Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pink Beds Hike in Pisgah Forest

A sunny spring day was perfect for a hike of the Pink Beds Loop trail in Pisgah National Forest.  This easy 5 mile loop trail is in a highlands valley, so it is relatively flat–the flattest 5 miles in the forest.  Another trail intersects the loop, so you could also make it a 3 mile loop if 5 miles sounds too intimidating.  During the hike you cross several streams and the South Fork of the Mills River, all on sturdy foot bridges.  There is also a large boggy area, created by beaver dams, that has a new boardwalk to make passage much easier than before.  You also pass through fern-filled forest, mountain laurel “tunnels” and fields of wildflowers
Following a stream
There were trillions of trilliums on the trail. (Well, there were literally thousands, but “trillions of trilliums” is more fun to say!)
Dog Hobble in bloom
A beaver dam
Section of the new boardwalk over the beaver bog area
The old trail, replaced by the boardwalk, disappears into boot-sucking mud

Monday, October 22, 2012

More Praise For Ash Grove From Our Guests

"Mark and Steven,
This is our 6th year of coming to Ash Grove to celebrate my brother's birthday!  He will turn 41 tomorrow and we all hope to enjoy many more celebrations in the years to come!
We all live in different states and of course have busy lives, but the beauty and peacefulness of this place helps soothe our souls and minds!  Each time we are here we find new unexplored territory to make memories with--what an amazing place!
Thanks to you both, Mark and Steven, for your kindness and generosity!  We will be back next year and years to come if God is willing!
Till next year, we wish you the best Ala, Pat, [et al.]"

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hiking Bracken Preserve, Brevard, NC

I finally was able to get away and hike at the newly opened Bracken Preserve on 13 August, 2012.  The parking area is a 5 minute drive from Downtown Brevard.  There is a loop trail that is a little over 5 miles and a continuation of the trail connects with Pisgah National Forest. The trail is mostly moderate (for people who can hike in the mountains). The first few hundred yards of the trail is probably the steepest--it is on a narrow right-of-way up to the Preserve, so there wasn't enough room to do more switchbacks--but it isn't any steeper than many of the other trails in the area.

I recommend hiking the loop in a clockwise direction (Bracken Mountain Trail, blue blazes to Mackey Ridge Trail, yellow blazes to Brushy Creek Trail, red blazes), although on my next trip there, I will probably do it in the reverse order.  With the trail being so new, it is very smooth with few roots and rocks, so I spent lots of time looking out at the scenery, rather than down at my feet : )

Part of the scenery was lots of mushrooms along the trail.

The trails are well marked with blazes and signs, so it would be difficult to get lost.

While there are no large waterfalls, there is a smaller waterfall and other water features.  Creek crossings are by bridge, not wet crossings.

I saw these scattered bones and some fur on the trail--something had a snack!

I frequently find fields of ferns to be fun.

With water & snack breaks, photo breaks, enjoying the beauty breaks and a couple of catch my breath breaks, the loop took exactly 3 hours to complete.  I can't wait to go back and take some friends!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bracken Preserve Opened 27 July 2012

Bracken Preserve, a 400 acre parcel of land which is owned by the City of Brevard and adjoins the Pisgah National Forest, is now open to the public.  It is the former watershed for Brevard.  It can be seen when you stand on Main Street and look west--it's the mountain in the distance.

photo courtesy of

The city has constructed a 5-mile loop trail on the property, as well as a spur trail that connects to FS 475C in Pisgah Forest.  Future plans include a dedicated connection to the downtown and to the multi-use bike path that starts just north of downtown and connects to the Davidson River Campground in Pisgah Forest.

map courtesy of City of Brevard

I'm looking forward to my first hike on the trails!  (soon, I hope)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Another Great Review for Ash Grove

This Google+ review is from one of our recent guests.  We couldn't be more pleased by this feedback.  Thanks Jeff G!
Quality 3 / 3
"Ash Grove is probably the best kept secret in the mountains of Western NC. Nestled in the lush, sub tropical Pisgah national forrest, and just a stones throw away from the charming town of Brevard NC, I can not think of a better place to relax and leave the complexities of life behind. The owners are helpful, friendy, and they aim to please. The hike-in tent sites were some of the best I have ever experienced. They are very secluded, level, and offer fire rings and picnic tables. There are wheel barrows to bring your gear in, and they will also deliver firewood to the trail head at a bargain. Ash Grove also offers cabins and RV sites with full Hook-ups. What I liked best is that Ash Grove is a great compromise with secluded, naturlasitic surroundings, but offers the conveniences of clean modern facilities and a variety of local attractions that make spending a week there a camping trip to remeber. Whether you want to do some trout fishing, browse the local artists galleries, take in some scenic hiking, or explore the wonderful town of Brevard NC, there is something near by for everyone. My only complaint is that I could not stay longer."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Some Spring Flowers

Some flowers--both wild and cultivated--here at Ash Grove.  And a Yellow Swallowtail butterfly who visited the other day
A Wildflower

Cultivated Iris

Wild Mountain Iris

Yellow Swallowtail butterfly

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Hiking in Western North Carolina

We have had some incredibly beautiful and mild weather this winter in Transylvania County--perfect hiking weather.  In summer, with the trees loaded with leaves, the vistas can be limited, but this time of year, on a clear day you can see forever.  Here are some shots from recent outings at East Fork Falls (just 5 miles from Ash Grove), Sassafras Mountain (the highest point in South Carolina, about 1/2 hour from Ash Grove) and Dupont State Forest (just 10 minutes from Ash Grove and home to 6 spectacular waterfalls and 90+ miles of hiking and mountain biking trails).
View from Sassafras Mtn, SC
More from Sassafras Mountain
Another view from Sassafras Mtn

Mark at Sassafras Mountain
East Fork Falls, near Ash Grove

Granite outcropping in Dupont State Fores

Friends Jim, Steven & Ron

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Best of 2011

Fern Glen, Holmes State Forest

As a way to say "Happy New Year!", we thought we would share some of our favorite photos from 2011.
Looking Glass Rock, Pisgah Forest

Rainbow Falls, Near Gorges State Park

Horsepasture River, Near Gorges State Park

Winter Sky and Trees, Ash Grove
Upper Falls at Graveyard Fields. Pisgah Forest

Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest

Wintergreen Falls, Dupont State Forest

Connestee Falls, Brevard, NC
View of Mountains in Snow near Ash Grove Cabins, Jan 2011

Looking Glass Falls in Snow, Jan 2011

Saturday, August 27, 2011

From a Recent Guest

One of our recent (and repeat) guests wrote this review of Ash Grove on Yelp:

"Cabins?  Yeah.  RV sites? Yeah, those too...  Tent sites?  NOW you're talkin'!  And while Ash Grove has a few tent sites with Wi-Fi, that's not the reason we go there... it's the walk-to sites below the bath house that we find most appealing.

Mark and Stephen bought this property and added these very campsites back in 2003.  To access them, you need to take a walk in the woods... The trails to the sites are very well maintained and mulched; wheelbarrows are provided to help you lug your gear to the sites, and otherwise nature is left intact.  Each campsite has a nicely leveled area for your tent, a fire pit and a picnic table.  A few of the sites have a clothesline already strung, but I suspect those were just left by previous campers and not taken down.  (I don't know how much good they'll do beneath the tree canopy, at least when trees are in leaf!)

The bathhouse at Ash Grove is meticulously well-taken care of.  Each side has a couple of sinks, three commodes and two shower stalls, as well as electrical outlets.  They even have a hair dryer on each side.  Water pressure is ample, and the water is certainly hot enough.  Just outside the bathhouse is a double sink for doing dishes, and there is a washer and dryer for your convenience.  That said, this is NOT a KOA!  You really get a sense of nature here, and depending on your campsite can actually get a workout walking up and down the trails.

The location of Ash Grove is also spectacular.  It's about 6 miles south of Brevard - a wonderful city in and of itself, and WELL worth exploring - which just happens to also be the gateway to the Pisgah National Forest - with all of the wonders that that entails!  Ash Grove is also about eight miles north of the best waterfalls that the DuPont State Forest has to offer.  Additionally, Ash Grove is topographically more than a thousand feet above Brevard, and so the average temperature is perhaps 8 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Brevard.

With that in mind, Ash Grove also has a hot tub that is open roughly from October until early May(?), depending on the weather.

Another thing we found thoroughly delightful is that Ash Grove is a campground with *Rules*.  No, we're not talking about a sign that says NO! ...followed by everything you want to do.  The Rules at Ash Grove are Rules that you might make up to remind folks of the Golden Rule.  Keep the place clean.  Don't make excessive noise.  Don't be a  jerk.  Remember you are sharing the forest with other living beings.  You know, those sorts of things!

We're already looking forward to our next trip to Ash Grove.  Oh yeah, you'll want to make your reservations early... they have fewer than 20 of the tent sites, so you know they'll go quickly!"

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Graveyard Fields Hike

I was able to get away from Ash Grove for a little while yesterday (27 Jul 2011) and went to Graveyard Fields for a hike.  It has been hot here in the mountains, so I wanted to go to a high elevation where it is cooler, and the Fields, on the Blue Ridge Parkway, has an elevation of 5120'.  It was 76 degrees in the parking lot.
Why the name Graveyard Fields?  The sign at the beginning of the Graveyard Fields Trail reads: "A natural disaster occurred here 500 to 1000 years ago. A tremendous "wind-blow" uprooted the spruce forest. Through the years the old root stumps and trees rotted, leaving only dirt mounds. These odd mounds gave the appearance of a graveyard, and the area became known as Graveyard Fields.
The forest eventually recovered, only to be destroyed by a catastrophic fire in 1925. This fire consumed the entire spruce-fir forest and the ancient mounds. The forest again is slowly recovering. The 1925 fire burned deeply, destroying the soils nutrients. Blackberry briers and other small plants have taken hold, adding decaying vegetation to the earth each season, gradually enriching the soil. With time, this process will establish larger plants and trees. A spruce-fir forest might once again flourish in Graveyard Fields."
There were a LOT of cars in the parking lot, but I knew that most people would be headed for the 2nd Falls, which is a great swimming spot, so I headed for the Upper Falls, less spectacular, but beautiful none the less.  It is a hike of about 3.5 miles, round trip.  The blackberries and blueberries that cover the mountainside were a little past their prime (and well picked over), but I managed to find a few succulent berries.  You pass through a mixed grassland and small-treed river valley for much of the hike.  The open grassland provides habitat for many wildflowers.

The clouds of honeybees on these golden flowers were so intent on gathering the nectar that they didn't even notice my passing.   Further on were some Turks Cap Lilies, this one hosting a butterfly. 

When first arriving at the waterfall, you are at the tail of the falls (you can't see the main part from there) and I heard a couple of people say, "We hiked all this way for THIS?!?"  I wouldn't have been disappointed if the tail was the whole falls, but there is so much more.  The main cascade is 50' or so.  The other time that I hiked here was in our drought about 3 or 4 years ago, and there was hardly a trickle coming down, but I was rewarded this time.
This is a great moderately-easy hike that just about everyone could enjoy.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Summer's Day Hike in Holmes Forest

Trail through a fernery
Wide well-maintained trail

Instructional signs

Forest creature

First wild rhododendron bloom of the season

Wildflowers in the forest

Scenic vistas
Holmes Educational State Forest is about 15 minutes from Ash Grove, just on the other side of Dupont State Forest.  The 235 acre forest has rock outcroppings, streams, scenic vistas and is a mixture of hardwoods and softwoods.  Educational programs are its primary mission.  In addition to ranger-led programs, they have an old firefighting helicopter on display, a fire tower, talking trees, and signs on the trails telling about the forest.
I hiked the "Demonstration Trail", a 4-5 mile loop.  The trail starts at the Forestry Center, near the parking lot, which is in the Crab Creek valley.  There is a 400' elevation gain in 0.7 mile on the trail, so while it's not extremely steep, it does take some work to get to the top.  The trail is well-maintained and has steps on some of the steeper parts.  It is a great hike to take by yourself or can be a fun outing for the whole family.