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Ascent of Richland Balsam on 2019-08-31

Climber: Bradley Reese

Date:Saturday, August 31, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Richland Balsam
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:6410 ft / 1953 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this hike: Whittling down the South Above 6000 List.

Parking: I placed Richland Balsam Nature Loop Trail, Blue Ridge Parkway, Waynesville, NC in Google Maps. This took me directly to they Haywood-Jackson Overlook, where I began my hike.

The plan: Starting at the overlook I'd walk down the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRPW) in the southeast direction (this is actually towards Asheville as the BRPW soon takes a turn heading northeast). Once I reached the overlook at Beartrail Ridge Gap I would bushwhack to the top of Reinhart, then continue bushwhacking straight down away from the BRPW until I reached the Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST). In this area the MST trail kind of parallels the BRPW, so I would follow the MST northwest to a predetermined point, then leave the trail and bushwhack back to the BRPW. Once back to the BRPW I'd follow the road back to my truck. Finally I'd take the nature trail loop to the top of Richland Balsam and back to complete my hike. I followed this well.

The hike: I pulled, what's become, a rare daily double for me. I played a couple hours of flag football in the morning then headed to the trailhead after eating lunch with Amanda. It was a bit more than a 2-hour drive.

I started the hike at 3:58 PM. Heading southeast I stayed on the BRPW for ~ 2/3rds of a mile and losing ~145'. I started from an overlook, passed one overlook and entered the woods at a 3rd overlook. Just before entering the woods there was an middle-aged couple, the women was taking photos of the red berries on the large trees. I said hello, they said hey and she asked if I knew what type of tree it was, I told her I thought it was a Mountain Ash. I suggested that she may use the iNaturalist App to confirm, as she was talking about trying to look it up online. I was happy to talk, but hadn't approached them for that reason, but instead there appeared to be a manway going into the woods. (~0.65 miles total)

After entering the manway I was able to follow a bit of a trail here and there, but for the most part it was bushwhacking to the top of Reinhart. The bushwhack to the top lasted 0.4 miles and was moderately thick, but any major obstacle could be avoided. Here and there pink flagging was present, I did not try to follow it. I gained ~130'. I did learn quickly there would be many spiderwebs on this day. Every handful of steps I was wiping them off of my face. At the top there was nothing to see, someone had hung a sign indicating you were at the top. (~1.05 miles total)

Next I started the bushwhack down to the MST. Again there is flagging ribbons. For sections I'm able to follow the flagging, but I lose it for a while at times. I'm not particularly trying to follow it, but seeing it makes me a bit more confident I'm on a preferred route. At some point I smack myself pretty good with a limb and put the safety glasses I was carrying on. I should have put them on earlier. Eventually I get into a section where I'm following a drainage. Soon after this I run into a spring. I follow this until I hit the MST. The bushwhack was steep until I hit the spring, then things seemed to flatten out. This bushwhack was ~0.55 miles and I lost about 740'. (~1.6 miles total)

Once on the MST things were easy going. The trail was wide enough for most vehicles to fit on, and if it could be accessed by a 4X4, I'd say it could progress throughout the section I hiked. There's not much to see here. I do see White Snakeroot growing on the side of the trail along with Scarlet Beebalm. They're not particularly impressive wildflowers. Later on in this section I reach one spring that is flowing pretty well. I notice a wildflower new to me here, Bottle Gentian. Based on the range map on iNaturalist this area is approaching the far south of their range. They were only grow right on the edges of the flowing water. Soon after this I meet the only other group of hikers I would see. A total of 5 people, 2 young adults and three youth. The were carrying way too much equipment and as an effect, were moving at a crawl. If I were taken on a camping trip and expected to carry the volume of gear they were I would never want to return. As I'm approaching the point where I'll cut off the MST and begin bushwhacking again there's a tree wrapped in 3 or 4 different colors of ribbons. I decide this is a good place to leave the trail. I spend ~2.15 miles on the MST and gained only about 100'. (~3.75 miles total)

I had mapped out this bushwhack considering the topo profile. Early on the route is pretty steep. I keep on telling myself to take my time and not get out of breath. I find a plant in here with white berries on a red stem. Kind of odd looking berries, but the rest of the plant looks normal. Turns out it was White Baneberry (also known as dolls-eye; the white berries have a black spot that make them kind of look like eye balls). The whole plant is toxic, but just a few of the berries could cause cardiac arrest. Second poisonous plant, including White Snakeroot, of the hike. After about 0.2 miles the steep stretch is over and the route becomes flatter. I gained ~340' in this section. (~3.95 miles)

Continuing the bushwhack it's not nearly as steep. I continue toward the BRPW avoiding thickets as possible. At some point I get on a grown up road bed. The walking is easier here, but not going straight to the BRPW, so I leave it. In hindsight, I kind of wish I'd stayed on the roadbed for a while longer. This route alternated between evergreen forests that are thick enough to slow you down, but easy enough to maneuver and open areas easy to walk. As I go I can hear more noises from the BRPW. Finally I hit a thicket I can't easily see a way around. I push through, kind of spreading the foliage with my arms and poles, then stomping it down while aiming toward a spruce tree. This was slow going but brief. I reached the tree and crawled under it's limbs. On the other side was another thicket, but much easier to push through. within 100 yards I was on an overlook "the highest point in the parkway". This section was ~0.65 miles and about 260' of gain. (~4.6 miles total)

After reaching the BRPW I briefly walked on it back to my truck. This section was 0.45 miles and losing about 20'. (~5.05 miles total)

I take a short break at my truck the head up the nature trail. At the fork I go left, there is one viewpoint looking to the west after taking the fork. The trail leads to the closed in summit after about 0.7 miles and about 370' of gain. I had presumed there were views from the top, I was wrong. I guess I made this assumption simply because there was a trail to the top. I returned to the truck on the other side of the nature trails loop, another 0.7 miles. (~6.45 miles total)

This was an okay hike, most of the views were on the parkway, with one more on the nature trail, no others. I'd only repeat this hike if it's to repeat the South Above 6000 list.

Stats from the hike are under Richland Balsam.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:1645 ft / 501 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1645 ft / 501 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.4 mi / 10.4 km
    Quality:1 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
    Weather:Pleasant, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:1645 ft / 501 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 395 ft / 120 m; Extra: 1250 ft / 381m
    Loss on way in:1250 ft / 381 m
    Distance:5.8 mi / 9.3 km
    Route:BRPW>BW>MST>BW>BRPW>Nature trail
    Start Trailhead:Richland Balsam Nature Loop Trail  6015 ft / 1833 m
    Time:3 Hours 14 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:395 ft / 120 m
    Distance:0.6 mi / 1 km
    Route:Nature Trail
    End Trailhead:Richland Balsam Nature Loop Trail  6015 ft / 1833 m
    Time:22 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Richland Balsam (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
OrderPeak/PointDateGain
2Reinhart Knob2019-08-31 a 
2Richland Balsam2019-08-31 b1645 ft / 501 m
Total Trip Gain: 1645 ft / 501 m    Total Trip Loss: 1645 ft / 501 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bradley Reese
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Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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