Pisgah National Forest – Pink Beds Loop Trail

I’ve been wanting to complete the Pink Beds Loop Trail for several years now. We finally headed over that way today. The weather was just cloudy until we were almost at our destination. Of course, the way our luck goes sometimes, it started raining right over our heads when we arrived. We ended up having our picnic lunch in the car instead of enjoying the picnic area. Thankfully the rain didn’t last long. Just to be safe, packed up our rain gear and hit the trail. Due to the rain that had just occurred, even though it was only in the mid 60’s, it made for a very humid walk. As I talk about our walk, we will be taking the loop in a counter clockwise direction.

Pink Beds Loop trailhead is located at the Pink Beds Picnic Area. It is an easy to moderate 5.1 mile loop. The first half of the loop, it follows the South Fork Mills River. This section of the river seems more like a creek. They’ve done a great job with this trail. There are a couple of other trails that pass through this area, but the trails are very well marked. There are marshy areas that have some very nice boardwalks. A couple of the boardwalk areas still have the old / small bridges laying off to the side of the boardwalks. You’ll also cross some small plank bridges, and even one log bridge. You go through this one swampy area where you can tell the beavers have been at work building their little dams. You also go through a section of the forest that is just carpeted by ferns. I was ahead of Steve on the trail at one point, and came to a creek crossing. I was trying to figure out how in the world Steve was going to get across. I was walking down the creek to find a place to cross when I noticed a little wooden bridge. I was relieved. But, of course for a few seconds when he came up behind me I was making him think that he was going to have to cross it. When I finally showed him the bridge, I won’t tell you what he called me.

Most of this trail is spent walking through the forest, but you’ll eventually come to a portion of the trail where you come to meadow after meadow. Once you start hitting the meadows, you’re not all that far from the end. These meadows are man made. This is where you will probably run across deer and wild turkey, especially if you are hiking at dawn / dusk.

If we went back here again and took the rest of the family, we probably wouldn’t do the entire loop. The back end of the trail isn’t as interesting at the front ends. As you are walking the trail, you come to where Barnett Branch Trail comes from your left. We would probably take Barnett Branch across and turn left and then just complete the meadows part of the trail on the other side.

Here are a few photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: If you came from Asheville NC, as you are coming into Brevard NC, when you arrive at the intersection of Hwy 276 / 64, take a right onto 276. Proceed approximately 11 1/2 miles to the Pink Beds Picnic Area. The trailhead is just past a gazebo looking structure on the right.

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Elizabethton, TN – Watauga and Wilbur Dam Recreation Area

Today we stayed close to home and visited some different sections of the Watauga / Wilbur Dam recreation area.

We started out by driving all the way to the end, which brings you to a little visitors center. The only thing in this visitors center is information about the dams and reservoir. There are restrooms up here too.

After taking some photos from the overlook at the visitors center, we then walked on around past the visitors center and came to a gravel trail. This gravel trail’s length is only half a mile. There is a fork. We took the right fork. That eventually brings you to an overlook of Watauga Dam. Instead of taking this trail directly to the dam, we noticed a set of stairs to the right and took those. When we got to the top (which has you in the picnic area), we took a small paved trail to the left through the woods. The little paved trail then curves to the left, takes you back down steps and you are now back on that gravel trail that takes you to the Watauga Dam overlook. We took off to the right and enjoyed the views from the double decker overlook. We saw across on the dam a pretty big group of people with their backpacks. The Appalachian Trail crosses Watauga Dam.

We then turned around and headed back towards the visitor center. When we arrived back at the gravel trail fork, we took a right down the hill. This brings you down by the water. We walked around down there, and around the bend (which now has you below the visitor center), and then up a trail that brings you up on the other side of the visitors center.

We then jumped in the car and headed back down the road. We decided to stop and check out the views at the boat ramp area. You have the larger boat ramp parking area, and right above it, you have a smaller parking area. I was wondering where the people were that were parked here, so we drove over into that parking area. I noticed a trail. So, we hopped out of the car and took off down that trail. It forked, so we took the fork to the right. It brings you down on a point where there were people camping. We took a few photos and headed back out and took the other fork. We didn’t go far. Didn’t seem to be much of anything out that way other than a trail, and not really any good views of the lake.

We then jumped in the car and moved on. We stopped where the Appalachian Trail crosses the road. We got out and walked a little ways on the trail, then turned around because we weren’t getting any great views of the lake or mountains because of all of the leaves on the trees.

So, we’re back in the car again, and our next stop was the picnic area on the right after you cross the bridge as you are heading out. We walked across the street from the picnic area and down a gravel road because we wanted to get photos of the bridge from down below. After we took our photos here, we walked back up and crossed the road and headed down into the grassy area by the river. We walked along the river and saw people enjoying fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. Also across the river you have Little Laurel Branch Falls coming off the mountain. If there hasn’t been a recent rain, the waterfall is probably going to be dried up. We had rains on and off recently, so there was some water coming off the mountain. After we walked as far as we could along the river, we headed back up to the picnic area and hopped in the car for one more stop.

On our way to our last stop, we stopped in the middle of the road and Steve took a few photos of the lake side of Wilbur Dam. We then drove past the dam and there ‘s a concrete road that goes down to the right. This is used mostly by fishermen that want to fish below the dam. We took some pretty good photos of the river side of the dam. After this, we were done for the day.

Here are quite a few photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: If you aren’t sure where this is, you can use this link to enter your starting point address. http://www.tnvacation.com/vendors/watauga_dam_recreation_area/

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Blue Ridge Parkway – Craggy Gardens (Milepost 364)

We had received an e-mail from an Asheville, NC e-mail address that I’ll not name that made us feel that the rhododendrons would be blooming at Craggy Gardens. So, we headed up that way today. We didn’t see any of the rhododendrons blooming, but it was still a great trip. You’ll see in some of my future posts that I did finally get my “rhododendron fix”.

This trail is located in Western North Carolina, approximately 14 miles north of Asheville. I’ve read that the temperature at Craggy Gardens is about 15 to 20 degrees cooler than in Asheville. The elevation is approximately 5500 feet. So, keep that in mind as you dress for outdoor activity. The trail that we took is Craggy Pinnacle Trail. It’s a 1.4 mile round trip trail, and I would say due to the rugged terrain, it is moderate. There are a couple of overlooks. You’ll eventually come to a sign that talks about staying on the trail because of the rare plants. At  this sign, you are at a fork in the trail. We first took the fork to the right which takes you to one of the two overlooks. After we enjoyed the views from here, we backtracked to the fork, turned right, and headed to the top to the 2nd overlook.

We went towards the end of May. But, next year we will probably visit mid-June. That is when the rhododendrons should be blooming up there. But, I bet it’s a challenge to find parking at that time. We have been there before in the summer. I do recall when we went there before, that people were there picking blueberries. There is also some point on the trail (which I have provided a photo of, below) that I recommend that you take off to the right. In the summer, you will see lots of blueberries out through there. But, there are also some beautiful views. And, you get a pretty good view of a portion of I-26. That’s the portion that takes you by the visitors center.

You know we like to picnic. So, before our hike today, we stopped at the Craggy Gardens Picnic Area. At milepost 367.6, there will be a sign that directs you off on a road that will take you to a pretty good size picnic area. There is also a nice little visitors center at milepost 364.6 that I would recommend visiting which is open from May through October. Buy yourself a t-shirt.

I’m also attaching a map of the Craggy Gardens trails. http://brpfoundation.org/sites/default/files/pictures/ParkwayMaps/CraggyGardens.pdf

Below are a few photos from today. Run your cusor over each for a brief description.

Address: I just googled “craggy gardens visitor center address”, clicked on the “Direction” button, and then put my home address in as starting point to get directions to this area.

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Kingsport, TN – Warriors Path State Park, Riverbank Trail and Lake Shore Trail

Stayed close to home today because after our walk, were going to see the grandbabies. Today we decided to take Riverbank Trail and Lake Shore trails at Warriors Path. Both trails are connected, and take you along the banks of the Patrick Henry Lake / Holston River below the campground.

We entered the campground at Warriors Path and parked at the bath house. We then continued on foot on into the campground. We eventually arrived at a sign that pointed us down into the woods to the trails. According to some information I have read on the internet, this trailhead is located between campsites B34 and B35.

When we arrived at the bottom, we took off to the left and took Riverbank Trail. We then retraced our steps and instead of heading up into the woods back to the campground, we continued on and took Lake Shore Trail. As the Riverbank Trail, it just runs along the lake. You curve around the bend, and on the other side of the bend, you are now walking across the lake from Duck Island at Warriors Path. If you take the trail to the end, you end up walking up a hill and you come out around the entrance to the campground. At this point, you can walk back into the campground to get back to your vehicle. We didn’t make it this far. It had been a few years since we had taken this trail, and there was a piece of the trail that was highly eroded, and tricky walking on the trail between the bank and the water. With one of us not being a big fan of water, we turned around and headed back. When we arrived at the fork in the trail where we could have turned right and backtracked along the lake, we decided to go straight and head back up into the campground. It was time to go visit the grandbabies. On this date, they were still in their incubators in the hospital.

Here are a couple of links that I wanted to include.

First of all, I mentioned part of this trail being across from Duck Island. Here are my photos from our Duck Island walk from another day. https://rangerannette.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/kingsport-tn-warriors-path-state-park-duck-island/

Then, here is a map of the Warriors Path trails. http://tnstateparks.com/assets/pdf/additional-content/warriors-path_hiking-trails-map.pdf

Here are a few photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Address for Warriors Path State Park: 490 Hemlock Rd., Kingsport, TN.

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Boone, NC – Appalachian State University Nature Preserve

Here’s another trail system that I ran across on the internet that I didn’t know existed. It’s a nature preserve on the campus of Appalachian State University.

It’s a 67 acre nature preserve. As you know, I don’t really like to take off on trails unless I have a map. Searched and searched and couldn’t find any maps of this preserve. But, I was thinking. 67 acres? How can you really get lost of 67 acres. I can tell you. When you are in the woods and you have trails going this way and that, with no map, it gets a little challenging. I’d call these trails moderate too. Lots of ups and downs. I wish I had written down how far we hiked. Maybe a total of 3 miles or so.

First of all, I had no earthly idea where to park. We ended up parking at Appalachian Heights (University Housing), and walked up the road and went down some brick steps. This took us down to a nice wide trail that looked like it had been covered with wood chips at one time. We then ended up at a parking area. Which I now know that this is where we should have parked. We crossed the parking lot and went down steps back into the woods. After a while through the woods, we ended up at the Appalachian Atmospheric Research site. After taking a few cool photos there and searching around, we found the continuation of the trail. The trail ended up passing by the baseball stadium where it looked like they were getting ready to have a baseball game. There are a few times as you are taking this trail where you come to little clearings. You just look around and can pretty easily pick up the continuation of the trail. You eventually come to an area that takes you back deep into the woods. You then arrive at the pond. There was no wildlife action at the pond. We passed the pond and then came to a fork. We ended up taking the fork to the right which took you above a stream and through rhododendron thickets. But, we ended up at the end of the trail, and it took you into someone’s yard. So, we had to turn back around and take the other trail. This was a pretty steep trail. Had to go with our instinct on determining which way to go a couple of times. But, we eventually made it back to that parking lot that we had crossed earlier, that we really should have parked in. We took the parking lot back out to the main road, and were right across the street from where we parked in the student housing.

Here are some photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: If you are coming into Boone from Banner Elk, when you arrive at the big intersection (Blowing Rock Rd / Hwy 321), turn left onto 321. Take Hwy 321 approximately 1/2 mile to Rivers St (runs through the middle of Appalachian State). Turn left onto Rivers St. As you are getting towards the end of the university, watch for Bodenheimer Dr. Turn left. As you are driving on Bodenheimer, watch for the Greenwood Lot on your left. Pull into this parking lot. Watch on the right for stairs that go down the bank and into the woods. This is where we should have started.

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Hampton, TN – Hampton Watershed Trails

This is so close to home, and I had never heard of it. Ran across it by accident on the internet.

The watershed trails were actually created as mountain bike trails, but are also used by hikers and runners. There are 3 trails.

Pine Loop – This is an easy / flat 1 mile loop. You can sure tell how this trail received it’s name. You wouldn’t think that walking through pine trees would be so cool. It was spectacular, the pine trees just looming everywhere above your head. The trail is completely covered with pine needles. You can barely hear yourself take a step.

River Loop – The map that I will attach further below calls this a 1.25 mile, difficult trail. I guess that would be difficult if you were biking the trail. I’d call it moderate for a hiker. We took Pine Loop to the right, as we started the trail. Once we reached River Loop, we took River Loop to the right, completed it, and then finished out Pine Loop. River Loop for a bit, runs on the edge of the woods behind people’s homes. It then veers into the woods and runs close to Doe River for a bit. You are actually across the river from Doe River Ministries, where you can walk the Doe River Gorge railroad tracks. When we were on the river taking some photographs, we could see the Doe River Ministry horses grazing. But, once we finished down at the river, the trail looped around and headed back towards the parking area. This may be why the trail is considered difficult. I could not imagine being on a bicycle on this section of the trail. You end up on a ridge, trail isn’t real wide, and it’s not a complete vertical drop to your left, but pretty close. I know that Steve doesn’t like heights, and I tried to just act like it was nothing walking through there. Didn’t want to make him nervous, if he wasn’t already.

Cats Pajamas – We didn’t take this trail today, but we plan on going back and taking it. We’ll probably take Pine Loop to the left when we leave the parking lot, to get to Cats Pajamas. On the map below, it shows an overlook on the trail. It’s my understanding that it’s an overlook down into Doe River Gorge. Can’t wait to visit. Per the map, this trail is very difficult. It also states that this section of the trail only allows 1 way travel. I can tell you that where Cats Pajamas comes out, there is a sign that tells you not to enter that part of the trail.

Here is a map of the Hampton Watershed Trails. http://ntmba.org/files/4613/0203/3304/Watershed_Trails_Map_V2.pdf

Here are a few photos from our hike today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

Directions: From Elizabethton, take Hwy 19E / 321 to Hampton. Take 321 to the left. Shortly after turning onto 321, watch for 1st Ave. Turn right onto 1st Ave. It’s probably about 1/2 mile to the gravel parking area on the left.

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Abingdon, VA – Virginia Creeper Trail (Alvarado Station to Watauga Parking)

Family wanted to do a piece of the creeper trail today. We parked our car at Watauga Parking area and jumped in the car with them. We drove and parked their car / started at Alvarado Station. The walk from Alvarado to Watauga is approximately 5 miles. Before hitting the trail, we had our picnic lunch across the street from Alvarado Station. They have a few picnic tables by the river.

This is a nice section of the trail because quite a bit of the trail follows the Holston River. You also walk by quite a few rock cliffs. I was also excited about today’s walk because trestle 7 had finally been replaced from where it was destroyed during the April 2011 tornado. The area around trestle 7 is beautiful. Beautiful farmland. I had read that trestle 7 was the longest trestle on the creeper trail. But, I think that they decided to not make it as long when they rebuilt it. I think the longest one now is between Alvarado and Watauga that crosses Holston River.

We completed Watauga Parking area to Alvarado Station in April 2013. I’ve included a link for that walk too. https://rangerannette.wordpress.com/2013/04/14/abingdon-va-virginia-creeper-trail-watauga-parking-to-alvarado-station/

I’ve included a good site too for maps and mileage on the Virginia Creeper. http://www.vacreepertrail.us/maps.html

Here are a few photos from today. Run your cursor over each for a brief description.

I also included a photo of each of the twins from our visit to the hospital 3 days prior.

Address for GPS to Watauga Parking: 24350 Watauga Rd, Abingdon, VA

Address for GPS to Alvarado Station: 21198 Alvarado Rd, Abingdon, VA

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