Exploring US National Forests: Pisgah National Forest in Western NC

The US National Forests are a FREE national treasure most of which you can hike, bike, paddle and horseback ride. There are over 150 national forests containing almost 200 million acres of land just ripe for exploration and discovery.

Some of the forests are very primitive, while others have camp grounds and Visitor’s Centers. Today we are exploring the beautiful Pisgah National Forest in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western NC.

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I took advantage of the Visitor's Center at the Brevard side of Pisgah to plan my trip. The Visitor's Center has a nice exhibit area and the ranger (thank you Peggy!!!) are available to help you plan your adventures.

Hiking: Hundreds of miles.  Here's a good blog post, too.
Mountain Biking: 245+ miles
Road Cycling: Blue Ridge Parkway 400+ miles. Here's a good blog post, too.
Water Activities: Several rivers to paddle, raft or boat.
Horseback riding: [stables offer 1-2-3 hour rides] or bring your own horse: over 100 miles

Camping Options

You can primitive camp for FREE (must be 1000′ off the road) or stay in one of the low cost campgrounds where you get an assigned camp site and there are bath facilities and water, plus an on site camp manager. Check out my FREE primitive campsite on the river!

Blue Ghost Fireflies

I didn't hear back from AAA to get permission to show you their photo, but you can see it at this link (the pic is time released so it shows more than you'll see at once).  Nonetheless, magical!

Be sure to stop by the Visitor's Center for guidance and to see their exhibit (also bathrooms so you can get some water!) Speaking of water, there is plenty of springs and streams but you need to treat it to avoid getting giardia.

Cradle of Forestry: This is the birthplace of science-based forestry management. Wonderful exhibit and they offer lots of programs. This is where I saw the Blue Ghost Fireflies.

The Hatchery: There are LOTS of trout here (get a license). You can stop by the Hatchery to learn more about trout.

Just outside of Pisgah National Forest at the Brevard, NC entrance is a place called the Hub.  This quirky business sells and repairs bicycles, plus you can also grab a craft brew and a bite from the outside rotating food trucks. An interesting business model that seems to work for them. A great place to meet locals, but there there early. They close late afternoon so their employees can have a life and enjoy this gorgeous area!

There are grocery stores here too, so be sure to stock up on food and drink and ice, or whatever else syou'll need before entering the park.  Top off your gas tank too!

Gorgeous Wildflowers and Fungi

In spring, the woods are filled with amazing wildflowers. After a good rain (of which it does a lot), you'll see some cool mushrooms as well.

I saw rare trilliums (head to Graveyard Fields' trails), lady slippers, flame azaleas, rhododendrons were starting to bloom at the lowest elevations, mountain laurel, sweet bay magnolia, and so many more!

 

Poison Ivy

At lower levels you will encounter poison ivy. Be sure to know what this plant looks like so you don't inadvertently get a nasty rash when you leave the trail to go to the bathroom:) Beware the leaves of three! Very mature poison ivy plants will have a furry looking stem.

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SHOW NOTES

00:00 FREE adventure travel?
00:26 US National Forests
01:04 Blue Ghost Fireflies
01:26 Let the Visitor’s Center plan your visit
02:50 Blazed versus non-blazed trails
04:01 Looking Glass Rock
04:34 Camping at a campground versus primitive camping
05:26 You can bring your own food and drink
05:42 My campsite
06:10 Using blankets to quiet your Thermarest ™
06:32 Wildflowers of Western NC
07:26 Poison ivy
07:56 Trails at Graveyard Fields parking lots
09:02 Uncrowded trails
09:28 Chasing Blue Ghost Fireflies
11:01 Literally car camped due to inclement weather
11:51 Headed over to Waynesville to escape weather
12:31 Cycling and joining up on group rides
13:19 Rent bikes, go to Dupont State Forest, the Hunger Games
14:13 The Hub and Pisgah Tavern
14:51 Horseback riding in the Pisgah Forest
15:05 Water sports: Paddling in the Pisgah Forest: raft, kayak, canoe and tube
18:09 Description of the US National Forests
18:42 Big East Fork parking lot
19:47 Chestnut Ridge and Shining Rock
20:07 Be sure to mark your path when you come to a fork in the road
21:00 Blazed trails and bring a map and compass
21:41 Return along Shining Creek and crossing a fallen tree ‘bridge’ by mistake
23:33 Lunch by the river with a salamander
24:42 Kit’s first primitive camping night solo and her fears
27:10 Waterfall safety
27:33 Rainbow Falls tragedy
28:14 What to do if you get caught in a strong current
28:58 Free National Forest Travel Planners
29:16 Be sure to Subscribe

COMPLETE TRANSCRIPT WITH TIME STAMPS

00:00 Guilty as charged, I'm guilty of always looking for adventure and faraway places when sometimes adventure can be in our own backyard. Many of the trips that I've covered in Active Travel Adventures cost a lot both to get to and to do. Today I'm going local and taking you on outstanding adventure that doesn't have to cost you a dime. Intrigued, stay tuned.
00:27 Welcome to the Active Travel Adventures podcast. I'm your host Kit Parks. Today we're going to explore a little known national treasure in the US called our national forests, and in particular we're going to Pisgah national forest in my own home state of North Carolina. This amazing natural area is near the town of Brevard, a town I'll most likely retired too. In this area, you can hike, bike, paddle, horseback ride to your heart's content. It's also a cultural and artistic oasis located in western North Carolina. Today I'm going to tell you all about the many different ways that you can explore and play in the land of the waterfalls. So let's get started.
01:04 A few weeks ago, I received my AAA magazine in the mail and in there was an article on the blue ghost fireflies located in the Pisgah forest in my own home state of North Carolina. I was intrigued. These fireflies mate around the same time that the magazine came out and after seeing this one photo, which hopefully they'll let me put on the website, I was hooked. I was like, I've got to go there.
01:27 I believe that for somebody who travels as much as I do, I don't like to do a whole lot of planning for my travels and I'm getting more and more where I just go and then figure it out when I get there. I saw that Pisgah has a really nice visitor centers. I decided I'm going to let them do all the work for me. It's about a seven hour drive from my house, so I did book an Airbnb from my first night in a town called Hendersonville, which is lovely. So that would give me plenty of time to get to the forest in the morning and be fresh and trying to figure out what on earth I was going to do during my trip.
01:54 I drove up on a Sunday and didn't have an appointment to see the fireflies until Tuesday nights. That gave me lots of time to explore, figure out what I wanted to do and I didn't have to get back home until the following weekend. First thing in the morning, I headed to the visitor's center where I met volunteer, Peggy, an amazing resource. I told her what I like to do, how much time I like to spend and what kind of activity level I'd like to do, and within about 15 minutes she had outlined my whole week for me of things that I should do and see something that would've taken me hours to do it by myself. All for nothing! This is a fabulous resource and I love doing things like this. What a time saver! On my first day she suggested I do the Daniel Ridge Loop, which is about a four mile moderate hike. And I liked that it was blazed. I prefer blaze trails. And if you don't know what a blaze is, a blaze is when they put either some kind of a marker on the trees, around the stones, on the pathway, usually by color that lets you know exactly where you are so you don't get lost.
02:50 I'm not the best at orienteering using the compass in the maps and all that. And in any case in my woods, there's so much forest, it's hard to see beyond your immediate area anyway in order to orient yourself. So I liked the fact that this was blazed. This was a beautiful hike and I was able to, towards the end of the hike, have my lunch at this really pretty waterfall, which I'll put a video on the website. Just a nice way to start my little adventure in the Pisgah national forest. When exiting the trail by the little bridge walkway back to the little park and trail head area., I came across a little puddle of blue butterflies, of which I'm not sure what they were, but there had to be a half a dozen, so engrossed in either bear or dog urine that they didn't even mind, that I was that close and personal with them. I took a video, which I'll put it online. Very cool. Peggy also recommended that I do the John Rock trail after lunch in hopes that the low hanging clouds of that morning would dissipate, which gratefully they did. This nice hike, which is fairly steep uphill, so I'd call it a little moderately hard. Well worth it though. You get to get to the top of this big rock face area that overlooks Looking Glass Rock – stunning. One hundred and 80 degree view
04:02 And another cool thing peggy did was she outlined a combination trail so I had the most scenic route getting up to and back from the John Rock area. Looking Glass gets his name because, particularly in the wintertime when it's covered in ice, it gives a mirror reflection and Looking Glass is a huge domed rock on top of the mountain, and domes are something that this area is known for. I'm not into rock climbing, but I know and I don't cover rock climbing on this podcast, but because of the domes, this is a huge rock climbing area as well.
04:34 Now it's late in the afternoon. I need to figure out where to sleep gratefully, in the national forests you have lots of options. You can sleep in a camping ground or go to town to Brevard or you can primitive camp. The camp grounds are nice because they do offer an assigned campground site. You do have a bathroom, showers, and there's also security. Not that it's necessarily needed, but it's nice to know that it's there and there's also a host on the camp grounds, should you run into any problems or have any questions. Instead, it's a nominal fee for the sign campsites or you could primitive camp for free. He just need to be a thousand feet off the road. Although I don't think they enforced that too much on some of the side gravel roads, of which there are many. I promised you this could be a really inexpensive vacation once you get here, probably by car because you need to be able to get around the park.
05:21 You can bring in your own food, you can bring in your own drink, including alcohol, which is tolerated if not outright accepted in most places, so it costs you about the same as if you were home. I mean you gotta eat. Anyway, that night, once I got to my campsite, which was lovely, it was actually a pretty large campsite. It included a pretty big bay area for my tent, surrounded in the woods. So I had a gravel pad for my tent and then a nice picnic table. You could see the neighbors, but they weren't right in your face, which was nice. If you do want to do a campfire and there is a camp fire ring and little grill area, you do need to buy the wood in area so that you don't inadvertently bring in some pests that could actually hurt the forest, which has happened unfortunately in a lot of the forests in our country. So do make sure that you do buy the wood locally. And it's very reasonable as an encouragement for you to do so.
06:14 Tired from hiking all day, I was asleep by nine and slept like a rock. And I used that little trick I learned when I was in Bhutan recently where they put the rug on top of my pad. Remember I mentioned that my little thermarest pad is noisy? I happened to have a couple of blankets in my car so I put one under the pad and one on top of it and no crinkly noise all night, so that's definitely a car camping addition for me in the future.
06:32 One of the beautiful things that coming this time of year – and I was here in mid-May- is all the vegetation. The trees are just starting to flush out and there's still lots of wild flowers to see. I saw her lady slippers, Jack in the pulpit, lizard tail, wild geraniums… Some of the beautiful shrubs were the flame azealias. Some of those were still blooming, although they've peaked by now, the mountain laurel on the lower elevations and also in the lower elevation, some of the rhododendrons. And littering the forest floor where the petals of the fading tulip magnolias. Plus I saw some beautiful sweet shrub. But one of the highlights was on my second day up on Graveyard Ridge, trillium's were in full bloom and this is an endangered species. However, on Graveyard Ridge there are thousands of them and I happened to get there at the peak or just past peak depending on what elevation I was at : truly spectacular. I'll have photos of all these wild flowers on the website.
07:27 In addition, I'm also going to put a picture of poison ivy if you're not familiar with that. At the lower elevations, there is an awful lot of poison ivy, so you want to be careful when you step off the trail to use the restroom that you don't accidentally squat in a poison ivy patch of which there is much, and I will also post a picture of what the stem of poison ivy looks like. It's very hairy [when mature], so it's easy to recognize when it's mature so that way you don't find yourself in a very itchy and uncomfortable situation.
07:59 On Day Two, I got up early and went to the Graveyard Fields. They call it “Graveyard” because a wildfire many years ago had killed the trees down to stumps, which looked like a bunch of headstones. This has got a scenic overlook that you can park at and use this as a base setting to do the Graveyard Field hikes to the upper and lower falls up to Graveyard Fields, do parts of the Mountain to the Sea trail or go over to Art Lobe trail, another really popular hike that could be a 30 mile hike that you can do part or all of that hike as well.
08:27 The weather and the previous week had been really, really rainy and they had gotten like 11 inches of rain, so there was a lot of moisture still on the graveyard field track, boggy and parts, but I still managed to keep my feet fairly dry. As you approached the ridge, you go through this wonderful little birch grove of just thousands upon thousands of tiny little birches and their leaves had just popped out, so there's this bright, bright green, so you see thie leaves dancing in the sunlight and the wind, and it was just this magical little grove on your way to the ridge.
09:02 One thing I like about hiking here is that it's such a massive forest that it's really not crowded. Once you get maybe 500 feet off the main trails on some trails. I saw nobody, unless I was at the very peak of say at the John Rock or up at the Graveyard Fields. On the Davidson River hike, I didn't see a soul the whole trek, so I felt like I had the forest all to myself.
09:29 That night was the night to see the blue ghost fireflies. This is a really cool insect. I'm sure most of you know what fireflies are. Lightening bugs are, but I'd never heard of the blue ghost fireflies. This is a really teeny firefly about the size of a grain of rice. The males are the only ones that have the wings and the females lay down in the leaf mold at night during the mating season, which runs from mid May to mid June in up in this area and and very few areas in the country. The male fireflies will hover and glow in a consistent glow for multiple seconds up to like 10 seconds, go across the ground trying to show off for the females with its glow and if the female likes the glow, shines onto the mail and says, “Come on baby light my fire” and magic happens. So at night, right after dusk, between around here at this time of the year, about 9:30 at night, the grounds of this part of the forest were just covered in these little blue fireflies.
10:28 You'd look down and get your eyes adjusted a little bit and you'd see dozens and dozens of these little blue lights floating all across the floor. This one woman referred to him as the fairyflies. She didn't know what they were. She just knew that this time of year something blue was glowing across the forest floor. It's a really, really incredible experience that I encourage you, if you're ever in this neck of the woods in the middle of May, towards the beginning of June, come down to the Cradle Forestry. I'll put the information in the show notes of how to sign up for this incredible experience.
11:01 That night they were calling for severe thunderstorms, so I was a little bit dicey about what to do. The Cradle of Forestry, where I saw the blue ghost fireflies is in the middle of the park and about 45 minutes or so to the nearest town. I really, since I had the option not to sleep in a potential severe storm, I chose not to and I really didn't feel like driving that late at night. It's already 10:30. Those dark, windy, unlit roads, so I truly car camped. I just went to sleep in the back of the car and said to heck with it. I'm not gonna worry about it. I'll just regroup in the morning once I get a better idea what the weather's going to be like. When I woke up in the morning. Of course, I had no cell service in the middle of the forest so I couldn't get it updated weather report, but the clouds overhead did not look promising, so I decided I'm just going to cross over the mountain… get out of the mountains right now, and I went to a little town called Waynesville.
11:51 That is one nice thing about car camping. It gives you options. It was nice that, outside of my initial Airbnb and the appointment to go see the blue ghost fireflies, I had no other set agenda, so I was able to have the flexibility to play around once I saw what the weather was going to be like. I was grateful that I made this change of plans because once I crossed over the mountains into the little town of Waynesville, the weather improved remarkably and I had a beautiful day. So instead of trudging through the water in the muck and the mud, I ended up finding a really lovely little place to sit out under the trees and actually record this. What I'm doing right now recording this podcast and having an absolutely delightful day in this charming little town.
12:31 The cool thing about this, the Pisgah National Forest, is there are tons and tons of active things to do if you're not into hiking. There's hundreds of miles of hiking trails with all sorts of beautiful vistas you can do, mountain biking or road biking to your heart's content. It is actually a true bikers Mecca and at all different levels from starter level to hardcore, lung busting, single track trails. If you come to the area to come cycling and are cycling solo, but you'd like a little company, they have got lots of group rides of all different skill levels from beginners all the way up to the hardcore super advanced riders. There's rides almost seven days a week and I'll put a link to how to find these rides on the website: Activetraveladventures.com.
13:19 There's plenty of places to rent the bikes as well. Again, links on the website. And if you prefer road cycling, the Blue Ridge highway is nearby, which offers over 400 miles of some of the most scenic cycling roads in the nation. It's often referred to as America's favorite drive and it's particularly popular in October when the leaves are in full fall foliage glory. On nice thing is, there's lots of pullouts, so when there's a particularly spectacular overlook, there's area for you to park your bike or your car to take advantage of it. One pretty road ride is going up US 76 across the parkway and down NC215. Stunning! If you're more into straight down, fly in your face trails, they've got that too and if you run out of trails and Pisgah national forest, there's always the Dupont State Forest nearby. Movie fans will recognize that forest because that's where the Hunger Games was filmed.
14:13 I discovered another quirky and cool thing about this area. Let's say you're flying too fast on your bike and you wipe out or you break something or you just need a part or just need to upgrade your gear a little bit. Right outside the forest, on the way to Brevard, there's a place called the Hub. Next to the Hub, and actually it's inside the Hub, is the Pisgah Tavern. So while you're having your bike fixed up, there's a little tavern there with local craft beers as well as your regular can beers. It's a really cool place even though I don't normally cover restaurants and such, I have a photo of that in the link to that in the show notes as well. Very cool. This area's into his bikes and brews!
14:51 Get tired of hiking and cycling? There's always horseback riding and if you don't feel like bringing your horse, there are stables in the Pisgah Forest. And you can go on a guided horse ride for one, two, or three hours. Be sure to reserve in advance. The horse rides are available from April through October.
15:05 After all this hiking, biking, and horseback riding, you are going to be hot, sweaty, and dirty, so it's time to get in the water. The Pisgah area also has tons of water sports. You can whitewater raft down the French Broad River, kayak, canoe, and even tube. In fact, even in the wintertime, you can tube down the snowbanks. You'll also find some great paddling on the Davidson River, and you can also go on the French broad river paddle trail. There are also some camping sites on this paddle trail. There's six sites available, but you've got to make sure you reserve and pay for those in advance.
15:37 So another interesting hikes include hiking up to the Devils Courthouse. This is considered the private dancing chamber of the slant eyed giant Gudacca of Cherokee lore.
15:47 Also consider hiking up to Looking Glass Rock, that dome that I was able to see from John Rock. You can hike up to the Footbridge area, Pilot Rock, Chestnut Ridge and return by the north prong Shining Creek, go on the Art Loeb trail, and hiked the short but difficult hike up to Sam Nob. Take advantage of all the knowledge that you find it, the visitor center, and while you're at the visitor center, and don't forget to check out the exhibits that they have there. It's a wonderful, wonderful resource.
16:17 In the park where I went to go see the blue ghost fireflies, I went to the Cradle of Forestry, This is actually where the first science based forestry studies was going on in our whole country and we can think the Vanderbilts for that. Anyway, at this forestry center, there's 20,000 square feet of exhibits, events, an amphitheater, and they've got tons and tons of great events like seeing the blue goes fireflies.
16:39 These include things like having tea with llamas that include a two mile trek, and if you can't get enough of llamas, the Sherwood Forest Golf Course nearby offers “llama caddies” and on its three par course. How cool is that? Other programs at the Forest Center include a “Bring back the monarchs” program. This is a migratory bird and monarch flyway. There's also Forest Festival Days, learning about the legend of Tommy Hodges (an outdoor drama in their amphitheater). And they also have three paved trails that are perfect for people in wheelchairs and strollers. I'll put links on the website so you can figure out what's going to be going on so you can plan your trip accordingly, according to your interests.
17:27 The Piscgah Forest itself gets about 2 million visitors a year on it's 160,000 acres, most of which is in Transylvania county. There's 400 miles of hiking trails, 180 miles of bike trails and 100 miles on horseback trails. Bisecting the forest is the beautiful US276 highway, part of the forest heritage service scenic byway, and this is named as a national scenic byway, which is the highest designation a road can get in the United States. In addition to the Cradle of Forestry, you can also visit the Hatchery that's nearby the Davidson River hike that I went on. Inside the hatchery, they've got exhibits and you can also take a hatchery tour. This is a big, big trout area.
18:09 There are national forests all across America that you can see things from the temperate rain forest like we visited today to glaciers, to deserts, to other mountainous regions. I encourage you to go to the website. I've got links to show you where the national forests are. There might be one in your neighborhood that you're not even aware of and go and explore this fabulous resource. Most of it's free and if they do charge a fee, it's nominal at best. It's a great, great way to get out in the outdoors and enjoy the beautiful country of the United States of America, at little to no cost.
18:42 We talked a little bit about camping in the camp grounds where there's a nominal fee, but if you want to make this a free vacation, you can primitive camp. Now I've done tons of camping and tons of backpacking, but I've never done either one by myself. So know how I'm always encouraging you to do a little ‘plus one'. So this time I decided I was going to do day hikes and then do primitive camping. And so I chose to go to trails that are off the Big East Fork iin Pisgah, which is right in the middle of the park somewhat. And most people tend to be near the entrance, near town, so it was rather isolated and as I headed out a parking lot at the first thing in the morning, I'm the only one there and I was like, oh, this is kind of cool.
19:24 I walked all day, I'd say til about 4:00 and I did not see a soul the entire day until it's veering back towards the parking lot again. I saw a woman walking with her dogs, probably just an after work walk and then as I got to my car, there's a young man from Georgia who was going to go back down near the where the river's fork to do some camping and fishing.
19:47 So my first hike, I was going up a very steep climb up to Chestnut Ridge to Shining Rocks. I decided I'd rather go up hard rather than down hard and it was a lovely hike. Absolutely beautiful. Like I said, I had the whole forest to myself and as I got to the top, there's clearings so I could get this panoramic view of the Blue Ridge mountains as just breathtaking.
20:07 So when I finally get to Shiny Rock Gap, I climbed down and then it's one of those areas where there's so many trees and roots that there is no vegetative growth, so it was hard to see exactly where the trail was and this is an area too that I want to point out.
20:21 Whenever you're hiking and you get to a place where you're not quite sure of which way to go. Take your poles or grab a stick or something and make some kind of a notation in the dirt so that you know which way you came in. So if you have to backtrack, you can find it. Like if I had gone into this one area where Standing Rock was, and didn't notice how I entered, there were lots of ways to exit from there because there were so many routes and no wasn't obvious path until I got through and found the path on the other side of maybe like 100 some odd feet. So in fact, anytime I come to a fork and I'm not 100 percent sure, I just takes a second, just make a little notation on the dirt so you can find a way back.
21:00 So I always know I can find my way back to the car. I might get lost heading out, but I'm not going to be out. I can always find my way back home. So I always feel comfortable that way. And this trail was not blazed, which is not my favorite. I like blaze trails where they're marked and I feel comfortable. Oh, I just follow the little red dots, or the white blazes or whatever the case may be on the trail. And this one did not. So I just had to use my map. I had a nice National Geographic map that I would not go into these woods without a good map and a good compass. So anyway, so I get to Shining Rock Gap and now I did the hard part getting there and then I had not an easy hike, but a relatively easy hike on the way back along the riverside along Shining Creek.
21:41 So when I get to near where the two prongs: there's a north prong and south prong. When I get near where they're going to meet, obviously I see both of the river's kind of converging together. And there was a big tree that was going across the creek, the second creek. And I said, “Oh, I guess that must be the path”. And it was simply a little drop of a couple of feet down, which is a little more dicey than I would normally like. And I said, well, I remembered something when I went to a Miraval Spa outside of Tucson. And they have these challenge events. There were, one of them is you climb up a 50 foot telephone pole to a platform and you're harnessed and roped. You cannot get hurt doing this. So it's a ‘mind over matter' challenge. And then there's another telephone poll, 50 feet going across to yet another 50 foot high telephone pole.
22:27 So just picture a big arch. And so I'm up 50 feet in the air about to walk 50 feet across to the other platform and you know, your knees are shaking and you think you're gonna die. And I remember the lady saying, remember, you know how to walk in a straight line. And I was like, yeah, she's right. If this was on the sidewalk, no problem. I know the pole's skinny, but it was at least six inches or so. I can walk that and sure enough it's a mind over matter. I had to use that same trick crossing this tree even though it was not as near as high. There was water down rushing. I wouldn't have gone far down the river, but I could've hit my head on the rock or something. So it was a little tricky and so remembering that I know how to walk a straight line, I get across the creek and everything's fine and I'm looking for the trail and I realized oh it's not on the trail.
23:13 I look up. I had crossed the creek maybe 50 feet before I was supposed to them and there was a nice rock skipping a bridge across the creek that I was supposed to take. So if something looks like is not quite right, double check before you plunge ahead like I did. That may not have been the smartest thing to do considering I saw nobody. Should I have hurt myself, I'd been a long way aways from getting any help.
23:33 Yeah, I make it back across the creeks. The creeks are now together and it's gotten much larger and it was just beautiful. I was like, this is a good time to take my lunch break. And so I found this big rock right overlooking the creek. It was just me and a salamander hanging out for half an hour. So just enjoying just the scenic beauty and the peace and the quiet and they're just very, very nice, beautiful.
23:55 So I eventually make it back to my car and on the way up I had noticed that there were some really pretty campsites along the creek and I was like, Oh, I'm sure there'll be taken by the time I get back. And again I get to my car and now all we have is the girl's car that with the dog and the Georgia guys. And I was like, I cannot believe not one person has snagged these campsites at I saw. So I took maybe the fourth one in from the road. The trail is up above the camp site itself, but somebody had made log stairs and stone stairs to get down maybe, I don't know, 30 feet down to the camp site, right on the river. Absolutely perfect campsite. I was like, I cannot believe I can get this gorgeous campsite for absolutely free. Like I said, this was my first time primitive camping by myself.
24:42 So at first I was a little uneasy and I was wondering, you know, should I be scared? I knew that they had some bear signs out. I wasn't really worried about the bears because I wasn't going to keep any food at the camp ground, so I had nothing of interest to a bear. So I wasn't worried about that so much. I had a little bit of concern about flash floods. They'd had, like I said, 11 inches of rain and the week before and thunderstorms the day before and they had a sign saying, you know, they could get up to 10 feet very quickly and a flashflood. And I was like, well, I have supersonic ears and I'm a light sleeper. If I hear the water getting really loud, I can climb up the stairs that I came down pretty quickly. And so I felt, “I think I can mitigate that risk”.
25:18 So then you worry about the bugaboos, the human element. And I got to think instead, of all the times I've been in the forest, there was only one time I was a little spooked. And that was on my very first long distance backpacking trip when I came across a guy that looked a little crazy to me. And when I look back in hindsight, that was probably my first Appalachian Trail thru hiker I'd ever seen because the guys often don't shave the whole hike. So he– I was in North Carolina– so he'd probably been on the trail for over a month. And so he had a grizzly month's worth of beard and was unclean obviously because he's been hiking for days probably since his last rest stop. And that was the only guy that I remember being spooked. Most of the people I've ever met in the woods have always been nice.
26:02 I do try to keep the rule of not camping within walking distance with a case of beer. So I try to stay at least two miles from a road. So I worried more about townies coming into to have a party and then just me being in the wrong place at the wrong time rather than fellow hikers. I did break the rule on this case on this night because the road was so desolate and in the middle of nowhere, it's not where people will be going by to go get to go drinking. I was nowhere near a town. Almost an hour's drive to town. So I was like, no, I think I'm cool. Okay, you've done this before. You can do this. And like I said, within an hour I was cool and I was so enjoying myself just sitting by the river reading that all those fears went away. And now I've got the confidence, “hey, I can do this”. So I did my ‘plus one'. So I want you to do whatever it is you're doing. Try to do it just one more plus one more plus and build your confidence in the adventure things that you can do. All in all, it was a spectacular day, a beautiful evening, and I was very proud of myself for doing my plus one.
27:10 On a cautionary note in this land of waterfalls, of which there are hundreds and hundreds of waterfalls and I've only highlighted some of the prettier ones there. Some common sense things you need to do for waterfall safety. Unfortunately about a half a dozen people die each year because they are silly. They get too close to the fall and then the rocks are very, very slippery and then once they slip, they go over the ledge.
27:33 In fact, I was up at Turtleback Falls a few years back where it's very safe. It's a really fun place also in the Pisgah Forest, but you've got to get to it from a different area that where I've been talking about today. But on Turtleback, you can you climb up this rope up to the top of this cliff, which is fairly safe. You get up there and then you slide off this rock, I believe it's like a 30 foot drop into this deep pool that's very safe. You're not going to hit your head on the bottom or anything like that, and then you've got this little area to swim around, but then they have a rope and you've got to stay behind that rope, because after that rope is Rainbow Falls, which drops, I believe, 150 feet. And in fact, one of my camp mates on that trip had a friend who died the year before because she went past the rope and then got caught in the current and went over the falls and died.
28:14 So you need to use common sense. Most of the accidents are preventable if you do what they say to do. Stay on the trail, stay in the areas that they designate are safe, and should you happen to get caught in one of these fast streams for whatever reason, don't try to stand up. That's the second reason people get hurt or die is because they try to stand up. Their foot gets caught in a rock, and then the current pushes them down into the water and then they drowned. So I hate to be a downer on all this, but you need to be prepared in case something does go wrong. Above all, don't be silly with the selfies and get too close. Be safe, and be smart and have fun and enjoy the beautiful, beautiful waterfalls of the Pisgah Forest. Do you understand why I want to retire in this area? It's amazing.
29:00 I hope I peaked your interest in exploring our national forests. You can of course get lots more details and links at http://activetraveladventures.com. Plus you can get the handy Travel Planner by downloading it directly from the site, or if you're a member of our newsletter, I'll send it to you directly at the beginning of next month.
29:16 And if you haven't done so already, please be sure to subscribe to the act of Travel Adventures podcast so that way you don't miss a single exciting episode. I'll be back in two weeks with another incredible adventure and you don't want to miss it. Until then, this is Kit Parks. Thanks for listening. And until next time, Adventure On!

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Adventure Travel US National Forests: Pisgah National Forest by Kit Parks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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