The Plott Balsam Mountains of Western North Carolina, sometimes considered part of the Great Smoky Mountains, is one of the most scenic areas along the southern Blue Ridge Parkway. A long history exists behind the land covering the western Plotts. Until 1991, the area now called Pinnacle Park was a watershed providing the town of Sylva's residents' water. Then, Sylva's residents were in need of a better water supply, and the watershed was transformed into a public park maintained by The Pinnacle Park Foundation. The main reason of this was to allow public access to the Pinnacle, a jagged rock outcrop on the very western end of the Plott Balsams, making for a sharp ending to the long ridgeline. Nearby, the exceptionally steep and rugged peak of Blackrock was previously on private land, until just a handful of years ago when the Blackrock Ridge Tract was purchased. Since then, these two features are fully connected to trails extending from the Blue Ridge Parkway. This hike occurred on Saturday, November 1st, 2014. My plan was to hike the West Fork Trail from the Pinnacle Park trailhead to the summit of Blackrock, and if time would permit, to Waterrock Knob. Along the way, I would take the side trail to The Pinnacle.
Polk County, Tennessee, is the Gateway to the Cherokee National Forest. In this beautiful corner of extreme southeast Tennessee, the rivers cut their way through valleys, bordered by the low-lying peaks of the Unicoi Mountains. The Benton Mackaye Trail's route goes straight through the area, following rolling hills and wooded slopes. One of the more prominent landmarks in the area is called Buck Bald, a small mountain with the summit being nothing more than a grassy clearing accessible via Buck Bald Road. While the BMT doesn't directly go over the top, it passes close by, and access to the bald is easy. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 25th, 2014. My plan was from Highway 68 to follow the Benton Mackaye Trail north to Buck Bald Road, and then take Buck Bald Road to the summit of Buck Bald. This short hike is an excellent way to spend your afternoon and watch the sunset.
Mount LeConte is one of the most famous mountains in the Southeast. 3rd highest in the Great Smoky Mountains, it has as many as five access trails to the summit. I have done only one, but it is beautiful. Along the way up to LeConte, pass Arch Rock - an arch formed by water over the course of millions of years, and Alum Cave Bluffs - a huge rock overhang of Anakeesta Rock. Also, see the red squirrels, unique to the Southeast, that are found in this area. Near the summit, visit Mount LeConte Lodge and spend the night in the romantic-based lodge or cabins, or if you're like me, squeeze it all in a day hike. It's not that hard. This hike occurred on Saturday, October 18th, 2014. My plan was starting at the Alum Cave Bluffs Trailhead to follow the Alum Cave Trail all the way to the summit of Mt. LeConte. Then, I would visit Cliff Tops, Myrtle Point, and High Point. However, my plans did not include an excellent day changing to wind, fog, and drizzle.
Year 1: 540.0 Miles
Year 2: 552.3 Miles
Year 3: 518.4 Miles
Year 4: 434.5 Miles