Thursday, September 2, 2010

Weekend in NC/VA

Trip reports refer to older reports on

I was down in NC last weekend for the US 10km trail running championships and decided it would be a good opportunity to bag a few more county high points. Last year when I went down it was strictly state hp’s I was after. This time I was after a little bit of everything. I ran to 2 towers, one triple-divide, and 6 county high points. I was also able to sandwich in a 14th place (4th 40+) at the race, so the weekend was a success by my standards. Below are my Trip Reports for the County High points, I’ve also done TR’s on the other peaks which can be found on my blog.

Yadkin County, NC – Benchmark Click on Brushy Mountain (1,755’)
The previous trip report directions are still valid. It looks like one could drive up Fram road, just after exiting Route 77 onto Route 21 north. You would be able to drive right up to the pond at just under 1,600’. The dirt road just south of Pardue Hill road is also drivable to the same spot. It didn’t see any postings and there was no gate to stop you. I decided to park below Pardue Hill road, the dead end on Pardue has houses all around and I was nervous about parking the rental car there. The start of the trail may not be obvious but if you just strike out from the end of Pardue hill road you can’t miss it. It took me 17:05 to run to the top and 13:04 to run back down. I found the benchmark and the survey marker and there was also a Geodesic triangle on a tree right near the summit. I spooked a couple of deer on the way down.

Side trips to:
Rendezvous Mountain – Fire tower
This was a very short run to visit the tower, it is on the peakbagger list of “Carolina fire tower challenge”. The gate was locked when I arrived a little before 9am, so I parked off to the side and ran up (only about ¾ of a mile). The tower was blocked, but could still be climbed. I chose not too as there was a decent view just a little below the summit. I ran back to the car and arrived just as a park worker was opening the gate (at 9:15). When the gate is open you can drive to within about 500’ of the top.

Flat Top Mountain – Observation Tower
I parked at the scenic Moses Cone craft center right on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I stopped inside for a trail map, the park worker was very helpful. She told me it was 3 miles to the top, the map showed 2.8 miles, and I think it was a little less than that. The trail was excellent; it was all carriage roads that appeared to be well used. I hit the top of the tower in 24:38, took a couple of pics then headed down in 19:36 for a round trip of 44:30. I came up on a group riding horses as I neared the bottom, it looks like it gets a lot of horse traffic (but bikes are not allowed – too bad). Nice views from the summit and ice cold coke at the center afterwards!
Summit with hitching post for horses
Mississippi/Santee/Pee Dee – Triple divide
This was a quick drive from Flat Top Mountain to Blowing Rock NC. The triple divide (three watersheds) is very close to the “Blowing Rock” from whence the town is named. I stopped in for a visit ($6) and there was a walkway with some views but mostly it was just a rip-off. The actual triple-divide location is right next to the intersection of Rock and Pinnacle roads. There is a posted driveway right next to the divide, but the woods from the road are not posted so I did a quick explore and headed on my way. I couldn’t have been out of the car more than five mininutes.

Wilkes County, NC – Thomkins Knob (4,060)
The previous trip report directions are valid. I chose to park at the Thompins Knob overlook, not liking the idea of leaving the rental car on the narrow shoulder of the Blue Ridge Parkway. There is a great well marked and well used trail heading somewhat parallel to the BRP from Thompins Knob overlook to the Lewis fork overlook. I ran it for less than a mile, until the trail began to drop, then bushwhacked to the summit. I stopped a bit short of the top on an overgrown false summit then ran another minute higher to the top. The summit has no view, but is very wide open even at the height of summer. It only took me 14 minutes to the top and 11 minutes back (running).

Surry County, NC & Carroll County, VA - Fisher Peak (3,580)
The directions to this are accurate, however there is a pretty serious wash-out at 1.4 miles on Fisher Peak road (right after the split to the left – private road to the right). A good 4-wheel drive could make it, but the Ford Focus I was driving left little doubt that I’d be running from that point. I was a bit tired and sore from racing earlier in the day, but could not pass up on this “two-fer”. The climb was steady and it was pretty hot (80’s and humid). The power lines that Don mentions in his 2004 report are now quite overgrown and I noticed a couple of “no trespassing signs”. The road seems to be an easier way to go. Mike’s report from 2000 mentions that the gate at 2.9 miles was closed but it was open when I went and it looks like it hasn’t been closed in quite some time. There were also fresh tire tracks on the ground, so a high clearance vehicle had been up recently. There were a dozen hawks circling the summit riding on the thermals. It spooked me a bit whenever a shadow crossed me, so I only spent a few minutes on the top. It was about 4m round trip from the washout and I ran it in 37:32. I imagine on a clear day the view would be great, but it was very hazy on this day.
Washout where I parked
Floyd County, VA - Buffalo Mtn (3,971 ft)
The previous trip reports will get you to the top, however I decided to park just as the road got sketchy, mostly because I wanted to make sure I’d get enough of a run in. As mentioned in other reports the gate was open, I’m guessing it is rarely shut as I passed by at 6:30 AM on a Sunday. It turned out I got more than expected because the “old road” is now quite overgrown. There is however an excellent summit trail that hooks a bit to the south of the mountain. The grade is pretty gentle and there are plenty of switchbacks. The footing is excellent. I decided to try and make it to the summit for sunrise but due to the longer distance I topped out just as the sun was rising above the foggy lowlands. I missed sunrise by about 20 minutes but it was still a great time to be on top. Fog completely blanketed the farmlands below. I never found the benchmark on the summit. The total round trip was about 5 miles, 11:56 to the parking lot and another 12:42 to the top. 10 minutes to take pictures and look for the BM then 10:44 down to the parking lot and another 9:44 to the car (total running time 45:07). Total climb 871’.

Patrick County, VA – Rocky Knob (3,572’)
The previous trip reports are correct. I parked at the Saddle overlook and ran the trail to the top. The cabin was under construction and cordoned off. This high point could also be done by parking at the overlook to the south, near the Rocky Knob overlook and information center. That would be slightly longer and would climb 372’ rather than the 192’ from the Saddle overlook. I had planned on running from one end to the other but already have enough mileage for the day and was pretty sore from racing, so I settled for the less than 1 mile (7:41) round trip.

Pictures from all of these hikes can be found at:

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