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WNC Afield: Beware the Venus flytrap that is the Trombatore Trail

WNC Afield: Beware the Venus flytrap that is the Trombatore Trail

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As I climb another mountain, I notice the arch in my right foot seems to be strained and is beginning to ache, which now completes the pathway from my arch to my already sore ankle, creating one major pain zone.

Fortunately, I don’t seem to notice it as much because my left knee has taken the lead in the pain derby, a position until just recently held by my lower back. Somehow, my diaphragm has swollen under my lungs causing my oxygen intake to lessen to a point of light-headedness.

Why do I insist on punishing myself with these hikes up a steep mountainside? Well, for the fun of it of course.

I find hikers to be a very interesting group. We will torture ourselves for the smallest of rewards; a new flower along the route, a chance for a mountain view that is unique to a particular trail, the smell of pine needles just lightly perfuming the air, or the prize of seeing a bear or deer in their natural environment. Often, we just want to say, and yes brag, we conquered the trail.

The variety of hikers I meet on the trail span the spectrum from the most physically fit to those who look to be about one cheeseburger away from eternity. But they’re out there, step by step, achieving a goal.

I’m telling you this because this offering might require a little extra effort to complete, but I think you will find the payoff worthwhile.

Trombatore Trail

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous.

Shoes: Hiking shoes or good running shoes. There might be some very easy wet crossings. Depends on recent weather.

Time: It is an out-and-back. I suggest you give yourself about four hours. If you plan for that amount of time you shouldn’t be rushed, and you will have a little time at the top of the trail.

Distance/Elevation: My GPS had us at 5.73 miles and an elevation gain of 1,240 feet.

Safety: No horses. No bikes. The only thing you should encounter are other hikers. There is plenty of room to space yourself or mask if necessary.

You’ll have to be prepared for no restroom facilities at all.

Courtesy: I think things are looking a little more normal. I don’t see many mask wearers, but most have them available if necessary. Folks are a lot chattier than a few months ago. We still try to give at least six feet of clearance.

HOW TO GET THERE:

Everyone east of Asheville should head west on Interstate 40. At Exit 53A, go to the right and loop under I-40 onto US 74 Alt E, also known as Charlotte Highway. Follow the road with no turns for about 14.5 miles. It will wind up and over the mountain and through Hickory Nut Gap. As you’re heading downhill, look for and turn right on Bear Wallow Road. Stay on Bear Wallow until you reach the trailhead. The last mile or so will be a well-maintained dirt road. There is ample parking at the top of the hill. Google Maps will find location if you search “Trombatore Trail.”

THE TRAIL:

You will see a trailhead on each side of the road. One is the Bearwallow Mountain Trail, which I highly recommend for a short but very scenic hike, and the other is today’s adventure.

It is obvious from the start that this will be a well-developed and cared-for trail. This and Bearwallow were built by a group called, “Conserving Carolina.” Both trails are built on private lands with the permission of the landowners. That explains the absence of bikes and horses.

This trail reminds me of the Venus flytrap. It is a beautiful flower that looks and smells particularly pleasant to the small insects that buzz around it. They can’t resist going a little further, a little further…then WHACK! Trapped.

When you begin your hike, the trail is a pleasantly meandering downhill stroll through beautiful terrain. The large rock formations and moss-covered trees will draw you into the trail even more. The downhill walk crosses a couple of small streams. The first mile, all descending, is very pleasant. Without thinking, you want to continue a little further and a little further.

After a mile, the trail levels a bit. The canopy thickens a little because you are at the bottom of the valley. Everything from here is up.

Now comes the second mile-and-a-half. A rather steep and continuous uphill climb. As you climb, look to the left for some excellent views of the cliffs on the slope that rises across the valley. Continue to climb. You won’t have many switchbacks to help you at this point.

At about the midpoint of the ascent there are houses on the mountaintops that are fairly close to the trail. I felt that even though the trail was fairly aggressive, the appearance of the houses so close took a little adventure from the outing. They won’t be quite as intrusive when the leaves fill in. Also, there is an abundance of private property markers. I can’t fault the landowners. After all, they gave the right-of-way so the trail could be designed and built.

The trail peaks then heads down into a small saddle before climbing again. This time, a few switchbacks will help you as you climb to the top.

When you reach the top, the trees give way to the wide-open fields of the Blue Ridge Pastures. One of those “Sound of Music” panoramas. One of the best payoffs I have received in recent hiking days. Enjoy the view. If you have one of the apps that identifies peaks, this is a great spot to use it. Sit on the grass and take time for a snack. Even a nap would not be inappropriate. There is still work ahead.

When you are ready, head back the same way you came in. Enjoy this downhill and rest your weary legs. In a short time, the bottom of the valley will give you a little level walking again.

Remember that mile of gentle downhill strolling you did in the beginning? Here it is again. Only it has gotten much steeper since you were here a couple of hours ago. Your legs are not quite as fresh as they were in the beginning. The Venus flytrap comes to mind.

Nothing to do but suck it up and start your climb. You’ll make it and be proud of yourself for the accomplishment. Not a long hike but one worth a pat on the back. Get someone to pat you. If you try it yourself, you might hurt something.

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