11 Dec How the Hickory Nut Gorge Trail Came About – Part 2
In Part 1, I discussed how I went about getting permissions for the trail. Once that was done for a large portion of the trail, we began the on the ground work to clear the trail and make it walkable.
Looking at maps and envisioning a possible route from the topo lines is one thing, but getting out on the ground is something else. The land never quite looks like one imagines it from a map. The first few trips out, we just explored the land. Since the first 3-4 miles of the trail lay on over 700 acres of land, there was a lot to explore. We knew we wanted to get from the Florence Nature Preserve to Chimney Rock State Park eventually, so we looked for a possible route that would take us in that direction. Also we wanted to pick the most scenic and interesting route along the gorge. This meant looking for outcrops with views, waterfalls, ridgelines and different types of forests.
On this particular portion of the trail, there happened to be many old woods roads once used for logging or moving dairy cows years ago. Most of these were now overgrown with fallen trunks, younger trees, greenbriers and other prickly vines.
We started out with small clippers, just so we could get though any particular thick patches. To our pleasant surprise, several of the woods roads went the direction we wanted to go, and they were generally passable with a minimal amount of clearing. After 3 or 4 exploratory hikes we finally decided on a preferred route, and began putting up flagging tape to mark it. Eventually about 75% of the trail was on these old roads and the other 25% was on new terrain.
The next step was walking the route with a chain saw to cut our way through the downed tree trucks blocking the path. Then I hired two helpers to come out for a day with me and weedwack the low lying brush along the path. For the new trail portion, I hired my regular trail builder to clear and cut a footpath along the side of the ridge.
We worked off and on over a period of several months and finally finished cutting the last few steps down a steep dirt bank in the early summer. The next stretch was a beautiful walk along Hickory Nut Creek past a dozen small cascading waterfalls. I’ll save that for Part 3.