Hiking to Charlie’s Bunion
By Rachelle Siegrist
Wes and I on top of Charlie’s Bunion with Mt. Le Conte in the background
We were in the clouds as we left the parking lot atop Newfound Gap and started up the Appalachian Trail to Charlie’s Bunion early this past Monday morning. It was our 24th wedding anniversary and what better way to celebrate it than on a hike enjoying “God’s Country”! There was a pleasant chill in the air as we started our steady ascent up approximately a hundred dirt and rock filled steps at the beginning of the trail leading through a shady mixed forest. Soon it changed from steps to a narrower winding rock-studded path, which we contentedly plodded along. We remained in the clouds for much of the hike on the way in, which limited our views from small outcroppings along the way, but we sure enjoyed the trade off of the welcome cooler air!
I’m pointing to a “Blaze” mark on a tree along the Appalachian Trail
Wes spotted this gorgeous teal-colored moth along the way
Recent rains made the lush green moss look and feel amazing, and some patches would mash down a foot or more when gently patted and pressed! So as you can imagine, Wes had to graciously wait for my numerous moss petting breaks along the way. The divine trilling song of the Winter Wren, filling the heavy morning air, then slowly drifting away, serenaded us as walked up and up, drawing ever nearer to our ultimate destination.
At that elevation, it’s moist enough that these tree roots were growing out into the air
Ah . . . luscious clumps of moss
After passing the intersection with the Sweat Heifer Creek Trail and then sometime later the Boulevard Trail, we took a sharp right and the trail soon became even more narrow and soon we found ourselves walking the ridge line of the mountain. The steep sides hugging the trail were filled with dense green bushes adorned with hundreds of yellow blossoms, which the bees found irresistible! The air was alive with the buzz of what sounded like thousands of bees as we caught our first glimpse of Charlie’s Bunion. There it was in its entire splendor and I grew even more excited, now knowing what our destination entailed!
The “Big kid” by the control your kids sign
Our first amazing glimpse of Charlie’s Bunion
Carefully following the narrow dirt path, we came to a sign reading “Closely control children”, so Wes knew instantly he would have his hands full with his “big kid”! A few steps more and we came to a great outcropping of rock. I quickly laid down my hiking sticks and scampered up the first large rock! Once atop, I was afforded a spectacularly stunning view of mountain ranges, including Mt. Le Conte and Brushy Mountain and felt like I was on top of the world! It was breathtaking, as I stood there absorbing the beautiful scene. Then after a quick photo, I carefully climbed back down and we found our perfect lunch spot.
Me on the highest point!
A view with my shoe, to show how steep it is!
Our lunch spot was a small semi-level outcropping on a larger rock. So Wes handed up our packs and climbed up, where he joined me in what I deemed another favorite lunch spot destination of mine! We felt so very blessed once again to have the chance to enjoy such amazing beauty. We spent quite some time there eating, enjoying the view and talking with a “new friend”. Leaving the top, we hiked around along the other very narrow side of the rocky mountain top, where we enjoyed grand views of Porters Mountain and the surrounding area. This section thrilled me as it greatly resembled some of those risky hikes to Chinese tea houses on top of the mountains, which we’ve seen photos of on the internet.
A new favorite lunch spot on top of the world
A Slate-colored Junco sits atop a tiny tree on the rock
We stopped by to see the Icewater Springs shelter and take advantage of the outdoor composting privy. The open-air privy, built on the side of the mountain, has two buckets of mulch inside, which the visitor is to toss a small shovel full of into the opening at the conclusion of their visit. Having had yet another new experience, we began our descent to our next stop . . . the Jump Off.
Wes standing by the Icewater Springs Shelter
Okay . . . I just had to share this, since I know most of you have never seen one either
You reach the small rocky area, called the Jump Off, situated atop the mountain, by leaving the Boulevard Trail and climbing an extremely rocky and somewhat steep trail for about a half a mile. Once there, we were rewarded with yet another breathtaking view, this one including a teeny-tiny Charlies Bunion way off in the distance. After a yummy snack of chocolate, it was time to head back down. We were serenaded this time by the songs of the Dark-eyed Junco and the spiraling trill of the Veery, as well as the melodious fast pitched song of the Winter Wren. As we enjoyed the relaxing drive home through the Park, we concluded that this had been a wonderful anniversary day and another awesome memory had been made!
On the edge of the Jumpoff
Wes sitting at the Jump Off
I’m pointing to the “little” Charlie’s Bunion in the distance
~ The latest paintings off of the Siegrists’ Easels ~
I finished my painting of two precious little chicks, which our friend and fellow artist, Kit Gentry, photographed for me during a recent trip to Hawaii, thus the title “A Couple of Hawaiian Chicks”. Wes finished his painting of a handsome rooster, which we photographed during a visit to the Museum of Appalachia last spring. Happy to say that my chicks have sold already along with several other paintings this past week!
“A Couple of Hawaiian Chicks” by Rachelle
“Baron of the Barn ” by Wes
Next week I’ll be sharing stories from our day spent with the Cherokee Indians and more whitewater adventures.
Until next time . . .