|Hike Name:||Black Balsam Knob|
|Trip Date:||September 15, 2011|
|Trail Traffic:||Light to Moderate|
|Trip Weather:||Sunny, Partly Sunny|
|Trip Temperature:||High: 51-60, Low: 51-60 degrees Fahrenheit|
|Trip Report:||We began our journey at Black Balsam Rd. and took the Art Loeb Trail, a 30 mile trail, up to Black Balsam Knob. It was a cool 61 degrees when we arrived. For the first few minutes we were in a small forest of pine but then emerged onto a bald and the views were endless. In every direction, mountains emerged. Cold Mountain, Pilot Mountain, Looking Glass Rock, and Mt. Pisgah were all visible. The Art Loeb trail is very narrow and rocky but easy to walk in this section due to little elevation change. When we got to the knob, we discovered crowds of people along the 6214' summit.
From there we continued on the Art Loeb trail and descended through a tight squeeze of rhododendron and mountain laurel. It was tall enough to eliminate any views but short enough to keep the warm sun on our backs. Walking through such a tight space at a fast pace made me feel as if I were on a roller coaster. Just like a typical roller coaster, it was over in a matter of minutes and we were soon climbing up Tennent Mountain.
The rocky summit rests at 6040' and is named after Dr. Gallard Stoney Tennent. According to a plaque at the summit he "established organized hiking in North Carolina". Just like the knob, the summit seemed very popular with the crowds so we didn't linger long. We continued on the Art Loeb trail until reaching the Shining Rock Wilderness sign at Ivestor Gap. We wouldn't encounter many people after leaving Tennent.
At the sign for Shining Rock we took a right down a logging road at Ivestor Gap, eventually making a bend and skirted around the mountains we had already walked. The road was wet in many places and entered into a forest of spruce, fir, and birch. We had a snack at a creek and then continued down to the four-way intersection with the MST and Graveyard Ridge Trail. We took the Graveyard Ridge Trail and made a loop back around to the intersection. The loop overlooks the Graveyard Fields for part of the way and circles back around through a lush forest lined with ferns for the rest.
We arrived back at the trail intersection which offers a great camping spot, among the many great sites we passed along the way. We would take the MST to get back to parking lot and this was to be the only tough climb of the day. The first half mile would include a 500' foot elevation change to a rock face, look for white blazes on the rocks, then back down 200' and right back up 200' to the parking lot. At the rock face we took a trail in the wrong direction and ended up in a nasty marsh. One nasty dog and one pair of destroyed shoes later and we were on the right path. The trail ended just like it began, in a small forest of pine. Along the way, I could look across and see Balsam Grove amidst the mountains. It filled my mind with great memories of my childhood and for moment it seemed as if I could smell grandma's fine cooking. Summer may have been winding down but I felt right at home.