When Kendra and I were first dating, she invited me to drive with her to South Carolina. What she didn’t tell me was that her parents, Jane and Boris, were out of town, and her plan was to get me to go home before they returned. I must have charmed her, because she kept me around to hang out with them. While we were visiting, her parents suggested we go camping in Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina.
In retrospect, this was probably some sort of test. If I could camp and hike, and identify plants by their Latin name, they would approve of my relationship with their daughter. If not, well, back to the city I could trot. (Okay, probably not, but you never know…)
Anyway, what I didn’t tell them, or Kendra, was that it was only the second hike of my life. My first had been up Mt. Jefferson in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with my brother-in-law. (I think that one really was a test – I mean, seriously, Mt. Jefferson for an inaugural hike?) Kendra’s parents were a bit kinder, taking us on a moderate hike over waterfalls.
I must have passed the test, because a year later I was engaged to Kendra, and we were back down south visiting her parents. This time they upped the ante, and we hiked Mt. Pisgah, one of Kendra’s first big hikes as a little kid. At the summit, Boris rewarded me with a beaded necklace.
This year, as we headed back home to Massachusetts, we stopped to hike Mt. Pisgah with our kids. It was really neat to bring them to a place special to both of us – a place where I began to really fall in love with hiking, and more importantly, Kendra.
Date: August 16, 2014
Distance: 2.88 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 791 feet
Our Hiking Time: 2 hour 52 minutes
Trail Blaze: none
After pulling into the trailhead parking lot, we spent a good fifteen minutes getting ready to hike. Gone are the days when Kendra and I grabbed our packs and headed up the trail. Now we’ve got kid carriers to prep and extra gear to pack. Everything needs to be triple-checked to avoid any epic fails. With three little boos in tow, we can’t afford to forget something – as resilient as they are, they have a lower tolerance for being uncomfortable. Plus, they pay a bigger price if we forget an essential – I mean, who enjoys sitting in a poopy diaper?
When we finally had everything ready, we posed for a quick picture at the trailhead.
One of Kendra’s friends from City Year, Sarah, joined us for the hike. It was a treat to see her, as she moved south quite some time ago and we hadn’t seen each other in years. She was also super-awesome with Addie, helping encourage her up the mountain.
The first half-mile of the trail is fairly rocky, though quite level. There are a few small crossings over streams running across the trail, but they are easy to navigate. I would imagine they might be more difficult during spring, once the snow has melted.
Evan fell asleep almost immediately, while Kate took in the view as we walked through the gorgeous arches of trees. Last time we hiked Mt. Pisgah, Kendra’s parents told me what everything was, including the Latin names of plants. Someday I am going to buy a book and learn what the heck I am looking at while I am hiking. “A plant” is my stock answer to Addie’s question, “what’s that mama?” I am super-informative.
After the half mile mark, the trail progressively became steeper, and there were a few places we had to scramble up rocks.
Addie had a few moments when she was tired, or wanted to be carried, but we held out. Kendra and I knew she could make it to the top, and that she would be proud of herself when she did. When the going got tough, we gave her M&M’s. They always seem to perk her right up. Chocolate milk also does the trick.
Not too far from the summit, we got a glimpse of the beautiful view that awaited us on the observation deck.
We pushed through the steepest part of the trail, including switchbacks right before we reached the top. It was a bit more crowded at the summit than the last time Kendra and I had hiked Mt. Pisgah. Quite a few families came up, including a large group of parents and kids. One particularly rambunctious little boy kept climbing under the television towers atop the mountain, much to the chagrin of his parents. His dad repeatedly asked him to stop. We all had a goo laugh when after about the fifth time, the son turned to him and said, “Dad, why do you have to keep telling me that?!” Um, quick answer kiddo – because you keep doing it.
Despite the crowd, we enjoyed the 360 degree view of the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountain while we stretched our legs, snacked and hydrated, and snapped some pictures.
The hike back down was fairly uneventful, though Addie insisted on holding our hands for most of the way. This led to her getting a bit scraped up at one point as she tripped over Kendra’s feet. By that time she was tired, and though she usually can shake it off, she had a minor meltdown. Luckily, it was nothing that snuggles and a few of my bad jokes couldn’t fix. It also didn’t hurt that Kendra spotted blueberries and blackberries as we headed back to the trailhead. Addie loves finding and eating berries on the trail – once she ate a few, she was all smiles for the rest of the hike.
Just as we neared the trailhead, we spotted kids climbing on a large rock face Kendra and her brother, Colin, used to climb. Addie decided she wanted to give it a go, so we let her test herself. I was surprised at how high she was able to climb. Nothing like a little bouldering to give a kid a confidence boost!
We let Addie lead for the last .2 miles of the hike so she could reach the trailhead first. She was so excited to have completed the entire hike on her own two feet, and we were proud of her accomplishment. Heck, I was 30 the first time I hiked Mt. Pisgah, and she bagged the peak just weeks after her fourth birthday! Grandmama and G-Dad would have been proud to be there!
Directions to the Trailhead
The parking area is at mile 407.6 on the Blur Ridge Parkway.
From Asheville, NC: Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south to the Mount Pisgah Parking Area, on the left, at milepost 407.6. Enter this parking area and go ahead through the first parking lot to a second lot, a short distance beyond the first. The trail begins at the far end of the second parking lot.
From the Pisgah District Ranger Station/Visitor Center parking lot: Turn right (north) onto US 276, go ahead 14 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Proceed north past mile marker 409 to the Pisgah Inn, and then about one mile further to the Mount Pisgah Parking Area, on the right side. Enter this parking area and go ahead through the first parking lot to a second lot, a short distance beyond the first. The trail begins at the far end of the second parking lot.