Program Name: Pisgah Corps Mt. Mitchell Hitch 1
MDA Code: 10_NCAROL1_UFS
Max ID: 10116
Project Leader: Jonathan Kravitz
Turnpikes Installed (2)
1. 4’ x 60’
2. 4’ x 22’
Rock Steps Installed: 14 in total, 3 visible
Wood steps installed: 20
Trail Restored: 300’
Water bars with Drainage Dips (9)
1. 12’ x 30’
2. 13’ x 17’
3. 12’ x 33’
4. 4’ x 16’
5. 4’ x 26’
6. 5’ x 18’
7. 4’ x 18’
8. 4’ x 14’
9. 4’ x 12’
Rolling Dips: 3
Rock and soil moved for fill: 210 dirt bags
Revegetation and corridor restoration: 250’
The first week on Mt. Mitchell was exceptional. The crew faced several challenges in dealing with water and each other. Springs were seeping from bedrock along the first few hundred feet of the trail, emotions were running rampant; sludge and deep erosion have been brutalizing the tread for a long time. The rainforest-like climate here in the mountains of Western North Carolina receives significant amounts of precipitation and this past winter Mt. Mitchell recorded 166 inches of snowfall! The melt has severely degraded the integrity of the trail. We utilized turnpikes, check steps, drainage dips and teamwork to successfully redirect water to its appropriate place!
After experiencing rain on the second day of the hitch it became clear that the amount of erosion taking place was a result of having no place for the water to go… We spent a lot of energy moving soils and stabilizing tread surfaces with rock crush. Drainage in some areas looked like digging 20 feet off of the trail towards daylight. Drainage dips were directing water as fast as we could put them in. Previously non-existing streams were paralleling us as we worked arduously through the week to give the water an escape route. In some areas we used a grip hoist to remove large root balls in the way of our drainage ditches- using these to tighten up the corridor proved aesthetically appealing too. Precision placement of rhododendron, ferns, moss, and tree saplings by the crew leave you feeling tucked in to this 300 foot section of revegetation and restoration; a nice change from the beginning of the week where you felt like you were walking along a highway bypass. The area was very exposed and the wide tread width was hideous. There is now a well crafted and intentional place for hiking to occur and for water to flow.
Rock and crush, mineral soil and duff were moved in quantities that leave the mind in a dream-like state, one of those surreal experiences where you question if that really just happened? It did. And our backs are feeling it…. There is literally no mineral soil on the top of the highest peak in the east so we had to get primitive and beat rocks into clay. Turns out we can do that too… Actually we found a bit of mineral soil hiding under a rock right next to the trail which Johnny AKA “The Hammer” Manuel single-handedly moved with one scoop of the shovel and a wink, covering an entire 4 x 20’ section of turnpike. He also carved the rock to help it act as a stream channel, protecting the work we did in establishing a turnpike at the base of the big-@$$ rock.
Marion set many steps, moved rocks out of a creek bed in a muddy rampage that both drew you in but left you weary, she kept us laughing with her constant giggling. Patrick with his attention to organization set steps, mapped out ideas, mulched roots and conquered turnpikes. Ashley debarked trees like a beaver, dug like a fierce gofer tortoise/prairie dog and moved rocks at an alarming rate. Her biceps grew several centimeters. Justin moved rock like a Tonka Truck and fashioned a latch system to haul the canvas dirt bag, he smiled sometimes it was cool. I busted an eardrum…. no biggie...All said and done it was sweet.
We also took small pleasures in observing the scenery on our 35 minute drive from base camp to the top of the summit. The tunage on this drive included such hits as “Don’t Stop till You get enough”, Franti’s Album Songs from the front Porch, especially the hit “Sometimes”, amongst other classics and oldies. The view from the Blue Ridge Parkway is stunning and best viewed in the morning around 7 am and in the afternoon after 4:30 pm. We have enjoyed living in the cool mountain environment here in the south and look forward to finishing up some trouble sections on the trail next hitch.
The Black Mountains have drawn explorers for over 200 years. Andre Michaux an 18th century French botanist, was sent to search American forests for new species of trees with which to rebuild the forests of France. Michaux made several trips to the southern Appalachians in the 1780s. He climbed in the Blacks and just as importantly for us, he documented his adventures. Michaux is credited, as being the first European to climb the Blacks. He named them "La Montagne Noire"- what we call the Black Mountains.
Elisha Mitchell, a minister and scientist who came from Connecticut to teach at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1818, was captivated by Michaux's journals. At the time, Mt. Washington in New Hampshire was believed to be the highest mountain in the East, a belief alive and well today among much of the hiking community in the Northeast. Mitchell began exploring and measuring the Carolina mountains and in 1835 showed that the crest of the Black Mountains was higher. But which was the highest?
On subsequent trips, Mitchell climbed various peaks in the Blacks and named the present day Mt. Gibbes/Clingmans Peak- a mountain now easily recognized because of its transmission towers- as the highest. Thomas Clingman, a congressman and one of Elisha Mitchell's former students, claimed that he was the first to climb the mountain. The two men fought a battle of words which was recorded by the press and attracted as much attention as any modern-day celebrity scandal.
In 1857, Mitchell, by then 64 years old and determined to clear his reputation as the one who had first climbed the highest mountain in the East, undertook another climbing trip there. He and his party took a tourist track partway up the mountain, staying in cabins from which he explored the nearby mountains for days. On his last day, Mitchell went off by himself and was caught in a thunderstorm.
Though the record of his route is hazy, he slipped on a rocky ledge above a waterfall and fell to his death. His pocket watch, broken by the fall, stopped at 8:10:56pm. It was several days before his body was recovered. Public sentiment made Elisha Mitchell a hero and affixed the name Mitchell to the highest mountain, where he is now buried. However, Clingman was not forgotten in mountain history. His name was given to the highest mountain in Tennessee. Clingman's Dome, in Great Smokey Mountains National Park, as well as Clingmans Peak in the Blacks.
Loggers arrived in the Blacks in the 1880s, about the same time they came to the rest of western North Carolina. Before railroads, the timber was hauled out in wagons. By 1911, construction started on a railroad from the town of Black Mountain to the summit of Mt. Mitchell to more efficiently transport the prized fir and spruce trees. In 1915 North Carolina's Governor Craig, concerned about the devestation caused by logging, called for a small area around Mount Mitchell to become North Carolina's first state park. There was still plenty of timber to cut outside the new state park in what is now Pisgah National Forest.
Taken from "Hiking the Carolina Mountains" by Danny Bernstein
|About the site|
|Most Rugged Trail In the East|
|National Forests in North Carolina|
|Mount Mitchell Natural History|
|Project Leader Bio|
|Final Project Poster|
|Hitch 7a: And now for Something Completely Different...|
|Hitch 6 "Don't Stop 'Till You Get Enough"|
|Hitch 5- "Keep on keepin on"|
|Hitch 4- "Out of the Blue and Into the Blacks"|
|HItch 3... As Rugged as it Gets!|
|Hitch 1: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly|