Saturday, May 25, 2013

Pisgah National Forest: Laurel River Trail

A beautiful cool morning and so the Grunwalds headed out to do some hiking. We headed over towards Hot Springs to get some coffee at the interesting little coffee shop at Hurricane.
Laurel River Store
After drinking our coffee and relaxing for a bit we made the short drive over to the trailhead for the Laurel River Trail. We hit the trail at the far end of the parking lot and followed the old rail bed down to the riverside. We got there just in time to see some kayakers playing amongst the rapids.
The trail then came to a gravel road an rental cabin. Past the cabin the trail continued to follow the gravel road bed and we hiked past a strange looking water fountain.
water fountain

Eventually the road veered away from the river and the trail was a foot trail only. We saw some more kayakers on small rapids
rapids closeup
rapids again
kayaker again
and made our way slowly downstream.
Noelle on trail
Sierra really seemed to enjoy the ride in the backpack, as she usually does.
Eric and Sierra
We hiked past some really interesting rapids that it would have been interesting to see some kayakers run.
river and tree
long rapids
Unfortunately it did not happen. We did find a railroad spike though.
railroad spike

We continued until we reached a point where there was a vine-covered tree toppled over the trail. It would have been easy to scramble through the vines to get to the other side, but there was a small problem: the vines were poison ivy. Instead of risking an itchy rash we decided to turn around. We found a nice sandy beach where we fed Sierra and changed her diaper. We also played for a bit
Daddy tosses Sierra
Sierra on Daddys shoulders
before we started to make our way back to the car with a very sleepy Sierra.
sleeping Sierra
I must say the Laurel River Trail is definitely a worthwhile hiking experience, especially if you can make the hike when kayakers are running the rapids.   

Update: June 3, 2013  

 After my hike of the Pump Gap Loop I decided that I needed to check out the section of the Laurel River Trail that Noelle, Sierra and I did not make it to on our hike of May 25th. Instead of hiking the section I had already been on, I decided to drive to the Stackhouse put-in on the French Broad and hike the railroad tracks to the ruins of the town of Runion.

According to my plan I made the long, winding drive down to Stackhouse and the river. The parking lot there was littered with beer boxes, can and bottles. The tracks seem to be a conduit for partiers getting to the Laurel River and the deep swimming hole there.
on tracks
As I walked the tracks I was startled by a large black snake, a racer I believe.
It slithered across the tracks and started to climb the rock-cut to the side. I left the snake in peace as I continued on.

It was not a very exciting walk on the tracks. I got to the southern terminus of the Laurel River Trail just as a train approached and hit the trail.
I immediately began to see the ruins of the old town of Runion.
Foundation Pillar
Some of the ruins were covered in graffiti.
Concrete Building
I poked around amongst the few remaining structures
and then got back on the main trail to hike to the point where we had turned around the last time we had hiked here. It didn't take long to get to the fallen, poison ivy covered branch that blocked the trail, and so I turned around for the hike back to the railroad tracks and my car. On the way out I ran into a group of teens, beer in hand, ready to party at the swimming hole. I just hope they stay safe and clean up after themselves.      

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