Ascent of Herrin Knob on 2019-10-12

Climber: Bradley Reese

Date:Saturday, October 12, 2019
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Herrin Knob
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5720 ft / 1743 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this hike: Originally was planning to hike on Sunday, but the forecast changed, so I looked through my list of pre-created routes for something closer so I could drive to the trailhead on Friday night. This hike was just over a 2-hour drive (Sunday's plan had been a 3-hour drive) and included 2 peaks on the "South Beyond 6000" and 2 more on the NC 5000 footers.

Parking: There are several places you could park and complete this same route. I placed Devils Courthouse, Gloucester, NC into Google Maps and parked at the overlook.

The plan: Drive up the night before and sleep at the overlook. Get to Devils Courthouse in time to see the sunrise, then hike to Chestnut Bald, Little Sam Knob, Mount Hardy and Herrin Knob. Pretty well followed.

Original plan had been to play football Saturday and head to the trailhead for Albert Mountain Saturday night to hike Sunday, but the forecast for Sunday changed.

The trip:
Friday I learned the weather forecast for Sunday had changed later in the day. Now I had to choose between flag football and hiking. Typically I go with football, but the hiking itch was pretty bad. I didn't want to drive both ways (4 hours total) on the same day I hiked 13+ planned miles, so I drove up on Sunday and slept in the back of Amanda's "new" 2010 Ford Escape. The entire time I was packing the car I was going back and forth between the hike and just staying home. Finally around 8:30 PM I left. Along the way I stopped at a gas station to get snacks for the trip and at Wendys for a late 2nd supper. I arrived at the overlook just before midnight. There was one other vehicle at the overlook. I crawled in the back and tried to sleep. I slept fairly well, but didn't have enough padding for my hip, plus I was awoken each time a car pulled into the overlook... 3 or 4 times between midnight and 6 AM. Around 6 AM the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRPW) started getting busier and my sleep was over. I started moving around around 6:20 AM getting ready to go.

I thought I had till 7:30 or so until the sunrise, but realized while preparing my pack that at this higher elevation the sunrise was going to happen earlier, so I went ahead up the trail knowing I'd have to return to finish packing. I left around 6:50 AM.

The trail to the Devils Courthouse is paved most of the way before turning into earth. I used a headlamp, but probably could have done without by this time. I gained about 250' in half of a mile and got to the top just as the sky really started turning red. There were two others (Mike and Shawn or Shane) already there, they had drove up from Charleston and planned to do some paddling on the French Broad with Mike's mother. While watching three more groups came up. It wasn't too cold, but with fairly heavy wind I was happy to have gloves, jacket and a toboggan. I said so long to the other two and headed back to the car arriving after a mile of hiking.

Back at the car I spent some time packing and eating breakfast. I decided to leave my jacket, which worked out well as it was getting warmer. I spent about 25 minutes here.

Now I headed back up the Devils Courthouse trail, but turned off, to the left, after a third of a mile on a trail that goes over the tunnel on the BRPW. In this section I was concerned I had left my doors unlocked, I asked a group if they'd check for me and lock the doors if needed. They agreed, the doors were locked when I got back, so I guess it worked out. (1.33 miles total)

The trail I had turned on is the Little Sam trail. I follow this trail uneventfully for about 0.4 miles gaining only 100'. Here there is an intersection with the Art Loeb trail. I briefly (~0.1 miles) stay on this trail before exiting to the right to bushwhack to the top of Chestnut Bald. (~1.80 miles total).

The bushwhack up Chestnut isn't terribly steep, but there is quite a bit of undergrowth that makes it tough. Somewhere in this section I briefly get an obstructed view of surrounding peaks. As I'm approaching the top there's quite a bit of dead-fall and it's difficult to move forward. I reach a point where I'm standing on top of a root ball of a fallen tree. This was about 200' of gain from where I had left the trail. I determined this was the highest point, though if not for the root ball, there may have been a higher point nearby. Returning to the trail I tried to follow the path of least resistance to the trail. At some point I realized I was headed more toward the BRPW than the trail and had to change direction, this lengthened the bushwhack a bit. In total the bushwhack was about 2/3rds of a mile.(2.45 miles total)

I landed back on the Little Sam trail just prior to its intersection with Art Loeb. I soon passed the intersection continuing on the Little Sam trail. On this portion of the there were some brief clearings allowing views of nearby mountains to the west, including Mount Hardy. After about 1-1/3rd miles back on Little Sam the trail ends with an intersection with Flat Laurel Creek Trail (FLC). I'm not sure what I was thinking, but I went the wrong direction, right, on FLC. While in this section the sun was in my eyes and reflecting off of the water running in the trail. I almost ran over a couple because I could barely see ahead of me. Soon after meeting this couple is when I realized I was going the wrong direction, I had walked 0.3 miles in the wrong direction. I turned around and soon caught up to the couple I had ran into earlier. Parts of this section were familiar as Amanda and I had hiked it together several years before. At about 2.55 miles, 2/3rds of a mile since being back on the right track, after re-entering the trail from the Chestnut Bald bushwhack I leave the trail to the left to bushwhack up Little Sam Knob. Through this portion of the hike I lost about 400'. There were beautiful creeks and nice views in this area, and MANY campers. (about 5 miles total)

I hadn't known exactly the best place to leave the trail to go up Little Sam, and had been looking for about a quarter of a mile. The big obstacle was a thick wall of rhododendron bordering the trail. Eventually I see a nice hole in this wall and scamper through it. For a short distance the going is pretty thick growth to fight through, but soon it opens up nicely in the evergreen forest. It's pretty steep, but stays nice and open all the way to the top. Some of the trees seem perfectly in rows, leading me to believe this forest was planted by man. I reach the top after ~.45 miles of hiking, gaining ~ 450 feet. As I reach the top the evergreen forest suddenly ends to the left (east). I thought there may be some views in this direction. I found none, but I did find an opening in the canopy enough to fly my drone (it's first flight in the mountain). As soon as it got as high as the trees it struggled to stay in flight and the wind was pushing it around quite a bit. I brought it back in. I returned to the trail from here, the only difficulty was finding an opening in the rhododendron to re-enter the trail... I ended up finding the same opening. I was trying not to spook anyone as I re-entered to trail and there were a couple big groups passing by, as soon as I entered there was a mountain biker coming, he was going slow though, so no collision. (5.95 miles total)

I continued in the same direction on the FLC. No long distant views were available, but there were several nice streams, and one high cascade/waterfall, but not much water coming down it. There was a large group of mostly teenagers hanging out here, a few on the rocks sliding down. After 1.9 miles and about 350' of elevation loss I reached the Lake Logan Road. (7.9 miles total). I had considered this point a possible turn-around point depending on how I felt. Feeling pretty good I decided to continue.

I took a left and briefly walked up the Lake Logan Rd. Prior to my planned trail intersection I discovered a well worn shortcut from the road the the Mountain to Sea trail (MST), I used this which may have saved 0.2 miles of walking. Soon after stepping into the woods I take a lengthy break sitting under a large Hemlock Tree and snacking. (8.1 miles total)

Now on the MST I continued for 2.4 miles, gaining about 800' of elevation. There was little to see in this section. I did run into a couple of other hikers in this section who warned me of a yellow jacket nest on the edge of the trail. They told me it was about a half a mile away, I found it 200 yards down the trail. It was cool enough the night before that I thought the nest have little activity, but the boogers were wide open. The opening was the size of a soft ball, and I'd guess there were four or five dozen of 'em hanging around the opening. I snuck by just off trail, then jogged about 20 yards away. I kept my eyes open for a trail up Mount Hardy, but didn't find one before reaching the point on my route where I'd start my bushwhack. (~10.5 miles total)

Initially the bushwhack was steep, but then it flattened out. Early on it was open. Soon after hitting the flat section I found a pretty well worn trail. I followed it for a while, then it turned into little more than a game trail, then nothing. I considered turning back to get back on the trail (it was so well worn early on I was sure it went to the top), but decided I was bound to run into it again. I was sort of right. I continued, but the going got tougher, I found myself crawling through areas. One positive is I ran into some rock faces that provided the best views of the day, but they were difficult to maneuver (required some scrambling where a slip could be bad), and honestly I kind of approached them poorly risking some injury. I ended up okay, but it was a bad idea in hindsight. I eventually do reach the trail again, but I'm practically standing at the top when I do. I step on several rock outcroppings I think could be the high point. I find an opening and snack and fly the drone a second time. It does better here, but the wind still pushed it around a bit. This bushwhack was about 0.55 miles and gained 260'. I was determined to return via the trail and succeeded, but I did lose it once. (11.7 miles total)

I retrace my steps on the MST heading back towards Lake Logan Road for about a miles, before exiting the trail to the right to get to the BRPW and start up Herrin. I find a trail close to where I had planned to leave the trail, so I go ahead and take it. It either ends or I lost it about halfway to the Parkway. The remainder of the bushwhack is straightforward on flat ground, and not too thick. The distance between the MST and BRPW was about 0.2 miles. I this section I lost about 370' of elevation. (12.85 miles total)

Once on the BRPW Herrin Knob is directly in front of me. I consider looking for a trail, but doubting one exists I decide it's not worth the additional effort and choose to just start up from where I'm at. There's a thick wall of rhododendron right at the BRPW that I have to crawl through for a bit, but things open up enough so I can stand. The bushwhack is moderately steep (gaining 250), and in fairly thick growth for the 0.3 miles up. I don't find a trail or much signs anyone else had been up Herrin. I bushwhacked down a similar path until I reach the BRPW. Going up Herrin I begin to feel fatigue, and coming down was it grew quite a bit worse. (13.5 miles total)

Back on the BRPW I followed it for the last 1.6 miles, losing then gaining a small amount of elevation. On the road and shoulder of the road my feet were in quite a bit of pain. I've never understood why, but after long hikes I've noticed that my feet hurt more walking on road or grass shoulder than they do on the trail, this is been true for several different pairs of hiking boots When I reached the intersection with Lake Logan Rd. I was asked which way was to Devils Courthouse. I pointed in the direction I was walking and a miles, maybe less and said that's where I was parked. I tried to subtly encourage a ride, but none was offered. From here I continued back to my car at Devils Courthouse overlook. (15.1 miles total)

Overall, a successful hike, but limited views when away from the BRPW/Devils Courthouse. I saw some other hikers on each trail I was on, but the short trail to Devils Courthouse and Flat Laurel Creek (especially where it was next to the creek) were fairly busy.

I've hiked and ran less each of the last two years as I work on my MBA. My conditioning has certainly taken a hit, and it seems my feet have also become more tender. Over a year left on the MBA, but hopefully I can turn things around when I get it finished.

First 15 miles day in just under a year, 355 days.

I've placed all stats under Mount Hardy, the highest point of the day.
Summary Total Data
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail, Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Part of Trip: Mount Hardy (0 nights total away from roads)

Complete Trip Sequence:
1Devils Courthouse2019-10-12 a 
2Chestnut Bald2019-10-12 b 
3Little Sam Knob2019-10-12 c 
4Mount Hardy2019-10-12 d2816 ft / 858 m
5Herrin Knob2019-10-12 e 
Total Trip Gain: 2816 ft / 858 m    Total Trip Loss: 2816 ft / 858 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. accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

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