Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A hike up Glassy Mountain

It might seem as if all we are doing recently is hiking… and it isn’t far from the truth! This time of year it feels as if there is such a short window before the summer heat makes trudging through the woods unbearable, and so we are taking full advantage of every beautiful spring day! With guests curious to see more of the area and a small group of moms dedicated to getting out on hikes, we set our sights on Glassy Mountain – part of the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site.

Located in the town of Flat Rock, the park is three miles south of Hendersonville, NC on Little River Road. You might find the route familiar, especially if you’ve visited Sky Top Orchard to pick apples. We parked in the designated lot and packed up our gear, then headed a couple hundred feet down to the ‘contact station’ to meet the rest of our group. The station sits adjacent to the dam on Front Lake, and while we waited we took a look around. The Front Lake Loop trail departs around both sides of Front Lake from this point, and the Kids in Parks TRACK Trail kiosk is at the entrance. We were happy to see that since our last visit a brand new TRACK trail had been installed, the “Citizen Science TRACK Trail” being the first of its kind in the program (it was opened on April 27th, and features pH and other measurement stations around the lake). We chose brochures more appropriate for our hike, ‘Nature’s Hide and Seek’ and ‘The Need for Trees,’ and then took in the view from the bridge over the dam.

While we spotted a few snakes on our way in, it was on our way out that we were treated to quite a sight; two brown water snakes were mating; it was fascinating watching these large reptiles in their natural habitat from the safety of our perch high above the creek.

The short, ¼ mile road that leads up to the Carl Sandburg home features a view of the pasture while climbing the 100 feet in elevation to reach the main house. Carl Sandburg and his family lived in the house from 1945 until his death in 1967. A tour is available for a fee; see the Carl Sandburg NHS website for schedules. The park’s Visitor Center is located on the lower level of the house, and this is where you can purchase tour tickets as well as browse the gift shop and obtain brochures. We were headed past the house to the dairy barn, home of the resident goat herd.

On previous trips to Carl Sandburg we made note to return in the spring to visit the baby goats. Mrs. Sandburg owned and operated a premier goat dairy from 1935 to 1965, the Grade A milk being distributed to local dairies and sold in stores around the community. The goat breeding program that produced champion goats continues today at the historic site, with three breeds of goats calling the park home. Our timing was perfect, as we were able to meet a half-dozen kids, ranging from 10 weeks to 10 minutes old.

This kid had just been born!

The goat farm is unique in that visitors can walk in the pasture with the goats (and in the enclosure with the babies!) as well as explore the barn, not only meeting the goats, but petting them and watching them feed & interact. Although the birth of a kid was just luck on our part, if you visit in the spring you will get the chance to pet some baby goats, and watching them wobble around on uncertain legs was the highlight of this hike.

We spent an hour at the goat farm before heading past the vegetable gardens to the apple orchard. Here at the trout pond Orchard Trail intersected with Spring Trail, which would take us up to Memminger Trail Loop and the Glassy Mountain Trail.

The trout pond

From the House to the Glassy Mountain overlook it is 1.25 miles, a 523 foot elevation change that just doesn’t quit. Although there are several other options for reaching Glassy Mountain from the parking lot, they are all about the same length with the same workout. We paused often, taking the kids’ minds off the climb, which although not extremely steep is steady; there are no breaks other than the ones taken stationary.

It was with profound relief that we reached the top of Glassy Mountain and dug out our snacks, enjoying a long rest to explore, snap photos and soak in the view. The exposed rock makes for interesting plant communities in the various seeps, and the overlook is the only spot in the park with a view of the mountains.

When thunder rumbled off in the distance we were quick to pack up and start our descent. Although getting stuck in a rainstorm wouldn’t have been the worst thing, we didn’t want to be caught on the mountain with lightning nearby. We were back at the trout pond before we knew it, and soon enough the kids were back in the goat barn petting the baby goats.

Our guest tracked our hike and ended up with a mileage of 4.5 miles – about 4 up and down Glassy Mountain with another ½ mile of scrambling after the boys (the best online map of the trails I found was this one on National Park Planner). This hike definitely required a little more oomph than our usual hikes, and with the time spent at the goat barn totaled over 4 hours. The feedback from those with shorter legs was unanimous – not hiking this trail again! The general feeling was that the goats were the main attraction, and although the view from Glassy Mountain was beautiful, similar vistas can be had in the Upstate without the steep hike. Although I enjoyed the hike, I didn’t enjoy the prodding that came with it, and think I would be able to enjoy the scenery along the trail better on a hike without the kids.

A pink lady slipper orchid

We piled into the car for the short ride back into Flat Rock for a stop at the bakery. Along with some pizza baked in the brick oven in the back, we can also vouch for the coffee, croissants and various breads - definitely worth the stop on your way home after a day at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site!


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