I was given permission for a solo hike today and I decided I wanted to hike something that would be challenging but that I wouldn’t have to drive too far for. The loop on Hickey Fork and White Oak trails with side trip up the Pounding Mill Trail to Camp Creek Bald seemed to fit the bill perfectly. Having just driven up to Camp Creek Bald for my hike on the Appalachian Trail Relocation over Big Firescald Knob, I had some familiarity with the mountain itself, but the approach from North Carolina and the supposedly very rugged Shelton Laurel Backcountry Area would be a new experience.
I set out on the road and drove the Asheville Highway up
into North Carolina and eventually turned left onto Franklin Mountain Road. I
followed Franklin Mountain Road for a few miles to North Carolina Highway 212
and followed this highway for a while before turning off onto Hickey Fork Road
which is signed for the Shelton Laurel Backcountry Area. I was worried that the
road to the trailhead would be too rugged for my Honda Civic, but it turned out
to be a nice smooth drive on a well-graded gravel road.
I admired the falls for a bit and then made my way back to
the main trail. I followed the trail further upstream. I had read on the
internet that the trail above the falls gets little use, but I still found
route finding to be easy and the trail’s route was never in doubt. However, the
stinging nettle did get thick along the upper reaches of the trail and since I
was wearing shorts the skin on my legs did get a bit irritated.
At the end of the Hickey Fork Trail I found myself on an old
road, the bed of the Pounding Mill Trail. Following this trail in its lower
reaches was exceedingly easy work as it followed the road for miles.
way I found another one of the Trails Illustrated maps that I had been using for
There’s not much beauty to this mountain, at least not in
its present state, covered in towers and old cinderblock buildings, and so
after taking my photo at the summit I began my descent.