We get out about once a week to hike usually in central to western North Carolina. We hike slowly and stop often to enjoy the views and the little treasures that nature offers. We enjoy waterfall, river, and mountain hikes frequently visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Moutains National Park, and Pisgah National Forest.
To get to the trail head we continued past the fish hatchery on Forest Service Road 475. The road is paved for a few miles then becomes gravel and gains elevation. There is parking for a couple of cars on the left about four miles after the pavement ends. The Cemetery trail enters the woods at a gate and the Long Branch trail which we returned on exits the woods a few hundred feet further up with another space for parking.
This is a two mile loop with the cemetery at almost exactly the halfway point. The first half is on the Cemetery trail and is an old logging road. This trail does not see a lot of traffic and has a lot of growth in the road bed so that only a single track trail is clear in areas. We were bothered by some flying insects but not as bad as we would be on the Long Branch trail.
A short distance into the hike the road forks. The loop continues straight while the left fork leads to an impressive view. This side out and back walk adds about .6 miles to the hike but is worth the effort. We did not do much exploring once we reached the viewpoint since the trail abruptly ends and a wrong step could lead to a nasty tumble downhill.
Back on the main trail I noticed that the Mountain Laurel wasn't in full bloom yet. The buds were a darker color then the blooms and had a neat star like shape. There was a second place where another old road forked off to the left but we stayed to the right. This trail is dry with no water crossing or mud until after the cemetery. We had been walking along the top of the hill.
Just before reaching the cemetery the trail bears right and goes slightly downhill. There is a sign for the cemetery and a very short side trail on the left. You can see where someone has made an effort to preserve this cemetery. There was a path through it with sticks marking the edges of the path. Only a few of the stones are readable. There are many more stones that are really worn down.
A short distance after the cemetery we turned right at the intersection with the Long Branch trail. This trail is not an old road . We were now at the bottom of the hill and made a small water crossing with no bridge. We kept our feet dry by using the small logs that someone had placed across the water although they weren't very stable.
This area was damp and the bugs came out in full force. We were only thinking how much we wanted to see the van at the end of the trail when we spotted a pink lady slipper. We ended up seeing maybe ten of them but you could tell that there were many more a couple of weeks ago. I would like to hike this trail again earlier in the Spring when there are more lady slippers and less bugs.
We have seen these spots on leaves several times this Spring.
Does anyone know what they are?