November 16, 2017
I envisioned the end of the Pisgah 400 in just this manner. In lieu of finishing a small trail in the middle of the forest, I wanted to hike out of Pisgah. The closest to that would be the Shut-In Trail. It winds along the spine of the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP) until the French Broad River near Asheville, N.C.
Starting at the Mt. Pisgah trailhead, the Shut-In is a century old track, built by George Vanderbilt to connect his grandiose Biltmore estate with his lodge at Buck Spring Gap. Called the Shut-In, it is often enclosed by rhododendron, creating a tunnel through the forest.
Hiking it from west to east, the Shut-In coincides exactly with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail for its entirety. The weather was blustery at 5,000 feet, the wind whipping. Once I made the way off the first ridge, it was hardly noticeable. The terrain was not terribly hard, while there was 2,470 ft. in ascent, there was 5,367 ft. of descent. I strode along, hardly another person in the woods.
I thought a lot about this challenge,for it has meant a lot to me. I’ve hiked the vast majority of it alone. For that I’m grateful. Being alone in the woods, one is able to reflect more, to listen more. Nature is always talking, being alone with it; you learn to hear what it was to say. For me the woods are a refuge, a treasure, something worth protecting.
Total mileage is 17.1 miles.