Sunday, September 11, 2011

Hiking and viewing mountains

Saturday morning began with banana pancakes!  We followed that up with a hike up Satulah Mountain.  This is a short moderately difficult hike.  The trail follows an old rocky road for about a half mile distance up about 400 ft, to the top of the mountain.  There is the remains of a shelter on one side of the mountain at 4,543 ft (Highlands Cashiers Land Trust has an old photo of the shelter on their page).  From here you have a 270 degree view of mountains in three states (North Carolins, and Georgia) to the south, east and west.  You can see the Piedmont, Blue Valley and Rabun Bald.  

On the way back to Mountain Retreat for lunch, we stopped at the Highlands Nature Center and took a quick walk around the Botanical garden.  The garden is 11 acres, and includes over 500 species of trees and other plants.  There are also example gardens using native plant for landscaping around buildings.  These border gardens included Black-eyed susan, Joe-pye-weed, and lobelia.
The garden trails wind through woods with large Rhododendrons and azaleas (neither were in bloom at the time).  Then around a four acre lake.  The pond's water lilies were putting on a show, and the fall flowers along the banks were attracting many insects including swallowtail butterflies. We took a short hike up a hillside trail through an old growth hemlock-hardwood forest.    

The afternoon hike up Whiteside Mountain followed an old logging road for about a mile.  The road provided a moderate ascent of 500 ft to the top at 4,930 feet, the first of several overlooks.  The trail continues around about one half of the ridge top, providing numerous vistas.  The trail then rapidly descends back down.  This is a short, steep and often difficult half mile back to the logging trail.  The hike was worth the views at the top, but requires more time then the distance would suggest.  To the north Shortoff and Yellow Mountains,  Chimneytop Mountain to the east.  The foothills and Piedmont to the south.  Nantahala Mountains on the western horizon.  

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