April 22, 2017
I respect people that hike the Fastest Known Times (FKT) on trails. As much as I would respect any stellar athlete at an elite level of competition. I just don’t see the point of hiking something the fastest. I love those moments where you simply stop in the middle of the trail with no one around for miles, close your eyes and just listen to wilderness, listen to the birds, then open up your eyes in a communion with nature.
Perhaps hiking things the fastest is a by-product of our consumerism lifestyle: Fastest, Quickest, Best! Sure you can say, I thru hiked that trail the fastest, but what did you miss out on? Stopping for 5 minutes by that river to watch the spring trout, talking to a passerby and getting to know them, eating lunch by that overlook, going down that side trail to see that vista?
Perhaps my mantra for hiking the Pisgah Trails is the SKT (Slowest Known Time). There’s just so much you miss if you’re clipping along at 4 miles per hour.
On the Vineyard Gap Trail (2.3 miles), there is a lot to see and I took my time as I hiked. Turkey Pen Gap is located just off Hwy. 280, between Asheville and Brevard. Turkey Pen Road is a one lane track, that at first seems intimidating with sizable potholes and rocks in the road, but even a two-wheel vehicle should be able to navigate it. Roughly 1 mile from 280, you come to the Gap, with ample parking. I saw a lot of cars and horse trailers, as this is a popular area.
The trailhead to Vineyard is located on the right hand side. The first .4 miles are slightly uphill and will get your blood flowing. A nameless peak is atop with some wintertime views. I began going downhill, then uphill, undulating again to Jim Gap. Spring’s first sign was abundant among the trees, a green canopy above in lieu of the drab winter branches. Stopping atop the hill tops; looking around, drinking in the peaceful calm.
The trail continues to ebb in elevation until .5 miles from the end, where it descends though a series of rhododendron tunnels and damp stones of moss to the South Mills River.
The trail actually crosses the river and connects with the Riverside Trail. Be careful, because it is confusing as to where it ends. In the GPS information you can see that I wandered for a while to find it. Once you cross the river you will see some orange tape someone tied to a tree. Don’t follow this tape to the left. Take a right upon a faint trail, then take an almost immediate left upon an equally faint trail. Soon you will see the Riverside Trail.
The South Mills River is not particularly fast here, but it is a partial wade; I am 5’11” and the water came up to my upper thigh.
Instead of connecting with Riverside, I backtracked upon the Vineyard Gap Trail to the car. Once again stopping to take in the beautiful trail and landscape, watching a beetle on a log, admiring some mushrooms on a tree, clearing errant limbs from the trail, and most importantly, just being in nature.
GPS Link: https://www.movescount.com/moves/move152942793
Total mileage is 4.92 miles.