Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The steps leading up to Birch Knob Tower

Recently I've been working in Wise, Va and the commute to work has drastically cut into my hiking time. However, I have researched the area and found there are several places that can be visited after work that normally wouldn't warrant a drive that far.
Information sign on Pine Mountain Trail

Birch Knob Tower rests high atop Pine Mountain on the Virginia/Kentucky border near the town of Clintwood, Va. I had read the views here are 360 degrees and states as far away as Ohio can be seen on a clear day. I found some willing and able hiking partners in Justin and Cassondra, who I had met through my days of working in St. Paul with Justin's dad, Henry. We met in Wise and carpooled to Clintwood, the weather was nice but the wind was blowing slightly when we left. It only takes 30 minutes to reach the Birch Knob Tower parking lot and it's quite the spectacle built atop the massive boulders of Pine Mountain. I was really excited to get going and almost left Justin and Cassondra in the dust as I headed up the trail to the tower. At the base of Birch Knob 183 steps lead you up, over, and around the boulders to the platform at the top. I was highly impressed with this steel structure and commend the park service for making it accessible for everyone.

Atop the tower the slight wind we encountered in Wise was absolutely ripping through with gusts as high as 30-40mph. The views however were as good as advertised. The clouds weren't overwhelming and provided enough cover to keep the sun from glaring photos and making it able to see greater distances. Toward Kentucky the effects of mining were obvious along the bare mountains, I imagine that they were once tree covered and beautiful. In the distance, the mountains vanished and we theorized this was most likely Ohio. Looking back toward Virginia and Tennessee we could see High Knob rising above the hilly landscape and in the distance Wadlow Gap which is only about a two and a half hour drive away! On beyond that the familiar peaks of the North Carolina Mountain ranges could barely be seen with the naked eye. I took great pleasure in being able to see into West Virginia as well, considering I'm a rabid Mountaineer fan. Justin and Cassondra were equally impressed and Justin's sense of direction was remarkable, he was a big help in identifying peaks and landmarks as we ran from corner to corner of the platform. After about thirty minutes of photos and sight seeing we decided to head down the mountain to a waterfall we had noticed on the information board map. Here are some photo's of the Birch Knob area.
Tennessee/North Carolina
West Virginia
Justin and Cassondra, looking toward Kentucky/Ohio
near the top
that's a lot of stairs
yes, that's me below the boulders at Pine Mountain
Heading down the mountain on the PRT we traveled a short distance before meeting the spur trail that leads to Jenny Falls. I was really looking forward to finding and seeing these falls in person due to the limited information and photos I found online concerning them. The spur trail leading to Jenny Falls is more of a free fall than trail, it goes straight down into a deep gorge formed by rushing waters years ago. Cassondra found footing to be difficult and fell more times than I can remember. However, she was a trooper and continued on even though she stabbed herself with her own hiking stick and somehow turned both ankles. Once you get within earshot of the falls the trail fades and the laurel is so thick you almost have to crawl the remaining distance to the falls. I thought to myself this is why there aren't many photos available. After a little work, the gorge opens up and Jenny Falls becomes fully visible. The creek is small but the falls are high (at least 80 feet) making this well worth the hike. Adding to the beauty is the sheer rock cathedral walls that in some points are as high as a 10 story building. As we were leaving the falls area we found a nice cave by accident, and I was dwarfed inside of it's entrance. After resting momentarily, we began the steep climb out resting frequently to help the lady of the group. Cassondra was so happy to get back to the truck she kissed the side of it when we got to the parking lot. On the ride out we revisited our hike and both Justin and Cassondra decided that they would join me on future travels, so until next time...happy trails!
inside the gorge at Jenny Falls
behind the falls
my favorite shot of Jenny Falls
at the entrance of the cave

1 comment:

  1. Is that cave one that goes back far or is it just a short one?