This time we noticed some really funny things on the trail. Like this practically new left-behind shoe. Someone even placed it on the sign that asks us to help keep the trail open! Notice that the greens of summer are fading quickly.

A hula hoop! Who knows what on earth this is doing here—over 6K feet up?!

Our hiking sticks. We know how those got there but the geological marker is finally gone. Someone hacked away at the rock where it was placed until they got it out. Sad. I hope it looks good on their shelf at home.

And pathways that go nowhere . . . well they do go to off trail camping sites. These are places where people set up their tents so they can sleep under the night sky and look up at the brilliant stars above them—not a ground light in sight except for small camp fires. Romantic Black Balsam!

It is here that you see some of the most spectacular mountain balds in the Southern Appalachians that includes  Sam Knob and Tennent Mountain. These are treeless mountaintops located in the Pisgah National Forest that offer sweeping views with an alpine-like feel. They are almost entirely devoid of trees above 6,000 ft. elevation, and their summits are more reminiscent of New England than North Carolina.

You can hike three miles on the balds without dropping back into the trees. We did drop back into a small tree line on our way to Tennent. At 6,214 ft., Black Balsam Knob is the 23rd highest of the 40 mountains in North Carolina over 6,000 ft. The trailhead is rarely accessible for much of the winter since the Parkway often closes once snow or ice blankets the area. So, if you want to visit this these balds, go before the end of November. Chances are you won’t see the parkway gates open again until the following late March!

You also can hike to Tennent Mountain via Ivestor Gap and the Art Loop Trail. Google it. . . . It’s about a 4 mile hike.