April 10, 2016
Black Mountain and Clawhammer Mountain have loomed over my hikes for the past two months. Black Mountain has that classic conical mountain feature, whereas Clawhammer is non-uniform, rugged. I would look up to these mountains as I made my way winding around the edges of their new spring skirts, their shadows over mine.
I started the hike at Club Gap Trailhead early in the morning. The temperature was 25 degrees and the morning air was crisp. The first two miles were slightly uphill, until I reached Rich Mountain. Pausing to take off my jacket, I could see the contour of the trail extending for 8 miles ahead of me, like a spine across the forest floor.
The trail descends quickly from Rich Mountain and follows the Soapstone Ridge, until the Buckhorn Gap Shelter.
After the Gap, the trail starts a nice, fun uphill climb of Clawhammer and Black Mountain. The view from Clawhammer literally left me speechless. So many mountains have no views, but rarely are you presented with a 360-degree panorama. To the north I saw Pisgah Mountain, to the east was Black Balsam, Tennant, Pilot Mountain, and Looking Glass Rock.
The trail descends from Black Mountain, crosses Hickory Knob before descending beside Starens Branch.
The hard part about hiking 9.8 miles down a trail is that you have to find your way back to your car. I decided not to hike back up Black Mountain, but instead hike past the Pisgah Ranger District and hike the length of F.S. 477.
Total mileage is 20.1 miles.