Saturday, September 17, 2011

Shining Rock Wilderness: Backpacked

It's not an adventure without a challenge.

The latest backpacking adventure took us into the Shining Rock Wilderness area in North Carolina.

We met on a Friday morning and headed up the Old Butt Knob trail.  I had read that this trail was going to be steep, but I ignored that warning and planned our hike up the hill.  On the map, the contour lines were so close together in this area that it was just gray on the b&w print.  Somewhere I read it was a 1500 ft climb in half a mile.  It felt like we climbed twice that.  The trail is also known as Kick Your Old Butt Knob trail and it was given a few names as we hiked it Friday that I won't repeat.

This kicked off our adventure in the wilderness.

Eventually we made it to Shining Rock, where there is a field of white rocks.
We only encountered one or two camping groups on the mountain.  One was scooping water out of small spring for their water filter, the other couldn't tell us what trail he was on.

All day Friday I was on the lookout for a bear.  Not because I was scared, but because I wanted to see one.  It never showed itself.  The only close encounter we had Friday with nature was some kind of insect that was making his way up the inside of Chip's pant leg.  When he went to swat at it, he got a sharp sting.   Good thing he didn't let the bug get any higher!

That night I was at the fire at felt something biting the top of my leg.  I looked down and saw a small, bright red bug on my pants.  It was starting to hurt and I went to brush him off my pant leg.  That's when I realized it wasn't a bug, it was FIRE.

After I confirmed I wasn't burning in the fire, I looked up to see a rabbit quietly hopping around our tent area.  We contemplated eating him, but decided to let him live another day.  He's lucky he came after we had all just eaten our crackers.

Across from our camp was a camp of a few women.  They took several hours to build some type of tower with some large logs.  It was in the form of a gateway.  Two tall towers, maybe seven feet tall, with a large piece of wood stretched across the top to form the doorway.  We had a good evening waiting for them to burn this monument but the girls never did burn it.  It turned out that they were just going to hang laundry from this structure.

Saturday morning we broke camp and headed back into the wilderness of unmarked trails.

After a few river crossings and quick glances at our maps, we came upon a sign on the trail.  This was odd since nothing was marked in the wilderness.  We stopped to check the maps and found we had made a wrong turn after one of the river crossings.  We were only ten minutes from the river, so turning back won over hitching on the Blue Ridge Pkwy.
That would be the only time over the two days of hiking that we would make a wrong turn.  Not bad for a group of amateurs wandering around a wilderness chock full of unmarked trails.

Our Saturday lunch was on the river.  We perched ourselves on some boulders in the middle of the river and took a much needed break.   One of the things that struck me the most about the river was how incredibly clear it was.  You could see very clearly every rock sitting on the bottom of the river.
 Eventually Saturday afternoon we emerged from the woods back at the road and at the parking lot where we had left our cars on Friday.

 Before we began, I found this hand sketched map of the trails converging on a website.  I printed it out and it was extremely helpful understanding this section of the trail.  If you ever go into Shining Rock Wilderness, print this map out and keep it in your pocket.  The other thing that was really helpful in keeping us on the correct trail were several small cairns (stacks of stones) that had been built at various intersections.  I think there was twice where we had some doubt about which direction to take and a cairn answered the question.

 We had some challenges on our two days of hiking.  Challenges with the terrain and challenges with keeping pointed in the right direction.  But that's okay, because the challenges make an adventure.
As always, we had a great trip, and I can't say enough good things about the two men that suffer through each of these hikes with me.   Thanks Aaron, thanks Chip, for sharing in the adventure.


Aaron said...

Thanks... I think.

Anonymous said...

Thank you SO much for posting a drawing of the trails converging on Shining Rock Gap! I've read several trail reports and all of them warned about the first "false" trail head off to the left as one travels from Shining Rock the Shining Creek trail head. This helps greatly!

Duck Hunter said...

@anon - You're welcome! I didn't create the map. I had found it elsewhere, and it's a great one!

I printed it out and took it on the trail---and we used it.
Have fun.

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TooManyTrailsWithoutABath said...

OK, two items. (1) Why did you have a fire? Fires are illegal in the Shining 'Rock Wilderness. You left a trace in a pristine wilderness by leaving an ugly fire pit. Shame on you. (2), Apparently, you also did not do your homework. Wilderness areas are not blazed nor marked so you have to know how to read a map and a compass before you arrive. It keeps you from wondering around looking for the trail at intersections and complaining on blogs that you got lost. It is part of the wilderness experience. I do not want signs at every trail intersection, I want pristine wilderness. Apparently you do not. It would be better if you stayed out and did not go back. Keep your fires and your complaints on no blazes and go to some campground some where else.

Duck Hunter said...

1. Our fire was on the Art Loeb trail outside of the wilderness boundary. Notice that I say on Saturday after breaking camp we went back into the wilderness. We stayed at an established campsite and used an established fire ring.

2. I didn't complain about the lack of blazes. That was part of the adventure and it was expected. That's why we printed and purchased maps prior to the trip. I mention it here not as a complaint but as a descripion.

While I appreciate your questions and comments I feel like you jumped to your own conclusions at the end. I hope next time you will wait to hear some answers to your questions before assuming the worst.

There is a lot of amazing places out there and hopefully we all continue to enjoy the outdoors!