September 4, 2015
This week I presented a hiking plan to my friend Perry: hike two peaks over 6000’ as part of the South Beyond 6000 challenge on our day off.
Looking at the Pisgah Ranger District Map, the proposed route seemed very easy. It should take us on a short bushwhack from Beartrail Ridge Parking area near mile marker 430 on the Blue Ridge Parkway southeast to summit Reinhart Knob. From Reinhart we should hike southwest and downhill to the Mountain-to-Sea Trail (MST). Then it would be nothing but a little jaunt north on the MST and a hike up to Richland Balsam. Maps can be deceiving.
The bush whack was difficult from Beartrail Ridge to Reinhart Knob. There is no trail, a ton of briars, and lots of downed trees. Many of the trees are rotten, so when you step on them your entire foot is swallowed into the tree and ground.
After summiting Reinhart we headed southwest, and operated on a simple system; one of us would scout out a relatively open route downhill and then guess which way to go. Our feet kept coming out from under us from the dead logs and tough terrain.
We found a creek and followed it to the MST, which was level and in great condition. Turning right (north) on the MST, we walked for 1/2 mile until we encoutnered a strong stream. Based on the map, we turned to the northeast and began the long arduous bushwhack to Richland Balsam (i.e. vertically on a 25% grade).
We knew we needed to be heading northeast and/or north, so I took out my compass. We kept heading northeast and came to a wall of briers after thirty minutes. We plowed right through and amazingly, we found the exact spot for the Richland Balsam overlook.
We hiked up the rockslide to the north to the well-maintained trail to the summit. While there is a sign at the top, the actual summit is a little to the north, encased in trees. Then it was nothing more than a short walk back to the cars at Beartrail on the BRP.
Total mileage is 5.3 miles.