Section 12 of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the 24-mile stretch between Linville Gorge and Beacon Heights at the base of Grandfather Mountain, is described as “Waterfall Backpack through the Pisgah National Forest.” It lived up to its description yesterday for Diane Van Deren on Day 7 of her quest to hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail from end to end.

“Let’s just say we’re glad we didn’t tackle this section during the rain on Sunday or the runoff on Monday,” reports expedition coordinator Chuck Millsaps, who accompanied Van Deren.

The bulk of Wednesday’s hike was through the Wilson Creek area, a rugged 49,000-acre area at the base of the Blue Ridge escarpment that includes Wild and Scenic and Wilderness designations. It’s best known for its abundance of waterfalls and for its numerous creeks that make them possible. Because of its protected status, there are no footbridges; every crossing is a rock hop/ford/swim.

“The Wilson Creek adventure was such a cool contrast to our day in Linville Gorge yesterday,” Millsaps reports. “The amazing vistas through the gorge were replaced by an incredible collection of waterfalls and stream crossings. We lost count after 15, eight of which were full-on fords, one that was waist high. Very exciting and truly ‘wild and scenic’.”

The day included a touch of back-home familiarity for Van Deren, who was raised and still lives in trout-happy Colorado. “Upon crossing NC 181 we ran into Sam Valone, son of the Great Outdoor Provision Co.’s owners, as he was returning from a successful morning of fly fishing,” Millsaps notes. “Sam reported on the trout that he had landed and released during the morning.” That was it as far as human encounters on the 13.5-mile day.

Adds Millsaps, “The hike provided splendid views over Raider Camp Creek, Harper Creek Falls, Bard Falls and trout sipping their evening meal.”

Today’s plan calls for Van Deren to climb out of Wilson Creek at Beacon Heights off the Blue Ridge Parkway, then continue north along the southeast flank of Grandfather Mountain. Drier weather is forecast.

By: Joe Miller