Ascent of Birdstand Mountain on 2015-12-06

Climber: Bradley R

Date:Sunday, December 6, 2015
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
    Motorized Transport to Trailhead:Car
Peak:Birdstand Mountain
    Location:USA-North Carolina
    Elevation:5280 ft / 1609 m

Ascent Trip Report

How I chose this trip: I decided I wanted to do some peaks on one of my lists that were less frequently climbed.

Where I parked: I typed in an address on Lake Logan Rd, from there I knew the trail head for Fork Ridge was near where a prong of Pigeon River runs into West Fork Pigeon River. Lake Logan Rd runs next to West Fork Pigeon Rd. There's a place to park at the trail head, but there's several places to park next to the river and there was no signage for the trail. You should have an idea of where the trail head is before you begin, I used a Runkeeper map to confirm I was where the trail started. This could be a difficult trail head to find.

The Hike:
There were no blazes or signage along the trail. In places it was easy to follow because of the worn trail, but in some places there was some difficulty because you would walk into a old road bed and be unsure which way to go, or the trail would disappear under the leaves. Overall I didn't get off the trail too badly anywhere.
The very first step in the hike is to cross the West Fork Pigeon River. It was not possible to rock hop across the river dry. I took off my socks and shoes and pulled my pants up above my knees to cross. The water was cold and above my knees. Nearing the shore on the other side I slipped and stuck my arm shoulder deep in the water to keep from falling in. Getting out my sweatshirt was soaked on one arm, but luckily my pants were water resistant and had held off the water well. If it had of been much cooler I would have needed to turn back, but with the sun shining I was OK to continue.
0.4 miles into the hike I crossed Turnpike Creek, a roaring spring, that's easy to cross. After the crossing the trail turns left and follows the creek uphill for a bit. Its a beautiful creek falling steeply down the mountains.
At ~ 0.8 miles the creek splits the trail then turns from the creek and you begin switchbacks up to the ridge. I'm highly confident this would be a reliable water source, but hopefully you don't need it too bad .8 miles into the hike. Unfortunately I forgot my trekking poles, and even with just the little weight I was carrying my lower back started to hurt. I picked up a few limbs along the way until I got a hold of one sturdy enough not to break. It's amazing how much of a difference it made.
The switchbacks continue, and another fairly strong water source can be found at 1.6 miles.
At just over 2 miles the switchbacks end, but you continue to gain elevation to the ridge. At ~ 2.4 miles still gaining elevation to the ridge I crossed the last bit of running water until I crossed it again heading back down. It would be possible, but difficult to filter water from this source, and I'm unsure how reliable this stream will be.
Somewhere around 2.5 miles you reach an old road bed, take a left. Soon after this the trail splits, stay straight to go to High Top. Take a sharp right, which I did, to head toward Birdstand which stays on the Fork Ridge Trail following the ridge closely.
After taking the sharp right you remain on an old road for a short distance, then take a left off the road bed onto a trail. It would be fairly easy to miss this turn with no signage.
This time of year the trail up here was barely beat down enough to follow. I lost the trail at one point, but just continued to follow the ridge until I ran back into the trail.
At 4.2 miles I was on the trail by Birdstand, and began my Bushwhack up to the peak. Where I started up to the summit there was moss on the rocks and logs as thick as I've ever remember seeing it in western NC. From near the summit I saw some burrs that look like Chestnut (update: was probably Chinquapin burrs), since the American Chestnut is basically extinct in this area and I don't see how a decorative chestnut could could have been seeded here it piqued my interest. I took a picture and collected an empty burr. Still need to follow up on identification. The bushwhack was short, but steep and breathtaking. Not far from the summit was a rock face with a decent view of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area, I'm not really sure which peaks I was looking at, but would guess Grassy Cove Top and Tennent Mountain. From here I returned back to the trail, the leaves were dry and slick. This along with the steepness allowed me to sit down and slide with quite a bit of speed in certain areas until I returned to the trail.
From here I returned to the point where I turned away from High Top earlier, this time I continued to High Top via an unnamed trail. Along the way to High Top you cross several rock faces with very nice views. By the time you reach the actual summit, at about 6.4 miles of hiking, there are no views. There is a BM and some equipment that looks like it's designed to catch rain. There are several worn trails from the peak, but I'm unsure where they go.
From here I continued back to my truck. With no trekking poles I was stumbling and bumbling back down with the slick dry leaves hiding where the ground actually was. The trail felt narrow on the way down. Finally I had to cross the West Fork Pigeon River one more time.

Pros: I saw no other hikers. Good not great views.
Cons: Not the easiest trail head to find, some opportunities to take a wrong turn.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:3420 ft / 1042 m
    Total Elevation Loss:3420 ft / 1041 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9.5 mi / 15.3 km
    Quality:3 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Unmaintained Trail, Bushwhack, Stream Ford
    Weather:Cool, Calm, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:3420 ft / 1042 m
        Gain Breakdown:Net: 2069 ft / 631 m; Extra: 1351 ft / 411m
    Loss on way in:1351 ft / 411 m
    Distance:4.3 mi / 6.9 km
    Route:Fork Ridge Trail
    Start Trailhead:Fork Ridge Trail Head  3211 ft / 978 m
    Time:2 Hours 51 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:2069 ft / 630 m
    Distance:5.2 mi / 8.4 km
    Route:Fork Ridge Trail
    End Trailhead:Fork Ridge Trail Head  3211 ft / 978 m
    Time:3 Hours 3 Minutes
Ascent Part of Trip: Birdstand

Complete Trip Sequence:
 Birdstand Mountain2015-12-06 a3420 ft / 1042 m
 High Top2015-12-06 b 
Total Trip Gain: 3420 ft / 1042 m    Total Trip Loss: 3420 ft / 1042 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip

 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Bradley R
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
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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