views to be found all around!

Almost to the Summit of Bearwallow Mountain

A Cairn near the summit of Bearwallow Mountain

 Spencer on Bearwallow Mountain

Some nearby storms and the few sprinkles that fell on us was enough to scatter most of the other tourists back to their vehicles.  We pretty much had the summit all to ourselves to explore and enjoy!

Carlos, Stephanie K, Andy, and Spencer on Bearwallow Mountain

Spencer and Stephanie K getting some Air on Bearwallow Mountain

Hanging out at cool campsite just below the summit of Bearwallow Mountain

We didn't believe him that there was a view down here, 
but here is Spencer at Spencer's View

Storms in the distance from Bearwallow Mountain

I had told my wife Amy that I would try to be back home in time for Easter Dinner, so I did not join Andy and Spencer for the rest of their adventure.  Instead I decided to head back with Carlos and Stephanie.  This was my first time meeting and hiking with them and I enjoyed getting to know them better during our leisurely hike down the mountain!

Carlos by some Huge Boulders along the Bearwallow Mountain Fire Tower Road

GPS Track from our Bearwallow Mountain Hike

I made it home in time for Easter Dinner with Amy and a very enjoyable evening together to end a perfect day that included just about everything I love in life!

The complete set of photos are posted here:

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