Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pisgah National Forest: Lover’s Leap Loop

I’ve been a bit stressed out about our home purchase and mortgage lately. I just had to get out of the house. Noelle gave me permission to head out for a hike and, not wanting to go too far I decided I would hike somewhere in the Hot Springs, NC area. A look at the map showed a trail called Betty’s Place that looked to be relatively close and not too long and so I headed east into North Carolina.

The drive to Hot Springs was uneventful, but the Laurel River did appear to be muddy and swollen. We had gotten some heavy rain last night, but this area must have really gotten nailed. I made my way to Hot Springs, drove through town and then headed back towards Tennessee on US Highway 25/70. I soon found the turnoff for Upper Shut-in Road and quickly realized that something was not right. There was a “construction ahead” sign and lots of trucks hauling rock. I slowly followed one of the trucks up the hollow and noticed an increasing amount of water along the side of the road. Soon the road was covered in mud and the houses on the other side of the creek were not accessible. The storm last night must have washed out several bridges.

At this point I was between two large, slow-moving dump trucks and there was no place to turn around. Sections of the road closest the creek were washed away. Things were not looking good. Eventually all traffic came to a stop. I used this opportunity to turn around. The hike to Betty’s Place would have to wait for another day. I headed back to Hot Springs and formulated a plan in my mind as I drove.

I decided I would head to the SIlvermine Trailhead where I parked the other day for my hike on the Pump Gap Trail. I would hike the short Lover’s Leap Trail. The road back to the trailhead was covered with mud and debris, but was still easily passable. I parked the car and hit the trail under an overcast sky. I retraced my route of my previous hike in the area until I came to a junction. The Pump Gap Trail continued straight ahead while I followed a switch-back to the right. It was obvious from the faint white blazes on the trees that this trail I was following was originally the Appalachian Trail before the AT was rerouted.
Lover's Leap Trail
I slowly ascended to Lover’s Leap and the current Appalachian Trail. I followed the AT to an overlook of the French Broad River
French Broad River
and the town of Hot Springs.  
Hot Springs
There was a friendly fence lizard there basking on the rocks.
Fence Lizard
I rested a bit and then hit the trail again. I would follow the AT back to the road that leads to the Silvermine Trailhead.

This section of Appalachian Trail was impressive. It was a narrow footpath blasted out into a sheer rock face.
Appalachian Trail
It must have taken a lot of work to build this section of trail. There were lots of clusters of small white flowers scattered along the side of the trail.
Flowers in Bloom
The flowers appeared to be of some type of lobelia. I descended down, eventually walking along the French Broad River. I saw a few kayakers out playing in the rapids. I also saw a few tents set up right along the trail.
French Broad Campsite
These tents appeared to belong to people who were not backpackers, but were living along the river semi-permanently. Could they belong to river guides? One of the tents had a 40 of malt liquor sitting outside its door. 

I followed the swollen river
French Broad Rapids
back to the road and followed the road back to my car. While it was not my original plan to hike the Lover’s Leap trail, it turned out to be a good hike and I drove home in a pouring rain. Noelle told me it had started to rain in Greeneville shortly after I left. Somehow I missed hiking in it though.  
    

1 comment:

Allen Pogue said...

Nice hike. I've paddled the French Broad several times along there but never have hiked in that area.