Sunday, January 12, 2014

Pisgah National Forest: Blackstock Knob via the Big Butt Trail

It rained Friday and Saturday, but luckily I got one good weather day out of my three day weekend. Besides the rainy weather forced me to complete a project I'd been tasked with by Noelle, to take the sliding glass doors off the bathtub. Anyway, I woke up early this morning and gathered up the pack I had packed yesterday. I made it out onto the road just after 6:30. I would be headed over into North Carolina and the foothills of the mighty Black Range; the highest range of peaks in the eastern United States.

The drive was uneventful, but it did take a little bit longer than I had anticipated. I reached the northern trailhead for the Big Butt Trail at about 8:30 after eating a quick breakfast in the car.
Eric hikes Big Butt Trail
The hike started off with a pretty steep climb. It was one switchback after another. Soon the ground was sprinkled with little pellets of snow.
snow trail
This snow would get slightly deeper as I ascended, but never too deep. Soon my first objective for the day came into view through the trees: the summit of Big Butt Peak.
Big Butt through Trees
From what I had read online there was a "manway" that led to it from the Big Butt Trail. One description I had read online said that it was a tough bushwhack, but I found it to be practically a maintained trail with little brush to contend with. I soon found myself on the summit where I found the benchmark
BB benchmark
and took my official summit photo.
Eric on Big Butt summit
There was an area just off the summit that had some pretty nice partially unobstructed views to the west.
view from Big Butt

 From the summit of Big Butt I retraced my steps on the "manway" back to the officially maintained trail. Along the way I passed through an area where fog must have condensed and then frozen to the trees
frost on branch
and other vegetation.
winter wonderland
frosty lined trail
It made for hiking in a real winter wonderland, though the photos I took don't do the scene any justice.

To my surprise my ascent to the summit of Blackstock Knob was now turning into a descent. I made my way down into a gap and back up to the summit of Little Butt. There was a rocky outcropping near the summit that offered views to the Black Range.
Trees and the Black Range
I admired the view and then continued on. From Little Butt I again descended and then ascended up to the Big Butt Trail's intersection with the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Big Butt sign
The road must have been closed because as I ate a snack at the overlook I didn't see one car.  

After finishing my snack of mixed nuts and prunes, I hit the trail again. Now I would be hiking on a section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. The elevation was quite high and the dusting of snow got a little bit thicker.
snowy trail
 There were lots of spruces and firs lining the trail. The summit of Blackstock Knob is not marked, but the MST passes right over it. I hiked the trail on the ridge and after I was sure I had hiked over the highest portion of it, I backtracked to that spot to claim as the summit. I took my photo there but did not linger much.
Eric on Blackstock Knob
I still had 7 miles of hiking back to the car on a short winter day. 

The hike back to the car was rough. This was the longest hike I had done in a long time and my body is just not accustomed to hiking these distances anymore. There was a lot more ascent to my return trip than I remembered there being including one really long section of stairs.
stairs
My fatigue did allow me to take a few breaks and I was able to admire the thick algae and fungal growth on the trees.
fungi
I also stopped to take a break at a nice overlook of the Black Range.
Black Range View
Finally, I stopped at an interesting, gnarly old tree I had seen on my ascent.
Eric on Crazy Tree
From the gnarly tree it was a steep descent back to my car.

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