Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy (SAHC), Highland Brewing Company, and US Fish and Wildlife Service would like to send a major “shout out” to all of the folks that made it to Twin Falls and Clawhammer Mountain the first weekend of October. This intrepid group showed copious amounts of fortitude and demonstrated the will power to make it to the promised land that weekend in Pisgah National Forest.
The hike started off typical. Everyone parked their cars, listened to SAHC’s typical spiel about why land conservation is important, and perhaps most importantly, signed off on the waiver so that there would be no legal drama if any accidents occurred during the hike. As we approached the Avery Creek Trail head, no one knew what lay lurking in the depths of the not-so-ominous and beautiful trail.
The pace was slow but deliberate. The creek was babbling, the soft sunlight crept through the trees as they prepared to shed their leaves for winter, and children’s screams of joy could be heard bouncing across the valley. What could be better on a beautiful Fall morning?
In one instance, the trance-like state that the group was in, was shattered by the piercing cry of a child(ren) in pain. Running to the sounds, I discovered a group of kids standing in the middle of the trail nursing wounds from a surprise yellow jacket ambush. As I pulled out SAHC’s first aid kid, I felt pain shooting up my ankles and realized that everyone was standing next to a whirling dervish of angry yellow jackets. Thankfully, we escaped with only a few more stings. It was remarkable how fast those kids recovered in the face of adversity. Twin Falls was calling, so the group pushed on further.
Avery Creek raged (and by “raged”, I mean flowed quietly) next to us as the group meandered towards the water falls. Soon we encountered our next great hurdle, a creek crossing without a bridge. And to reference the great video game of my generation’s childhood, Oregon Trail, we probably shouldn’t have “caulked the wagon and floated it” to get across the river — meaning that the group should have kept walking up the trail 200 more yards where there was a perfectly functional bridge. Alas, hindsight is 20/20.
After fording the mighty river, the rest of the journey normalized and the group arrived at our first destination. Twin Falls was as beautiful as ever. Kids caught crayfish in the creek, families took photos in front of the Falls, and everyone was able to relax after a trying hike. After a short respite at the Falls, the half of the group planning to summit Clawhammer had to keep moving while there was still plenty of daylight.
The ascent to the top of Clawhammer starts off slowly but becomes significantly more challenging the last mile. After climbing out of the Avery Creek valley, we heard a faint humming noise — maybe a tree frog or cricket? After rounding the bend, the humming climaxed into a feverish hum. The two dogs with us frolicked ahead only to be called back franticly by one of the more observant owners. There, on the side of the trail, was a well-fed timber rattlesnake that was desperately shaking his rattle to notify the group of his presence.
After a four mile ascent, the group finally made to the top of Clawhammer. On top, everyone enjoyed a Clawhammer Lager courtesy of Highland Brewing Company, while celebrating the beautiful colors of Fall. Thanks to Highland Brewing Company, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and everyone else that made it out for the day. The last partnership hike of the year will be to Blackrock Ridge to celebrate the release of the Thunderstruck Coffee Porter. Look for that Saturday, November 10th.