I found the Art Loeb Trail deep in the Shining Rock Wilderness! But most every hiker in this area knows it well. The trail is named after Art Loeb (LOL), who loved and hiked Black Balsam and the surrounding mountains.

A few weeks ago, I wanted to find a different way to Tennent Mountain, and I didn’t do that but I found a back way up to the top of Black Balsam, and I found the trail for the Art Loeb extension. I did see the Art Loeb Trail and will return. My time on the mountain this day was limited. I had miles to go and people to meet in Balsam for dinner. So, I hiked up the extension hoping that somewhere along the path, I could go further to the left and end up on Tennent!

This part of the Art Loeb Extension is heavily used. We passed people going and coming. Total we hiked nearly 5 miles via this trail.

This is hands down a favorite area for me. One minute you are in mist on one side of a mountain and the next you are in the clouds! The views at 6K just can’t be beat.

On our way up, we stopped at a rocky outcropping were I took photos and just renewed my love for this area and the mountain. Did I say you can’t beat the views?!

More views from the rocks and then it was time to get back to the trail that had turned to an easy straight up.

But first, we had to drift through fall’s native grasses on the way up to the top.

Then we were up and there was that familiar skyline and the light shifts.

But topping the hill only meant more trail and then there’s Black Balsam—not Tennent Mountain! Yikes!

Rocky ascent. I remember the first time I climbed this mountain. It was the summer after my Chemo treatments ended. I was so sure that I would never make it to the top, but I did. What an absolutely fantastic feeling.

Everyone on my medical team had said, “Go slowly. Be careful. Remember you are older and you have been through major Chemo.” But I climbed a mountain—higher than anything I had climbed before and it felt over-the-top wonderful! I wasn’t tired. I wasn’t broken, and I had hiked Waterrock the day before! So, my only thought at the top of this mountain was: “Are there more of these?!”

And there are! The Shining Rock Wilderness—a place where people do get lost for days. We actually got turned around, but quickly realized where we were. We passed four overnight hikers, and one guy pointed to Shining Rock and said, “Let’s camp over there.” To which his friend said, “Are you crazy? That’s about six miles away!”

I love this scene. I just need to turn this into a print. All I have to do is think about this place and suddenly an incredible peace fills my heart.

Or this scene where the weather suddenly changes (that’s typical for these mountains). A storm approaches, sunlight filters down, you breath deep, and suddenly all that seemed wrong fades.

Plus, I found a perfect campsite. There are several of these on the top. There’s just one problem: I don’t camp. I do want to take photos of the night sky and a tent is a possibility with an open fly to the sky. I mean: Can you imagine being under the stars here? No ground lights; and if there are, they are so small that they can’t possibly change the stars above you.

As the day began to end, it was time to go back down. I’m always aware that anytime I’m on these mountains, could be the last time for the season. And since we hiked in early November, there’s a small chance of returning to this area before next spring. That only means that we’ll find other trails to hike and other places to step away from the craziness of this world.