As our car pulled out of the drive from our Asheville Bed and Breakfast, I thought how it had been way too long since James and I had been on a hike. As a matter of fact, the last time James and I went hiking was June of 2014. And the ironic part is that we went to Black Balsam Knob that time too! That time, we didn’t find the trail head so, while we had a nice hike, we didn’t actually get to where we wanted to go. This time we got it right.
From the minute we left the Carolina Bed & Breakfast the day conspired to make it perfect. As our car twisted and climbed up the Blue Ridge Parkway the sun burned through the clouds and the views were breath-taking. Normally when we take a late September hike we are reminded at every turn that the color has not yet started and we can only dream about what it must be like to hike in October when the trees are resplendent in their glory. But this year the color started early and we were happy to see that it had begun. While it was by no means “peak” there were plenty of patches of red and yellow to enjoy. Late summer goldenrod and blue cornflowers did their bit to add to the show.
The trail starts on Ivestor Gap Road, a seldom open-to-traffic mountain road which I am personally amazed is ever open to traffic it is so rutted and rocky! After about two miles one comes to a sign post for the entrance to the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Remembering our adventure at Shining Rock a few years ago, James and I did as our trail guide suggested and paid “special attention to turn hard right onto the Art Loeb Trail”. Given that the trail is clearly marked with a charming wooden stile, it wasn’t really necessary to pay
much attention at all but I guess they really don’t need people getting lost in Shining Rock (see above adventure).
From here we climbed up to the top of Tennent’s Mountain. At 6,040 feet it gives one a panoramic view east to the Asheville city limits and the Black Mountains and west to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is named after Dr. Gaillard Stoney Tennent who was the first president of the Carolina Mountain Club. The Carolina Mountain Club was founded by the eponymously named Dr. Chase P. Ambler: a fact which I love because it gives me a chance to use “eponymously” in a sentence. We spent some time wondering if Tennent ever climbed his mountain and if there was a Cherokee name for it. We stopped for a picnic just below the summit on a rock which seemed to have been placed there for that purpose.
This is an easy to moderate trail. There are some steep ascents but they are brief and the reward is great. The bald was created by two consecutive events: first the mountain was heavily logged and then a massive forest fire came through in 1925, destroying what few trees were left and robbing the soil of nutrients. The result is a large expanse of land covered by low growing grasses and shrubs which afford breathtaking views in all directions. It takes about an hour to get here and, since most people choose to stop about four miles before the turn-off at Graveyard Fields, it is not as heavily frequented as some of the other trails off the Blue Ridge Parkway. And if you have the time, and the desire, you can return by way of Rte 215 which will take you down through the Pisgah National Forest and home by way of Candler. It’s a good road past mountain streams and waterfalls which contrasts with the high views of the Blue Ridge Parkway.