In 2018 the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased 123 acres including the western flank and summit of Brushy Knob, one of the Seven Sisters near Black Mountain, NC. To celebrate the acquisition of this valuable conservation land we led an educational hike along the outer rim of the Montreat Wilderness. Participants learned about SAHC’s role in conservation in the Black Mountains and were able to see the new acquisition firsthand. The hike consisted of 3,000′ of elevation gain over 8.5 miles! The following is one participant’s reflection on the outing…
Reflection by Karen Holmes:
“It is early Saturday morning on a spectacular fall day and I am looking forward to meeting a new hiking group and my first hike with SAHC. I have learned of this group through my neighbors and the recent protection of land. The air is cool and the sky is a beautiful Carolina blue — a chilly but perfect day to hike and make new trail friends. We meet in Montreat at the Graybeard trail head. We sign our release forms and do introductions. A sweep is needed, and I volunteer. The sweep makes sure that everyone stays in the group and allows the faster hikers to hike at their pace and the slower hikers to enjoy their pace.
We set off for the 8.5-mile hike. The first leg 4.8 miles up Graybeard with several stream crossings and a stop at the waterfall to enjoy the sights and sounds of the rushing water. I have been joined in the back of the pack with an experienced hiker and a novice hiker/musician. The experienced hiker shares his hiking knowledge about clothing, hydration, and nutrition with the novice. We lunch at Walker’s Knob shelter — most hike out to the enjoy the view at the rock outcropping. I stay behind to rest my legs and meet a beautiful young soul who works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
After lunch we summit Graybeard — a tough uphill climb where just below the summit we intersect the West Ridge Trail. The group decides to take the .3 mile spur to summit Graybeard and enjoy the mountain vistas. We encountered a lost hunting dog along the trail. I am sad to see this lost dog but happy that we are hiking along this newly protected land where nature can exist undisturbed. We meet a hiker with a leash who agrees to walk the dog off the mountain, and we are all relieved.
We head off onto the West Ridge Trail we are now far removed from development on a remote piece of wilderness. I am surprised when we pass an elderly couple with 2 small dogs walking on the trail. I smile to myself as I wonder where they came from and hope I am able enjoy this land as this sweet couple is in my upcoming years. We are fast approaching the newly acquired 123 acres tract on the Seven Sisters Brushy Knob. It is nice to see the SAHC plaque and new paint marking keeping this area undisturbed. I pass by with gratitude for this gift I have in my backyard. We continue on to Big Piney Trail to start the down trek home. We stop to enjoy the view at Rattlesnake Rock. Tired legs but happy hikers descend the trail. I have new trail friends as we wander back down into Montreat and a short walk to our cars. I am sad it has to end, but know the next hike is just around the corner, and I will have another day in the woods.”