Rendezvous Mountain State Educational Forest, NC

 

Rendezvous Mountain fire tower
Rendezvous Mountain fire tower

Since I had a short hike along Mt. Jefferson, I had enough time to check out another short hike in the region. Debating between E.B. Jeffries Park and Rendezvous Mountain, I chose the latter. Rendezvous Mountain State Educational Forest is a small state unit northwest of Wilkesboro, NC. The park contains the namesake Rendezvous Mountain, historically considered a rendezvous point for the Overmountain Men during the Revolutionary War. The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail traces the march of militiamen southward from East Tennessee who eventually prevailed in the Battle of Kings Mountain. Rendezvous Mountain isn’t on the national historic trail, but it was supposedly a rallying point for the militiamen of Wilkes County to join the larger force. In more recent times the mountain was/is the location of one of the 26 lookout towers listed in Peter Barr’s excellent book Hiking North Carolina’s Lookout TowersThis is why I chose the hike, to check off another lookout tower on the Carolina Mountain Club’s Lookout Tower Challenge list. To summarize, that’s about all this hike amounted to, a check on a list. There’s not much to the park, but I did not have ample time to explore the other trails that caught my eye. 

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Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area, NC

 

Northwest view of Phoenix Mountain with Whitetop Mountain and Mt. Rogers behind
Northwest view of Phoenix Mountain with Whitetop Mountain and Mt. Rogers behind

Mount Jefferson State Natural Area is a place I always kept in the back of my mind. It is usually mentioned in North Carolina hiking guides, which generally means it is a worthy hiking destination. However, this park is very small and in the past only offered 2.2 miles of hiking trails. That is typically not enough for me to warrant a full trip. I frequently check the North Carolina State Park website for updates and pictures, and happened to check the trail map for Mt. Jefferson before I planned this hike. To my surprise there were brand new trails, the Mountain Ridge Trail and Track Trail, and they incorporate the park office and two road overlooks. Perfect I thought, here’s a trail that adds length and difficulty to what is otherwise a really easy, short hike. Instead of 2.2 miles, I figured it would be around 7 miles. (The state park map, trail naming, and mileage aren’t clear). It was supposed to be a clear, crisp mid-April Sunday so I was excited to check out a state park unit I’ve never visited. Keep reading to check out the great views in Mt. Jefferson State Natural Area.

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Saddle Mountain Trail – Mitchell River Game Lands, NC

 

Click here to read Part 1 of my hike on 9-14-14 at Cumberland Knob

 

Saddle Mountain from the road
Saddle Mountain from the road

Here’s a hike along the Blue Ridge Parkway you’ll want to pass right by. As I left Fox Hunter’s Paradise Overlook fresh off my hike at Cumberland Knob I was galvanized to start the second hike of the day, regardless of the cloud cover. The possibility of finding an awesome view on a trail no one hikes was enticing, but proved to be just the opposite. I had learned about Saddle Mountain through a news link on Meanderthals. It was part of Stanback Trails of Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and conveniently located near a lot of other places I hike. The most enticing thing about it was on the website it declares the Horn of Saddle Mountain is a dramatic point rising 2,000 feet above the Piedmont. That sounds like a great view to me. It wasn’t. There are no views on this hike, there’s barely anything of note.

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Gully Creek to Cumberland Knob – Cumberland Knob Recreation Area, NC

 

Falls on Gully Creek
Falls on Gully Creek

The persistent cloud cover and intermittent rain scuppered my plans of doing any long hike with great views. When I saw the forecast Sunday morning, I went back to sleep. Around 11:00 AM I started looking of possibilities of places I could go that wouldn’t be a terribly far drive. I settled on the remote northeastern corner of the Blue Ridge Parkway. My first destination would be Cumberland Knob Recreation Area to hike the short loop trail down Gully Creek and up to Cumberland Knob. This is one of those recreation areas on the parkway that doesn’t offer much in the way of hiking and scenery, so usually people skip right over it. After checking this park out, I was going to head south to a little known trail on Saddle Mountain. I’m dividing these hikes up into two separate posts, so check out the Saddle Mountain Trail here.

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Stone Mountain and Wolf Rock – Stone Mountain State Park, NC

 

Stone Mountain view from Cedar Rock
Stone Mountain view from Cedar Rock

I was raring to go on a hike this Sunday but the weather and my sleep patterns were not cooperating. Most of the mountains were cloudy with a 50% chance of thunderstorms. Instead of my planned Linville Gorge hike I went to Stone Mountain State Park because of its convenience and its views are still abundant regardless of weather. I have hiked here multiple times, but wanted to get a GPS track of the big loop for Hiking Upward. My plan was to see all the sites in the main portion of the park by taking the Stone Mountain Loop and visiting Wolf Rock and Lower Falls as well. This is arguably the best loop offered in any state park in North Carolina because of all the rock summits and waterfalls

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Widow’s Creek to Devil’s Garden Overlook – Stone Mountain State Park, NC

 

Widow's Creek
Widow’s Creek

I didn’t have a plan for my hike. It was the day before 4th of July, and I felt like taking the day off and exploring. Unfortunately the forecast was clouds and possibility of storms all afternoon. I set off in the direction of Stone Mountain State Park and had two options in mind – try the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to the Blue Ridge Parkway or do the full Stone Mountain loop. Both hikes are not dependent on clear skies for the views, and they both have creeks and waterfalls. Darkening skies and sprinkles prompted me to try the MST, I knew it was mostly in the forest and there was the shorter bail out option of the Widow’s Creek Trail. Despite the thunder and intermittent rain, I hiked the MST to Devil’s Garden Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stopped by Widow’s Creek Falls at the end. This is a brutal hike without much to see at the top, the best part is the section along Widow’s Creek.

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Basin Creek to Caudill Cabin – Doughton Park, NC

 

Caudill Cabin
Caudill Cabin

If you’re looking for a hike with few people, history, water, and more water, then the Basin Creek Trail is a perfect fit. I’ve been saving this trail for a rainy day. Although I’ve been to Doughton Park multiple times, never have I ventured into the remote watershed of Basin Creek. Since it is a creek hike, I assumed there would be no views and it would be best to try when it is cloudy. The weather forecast called for 60% chance of thunderstorms, I drove to the trail head anyways. It was cloudy and sometimes misty, but it never rained and was cooler than a typical June day. The Basin Creek Trail is the only trail from Longbottom Road that does not climb to the ridge. Instead, the trail follows Basin Creek all the way upstream to its origin while passing by remnants of the Basin Cove community that was wiped away by a flood in 1916. At 11 miles round trip the trail isn’t difficult but requires many stream crossings. The trail ends at the Caudill Cabin in a clearing that is visible 900+ feet below from the Wildcat Rocks Overlook. This cabin is the only house that was not destroyed by a great flood in 1916.

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Flat Rock Ridge to Cedar Ridge – Doughton Park, NC

 

MST beyond Bluff Mountain
MST beyond Bluff Mountain

Finally, a current hike from this year and not an archived one from years past. I decided to start off the 2014 summer months with a whopper of a hike at Doughton Park. I’ve hiked here twice before, one time easy with many views, another time difficult with eventual payoff. This time I had my mind set on doing the longest possible loop hike in the park, 17+ miles. Doughton Park is the largest recreation area on the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) and one of those unknown gems in North Carolina that doesn’t have the crowds because it isn’t a state park and isn’t close to Asheville. The park boundaries resemble a triangle, and all hikes from the base of the park conveniently start at the same spot then climb up ridges to meet the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) along the parkway. My loop started with the Flat Rock Ridge Trail (5.0-mi), then traversed the crest of the park along the Bluff Mountain Trail/MST (7.3-mi) before diving back down to the bottom on the Cedar Ridge Trail (4.3-mi).

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