Cloudy and very windy. That’s what greeted me the morning of July 14, 2019 as I first stepped from my car at Pounding Mill Overlook (milepost 413). Those who know me also know that I’ve been picking up trash and otherwise maintaining this overlook for each of the last 10 years. As I walked around to survey the accumulated trash since my last visit, it was everything I could do to stand. Seriously!
If you’ve been to Pounding Mill you know it is exposed to the elements on a near horseshoe curve that juts out over Pisgah National Forest far below. The wind was at least 40 mph, with gusts even higher. Several times I had to really take a wide berth and plant my feet to remain upright. Must be Tropical Storm Barry
— all this way north and east. No trash collection now… perhaps later, on the way back.
So I got back in the car and headed west. Still nursing a sprained ankle while hiking Memorial Day weekend, this would be a car trip with maybe a few short walks at particularly picturesque vantage points. The clouds certainly looked threatening, but the forecast from TWC said no rain until mid- afternoon. Should I trust them? It really was dark, with fast-moving clouds pushing up and through the gaps.
Over the course of the next 18 miles I stopped at every overlook, including some of the best views like Cherry Gap, Big East, Devils Courthouse, Ferrin Knob, Spot Knob, Caney Fork and Richland Balsam. I turned around at the highest point on the Parkway (milepost 431). When I got to mile 430 the sky actually began to clear a bit, offering glimpses of blue sky between the now white cloud layers.
The wildflowers were in abundance, especially the rosebay rhododendron. They appeared to be in peak bloom above 5,000 feet. Many were in that lavender transition stage from bud to bloom. Lovely. I also found phlox, coneflowers, morning glories, and black eyed susans.
Enjoy the gallery below representing a sample of what I saw along my journey. The rhododendrons were scattered throughout, but I saved them all for last in the display. By the way, when I got back to Pounding Mill, the wind had dropped to about 20 mph, so I was able to complete my trash removal mission.
This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.