Apr 18, 2011 at 2:13 pm #1272465
I'm planning a four day loop in the Shining Rock wilderness. My plan is to start at the Hwy 215 parking lot for the MST, hike to the Green Mtn./Fork Ridge Trail intersection, and camp on that amazing bald up there on my travel day; (1) take the Green Mtn./Fork Ridge trail north to the Rec area at Hwy 215;(2) take the Green Mtn./Fork Ridge east to where it intersects the Art Loeb around Ivestor gap; (3) go south on the Art Loeb to the MST and back to my car.
I'm looking for more information on the Fork Ridge/Green Mtn. Trail from someone who has been there. Specifically, I'm curious about the availability of decent campsites and water sources on leg (2) of the trip, from Sunburst to Ivestor. I've been up the Fork Ridge/Green Mtn. about one and a half miles from the MST, and I've been up the Art Loeb to Shining Rock, but the area I'm going this time is completely unknown to me and lightly traveled.
EliApr 18, 2011 at 8:11 pm #1726390
No water on the Green Mt. Ridge. Nice campsite at Green Mountain. There's a steam when you begin to bend north to go around Mt. Hardy that the trail (MST) crosses @ 1/2 mile before the right turn to Green. Get plenty there.
The last 2-3 miles of the Green Mt Ridge before 215 drops about 2500 feet or more. Often 25% to 30% or more. It is a bear and beyond; approaching dangerous if the roots/leaves are damp and slippery. Just falls straight down the ridge. Be prepared!
Also in higher water crossing the pigeon is not easy. The crossing is about 200 yards upstream from where the green mt.leg meets the road. There's a house sized rock in the stream with remnants of what used to be a dam or something like metal rods sticking out if I remember correctly and maybe part of a wall on the far side?. People use the big rock to dive into the nice big swimming hole. The crossing is @ 60 yds or more up from that.
The trail follows the river upstream a ways and the turns left and goes up a small side stream @ 3/4 mile? before beginning a series of about 10/12 switchbacks and you top out on the ridge in near virgin hardwoods. I'd get water from this stream before the switchbacks. Nice camp-site right there on the first ridge top with the big hardwoods but dry. The trail back along fork ridge to Ivestor gets elusive at times but may be easier to follow now if not hidden in knee deep ground cover like it was mid-August when I did it. Seems to basically skirt the knobs to the left or north side. I'd maybe get a couple of way-points along there just in case. There's a beautiful open meadow/bald about a mile before the trail meets the road/trail to Ivestor; You can see it on google earth. It's a great campsite and there may be water a ways up the trail towards Ivestor and over to the left/north just where the trail begins to leave the open Bald area and re-enter the woods. Pretty and varied scenery……….but that last leg of the descent down Green Mountain Ridge to 215 is an effort. I'm going down the valley west of the Green Mountain Ridge next time………but do that ridge once at least. Its a pretty hike.
PS: Mt Tennent is pretty. Also if you have already done the last stretch on the MST back to 215 consider a detour up to Sams Knob and down Flat Laurel Branch or creek, whatever it's called to the car park at 215…….IF you haven't done that stretch of the MST by all means take that as it's also really pretty. If you have the time and haven't been to Courthouse Rock take that side trip. You've planned a really nice loop; maybe one of the best I've seen in NC for huge views, great scenery and variety with up to 5 6000 footers along the route, large balds and pretty expansive open meadows,waterfalls, big canadian zone red spruce and some really big hardwoods out fork ridge. It's like a Whitmans sampler of high Appalachian scenery/ terrain and botany, ( and frankly imho kicks azz on Roan but hey everybody has an opinion.what r blogs for? ) And PPS: the bears around there are regularly and strongly discouraged from the presence of people.Apr 19, 2011 at 3:29 pm #1726728
Thanks for the excellent detailed information! Looking forward to the trip even more now!Apr 19, 2011 at 7:03 pm #1726813
@wufpackfnLocale: NC/TN/VA Mountains
Something for your next trip.
The 276 side of the Shining Rock wilderness has good trails into wilderness and AT.
Start at 276 and take the shining creek trail to the art loeb trail. Good pipe water close to the intersection. AL north passes shining rock and takes you to cold mountain. South takes you back toward investors gap. Nice campsite on the AL going south before crossing knob at investors gap.
At investors gap you have two options:
1. continue on AL to FR860,then pick up MST north. Nice campsite on hill side. You also pass a waterfall. You can continue on MST or detour through graveyard fields area. Then hook back up with MST. Continue on MST to short trail that connects you with Big East Fork. Great trail with killer campsites by the stream. This takes you back to 276 parking
2. you have the option for another trail (forgot name) that takes you to the graveyard fields area, then 1 above.
You have a lot of options and you could also include your 215 section for a nice loop or point to point.
BradApr 19, 2011 at 8:42 pm #1726854
We were also considering going from ivestor gap down the little east fork trail back up to Cold Mountain and from the back to the car. Any advise? I hear there is a cut trough around Birdstand Mountain vicinity down to intersect the Little East for trail.
-BrandonApr 20, 2011 at 6:16 pm #1727271
I didn't see or take note of a trail going down the east side of that ridge around Birdstand but wouldn't be surprised. There are use trails made by hunters and etc. In the area around Birdstand I was having to pay attention to stay with the "designated" trail. Didn't appear to get much use but it's probably obvious before the undergrowth gets high. I basically couldn't see my feet for quite a while through there……reminded me of Hawaii ( and without further elaboration I can follow a trail……… ;)
Expert gps shows trails further out the ridge past Birdstand around High top leading down to the Scout Camp. I came down little east fork once and remember intersections with trails going up the ridge to the left near the Scout Camp but none show on the "official" map. It's on my "to-do" list eventually to try basically the loop you are asking about but I think I'd stay with the ridge until near High Top…..then again I've been down little east fork and it is pretty. If you want to see more of that take a chance around Bird-Stand….. give it a try and let us know? It's only about 1000 feet total drop from the ridge to little east fork…. even if it's a thrash of sorts it won't be that bad…….. but no I did not specifically note a trail down the east side of Fork Mountain Ridge. There is a way to access older maps that may show an abandoned trail or an old road. It might be through something like the Library of Congress. I'll try to find out when I get a chance.Apr 21, 2011 at 6:08 am #1727424
Thank you I read on another guy's page about that trail http://www.brendajwiley.com/fork_mountain.html
see map at bottomApr 21, 2011 at 8:47 am #1727487
Nice work Brandon! And nice work Brenda J.Wiley.
As far as Brenda's comments about the trail juncture or beginning on the shoulder of Tennent. The road from Black Balsam Parking lot leads or runs along @ the 5800 level but rises to cross the shoulder of Tennent that runs out NW to form Fork Mountain Ridge.
Once you cross that saddle and can see Ivestor Gap the trail is on that North side just over the crest of the saddle. It is possibly obscured with high vegetation in the summer for the first couple hundred yards but it follows an old road along the north side of Fork Mountain Ridge about @ 100 feet in elevation below the ridge crest out to that beautiful bald in Brenda's photos and beyond. The ridge is fairly narrow so the trail can be easily found especially since it is on the north side and again it's an old road. Based on Brenda's photos ( the one looking down on the bald saddle from the north) she was right on the ridge crest and the road/trail was down the ridge to her right I'd say less than 100 yards.
The part of the trail that was elusive to me is the section where it slabs along the grade on the north side of Birdstand staying maybe a couple hundred feet below the summit. In August there was a lot of ground cover and the trail crosses a rocky boulder field area on the north slope of Birdstand towards the western end. This may be less elusive depending on the undergrowth or even if coming from the Southeast or Tennent direction than coming from the NW or 215 direction.
Now that I've seen this I think I'd loop from the Tennent/Black Balsam parking direction and drop down to the old road Brenda shows; then go RIGHT on that road to the more upper part of the little east fork because it is a really pretty stream and the trail follows it all the way to the scout camp.
As far as Eli is concerned the parts of this discussion that impact him are: The route goes /slabs the north side of Birdstand along the grade of another old road/trail you will be on for the final part of your climb up from 215 And the first part of your hike along the main ridge to the SE. The place where the "TRAIL" leaves the "ROAD" to your left can be missed so look for it. ( if you miss it like I did the old road abruptly peters out about 200 yards on. I "quartered at that point and when that failed I back-tracked. It is marked in the traditional way with a small tree trunk/limb across the "road" but there's also fallen stuff all along so that didn't initially "ring a bell" plus it goes up and over and back down the road shoulder so there's no visual of a trail going off that way and it being a wilderness area no signs) Also Eli the link Brandon posted has some good photos of that meadow camping spotApr 21, 2011 at 12:08 pm #1727586
Our plan is: From Mount Hardy up the Fork ridge/ Green Mountain trail to 215, 215 up to Birdstand THEN cutting through to that old logging road to meet up with the upper part of little east fork, from there all the way around to Camp Daniel Boon and up to Cold Mountain, then back down to shining rock- out the Ivestor gap trail to Black Balsam road parking lot, over the road along the MST back to our car parked where the MST crosses 215 near mount Hardy. Without the cut-through our estimates are that that is a 30 mile loop and with the cut-through it is about a 24 mile loop.
Also, any camping near Birdstand besides the one at the top of the first ridge? What about on the Little East fork?
– BrandonApr 21, 2011 at 8:05 pm #1727795
Brandon are you and Eli hiking together?
The pretty spot I meantioned earlier on the trsil up from the pigeon and 215 is not at the absolute ridge top but maybe a couple hundred feet and 1/3-1/2 mile from the main ridge top. It's just where the switchbacks and the big climb from 215 top out on a more level spur ridge. The trail along the main ridge top going SE towards Birdstand and on to Tennent is flat, open and level before the trail leaves that old road to slab north around Birdstand. There may be a very small stream between that first campsite on the spur ridge and the main ridgetop…….. I remember a sharp 90 degree turn in the road/trail and maybe a tiny stream a couple hundred yards past the first campsite but hmmmm not sure. Of course the ridgetop is dry. The "trail" along the little east fork is also an old road and there's bound to be lots of camping spots but I wasn't looking for them. (it was October and we'd gone up to Cold Mt from the Scout Camp @ 10 AM, across the causeway and to Shining Rock and we were heading back to the Scout Camp so it was late on a long day and we were moving!) There are camping spots on Silvermine bald on your last leg and also on the ridge before you get to Chestnut "no longer bald" plus there's a great spot in a planted red spruce grove @ 1 mile or so past the turn-offs to Little Sams and/or Courthouse Rock or maybe 2 miles from 215……. so it may be too close to the finish. If you have any interest in "tagging" the summit of any of those 6000 footers I might be able to help with that.
Just like I told Eli the last 2 miles down the Green Mountain ridge to 215 is NO FUN. And take some time scouting the pigeon crossing. The info provided by Brenda really solves a problem with making a "greater" loop in eliminating the "gap" between the end of the Middle Prong and Green Mountain Ridge Trails at 215 with the end of the Art Loeb at the Scout Camp. Now If I can get some good "beta" on the old trail up to Double Spring Gap and Lickstone Ridge to Richland Balsam from the Middle Prong! That whole area is riddled with old roads and old rail beds. You'll see all sorts of old rail stuff on the leg from 215 to Mt Hardy. I love those old rail beds…such a steady grade…unlike old roads which can run along at 13 to 15% or ridgeline trails where you sometimes feel like you need to be roped up. There are stretches coming off the Green Mt ridge where it seems like you could stand facing the slope, put a hiking pole 90 degrees off your forehead and darn near touch the slope. I'd say it's "class 3" when wet
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