Beech Knob & Fryingpan Mountain (2-3-15)
This was one of those rare hikes where a simple, straightforward, and easy plan unexpectedly turned into something rather more adventurous. Most times this happens when I call an audible during my hikes. The original plan was to take the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was closed at the time, over to Fryingpan Mountain which I had so enjoyed visiting a couple years ago. Sitting about midway along the Pisgah Ridge, Fryingpan offers up some spectacular views from its 70' historic fire tower. From the tower steps (the cab is kept locked) one is provided 360-degree views of just about the entire Pisgah Ranger District including the nearby Shining Rock Ridge and far away ranges such as the Smoky and Black Mountains. I had been here in the summer, now I thought I'd check it out in the winter.
Something happened along the way, however. As I walked the Parkway, about halfway to Fryingpan, I happened to look back over my shoulder at the ridge I was walking beneath. Along the top of the ridge I could clearly see open rock ledges which I had never noticed on previous visits up here. My map informed me that I was looking up at a rather insignificant bump in the Pisgah Ridge known as Beech Knob. The map also showed that the ridge between Fryingpan and Beech Knob would be rather easy to follow and not all that rugged. My view of the ridge between the two peaks once I climbed the fire tower seemed to confirm this. A seemingly easy walk through a fairly open hardwood forest should get me to Beech Knob's ledges. I decided on an impromptu bushwhack. As it turned out the ridgeline wasn't as 'open' as it looked from above. Almost the entire route was choked with briers and evil hawthorn bushes. Though the views from atop Beech Knob were indeed spectacular, and I could enjoy the satisfaction of knowing few if any people ever summit the peak...I shed quite a bit blood along the way. Therefore, I couldn't in good conscience recommend heading up there. So, if you'd like to see Beech Knob without the bloodshed, come on along with me and I'll fight my way there for ya...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.395232, -82.768504
Route Type: Lollipop Difficulty: EXTREME (due to brier-choked bushwhack)
Hike Length: ~6.0 miles Hike Duration: 3:00
Trailhead Temp: 25'F Trail Traffic: 1-5 people
Min. Elevation: 4,530' Max. Elevation: 5,340'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,000' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 167'