On this beautiful September morning, I had the opportunity of hiking Pilot Mountain. Standing at the beginning of the trail at the Welcome Center, you see the most prominent feature of the the mountain – the Big Pinnacle. Located 1,400 feet above the valley floor, this knob extends more than 200 feet from its base with walls of bare rock and light vegetation. Leading to the top this time of the year provided a trail that was a mixture of wild flowers, carpets of ferns, old hardwood trees, and wide spans of rock formations.
Hiking Pilot Mountain.
At 1,100 feet in elevation, I started the trail at the base of the mountain. The trails is well marked and I had no problem navigating from the base to my destination at the top observation areas. The first third of the trail is a gentle, but constant rise that covered around 400 feet of elevation. The next third was slightly steeper with thick hardwoods and the based changed to large rocks along the trails and up the embankments. The last third required me to do what I call “paying the trail”. Very steep sections in excess of 20 degrees, sections that were very rocky, deep long steps, and negotiating boulders.
It was the last third of the hike that I was greeted with the first views of the valley. Views through the trees and off the ledges were displaying beautiful valleys and the bluest of sky.
Reaching the Top
Hiking Pilot Mountain has a big payoff when reaching the top. While you aren’t allowed to climb to the top of the Big Pinnacle, I wasn’t limited to the amazing views of surrounding Yadkin Valley, the 200 feet of the Big Pinnacle and it’s connection to the Little Pinnacle below.
The first views of Yadkin Valley are seen from the parking lot. The Big Pinnacle is hidden at this observation deck by a large hill to the left. Leaving this area, a paved walkway took me to a second observation area when I could view more of the valley and the first look at the southern side of the Big Pinnacle. The payoff for the long hike occurred at the end of this walkway continuing up a slight grade while navigating small boulders. Here I was able to take in a complete view the Big Pinnacle painted by the valley below. Adding to this hike were a large number of migrating birds flying through the thermals and hovering over the Big Pinnacle including red tail hawks and turkey buzzards all migrating south for the winter.
There were a number of other trails available when the opportunity arises to return. Making this hike took most of a day. My hiking style is not a race as much as an exploration. I enjoy the sites and sounds along the way adding to an experience more so than the trek itself. I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite naturalist. Although written a number of years ago, it is more relevant for this day and time.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and
reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains
― John Muir
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