If you’ve been reading our blog for any amount of time, you know that our adventures always come with a healthy side of MISadventure… It’s okay though, we always make it through and in the end, it’s pretty comical. In the moment, maybe a bit less so. LOL Our first planned hike for the South Beyond 6000 was no exception.
Getting there is half the battle… Literally!
Where to start.. oh boy. So, for our first set of peaks, we headed out towards Black Balsam Knob. Lauren and I met at our usual spot, the super fancy Wal-Mart parking lot right off the highway. She loaded up her dogs in my truck, as Roxie let out her ritual growl, pretending to be big or bad or idk to claim her territory? She literally does this every time, immediately followed by snuggling, so yeah. We put the address for the trailhead in the GPS and headed off. The drive went pretty smoothly, the dogs snoozing away and we chatted, until we made it to the parkway. We’re driving along and all of a sudden the road is closed. Yup, the fated “road closed” gate. 7 miles from the trailhead.
There was a park ranger at the overlook nearby, so I stopped to find out how much of the parkway was closed. He said something about an issue with one of the tunnels a little ways up and gave me some rapid-fire directions that I only half heard. Something about going back the way we came and WAY out of the way. Fun. We followed what I caught of his directions and then stupidly trusted Lauren’s GPS to get us back on the parkway once we got close. It told us to turn up this dirt road and follow it for a few miles, which would put us back on the parkway. So we do, right past a “No Outlet” sign. Why we didn’t believe the sign, I have no idea. Surely the GPS knew better… HAHA! No. The longer we follow the road, the looser it gets. Turns out the recent rains had completely washed out the road, so there was a construction crew dumping piles of dirt everywhere to rebuild it. The loose, muddy dirt that we were sliding all over on. Thank goodness for 4LOW!
Oh I forgot to mention that it’s a one lane road (if that) and the crew is actively working on it. So we had to stop and wait a bunch of times for them to find a way to get out of the road so we could pass them. They were all super nice about it, but I felt like a huge jerk. ESPECIALLY when we got maybe 500 ft past the last worker and came to yet another LOCKED GATE. Yup, about 8 miles in and the last bit of road that we needed to drive to get to the parkway was on private property. Shit. So, after all that work dodging construction equipment and trying not to fly off of washed out road or get stuck in potholes, we got to turn around and do it all over again. You just have to laugh!
I asked one of the workers for directions on the way out and the guy had the THICKEST accent I’ve ever heard. You know that mountain accent that you know is English but you have no idea how? That one! The dip in his cheek didn’t help either, I’m sure. So, we asked another guy (who we could understand! YAY!) and got some good directions. Thankfully these helped a lot and we made it to the trailhead, albeit about an hour and a half later than we wanted to. And then we couldn’t find the trail. Not a great start to the day, but our spirits would not be broken. We were here!
Black Balsam Knob – Distance: .7 miles | Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
The most direct route to the summit of Black Balsam Knob is via the Art Loeb Trail. Part at the parking lot near mile 420 on the BRP and walk back towards the road you came in on, where the road turns from asphalt to dirt. The Art Loeb Spur trail will be on your right on the dirt road right past the port-a-potties. The hike is fairly easy, despite a fairly steep incline, and the views are simply stunning! 360 degrees of beautiful mountain vistas in every direction. Just be careful, as there area a LOT of spur trails that can make staying on track kind of confusing. Keep the summits in sight and follow the trails in their general direction, paying attention along the way for the trek back down. It’s really easy to lose your bearing once you’re on top of these grassy balds.
The trail up to the Black Balsam summit is a mixture of rock and dirt. Pay attention to your footing and enjoy that view!
We did this hike during the week, which meant we had the summit mostly to ourselves and the dogs got to RUN.
Open balds like this are their favorite!
Seriously, every view is amazing in every direction.
After we hung out at the top of Black Balsam for a little while to capture some pictures and take it all in (while the dogs ran and played), we continued on to our next peak, Tennent Mountain.
As the trail descends down Black Balsam, it gets rocky pretty quickly. After a good rain, which this area must have seen right before our hike, the trail basically turns into a stream. Watch your footing and descend carefully, as the rocks are loose and can be slippery when wet. The dogs on the other hand, just hopped and ran down without a care in the world.
Tennent Mountain – Distance: 1.3 Miles | Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Once you hit the bottom, the trail makes a quick ascent back up to the summit of Tennent Mountain. Summit #2! Woot! The views are even better from up here than on Black Balsam. Plus, there’s that “on top of the world” feeling. Ahh…
Boomer at the highest point on Tennent Mountain
Roxie seemed to think this was an appropriate place to practice the song of her people from the top.. ARRRROOOOO!!!!
The sun was shining brightly. The air was fresh with a gentle breeze. All of the craziness of getting here.. the work to get to the top… all SO WORTH IT! We cannot wait to go back. There are 5 more peaks in this area that are calling our names! Until then, we’ll be reminiscing and cherishing all the memories we made along the way.
No matter where you live, there are beautiful, peaceful places where you can get lost in nature. What are you waiting for? Get out there and explore.. and take your dog (or adventure cat) with you.
Thanks for Reading,
Debbie & The Mutts
In our next post, we’ll tell you all about our hiking adventures in the Plott Balsams. So stay tuned!