Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness

April 16-17, 2016

“A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”[1]

The more I hike in Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, the more I fall in love with it, and the more I appreciate the Wilderness Act’s beauteous definition. Joel, Perry and I met early Saturday morning at the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest parking lot. The goal was to hike Naked Ground Trail, camp at Bob Bald, and return to the car on Stratton Bald Trail.

Naked Ground

The first three (3) miles were relatively easy, passing numerous flowers and immense poplars. Perry and Joel are well-versed at plant identification: Squirrel Corn, Wild Geraniums, Spring Beauties, Toothwort, Bellwort, Sweet Betsy Trillium, White Trillium.

The last 1 1/2 miles, the trail rocketed up the ridge, with a harsh series of zigzagging switchbacks. Sweating profusely, trudging up the mountain, I started counting the number of switchbacks, 1, 2… 14. The end result is a wonderful view at Naked Ground.

Bob Stratton Bald

Perry wasn’t able to camp with us, and decided to head back to the parking lot. Joel and I hiked to Bob Stratton Bald. Technically, there are two balds: Stratton Bald and Bob Bald. Bob Bald is currently the only “bald”, as Stratton is now overgrown. The view from the opening of Bob is amazing. For miles you can gaze at the mountains on the horizon. As we set our stuff down and made camp, the daylight shifted to dusk to night. The mountain slowly transitioned from stark shards littering the terrain to a blue hue against the backdrop of a fading sun. The sunset was one of the prettiest I have seen.

Stratton Bald Trail

The Stratton Bald Trail is narrow and it’s steep. It’s unrelenting in either direction, all downhill or all uphill.

The treat of the hike came 1 ½ from the southern terminus. We walked upon the outlines of a stone foundation of an old homestead. These sites always set my mind to wander with the lives of the previous inhabitants; loving to gaze up from the stones and see what must have been the view from their porch a hundred years ago. Beyond the rocks was an astonishing site: orange/yellow roses. The scent of oranges wafted to my nose. They were beautiful, in direct contrast to the green and brown of the woods.

In the late 1870’s John Denton and his wife Albertine moved to the area just above the present-day Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest. John Denton was “six feet five and one-half inches, a rough and tumble fighter, a Confederate soldier who had survived the first Battle of Bull Run and the Siege Of Vicksburg.”[2] When John “came upon a downed, hollowed-out chestnut that was so big he didn’t have to stoop his frame to step inside it. He carved out two rooms from that tree and lived in it for several months with his wife, Albertine, and his five children while he built a cabin nearby.”[3]

The cabin is now gone, and all that remains is the stone foundation.[4] I have absolutely no proof, but I imagine that these roses were Albertine’s; that she planted them almost 140 years ago, and still their beauty graces the forest floor.

Total mileage is 13.6 miles.

[1] 16 U.S. C. § 1131 (c)

[2] The Andrews Journal. (1972, July 5). Retrieved from http://www.dentongenealogy.org/John%20Hamilton%20Chasteen%20Denton.htm

[3] Dickey, Bronwen. (2011, September 29). Retrieved from https://www.ourstate.com/joyce-kilmer-memorial-forest/

[4] Homan, Tim. Hiking Trails of the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock & Citico Wildernesses. (2008): 118.

 


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