September 7, 2015
Trails are sort of like people. The first time you encounter them you are wary, unsure if you can trust them. You cast a circumspect, watchful eye towards the new surroundings.
I parked my car at the Craggy Garden entrance. I hiked westward on the MST and several hundred feet in, the trail forks; and the yellow blazed trail is the Snowball. The first mile is a difficult climb of switchbacks and pure upward elevation to the summit of Snowball Mountain. At first I was really unsure of this trail. The map said it was rated as moderate, and this certainly wasn’t moderate. The summit offers no view, but descends rapidly to the base of the mountain. It is then a small climb to Hawkbill Rock; such amazing views of the Black Mountain Crest Trail to the northeast and Wolfden Knob to the south.
The trail continues, but as I found out, the people don’t. I didn’t encounter another soul on the trail till the summit. The trail undulates wildly from Hawkbill to Snowball Gap. There are giant poplars, almost to the size to rival Joyce Kilmer, giant buckeyes littering the forest floor, and wonderful ridge walking. This trail really reminded me of the Appalachian Trail. After Snowball Gap, I hiked the last ascent to Little Snowball Mountain.
Before the site of the fire tower is an old warden’s spring piping with the best tasting, freshest mountain water.
The trail was in immaculate shape. I kept thinking, “Surely someone just mowed this!” Near the site of the former tower I heard a weed eater. At the summit, I met Les Love, a volunteer with the Carolina Mountain Club. I immediately thanked him for taking his Labor Day to mow down the weeds on the trail. Mr. Love was a great man, and we had a good conversation. He explained to me that the fire tower was moved almost twenty years ago to Barnardsville and restored. He said he had been coming out to this location for years. We talked at length, until I needed to head back.
The return trip was fantastic. The trail now seemed familiar and a welcome site. I no longer minded the tough climbs, but thoroughly took in the wonderful scenery.
The Snowball Trail outside of Asheville is now one of my favorite trails in the area. It is astounding in beauty and grandeur. Trails like this are the reason I hike.
Total mileage is 6 miles.
Update on July 14, 2018: As part of the CMC Lookout Tower Challenge, I drove to Barnardsville, NC to view the restored tower. Located at Big Ivy Historical Park, it requires no hike, but is beautifully redone. Pictures attached below.