Recreation Tag

One of the best-kept secrets in Western North Carolina is the quaint mountain village of Gerton, tucked high in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge. The setting takes one back in time, having managed to stay relatively untouched in the midst of Western North Carolina’s rapid growth. Above this hamlet soars Bearwallow Mountain with breath-taking rocky cliffs. Through the main valley cascades the boulder-strewn Hickory Nut Creek with its many tumbling waterfalls.

November 2008 On the weekend before Thanksgiving, we had our inaugural hike of the completed section of the Hickory Nut Gorge Trail. We had just finished some new sections at Raven Rock and put up some new trail signs the week before. We were ready to show off our new creation. It was a beautiful clear sunny day, cold and crisp. 19 people came out for the adventure. We carpooled up to Raven Rock to begin the hike. The Upper Raven Rock loop is a short hike, but with quite spectacular vistas. The trail goes to the very top of the cliff and looks out over the whole gorge. Scrambling over the giant boulders, the hikers made their way along the crest and then down along the trail under the base. From below, they could look up at the hundred foot high walls of vertical and overhanging granite. And this was just the beginning!

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.

Going for a hike sounds like a pretty simple thing to do. You put on your hiking boots, grab some water and trail mix, and go. But what goes into getting the trail ready to be hiked? The history of trail making in this country goes way back. Of course, the original footpaths were created by Native Americans and used for hunting, gathering and traveling between summer and winter areas.