Fri, Aug 3 2018 - Shining Rock Wilderness Backpacking Friday-Sunday (View Original Event Details)|
We had a great time although visiting North Carolina during monsoon season can be a challenge even for the most dedicated backpacker. The rain gear was never put away really. The eight brave souls who'd read the forecast showed up anyway and we drove the 3 and a half hours to Black Balsam Mountain parking area. The lot was full of cars and vans. The area has several short distance hikes in which to bring in gear for an overnight that is enjoyed by many backpackers including youth and education groups. We hiked headed out from the lot along the Flat Laurel Creek Old Railroad Grade trail section. Within minutes we were in a full monsoonal downpour. Several families passed, one dad, asking me, "Where does this trail lead?" I peered out under my rain hood and told him, he had no gear on of his own and neither did his kids. After an hour the group reached the beginning of the Flat Laurel Creek series of campsites. We split up and began scouting and ranking the sites for water access and dry places to pitch a tent. There were no agreeable options. So, we crossed the swollen creek with some of us standing in the middle to spot the others on the slippery rocks and strong current. According to plan, we had come up on a Friday so we could find empty spaces, and it paid off. In the field across the creek, we began setting up camp in an already saturated wetland. To add insult to injury another downpour came within minutes of the first tent being pulled from its stuff sack. We scrambled to pitch tarps and huddle. Eventually, the rain ceased and we got set up and ready to hike again only to realize it was 7 pm already, so we made a circle on a patch of high ground surrounded by grassy mud puddles and lit the stoves. Dinner at sunset was very tranquil until Todd came over to report he'd seen a bear in the field just beside the camp and a few minutes after that he went to his tent to discover the bear had sneaked in, bit his yellow plastic egg holder, and was rewarded with an early breakfast. We were unsettled by the bear's lack of fear and stealthiness. And, it kept us on guard the rest of the evening and night. Fortunately, he didn't show up a second time, although at one point we heard hikers screaming "get away bear" as a show of force just up the hill from us. Needless to say, Todd was actually thrilled by the encounter. Although we were all using bear vaults, it goes to show how careful we must be to protect these animals from associating us as their food source. None of us were ever aware of the bear nor would we ever have expected it to sneak in for a snack at dusk like it did. It was a learning experience for sure. The next morning some of us headed up to the top of Sam Knob to great the sun and the sea of low lying clouds filling in all the valleys of the surrounding terrain. We had breakfast, got all food vaulted away and then headed out for a full day of hiking to Black Balsam, Tennant Mt., and back along the Iverstor Gap. We met the crowds again in the parking lot and the awkward one lane trail up to Black Balsam. We had lunch on top in view of Looking Glass Rock and the BRP. We then headed further up the trail to Tennant Mountain all along the way stopping for the ample supplies of fresh blackberries and blueberries along the trial. On top of ol Tennant all covered with clouds, we began our decent and eventually got our scheduled afternoon rain storm. This one more fierce with thunder and lightning. By the time we got to the parking lot, it was flooding and thoughts of being cold and we and some of our tents being flooded made for an easily accepted option to get back down to strike the camp asap and call it a day, which we did! As we frantically hiked back down the trail to break the camp, the trail was full of flowing water. We saw many hikers again without rain gear. The swift pace warmed us up again as did the sun that came out eventually and made for a beautiful mountain scenery of wet sparkling wildflowers in the valley. Some tents and sleeping gear were under water! It was the wettest camp situation many of us had ever been in. Though the weather had improved, we stuck to plan and packed up as the skies were still darkish and thunder was still rolling here and there. Back at the cars, we decided to stop off at Kostas Family Greek Restaurant in Dillsboro, NC. It was a great meal with friendly service. All in all, it was a great trip though shortened and we hope to get back to the beauty of Shining Rock again soon!