By Kathy Rigsbee, Foothills Outing Leader
On the Summer Solstice this June, Maribeth Weinman, Linda McCorkindale and I decided to find our way into the Middle Prong Wilderness. If it seemed like a good hike, I’d lead an outing there in the future.
To find the trailhead from the Blue Ridge Parkway, look for Scenic Hwy 215 located between mileposts 423 and 424. If you head north on 215, after about 1/4 mile, you will see a parking area on the left. The trailhead is a few yards further north on the left.
The plan for the day was to start on the Mountain-to-Sea Trail (#440), turn off onto Green Mountain Trail (#113), to our final destination, Green Knob, then return. We were using National Geographic Map #780 and the trail description from a blog written by Jeff Clark called Meanderthals. He gave such details we felt good about our progress. As we made our way through open meadows, tall with grasses and wild blackberry and blueberry bushes, it was as described. We saw evidence of coyotes and bear - none fresh thank you! Along the way we passed through black balsam forests with their intoxicating aroma, waist high ferns, streams and even spotted the nest of a gray Dark-eyed Junco built right under the lip of the trail. We climbed until we reached the ridge where the view was wonderful, but the trail ended in a tall patch of berry bushes. We were puzzled as to where we missed the Green Mountain trail. We backtracked down the mountain to the point where we turned left when we should have gone right. So off we went again and soon ran into other hikers who assured us we were now on the right path.
Again we climbed, and again we went through the same description of scenery as before, only this time we found the campsites we missed on the other trail. We were now on Fork Ridge heading north, pondering how it got its name, when we came upon FRESH bear scat. Following a short discussion, we decided we'd had enough trail time for one day and headed back the way we came. We stopped in the shade of a mixed evergreen forest to have a late lunch and gaze at the mountain we had climbed earlier. All in all it was the perfect Wilderness experience.