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Pisgah National Forest: Mt. Mitchell

 

Trip Report

Pisgah National Forest: Mt. Mitchell

By Kayla “Clover” McKinney

 

 

 

Trip Length: 3 days, 2 nights (includes driving time)

Total Mileage: ~23 miles

Date: Late September 2015

Conditions: Mix of cloudy and sunny during the day, foggy in the morning, highs in the mid-60s to low 70s and lows in the high 40s – low 50s at night. I hiked in a long sleeve synthetic shirt and pants mostly. I was warm and snug in my ~30 degree bag at night.

Highlights: Tallest summit in North Carolina and the tallest summit east of the Mississippi, stunning scenery, challenging trails, diverse forests, wildlife, Mountain to Sea Trail.

Distance from Cincinnati: Approximately 6.5 hours by vehicle. GPS directions to the Black Mountain Campground, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina. The directions are straight forward.

Permits: There is a fee for camping at Black Mountain Campground and is first come, first serve. There is no permit required for camping at Deep Gap (also first come, first serve).

Description: The Black Mountains are the highest mountain chain east of the Mississippi river with Mt. Mitchell being the tallest summit at 6,684 feet above sea level. The entire ridge is mtmitchellapproximately 10 miles long and contains 14 peaks, all over 6,000 feet, and is known as the Black Mountain Crest.* A large portion of the hike coincides with the Mountain to Sea Trail. For our hike, we did not explore the entire Black Mountain Crest, but instead started from the Black Mountain Campground at the base of Mt. Mitchell and hiked to Deep Gap, a large established campground in Pisgah National Forest. Do not underestimate the Black Mountains! The hike from Black Mountain Campground along the Long Arm Ridge to the Mt. Mitchell summit gains approximately 3,700 feet in elevation over 5.6 miles and is steep and technical in many areas. For most of the hike, you are on an exposed, narrow ridge above the clouds. Once you’ve gained the majority of elevation, the elevation change between the 5 additional peaks is relatively small. The lowest elevation is Deep Gap, which is at approximately 5,800 feet. On this hike, you summit Mt. Mitchell (6,684ft), Mount Craig (6,647ft), Big Tom (6,580ft), Cattail Peak (6,584ft) and Potato Hill (6,475ft), all in one day.

Trip Breakdown:

Day One: Drive from Cincinnati to the Black Mountain Campground and stay there for the night. There are flush toilets and showers. Note: the trail head for Mt. Mitchell is located inside the Black Mountain Campground. There is a large Pisgah National Forest trail head across the street but it is NOT the correct way to go (trust me, because I ended up admitchellsignding ~3 miles to my trip by starting out at the wrong trail head).

Day Two: Start at the Black Mountain Campground and follow signs for Mt. Mitchell and immediately begin ascending for 5.6 miles. You will pass two junctions along the way, one for Higgin’s Bald, which is an alternative trail that will take you to the same place, and one for Commissary Ridge. Follow the signs for the Mt. Mitchell summit. You will eventually reach the paved and suddenly civilized summit of Mt. Mitchell.The summit was crowded and full of people who drove up for the view. Take the opportunity to fill up on water at the Mitchell summit area and enjoy the panoramic views. Continue from the summit to the Deep Gap trail head and to Mount Craig. From Mount Craig, follow the trail to Big Tom and down along the trail. At some point, you will transition from the Mt. Mitchell State Park to the Pisgah National Forest, right around Cattail Peak. At a few points in this area, there are a series of fixed ropes to assist in navigating down the steep terrain. The last peak of the day is Potato Hill (I still have no idea why this steep mountain was called a hill). You are exposed on a narrow ridge and high above the clouds. Continue downhill until you reach a large clearing with an established fire ring and set up camp for the night at Deep Gap. Be sure to hang your food for the night because you are in a bear sanctuary*.

Day Three: Start climbing up the way you came from Deep Gap, back up Potato Hill and Cattail Peak. You will re-enter Mt. Mitchell State Park (there will be signs posted on the trees) and shortly after you will arrive at a junction. Turn onto the trail marked 191A and continue on down. This part of the trail is very steep and rocky, but beautiful and exposed. You will come to another junction, and you’ll want to turn right onto Maple Camp Ridge. This trail is flat, open and easy. You’ll be able to move quickly along it until you meet up with the Long Arm Ridge once more. From here it will be a steep and steady descent. We refilled our water once more along the Long Arm Ridge. Consider doing the Higgin’s Bald side trail to add different scenery along your way back to Black Mountain Campground. The side trail only adds about .25 miles.

Water: I carried 3.5 L of water (a 2.5L reservoir and 1L Nalgene.) We filled up at the Black Mountain Campground, the Mt. Mitchell Summit, and at a stream located along the Long Arm Ridge Trail. There is a water source near Deep Gap, but it is a .5 mile hike away from the campsite.

Options: To save mileage on the second day, consider hiking up the Long Arm Ridge and staying the first night at the Commissary Ridge campsite approximately 4 miles up. Another option is to drive to the top of Mt. Mitchell and hike to Deep Gap from there. There is camping near the Mt. Mitchell summit as well, though you will need a permit for these spots.

*Additional Notes: As mentioned, part of the hike to Deep Gap is through a bear sanctuary. Please practice proper bear awareness through these areas such as properly hanging all of your food, food packaging, cooking equipment, and other scented items. Also, make a note to be somewhat loud when hiking, so as to potentially warn any nearby bears of your presence; simply raising your tone higher when talking should work. The occasional “HEY BEAR!” is a good idea, too. Additionally, these trails are steep and rocky and I highly encourage the use of trekking poles and boots with ankle support.

https://cloudman23.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/more-contrast5l1.jpg

*An image of the entire Black Mountain Crest.

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RRT Boat Pick Up!

What We Do
A Day In The Life Of An RRT Employee
Written by: James Mobley

Well it is kayak season and that means one thing, we need Kayaks!  Every kayaking season means the monthly process of going to get boats for inventory.  This season it was my turn to tag along with Joe White. The days are long but always full of fun and adventure.  The day trek takes us from Milford, Ohio all the way to Fletcher, North Carolina to a factory known as Legacy Paddle Sports. Legacy is owned and operated in North Carolina, where all of our boats from Liquidlogic and Native Watercraft are produced. The whole round trip is 778 miles and takes about 16 hours by the time you include stops and the loading and unloading of the boats. This season our biggest pick up was 27 boats!

So why do we do this?  Because it saves our customers money!  We do not add-on a delivery charge to our boats where other company’s do.  We also get to stay in tune with what is new and going on in the factory of this American Made product!  We are often brought into the factory and onto the main production floor where they share with us the latest technology or products that are in place. (Trust me, Legacy is making some pretty innovative and new products that we are so excited to see released.) The standards at Legacy Paddle Sports is the best in the industry so buy with confidence friends!

While the trip sounds long and like a lot to pack into a day, it isn’t!  Joe is good company, lots of good music is played, and good conversations are always to be had.  I must admit though, I do nod off at times as he drives!  Joe is a champ and is always at the helm as we travel and I continue to offer to drive but it is never needed.  I guess you could say Joe is a road warrior and being behind the wheel is what he loves to do, among other things.  The trips always offer great scenic views as we head south and go from state to state. My favorite parts always come when we get into the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina.  The rock faces make me melt inside and all I can think about is my passion for rock climbing.  The rushing rivers filling the valley floor remind me of my love for the water and all the magical powers it brings.  Nature is truly amazing to me!

What I find most enjoyable about these trips are the happy faces from our customers when they come to pick up their new boats!  Many of our customers meet us at RRT as soon as we get back into town to pick up their new boat investment.  This means customers meeting us well after 11 pm.  As we unwrap their boats and help load them onto their vehicle you can see the happiness in their eyes and face!  They know, and we know, that they have made the first steps to make paddling a part of their lives.  They want to immerse themselves into mother nature and be surrounded by all of its magical wonders.  These customers continue to support RRT and share there adventures with us, and we are happy to have them as a part of the RRT family!

Each boat pick up is a process that leads to greater adventure and untold stories. So come on in and pick up your new boat today, and help us keep this boat pick up process going!  I’ve put together a fun video that will help you live our boat pick up adventure.  I hope you enjoy it!!

Paddle On Friends!!!